(By James Bahm) When I started out in radio sales, my first manager only cared about “selling spots and shaking hands”; and his idea of training was to set aside 20 minutes to teach us how to read the rate card and fill out an order sheet. No creativity, nothing to do with building a campaign around a need, and nothing to do with securing a quality meeting.
Selling is sometimes being in the right place at the right time. However, in order to be super successful at selling radio, you need to make sure you’re meeting with the right person. Oftentimes I see new AEs get so excited to have a meeting with anyone that they’ll put together something and present it without learning if they’re meeting with the decision-maker.
After being a poorly trained AE, I quickly learned the importance of reaching the decision-maker as soon as possible. It’s not always prudent to ask, “Who makes the decisions for the company?” Even with resources like LinkedIn (provided that people have an accurate and up-to-date profile), or the company’s website (provided that is up to date, as well) this can sometimes be a challenge to find who you need.
And depending on the solution you’re presenting and the campaign you’ve put together, you may need to talk with the head of IT or maybe HR, or Training and Development, maybe it’s a committee. Regardless of who you need to meet with, if you talk with the wrong person and present the best proposal ever to them, you can wind up delaying the close for several months, or not closing the sale at all.
Just because someone has a title of “Marketing Director” or “Manager” does not necessarily make them the sole decision-maker with whom you need to meet. And never assume the person you’re meeting with is the only one involved in the decision-making process.
And one very important thing to remember (in addition to meeting with the right person), is for you to learn how the decision is made, as well as what they need to see in your solution.
If you can ask the right questions, you can get them to tell you how they want to be closed.
Here are a few questions I’ve used over the years to improve the quality of my meetings with the decision-maker(s) and close more sales.:
* “In order to maximize our time together, can you please let me know who besides yourself would be involved in making this decision?”
* “Help me out, when I have a recommendation for you to consider, who should we invite to the presentation?”
* “How do you make a decision like this? When you receive recommendations from other vendors, what criteria will you evaluate in the decision-making process? (A great way to gain insight into what they want to see in your solution.)”
* “When you’re considering partnering with a new company, what are some things you may need to see, hear, or experience in order to make the decision easier and the transition smoother?”
If you do your job, you may learn what their budget may be for a solution; however, the price will ONLY be an issue when they can’t perceive any value in your solution and be able to distinguish it from anyone else’s.
Remember, using the right wording, or asking with a softer voice (like the one late-night personalities use to back-sell Michael Bolton), will put your client/prospect at ease and help them see you more as an ally who is offering a customized solution designed to solve their problem and fill their needs, rather than dismiss you as another salesperson who’s only trying to help yourself.
Bottom Line: If your closing ratio is not that high, make sure you’re presenting to the right people who can immediately say yes.
I would love to hear from you. What questions do you ask in order to get to the decision-maker sooner?
James Bahm is a 25-year broadcasting veteran, an advertising and marketing resource, and owner of The Bahm Consulting.