I’m sure we have all faced “the wall” at one time in our sales careers. We call and leave voicemail messages, we email, and we call again and leave another message, and we email again—but advertising prospects do not respond. It’s extremely frustrating, to say the least.
Here are some ideas on what you can do to get your prospect’s attention:
- Sell aggressively but respectfully. You do not want to be seen as the salesperson who is in it only to make a sale. You want to form relationships with people and connect with them. That said, you do need to reach out to prospects on a regular basis. People are busy, so if you wait for your phone to ring, you probably will not have a sales job for too long.
- Increase the buy of existing advertisers. If you are having a hard time getting prospects to communicate with you, then focus on growing the revenue from existing clients. If you can increase their ad buy, it is an increase in revenue that will hopefully continue well into the future.
- Try alternate ways of contact. I recommend using email with phone follow-up as the way to contact prospects. Unfortunately, that does not always work, so you need to mix it up. Try a direct mail piece. Maybe even try fax. How about face-to-face at meetings or other events? If people won’t answer their phones or respond to your emails, you have to find other ways to get their attention.
- Change your voice. If you have contacted the same prospects for a long period of time, they may recognize your number and email and immediately ignore it. Switching up the caller or the emailer to someone else on your team may break that barrier and allow your organization to reach people who have basically shut you down for no reason at all.
- Use your assets. Referrals are a great way to get people to talk to you. Reach out to your volunteers, board of directors, and other staff who may be able to open the door for you at companies that should be your advertisers. If these individuals are happy to introduce you, that is great. If they are not, then you can use their name on your phone call or in your email, which will have almost the same impact.
- Add value to a print buy. Many advertisers want more than just an ad in your magazine. One cost-effective way to give them an instant multi-media campaign that basically costs you nothing is to offer a free ad on your website or in your e-newsletter with every print ad they purchase. If you promote this correctly, it can seem like a great value to the advertiser.
- Discount strategically. I am not a big proponent of global discounts, but if you have a discount strategy, it can be very effective. Some examples include offering a one-time discount to first-time advertisers; offering a discount to category leaders who, when they advertise, will bring in other companies in their category; or offering a discount to companies that have already purchased other things from your association (exhibit space, sponsorships), etc. Make sure that the discount availability has a start and an end date so people respond quickly.
- Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t talk negatively about competing entities, but make sure you combat their strengths by highlighting yours.
- Consider a guarantee. Guarantees get people to try something. Try offering to an advertiser the guarantee that if they run at least three ads and don’t feel completely satisfied at the end of the three-time schedule, you will refund their money. (Or perhaps, offer a free equivalent value of advertising on your website or e-newsletter.) More companies may be willing to try out your publication if they know their satisfaction is guaranteed.
- Go for face-to-face. Email, phone, direct mail, and fax are time consuming, but relatively simple. Pick a number of companies and go talk to the decision maker face-to-face. Many for-profit publishers do this because many of the publishers and ad buyers are located in New York City. You can do it as well, but you need to carefully select who you visit so you don’t blow your budget. Another solution would be to schedule face-to-face meetings at an event you both plan to attend.
There is no magic bullet to getting potential advertisers to respond to your invitations to advertise. It takes a concerted, multi-pronged approach built from a strong knowledge base of your prospects and audience. Hopefully, one or more of the ideas above will allow you to stop hearing crickets when you send out sales emails and make sales calls.