Don’t Shoot Yourself In The Foot

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(By Paul Weyland) Recently a rep lost a potential account simply because she included a signal coverage map in her station information packet. The map showed that she covered the areas the client needed to cover, and also areas the client did not want to pay for. “But you’re getting these areas for free,” she told the client. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter what the AE said, the client was adamant about not buying because of those coverage areas. Now she absolutely regrets including those maps and says she won’t ever do it again unless the client specifically asks for it.

I have had my own problems with supplying clients with too much information. On occasion, clients did not buy because of a problem with the map. In other instances, they didn’t like the format, or wanted to see ratings that didn’t favor our stations. Finally, I quit distributing the information unless a client specifically requested it. Guess what? That problem disappeared.

In presentations with local direct decisionmakers, you need to be more focused on specific ideas to make the client’s register ring. Put less focus on your format, signal strength, coverage area, and ratings. If the customer says no, they’re not saying no to your station or programming, they’re saying no to the idea.

Once upon a time, Coca-Cola invited us in for a presentation and the decisionmaker said yes to the proposal to buy both our AM and FM. But then suddenly, as we were shaking hands, preparing to leave, my sales manager, the boss, pulled out a notebook and began showing the client the slick presentation he’d made for that meeting.

The client looked at me, confused, as our manager began to talk the client out of buying the AM. I couldn’t believe it! I asked my boss why he’d done that when the client had already said yes, and he replied, “Because I’d worked really hard on that presentation and I wanted him to see it.”

Why initiate a contentious situation with any client? Why give a client any reason not to buy? Why volunteer what your formats are without knowing in advance whether the client is a fan of that format? I’ve seen clients at a TV station say yes to an idea, then change their minds after the sales manager went granular on specific shows the client would be running in. Turns out that client personally hated The View and spent 30 minutes arguing with the sales manager about that show.

I’ve seen radio clients go negative on a sale when their rep, unasked, blurted out that the cluster package they were selling had to include spots on a controversial radio talk show. And once, while bragging about our station instead of the idea, I brought up a new morning DJ we were bringing in. It turned out the client had lived in the DJ’s previous market and he absolutely hated our new hire.

“Well, I don’t want to run on that station,” he said.

Speaking of shooting yourself in the foot when you don’t have to: why do reps still introduce ratings to local clients? Will we ever learn that when we live by the book, we could also die by the book? Early in my career I personally made that mistake, and it didn’t end well. The client, who turned out to be analytical, was initially excited by an idea we pitched. But then we started bragging about the ratings. Suddenly, to my surprise, the client had a lot of questions about methodology, gross rating points, and reach versus
frequency. In fact, the client became so obsessed with ratings he eventually hired an ad agency because buying us direct was “too complicated.”

Stay focused on big ideas that will help the client sell more products. Stay away from traps. Otherwise, just when you think you’ve got the client’s business in the bag, you realize you’re the one in the bag.

Paul Weyland helps media companies sell more long-term local direct business. Contact him at 512.236.1222 or go to www.paulweyland.com

2 COMMENTS

  1. When AE’s promote everything else about their station(s) except for ideas and Creative, it is because they no longer have access to any unique ideas. Nor do they have access to unique Creative.
    The irony is that neither the ideas or the Creative needs to be world-class, award-winning and stellar.
    Just a little bit better and more effective will do quite nicely.

  2. Pure timeless gold Paul. Listening is a lost art. We buy 200 markets and have a very simple formula – use the best story teller on the station with a track record of local endorsers. We spend good long consistent money. Yet we still have to discover talent on air and chase down the station on their availability.

    Amen to not sharing to much info. Especially when it comes to ratings, clients don’t know how to read it and often gravitate to an extreme number. Far better to tell a story with the ratings and have the data in the back pocket to use as proof if needed in person where we can navigate the eyes and answer any question face to face.

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