(By Paul Weyland) When I was in college, I got a job at a store selling men’s clothes. My boss, the owner, was the consummate salesman. And one of the first things he taught me was to stop saying to customers, “Hi, may I help you?” Why? Because if you’re trying to sell something, it’s the worst thing you could say. Put yourself in that situation as a customer. If a salesperson says, “Hi, may I help you?” What is your immediate reaction? “No, thanks. I’m just looking.” See? We all know that script.
And when the customer in that store says, “No, thanks, I’m just looking…” he’s saying NO to you, and NO to the store. You’ve put yourself in a corner. My boss said that, instead, you make a suggestion. If the customer says no to that, she’s not saying no to you or no to your organization, she’s only saying no to that suggestion.
In media sales, we run into a similar conundrum. When we approach clients, we’re all about talking about the station — the ratings, the format, the program, the “special rate package.” And consequently, when the client says no, he’s saying no to broadcast. No to your station. No to you. Why put yourself in that corner? Let’s focus instead on specific ideas.
I’ve always believed that media sales was a thinking person’s game, and that if I can come up with an idea that the client would never come up with on her own, an idea so good that the client becomes convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that your idea for her success is better than hers, that I’ll eventually walk out with an annual buy.
So, let’s set the table for success, instead of allowing the client setting the table for us.
Do your homework — Research your client. Watch/listen to the advertising he has already done. Talk to his employees and find out what’s selling and what’s not. Use the Internet to find out as much as you can about his product/service category. Ask his gatekeeper how the client prefers to communicate. Phone? Email? Text? In-person?
Have an idea before you call — Come up with a great idea — one that makes sense, one that will make the client’s register ring, one that the client has not used before. A much better commercial that focuses on the client’s customer needs would be a good start. Do the client’s current ads make the listener’s life safer? More convenient? More luxurious? Consider pitching one idea per commercial, and then rotate commercials, avoiding clichés, and avoiding making the commercial all about the client, instead of making commercials that identify and solve specific listener/viewer problems.
Use a headline to get an appointment — No more “Hi, my name is Paul and I just wanted to come by and introduce myself and see if I can learn more about your business and find out if you’d be a good match for our audience.” NO. Instead: “I’ve found a hole in your competitor’s marketing and advertising strategy that B-52s could fly through. Let me show you what I’ve found and show you how you could take advantage immediately.” Or, “Every time you advertise, you’re always knocking 20-30 percent off your prices. I have a way that we can make sales without having to give up your gross margin and bring 30 percent back to your bottom line.” Or, “I’ve come up with a strategy so good that every time our audience thinks about plumbers, they will only think about you.” Headlines like these will get you appointments.
Get the client out of the office if you can — Do what you can to determine a neutral location to make your pitch. Try to get the client away from his desk and away from interruptions.
Be ready with a one-page proposal — As we say, “He/She with the agenda controls the meeting.” The proposal does several things.
1. Serves as your notes, so you don’t forget to say something important and so that you don’t stray off topic.
2. Shows that you have done original work.
3. Serves as a vehicle to draw out any client objections.
4. Draws the client to a logical conclusion.
Ask for the business — Once you’ve gone through your presentation, ask for the long-term agreement. If the client says no to this idea, find out why. And leave with something. Another appointment, a production date, a stapler (just kidding), something.
If the client says no to a good idea, don’t ditch the idea — If your idea is sound and the client just won’t buy it, take it to other businesses in the category until you sell it.
When the client says no to your idea, she’s not saying no to your station, you, or to broadcasting. Just no to that idea. Listen, learn, fine-tune, and change your pitch, until the client finally says YES. The goal of every client meeting is a long-term contract. And if you can get the client to say, “Wow, I’ve never thought about it that way,” you’re close to achieving your goal.
Paul Weyland helps Broadcast Stations sell more local direct business. Contact Paul at www.paulweyland.com or call him at 512 236 1222.