Sales Managers: You Must Change The Narrative


(By Barry Cohen) It works in politics, so why not in business? As you’ve come to expect, I’m about to turn another paradigm on its ear. Listen carefully to the following dialogue:

“Hi, this is Jenny Smith of KXYZ Radio. Is this John Smoothy of Mr. Smoothy’s Auto Sales? I e-mailed you our one-day sale package and wanted to call and see if you got it? Did you look at it yet?”

“Package? We sell cars. We don’t need packaging supplies…”

“No, no. We’re KXYZ Radio. It’s an advertising package. I sent you our high-impact spot bank…”

“We have our own dealer financing; we don’t need a bank.”

“We’re not a bank. We sell radio advertising.”

“We put our whole ad budget online this year, and it’s working. We don’t do any radio.”

“But we reach more 25-54-year-old women in Pico County than any other station.

We have the biggest signal. We only play current favorites, we run fewer commercials, and we give away more prize money than any other radio station.”

“Not interested. Thanks.”

Sound familiar? How many clients do you think Jenny Smith of KXYZ sold using this approach? If you said, “Not many,” you would be correct. Trust me, this disease runs rampant in our business in both large and small markets. I hit “delete” every time I get another one-day sale. Sales managers, please take note.

It’s time to change the narrative. All of the Mister Smoothys in Pico County — or anywhere else in the good old US of A — don’t care about your antenna height, your music rotation, your coveted demographic, or even the fact that you sell radio advertising, for that matter. So what do they care about?

Mr. Smoothy cares about selling cars, period. He doesn’t care how you get the job done — just do it. So how do you get his interest? First, by letting him know what business you are really in. Today’s savvy media companies are not in the business of radio, TV, magazines, newspaper, or cable. They are in the business of

providing unique, original, compelling content across platforms, on demand. Why does this matter? Because that’s what the consumer cares about, and your job requires that you demonstrate you have what he needs: qualified, interested buyers. You do. You just have to prove that you place his interest ahead of your own.

Your prospect wants to know that you can deliver qualified, motivated buyers, not just bodies. So change the narrative. Ask Mr. Smoothy how many cars he wants to sell this month, how many he sold last month, how many prospects he needs to see in his showroom, how many he typically closes, and what his typical spend is to acquire those customers.

Then ask him to draw a detailed avatar of his typical customer. Where do they live? How old are they? What gender are they? What is their income level? What vehicles do they currently drive?

Now, match up your audience profile with Mr. Smoothy’s customer profile. Then structure a schedule designed to deliver the number of prospects he needs. Apply his usual closing ratio against that number. Now you can show him his cost to acquire each customer when using your assets. You see, you’re not selling radio; you’re selling cars for Mr. Smoothy!

Now you’ve mastered half of the equation. The other half requires that you help Mr. Smoothy craft a compelling message and an enticing offer — yes, a tangible call to action that will motivate your particular audience. Remember, you’re delivering buyers, not bodies. You’ve taken the time to learn exactly who buys Mr. Smoothy’s cars, and as the expert marketer you are, you know how to attract and entice the most likely buyers in your audience with the gems that excite them. And don’t be afraid to ask for a powerful enough offer. After all, the advertiser has to put his money where his mouth is, too.

Now, go out and change the narrative!

Barry Cohen is the managing member of AdLab Media Communications, LLC ( He’s sold both suburban and major-market radio, served as a station manager, and has presented RAB workshops and webinars. He is the author of the book 10 Ways to Screw Up an Ad Campaign and co-author of Startup Smarts.


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