At the end of the year, you’re scrambling to capture any dollars leftover in customers’ ad budgets and seal the deal on 2014. But no matter how badly you feel the pressure, here are three things you should never do.
1. Don’t undervalue your ad space. You give your advertisers access to an audience they cannot reach elsewhere. This access has a value, and you have presumably set your prices based on this value. Once you start offering deep discounts and excessive value-added opportunities, you begin to devalue your audience, in effect telling advertisers and prospective advertisers that your audience is not really as valuable as you make it out to be. You also tell advertisers that your prices are not firm and that every time they want to place an ad, they should negotiate with you.
There is definitely a time and place to negotiate prices and introduce added value. However, if you want to maintain pricing integrity, these practices need to be the exception to the norm — not the norm.
2. Don’t be overaggressive. You probably know at least one or two rather aggressive sales people. These are the individuals at networking events that no one wants to talk to because all they try to do is sell. I was actually at an event recently when a sales person came up to me when I was talking with a couple of colleagues. He politely introduced himself and asked who we worked with and what we did. The people I was talking with were association staff members, so they told him who they worked for and what they did. Neither of them was really who he needed to sell to, so he literally said that his target was CFOs and COOs and wondered if their CFO or COO was at the event. This is a perfect example of the type of salesperson no one should be.
Now that a lot of communication and sales does not happen face to face, we must also avoid being overly aggressive with phone calls and emails. It is easy to pick up the phone or shoot out an email, so it is tempting for a sales person to do this on a regular basis. There are times when I am waiting to hear back from someone who has expressed interest in purchasing an ad, and their last email communication stares at me from my inbox. It is so tempting to email them on a daily basis to ask them if they have made a decision, but I know this hurts the sales process and doesn’t help them make up their mind any faster.
I use a sales approach that is aggressive but respectful. That means you are definitely going to do what you need to do to get a prospect’s attention, but you cannot cross that line where you are in their face too much or not listening to how often they want to be contacted. You want prospects to respect you while also allowing you to have a successful sales effort.
3. Don’t sell just to sell. Our job as salespeople is to sell. I know that, you know that, and your supervisor knows that. Selling and selling smart are two very different things. You can sell an ad to anyone who expresses interest, whether their products or services are truly a good fit for your audience or not. If you know that a product or service is probably not a great fit for your audience, you can still tweak your pitch in a way that it will make the prospective advertiser think it is a good decision for them. This type of sale will bring in some immediate revenue, but the advertiser will not get much value out of their ad spend, so the likelihood of their advertising again is very low. This type of sale may also negatively impact your credibility and their perception of the magazine and the association. If this happens too many times, your short-term gains will turn into long-term challenges.
It is better to be honest with prospective and current advertisers, and tell them who your audience is and how reaching that audience will benefit them. As sales people, we want long-lasting relationships with advertisers that are built on trust. If we aren’t honest that trust cannot be built, and we end up working hard to convince current advertisers to come back and prospective advertisers to give us a chance.
Having long-term relationships, almost partnerships, with your advertisers is a goal that every sales person should strive for. Long-term relationships have a high ROI with regard to revenue and required effort. If you strive to avoid doing the three things listed above, you will be on the right path to developing an ad sales process that is effective, respectful, and trustworthy. This will make advertisers want to work with you as opposed to heading the other direction when they see you coming.
This article was originally published in Association Media & Publishing’s Final Proof