Why Ad Sales is like the Game of Chess

I’m occasionally asked to accompany an account executive for coaching purposes as they make a sales call. The majority of the time, the account rep will talk about their media product for the first 20 minutes of the ad sales meeting. 

Why do sales people talk too much?

Sales people talk too much due to a combination of poor training and fear. Poor training, in that the ad sale rep hasn’t learned to ask questions, rather than dominate the conversation. Fear, in that the ad sales rep worries about the outcome of the meeting because they don’t know what to expect.

Have you ever heard of Paul Charles Morphy?  He is considered to have been the greatest chess master of his era, and is remembered as one of the best strategic players of chess known to man.  Many said he knew every move he would make before the game began.  

That is where you want to be as a sales person.  Anticipate the outcome of your meeting by thinking of each question as a move in the game of chess. Each question you ask helps get you closer to the anticipated outcome of the meeting.

Most meetings that win business are focused on the advertiser and their requirements, and have very little to do with the media you are selling. Of course your media is an important factor, but the meeting must be about them and their needs, their requirements and their desires. You know, the things that are meaningful to them, like making money.

So, how do you get to that winning moment where you ask for the order? You must first ask some really good questions of the advertiser. Lead them to the point where they realize that you really care about their business and their success with your media company.

Here are 5 of my top 10 most critical sales questions every ad sales rep should ask on every sales call.

1)  If we could create the perfect ad for you, what would it look like (or sound like) and what is the outcome you expect from it?  The goal of this question is to manage advertiser expectations from day one.

2)  How many times does a new customer of yours need to see your advertising message before they make a decision to do business with you?  The goal of this question is to establish with the advertiser that they need to do more.  They need to advertise in multiple ways on multiple days!

3)  What ad campaigns/types of ads have worked for you over the last 12 months to meet your goals?  Why did the ads work? What ads did not work, and why?   The goal of this question is to see if there are patterns you can repeat and to identify patterns not to repeat.

4)  Are there any new products or services you will debut in the next 6 months?  The goal of this question is to learn about the future demands your customer might have.

5)  Who is your perfect customer?  The goal of this question is to find a match with your demo.


Like playing a game of chess, always be thinking ahead during your sales calls.  Listen to the answer of each question you ask, and expand it into a relationship-building moment.  Take notes and be prepared to follow up each question with another.  Ask questions with a purpose and a passion to make the sale.  Every good ad sales rep will have five to ten great questions they ask on every sales call. 

Never forget, if ad sales were easy… everyone would be doing it!



About this blogger:  Ryan Dohrn is an award winning ad sales training coach, a nationally recognized internet sales consultant, international business speaker and is the President and founder of 360 Ad Sales Training, a boutique internet revenue consulting firm with a detailed focus on ad sales training, internet consulting and media revenue generation.    Internet consultant and business speaker Ryan Dohrn travels the globe teaching media sales training classes and offers detailed coaching help to business owners and media companies looking to make money online. 


Contact information:

 Ryan R. Dohrn
 360 Ad Sales Training and Strategy
 Brain Swell Media LLC





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