The real world of advertising sales

Let’s take the first prospect meeting. This is not the time to high pressure a prospect. Recently we see a strategy to present options and recommendations in the first sales meeting. After a barrage of asking clever questions, presenting ideas on the spot, talking about the Corona Virus , developing the proposal, giving a variety of pricing options, giving testimonials, overcoming objections, attempting to close the prospect …all these barrage of actions are on the first meeting.

Obviously not the way to sell the prospect on the first call. This approach could not only irritate the prospect but put the advertising salesperson making the presentation look very pushy and not an advertising sales professional and a trusted advisor.

 Introducing the first call of a 3 call process-establishing credibility

Instead of doing everything on the first call, let’s look at a more reasonable process to sell the prospect. Let’s begin by examining a good first call on the prospect. According to most experts, after you have researched their website, now is the time to tell them what you know about their business—and how interested you are in what they are trying to achieve. This usually leads to questions you can ask about their business goals. The whole thrust of effort is designed to get them to open up and reveal everything about their business and their marketing goals plus hopefully their budget for advertising.

As a media buyer for my advertising agency of 30 years, I have been subjected to this approach. In a typical example, I’m sitting there with a media salesperson  and I’m thinking “who is this person–can I trust them—why should I tell them all about my plans—if  I’ve got goals I want to achieve why should I reveal them when I hardly know him or her?” The bottom line is that they have no credibility with me…I’m not ready to open up until I can thoroughly trust them, think they’re reliable, and have confidence in them.


So the answer is, you’ve got to strike a balance between building a relationship and at the same time have them trust and believe you. Here is a time tested strategy for identifying yourself to the prospect:

The advertising salesperson opens with the following “ I’d like to talk to you about your business but I think it’s very important that you know more about who we are” The prospect now has these questions and thoughts in their mind which needs to be addressed as to who you are:

I don’t know who you are—what is your background experience –what are your qualifications?

I don’t know your company—what is the complete name of your publication—what other businesses do you have?

I don’t know your company’s product—tell me about your print and digital display ads—website—local news

I don’t know your company’s customers—give me testimonials of people in my line of business.

Once this information is presented- the prospect now is in a position to better trust and to believe in your credibility. You’ll notice there has been no mention of showing a media kit. It has all been verbal.

Building Rapport

There’s always a likeability factor in selling. It’s amazing what a smile can do to break down barriers between people. It’s always important to find common ground and build rapport. How many times have we heard the phrase “ build rapport” but even in today’s world of selling it’s amazing how many times we forget to do it.  It still means something for a prospect to be complimented on their hobby or something they’ve done.


Creation of interest

At the conclusion of the first call —that is the time to do what I call “gravitational selling” This is where you want the prospect to gravitate to you in preparation for the second call. It also can be called “creation of interest”. Now you tell the prospect that on the next visit, you want to learn more about their business and show them how you will create great custom designed ads for them in print and digital as well as formulating an advertising plan that will reach their target audience more effectively. Then you ask for permission to have a second visit.

The second call

Fact finding approach—do rough layout sketches incorporating the big idea—analyze why rough layouts are done—how to build their image–ask about their budget—ask permission to bring advertising plan and comprehensive layouts to third meeting.

                                               The third call

Presenting the comprehensive layout ideas—Presenting the advertising plan—Covering objections—Closing techniques—Power closing sentences

Retention—who is going to service the account?’

Hopefully the prospect is now the customer of the publication. Someone has to service the new account. I wonder who could that person be? Why it’s the person who sold the account of course. All of the ad sales training experts who promote selling everything on the first call never talk about what happens after the prospect becomes a customer. Someone who knows the account quite well has to be a marketing partner with the new customer by preparing the ads, presenting more publication services like inserts, special promotions, etc. The customer expects this situation to happen the way I have described it.

High customer retention starts with the first contact with a prospect and continues throughout the lifetime of a relationship and successful retention effort takes this entire lifestyle into account. A publication’s ability to attract and retain new customers is related not only to its product and services, but also the way it services its existing customers. This service generates a reputation that creates a powerful image within and across the marketplace. Customer retention also has a direct impact on profitability.

Trust and believability

The bedrock of customer retention is also based on these factors:

  • The image and reputation of the publication. How does it fit in the media mix of the customer? What is the strength of their readership?
  • The trust and believability of the salesperson.
  • The plan of action for the customer will include the following promises:
  1. I will design a compelling advertising campaign using my publication to present your products and services in the most creative way possible.
  2. I will work with you as your marketing partner to fine tune your ad campaign and adjust it to changing market conditions.
  3. I will treat your advertising dollars as if they were mine, giving you the best discounts available to control your costs.
  4. I will keep you up to date with what is going on in the market from my communication with other business owners.

The final word on customer retention

The number one place publications can get revenue is through retention. They need to stop being so product oriented and work on establishing an effective strategy for their customers. That strategy will include a marketing plan which will commit the customers to a long range advertising program with the publication.