It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it, that heady, addictive moment when you close a deal! In every ad sales training workshop, I teach, I loudly proclaim, after 28 years and thousands of sales, that feeling just never goes away. For me, it is just as fresh today as it was when I first started out. I liked it so much that I wanted more, and when I got more, I wanted even more. Of course, I lost sales, just like any other novice, or indeed experienced, salesperson, but I was determined, and I was buoyed up by enthusiasm, not only to make more sales but to learn the mechanics of selling – the science of selling.
It didn’t happen in a day or a week, or even a year, in fact, I’m still learning all these years later. I studied and I practiced. I relived the successful sales calls and I analyzed the unsuccessful sales calls. And I practiced. I learned how to present propositions, I learned how to deal with objections, and I learned how to close. And I learned how to tie it all together, to ‘structure’ a sales call to give myself the best chance of making a sale and enjoying that heady feeling as often as possible.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I preach in all my ad sales training classes and what we’re going to be talking about here today – how to host ‘killer’ sales calls with your clients. What you can do to close more business faster and make every sales call a positive experience.
Now, if you’re like me, you have probably already recognized that we’re selling in a crazy environment, unlike any other, we’ve sold in before. So, it follows we have to do something different if we want to close more sales faster; we have to re-think our playbook. Okay, but how do we do that? Well, I have an answer for you, but its only part of the answer. The rest is up to you; how much work you put into your preparation and, yes, here it comes again, how much you practice.
I could write all day about sales calls and still not get it all done because we all know every sales call is unique, different, right? Nope! It’s a fallacy, and I’ll tell you why. On every sales call what we have to think about is what we can do to keep the conversation moving forward, and the way we do that is by having a ‘playbook’, a road map we can follow from our start point to a positive destination. Using this playbook means we can control the sales call – so it doesn’t have to be unique, or different.
A lot of salespeople involved in my ad sales training classes tell me they like what I preach, they even believe in what I’m preaching, but they are adamant that every sales call is different. Okay, that might be true – for them. Here’s the real truth though; every sales call is different for them because they ALLOW them to be different. I believe all sales calls are fundamentally the same. There might be some idiosyncrasies here and there but, just like college basketball games, they are the same. Basketball teams handle each game in slightly different ways – but they also run well-rehearsed ‘plays’ throughout the game. Plays that have won them points in the past. And if you want to be great at what you do, you have to do what they do – rehearse your ‘plays’. You need to take into your heart and remember the theme I constantly preach: “Amateurs wing it, professionals practice.” It’s unbelievably important to us as sales professionals to practice.
So now let me share with you the five steps I deploy in every sales call I make; the five things I do, in this order, in every single sales call:
Step One of Five: Build Trust.
I work at building trust really, really fast. There are literally hundreds of books on this subject, how to build rapport with a client, and yet, still, it’s often regarded as baloney; something light and fluffy without real substance, especially in the business world of today where nobody has time for that esoteric stuff. I say we have to build serious trust fast, without wasting our, or our client’s, time.
How do we do that? Simple: Research. I research in advance so I can say things like, “I saw on your Facebook page that you’re doing that. Let’s talk about that.” Or, “I saw on your website that you’re doing this. Let’s talk about this.” Or, I saw your company mentioned on the news. Let’s talk about that.” And during this first step of five, I also do something no one else is doing. I begin by asking my critical questions, weaving them into my introductory conversation. But be careful. You might walk into a client’s office and see a mounted fish on the wall and comment, “Oh! You’re into fishing.” Or see a set of golf clubs and ask, “Are you into golf?” If you’re talking on the phone you might have looked your client up on LinkedIn and say something like, “I saw on LinkedIn that you went to Boston College. How did you like it?” You can do that sort of thing if you want to, but to me, you need to ask yourself, are you creating a fake conversation for the sake of creating a conversation?
Real fact-finding, and building genuine trust is based on relevancy, on being highly relevant. “I saw on Facebook that you’re promoting this…” Or, “I saw on your website you’re doing that. Let’s talk about that.” Or, I see you’re doing this. Tell me how your customers are responding. By the way, what does one new customer mean to you and your business?”
This is how I weave my probing questions into the first step. I don’t have to spend time building a rapport and then getting into the meeting. I’m building trust fast by demonstrating a knowledge of their business, and I’m asking my critical questions, my probing questions, early in the meeting. Don’t be afraid to do that. Your customer is very likely a busy person and will appreciate you not wasting their time. Bottom line in step one: Build trust fast and weave your critical questions into the conversation.
Step Two of Five: Sharing Success Stories.
What do I mean by that? I’ll make a claim here. I will often stand before an ad sales training class and say that I can easily control your mind, and I can easily control an advertiser’s mind. I’ll prove it to you. Here’s how it goes. If I tell you something right now, you will remember it. I will see you ten years from now and you will still remember it. I promise. Red! Whatever you do, don’t think of the color red. Think of any other color, just not red. Think of black, or purple, or blue. Just don’t think of the color red.
Now, because I’ve made this suggestion to you, in ten years’ time, if I asked you to remember when we talked about a color, and what that color was unless you decide to play games, you would remember the answer was red. Why would you remember it? Because I made the suggestion in such a way that you would.
Okay, but what has all that to do with sharing success stories with your advertisers? Success stories, shared in the right way, stick in people’s minds. For example, saying to your prospect, “Are you familiar with Company ABC?” The answer will probably be yes if you have done your homework. “Would you be surprised to know they’ve been running with us for seven years? And they love us. Every time they run with us they say it’s the most effective thing they do.” Not in ad sales? No problem. Same thing. Just throw out a common problem faced by your clients and how your software or product fixed the problem.
You can also use the opposing gambit. After you’ve told a couple of success stories, throw out a name you’re pretty sure they won’t know. “Are you familiar with so and so?” The answer comes back no. “Exactly, they don’t advertise with us.”
You are scoring gentle points by sharing success stories. But there is a warning I should share…. Be careful. It’s possible to share the wrong success story. “Are you familiar with so and so?” They answer yes. “Every time they run an ad with us they sell 50 cars.” Or, “Every time they run an ad with us they sell nine x-ray machines.” You see the danger? Those kinds of success stories set you up, potentially, to get bitten on the backside at a later date.
I base my success stories on clients that have a history with me. They’ve run with me for a long time, they regularly attend my company’s events, they keep coming back for more, and they are yet to cancel. These are the success stories you should be sharing. I share them in a suggestive way so that, just as the color red will stay in your mind, my success stories will stay in the minds of my advertisers. It’s a great way to get people excited.
Step Three of Five: Determining Market Presence.
This is all about finding out what your advertiser’s intentions really are as it relates to their completion and how they want to be perceived in the marketplace in general. “Mr. or Mrs. Advertiser, when you think about selling in this marketplace, or advertising in this industry, are you looking to just have a presence, do you want to be competitive, or do you want to have a dominant presence?”
I really like this three-tiered question. It was presented to me by Ammie Scott of 417 Media in Springfield, Missouri, and I’ll tell you why I think it’s so awesome. Ask an advertiser what their budget is and you’ll likely get one of three responses. A) They don’t know. B) They will lie. C) They’ll give you some unrealistic figure off the top of their head. Whichever, you won’t have the information you need. Worse, you are now in the position of having to try and match what you have to offer to their supposed ‘budget’.
Asking the advertiser this three-tiered question pushes them gently into giving you the information you need: They want to be present; they want to be competitive, or they want to be dominant. Now you can talk about other advertisers that fall into any one of those three buckets. And you can talk about what it will cost to be in each of those three buckets. You are now able to guide them, first to which of the buckets they want to be in, and second, you’re able to focus their attention on what they need to spend to get there – not what they ‘want’ or ‘think’ they need to spend.
So you can see this three-tiered question is important because it takes us away from the old way of asking what their budget was and then creating a proposal in a bid to meet that budget. This new way allows us to get real with the client real quick. Getting ‘real’ in the sales business today means figuring out what the advertiser needs to do, not what they want to do if they intend to be present, competitive or dominant. This is a fundamental shift in my media sales training programs of the past. Why? Because we all have to evolve or we will get left behind.
Step Four of Five: Presenting Ideas on the Spot:
Once upon a time you’d go on a sales call, ask your questions to discover your prospects needs and their goals, and go away to create a proposal for them. Then you would spend time chasing the client down to have a second meeting during which you would present your proposal. Folks, that’s almost medieval these days. The world has moved on. It operates faster and more furiously than ever before. Nobody, least of all you and your prospective advertisers, have the time to meander through the business world like that.
I have a suggestion. What if you could go on your sales calls with pre-prepared proposals all ready to present? I admit this calls for faith in your own judgement, and you might get it wrong, but what I generally find is that, though there are exceptions to the rule, when I look at a prospective advertiser, I can make a reasoned judgement about which category I think they will opt for; present, competitive or dominant. Then I look at what other advertisers in the same category are doing. I am then able to prepare proposals that will give my advertiser an edge in the marketplace, including pricing, before I go to the meeting.
I’m not disingenuous, I’m not ‘slighting’ the client, I’m simply speeding the sales process up. I’m presenting ideas, on the spot, that are based on what others in the same industry, present, competitive or dominant, are actually doing. And you know what? I mostly find that no matter how creative the advertiser would like to be, how individualistic, they usually end up buying what other people in the same category are doing. You may, occasionally, have a client who has different ideas, who wants to be unique or really over the top, however, I have to say I haven’t found many yet. Most folk follow the flock.
The bottom line in this step is to do your research on the advertiser and then use your informed judgment to prepare your sales proposals BEFORE that first sales meeting.
Step Five of Five: Closing Techniques.
As suggested by the title, this is when I move into one of my well-practiced closing techniques. Regular readers will recall I talked about five of the top closing techniques of media sales superstars in my last blog post. (https://360adsales.com/ad-sales-training-blog/187-closing-techniques-of-media-sales-superstars ). Now, there are seven or eight different closes that people use all the time, but I’m going to share with you the one I use most often.
It’s called the ‘Match Game Close’, and one of its great strengths is its simplicity. Having gone through the first four steps of how to host killer sales calls, you now say, to your customer something like, “Mr. or Mrs. Advertiser, you said you need new customers. I have 13,500 customers with incomes high enough to buy your product/services. You told me you tried this before, advertising with us, and got no return on your investment. I’ve shared, with you, three examples of business owners, like you, that are really, really happy with us. They renew month after month. You also said that you now only do social media and I showed you how expensive social media can be, and how what we can do for you is more targeted – and more affordable. I think we’re a perfect match. Don’t you agree?”
If your advertiser agrees: “Great! Let’s get rolling together.”
If they don’t agree: “Okay. Can you tell me why? Because I really feel like we could have a great marketing partnership together.”
This is a close I have practiced and used over and over and over again. Having established where they want to be in the market – present, competitive or dominant – I simply match their needs to the solutions I can provide.
Finally, the advertiser may say they need to think about the proposal, perhaps talk it through with their partner, astrologer, whatever. It’s not an immediate sale, but it isn’t a no sale either, and I want to establish with the advertiser the fact that I am a sales person that always follows up. I say, ”Great! When would you like to meet again, Thursday at three?” When the time and day are agreed, I set it in my phone, I write it on a calendar, I create email reminders. And I plan for them not to show up by asking, “Okay, so we’ll meet again on Thursday at three. But if for some reason we’re not able to connect then, is it all right if I text you?” Again, I’m letting them know I will be following up and that I will be back in touch with them for a decision.
Okay, I’ve given you a game plan, a playbook you can, and should, use to streamline your sales calls. From an ad sales training perspective, none of this is rocket science. But, the steps and order of this process are important. Now you have to be aware how important it is, as you work through these five steps in how to host killer sales calls, that you think about what you can do within them to be crazy successful.
Step one. Build trust really, really fast by showing you have taken the time to research the advertiser and their business. Include in this step your critical, your probing, questions.
Step two. Share those success stories in the right way.
Step three. Ask that hugely revealing three-tiered question. Do they want to be present, competitive, or dominant?
Step four. Present your pre-prepared proposals on the spot. Have the intestinal fortitude to go into your meeting with ideas ready to go.
Step five. Close. Close that meeting strong. Practice your closing techniques – and then control the follow-up if it’s necessary.
Now you have your five-step blueprint to closing more business right now, and doing it very, very fast. Don’t waste it. Don’t overthink it. Ad sales training is all about practice. Practice everything within the steps that you need to, and use it. It really does work. Remember, if ad sales was an easy job, everyone would be doing it.
About this blogger:
Ryan Dohrn is the host of the #1 iTunes advertising sales podcast Ad Sales Nation and has trained over 6,000 media sales people in 7 countries. His 25-year media career spans consumer, B2B, traditional, and digital media brands from Disney to PennWell. He is also the Founder of Brain Swell Media, an international sales motivational keynote speaker, an Emmy Award winner, best-selling book author, and he still sells media today. Learn more online at http://360AdSales.com or http://RyanDohrn.com