« Magazine Advertising in Q | Home | Magazine Covers Making Waves »

Getting Into an Ad Sales Frame of Mind

Posted on Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Help your sales force get into the right mind-set and improve sales results.

By William Dunkerley

What's the mind-set of your ad sales team? I'm not talking about whether team members are happy or disgruntled. But what frame of mind are they in when they engage in contact with prospects?

Do they view themselves as pitchmen, out there pushing space? Or do they see themselves as consultants to the advertisers? Or maybe they see themselves as networkers, out making friends?

The ad person's frame of mind is an important factor in maximizing a publication's sales potential. Often, though, publishers don't even consider the mind-set factor when overseeing the ad sales effort.

Self-concept and Sales Productivity

How an ad salesperson thinks of himself or herself will affect sales results. As publisher, you can play a key role in the development of that self-concept. As a first step, though, you should assess where your people are at the moment. Are they pitchmen, consultants, networkers?

Actually, those three terms illustrate how ad sales have changed over the years. Networking is really in vogue right now, but consultative selling used to be the gold standard.

Robert Bly, a freelance copywriter in the direct marketing field, outlined a similar evolution sequence in the business-to-business marketing field. Here's what he's observed:

--Stage 1: features selling
--Stage 2: features and benefits selling
--Stage 3: solution selling
--Stage 4: consultative selling
--Stage 5: content selling
--Stage 6: social networking

Bly says that "social networking," the current stage, has proven itself anecdotally but not universally. He remarks that "some companies have examples of campaigns generating solid, measurable results." But others, he claims, "say it is a lot of hot air and find that it cannot be monetized."

Do you see any similarities between your team's sales approach and these stages?

What Are They Selling?

A lot of the b-to-b sales Bly discusses are, of course, product-oriented selling. This raises a good question about the mind-set of your sales team: Do they believe that they are selling a product, a service, or an intangible?

From what I've seen, one of the worst ad sales mind-sets is that of a pitchman selling space as if it were a product. That's a frame of mind that can actually be productive in the short term, but it can also set you on a long-term path to failure.

What's the problem with the pitchman approach? Salespeople with that frame of mind tend to focus on racking up sales. Sales are good, of course. But if the salesperson's perspective goes no further, there can be trouble down the road. Sales for the sake of sales can result in selling the advertiser something that may not be helpful.

Maybe it's the wrong size, the wrong position, the wrong time, the wrong frequency. Any of those factors can affect an ad's success. And that's the point: For the advertiser's benefit, and for your long-term benefit, the ads you sell have to become successful.

When ads are unsuccessful, your relationship with advertisers will suffer.

Facilitating Success

Some publishers encourage their salespeople to adopt the frame of mind of a consultant or a partner. These are both friendlier incarnations than the pitchman. Thinking of selling as a networking process can sometimes be a useful metaphor, too.

But the bottom line of a successful sales mind-set with enduring value needs to go beyond that. The most successful sales occur when the salesperson succeeds helping the advertiser to find buyers. That's what you are really selling. It's a service.

Ad space, whether it's on paper or online, has no real intrinsic value. It becomes valuable only when it produces a result for the advertiser. Your salespeople should adopt that frame of mind. They should think of their work as offering a service.

Step one is to probe and find out specifically what immediate service the advertiser is looking for. That might be, for instance:

--direct sales
--competitive advantage
--a good image

Then the salesperson can develop a targeted sales message that tells how your publication can be of service. The recommendation of appropriate size, position, timing, and frequency should be consistent with providing that service in the best way.

The salespeople should tell the advertisers how your service will benefit them. Talk deliverables. And be prepared to produce results. Get your team into a frame of mind to do that. It will produce success for your advertisers and better long-term results for your publication.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

Add your comment.

« Magazine Advertising in Q | Top | Magazine Covers Making Waves »