How To Avoid The Summertime Sales Blues

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(By Paul Weyland) Yes, I hear you. Well, not all of you, but plenty of you that are concerned about your local direct numbers as compared to last year. What’s going on? Does this indicate a seismic shift in the economy? Is this occurring in all markets or just mine? Are decision-makers losing confidence in the economy? Are they losing confidence in broadcast? How long will this slowdown continue? Is it me?

Don’t panic. Stop chewing off your nails. You’ve got the Summertime Blues. This kind of slowdown has happened before, and it will happen again. Markets have peaks and valleys, and we have survived them before. Broadcast media has had competitors before, and we’ve survived them too. Do you know why? Because broadcast is still a solid business model and we are resilient.

Persistence and determination are more important now than ever. Asking for and getting long-term contracts is critical during a down time. Doing your client’s marketing and advertising thinking for him/her is of the utmost importance during a lull.

As a station sales rep, I actually had significant increases in billing during economic droughts. In fact, I had 20 percent increases. How? By working smarter and maintaining closer relationships with my local clients. Come up with clever campaign ideas that competitors cannot or will not deliver to local decision-makers, and defend your budgets by using the client’s average sale and gross margin of profit to calculate return on advertising investment.

While other reps from other media are whining and selling ratings, format, program, or packages, talk to decision-makers about things that directly affect their businesses, like these:

“This creative approach is more likely to attract consumers than what you’re running now. Here’s why.”

“So what if it’s summer? You’re still open. People still need goods and services. Why let them buy what you’re selling from somebody else without even defending yourself?”

“This is why it makes sense to run this campaign now. With fewer national and regional commercials on the air, your commercials are more likely to stand out. This is a great time to be on the air.”

“Let’s look at the numbers. Your average sale is $500 and your gross margin of profit is 50 percent. In order to break even on this $1,500 weekly schedule, we’d need to catch six fish. Each week we reach X thousand people. With good bait cast enough times, it looks like a good calculated risk that we could do that and possibly much more.”

“I have discovered a hole in your competitor’s advertising and marketing strategy that airliners could fly through. Let me explain what I’ve found and how you can take immediate advantage of it.”

“Every time you advertise, you’re giving away 20-30 percent in discounts. I don’t think you have to do that. I say value trumps price, and here’s how we sell it without having to give up your gross margin.”

Actual selling is the modification of the behavior of another person without that person knowing that their behavior is being modified, in order to arrive at a mutually beneficial conclusion. In other words, selling is really educating. Educated clients buy more than uneducated clients.

So it’s in my best interest and it’s in my client’s best interest that I keep my client informed about better creative ideas and how to justify spending larger amounts, regardless of ratings (or lack of them), format, program, market size, or geography.

Some radio people thought it was going to be the end of the world when eight-track tape players were introduced into cars. Then it was cassette players. Then CD players. Then satellite radio. Then digital streaming. And guess what, we’re still here. Vehicles still come equipped with in-dash free radio, and as long as that’s available, we still have the in-car advantage.

Broadcast television has always had in-home competition, going back to board games like Monopoly or electronic games like Pong and Atari. Then cable television, pay-per-view, DVRs, and now Apple TV, Hulu, Netflix, etc. But broadcast television is still here and is actually benefiting as people cut cable and watch their favorite local stations for free via old-fashioned antennas. Broadcast television still has the in-home advantage.

Put away your doubts and fears. Instead, double down on teaching clients better strategies for attracting customers. Learn how to manage your client’s expectations about results and grow your budget by explaining return on investment based on the client’s average sale and gross margin of profit. Demonstrate in the client’s language how advertising with you is not gambling, but instead a good, calculated risk.

Got the Summertime Blues? Stop making excuses and instead, make calls.

Paul Weyland is the go-to person for expertise in increasing long-term local direct broadcast business. You can contact Paul at (512) 236-1222.

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