The Biggest Sales Killer of All


(By Jay Murphy) We’ve all done it… some of us still do. Instead of spending hours putting together a well thought out, formal, written proposal and then calling upon all our presentation skills to deliver it, we attempt to take what we think is the easy way out.

If we’d recognize it as the kiss of death it is, we’d never do it. Hey, we may be a bit lazy, but we’re not stupid! I’m not talking about just “winging it”. This is far worse because it makes us feel like we’re actually doing our job.

Some call it “professional visiting” though it’s hardly professional. It likely occurs with existing clients or prospects who we are familiar enough to have a relaxed conversation. Oh these chats are “business related” alright, which makes them all the more insidious.

To be clear… When we casually talk about the idea or concept of maybe possibly having the client embark on an ad campaign with a unique, strategic idea WITHOUT formally presenting it, we blow a gigantic hole in the sales process large enough to sink a ship… In this case, our own.

The post-mortem goes something like this. I’ll use Jason as an eager, albeit fictitious young rep. but in reality, it’s been all of us at one time or another. (Me) “So did you get a chance to circle back to so-and-so?” (Jason) “Yeah we had a great conversation! Talked for about an hour. He’s not interested right now. And that idea you had for an ad strategy? Yeah, he hated it.” (Me – Now somewhat irritated) I don’t remember seeing a copy of the proposal…” (Jason) “Oh we just talked about it. Great conversation though! He said to call back in the Fall when he’s got something.”

In our business, ideas are worth BIG money. Turns out the quickest way to kill a great idea and the accompanying sale is not to actually present it, but simply talk about it at great length. Run it by the client to “gauge their interest” and in the process not only let the cat out of the bag, but

kill all chances of hope, wonder, delight, anticipation, and excitement that comes with a formal presentation. I’d much rather spend 30 minutes gabbing about how the client loves his new boat or the sad story of how she had to put her mother in assisted living. At least that way we’d still have a shot at the business!

As salespeople, we desperately want the sales process to be informal, but it is not. We have to wow and delight our customers with something unexpectedly good. Something they can get their heads around, understand, and own in their minds. Something that STAYS around long after the meeting’s over. Hey, I get it. You’re really good at what you do. You may have 30 plus years of unconscious selling verbiage to call upon in any given situation. But all that chit chat without a presentation will torpedo your sale. As the great Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Presentations offer a platform to instill feelings in the hearts and minds of our customers. To get away from the analytical left brain and over to the emotional right where all the buying takes place. When presenting, you have the opportunity to thrill and delight. Showing the client how wonderful their life will be by answering the question of what’s in it for them.

I wasn’t kidding when I said you’re good. But I bet you’d be a whole lot better by simply knowing what NOT to do. Be either Prospecting, asking great CNA questions, or Presenting / Closing. That’s it! Nowhere in the sales process is there a point where you verbally take the client by the hand and draw back the curtain where the not so great and powerful Oz is at the controls. Whoa, but isn’t talking to our clients about advertising what we’re supposed to be doing? Positioning ourselves as knowledgeable experts? Building relationships based on credibility? Am I actually saying don’t talk to them? Well, if it’s talking about what could or should be in your presentation, then yeah, I am!

This same “Show Don’t Tell” applies to Creative. To me, marketing challenges were and still are creative conundrums in need of conquering. Problem was, I’d attempt to do so on the fly “by the seat of my pants” right in front of the client. After leaving one meeting where I thought I was particularly brilliant, my boss turned and said, “What you did back there? NEVER do that again.” He knew the value of great ideas and their power to move mountains in a formal presentation and here I was giving them away like candy. The teachable moment: You may be biting at the bit to share your ideas, but hold off there Sparky… until the next meeting. If they’re any good at all, they’ll be dynamite when properly presented.

Never has “Show Don’t Tell” been more crucial than in the 21st century world of Digital Sales. I’ve yet to meet a media rep that doesn’t talk a good digital game, mostly because we feel like we have to in order to survive. But by positioning ourselves as the expert, we’re either A) in constant danger of being exposed as the pseudo guru we are by the next savvy digital buyer or B) running the risk of our expert digital insights flying in the face of the same said buyer who believes she knows more than we do. If our “expertness” doesn’t align with hers, good luck on closing the sale. Stop bloviating. Admit you don’t know it all. Or prepare to be called out like the college kid Matt Damon’s character so famously destroyed in Good Will Hunting… How do you like them apples?! 

Instead, show them the ad examples in your digital gallery which will give them a vision of something they can own in what is otherwise a very complex sales process. The company we use has a proposal builder which I like to click through in real time together with the client. Above all, if you don’t know the answer, say so! It’s okay. You’ll still have more credibility than if you tried to B.S. you way out of it.

Next time you feel the overwhelming temptation to verbally grace your client with the idea that’s going to change his or her business and their lives, simply say, “I’ve got something I’d like to share with you. Let me get back to you with a proposal.” They’ll still wanna talk about their kids, family, and that snazzy new boat!

Jay Murphy is a 2020 Radio Mercury Awards Finalist and the General Sales Manager for Haugo Broadcasting in Rapid City, South Dakota. He can be reached at (605) 941.0042.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here