(By Paul Weyland) Just because most of us got into the media sales business by mistake is no reason to do business by mistake. How you spend your time in our business can make a powerful difference in whether you’re always struggling, barely eking out a living, or financially secure. When it comes to being successful in media sales, most top billers would agree that the ability to prospect for new business is one of the most important fundamental skills you can have. So it’s too bad that so much prospecting these days is done happenstance, with no particular method, rhyme, or reason. In this article we’ll discuss tangible ways to go out and find more qualified clients. And find them you must, as they hardly ever come out searching for you.
First, if you’re new in the business, you should be spending a majority of your time looking for new business. In fact, I’d say as much as 75 percent of your time. And if you’re a veteran, even with many years of experience, then your experience should tell you that due to account attrition, you too should be spending at least 20 percent of your time looking for new accounts.
Now, here are my favorite ways of prospecting new business. If you have favorite ways of looking for new prospects, let us know. We’d love to hear from you!
Paying Attention to Other Media. Duh — if the client is running on another station or another medium, that means somebody else has already done the brunt of the heavy work just getting the client to spend money on advertising to begin with. So now your job is to simply convince that client to use your station as well. It’s lazy, but everybody does it.
(For this reason, I always recommend asking for and getting a long-term client commitment on your station, so other media aren’t as likely to steal business away from you.)
The Internet. I like finding new product/service categories that nobody else is calling on. When the Yellow Pages disintegrated before our very eyes, many new categories made themselves available to us. Garage doors?
Accounting firms? Business attorneys? Parking lot pavers? Psychologists? For the first time, clients are considering using radio and television instead of just running all their advertising in the Yellow Pages. Here is an alphabetical link to remind you of the many product/service categories that are not advertising on your station right now: www.superpages.com/yellowpages/categories-a. Sure, some of these categories may be irrelevant to broadcast advertising, but just look at the ones that would make perfect sense.
Catbird Seat. Well-informed salespeople get all the new business. They know months, even years, in advance when a new business might be moving into your area. They know well in advance when a business is selling to a new owner or is opening up a new location. In fact, one of the keys to being really successful in broadcast sales is how much good information you have. To get this kind of information, you need to be connected.
Join the Chamber of Commerce. Join a service organization like the Lions Club or the Rotary Club. Join a leads group, a regular meeting with salespeople from other industries. It’s always good to know a successful person in commercial real estate, for example. Or somebody in the commercial sign area. You can also find out about new businesses by looking through county records and electrical turn-ons. Put yourself in the catbird seat, a position to win out over your fellow salespeople by out-prospecting them.
Go Hunting. I’ve always said that a good media salesperson should know his or her signal coverage area like a good cab driver. Get out of the office and explore unfamiliar neighborhoods. Just because a business isn’t near where you live, work, or hang around doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be advertising with you. You would be shocked at the businesses I have closed and turned into long-term customers simply because I discovered them after going out hunting. You will too. I promise.
Open Your Eyes. Pay closer attention to the areas of your town you’re most familiar with. Look closer at the businesses operating right under your own nose. Have you ever driven to work and suddenly noticed a building under construction that somehow you’d never noticed before? “Where in the hell did that come from?” you ask yourself.
As well, there are plenty of companies right there where you work, pray, live, and play that are somehow invisible to you — until you open your eyes! Sometimes you even do business with familiar establishments, but for some reason never think of that business as a potential advertiser. Pay closer attention to the areas of your town you’re most familiar with. Look closer at the businesses operating right under your own nose.
Internal Knowledge. This may get you killed, but people do it. They simply become experts at knowing when certain accounts will become “open” at the station, and then they “card” those accounts. They aren’t in the business of creating new business, they’re really in the business of taking advantage of the system. Usually it’s because the original salesperson on that account failed to follow through and update his contact sheet (watch your p’s and q’s. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s). I’ve known AEs that have actually made a career out of “snaking” or “leeching” accounts away from other salespeople. Somehow, they’re also good at inheriting accounts from people who leave. You know who you are.
The bottom line is that in media sales, good information will get you everywhere. So give it a chance. If you can’t find an organized leads group in your area, start one yourself. Call a commercial real estate company and find out who their best salesperson is. Then contact that person and see if they might be interested in sharing information with you. Of course, you’ll need to reciprocate. Do the same thing with somebody in the commercial garbage business. Get someone in office products. Find somebody in computer technology. A healthy leads group might have 20 or more regular members.
Go to the electrical utility, and find out what you have to do to get lists of new electrical turn-ons. Go to the county clerk’s office and find out how to get lists of new businesses that are registering in your area.
Get invited to Chamber or charity events. Mingle. If you play golf, join the club. In this business, sometimes it’s not a matter of what you know, but who you know.
Have fun! Meeting new people is one of the cool things about this business. The more knowledgeable people you meet, the more you will benefit. Prospect, prospect, prospect!
Paul Weyland is an expert at helping broadcast stations create more long-term local direct business. If you need help, call him at 512.236.1222 or write to him at email@example.com.