Selling Beyond Price: Ad Sales Wisdom from Dave Friedman



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Here’s some sage sales advice from Associate Publisher and Ad Sales veteran Dave Friedman.

You have the appointment with a hot ad sales prospect…now what? How do you land that big new advertising account?

I love to read about new pitch styles and closing techniques from various self-proclaimed sales gurus hoping it will make me a better salesman. Over the years I’ve tried most of the suggested techniques at one time or another. I may prefer to deny this fact, but I’ve earned my stripes in this business now and I’ve come to learn that the more we think sales techniques need to change, the more I realize it’s just the toys that change – the basics remain the same.

As Associate Publisher and Sales Manager of Randall Publications LLC I’ve been around the ad sales block a few times.  I’ve become a self-proclaimed sales pundit; after all, I must have learned something doing this for the past 33 years! In my experience, successful ad sales is all about selling beyond price.

Early in my career, a very smart mentor taught me that people buy emotionally but justify rationally. Circulation audits, readership metrics and last attribution issues aside, this is as true today as it was in 1981 (was that really 33 years ago?). So what does this mean for the niche magazine sales person?

Just like 33 years ago and likely 33 years before that, to sell beyond price you need to embrace the idea that people buy from other people that make them comfortable. Only when they believe you earn your living by helping them earn theirs, will they will look past price and other petty objections to buy from you because you are helping them succeed. If they don’t believe that, well I guess you pull out the audits, debate the metrics, shave the rate card and pray for the best.

So now you have that coveted decision maker appointment – what do you do? I’ve been there – staring at this intimidating buyer towering on the other side of the desk, arms folded as he grunts – “You have 10 minutes – make it good.” You’re thinking – “I’m not worthy; he’s going to eat me alive.” Okay, take a breath, resist that urge to say “But we dropped our rates!” and remember a few facts:

A. He’s not really a looking to crush you; he’s just looking for a solution to his problems. He’s jaded by parades of previous sales pitches that wasted his time and money. If he didn’t have a problem in need of solving, do you really think he would waste his time and give you the appointment?

B. You’ve pre-qualified the prospect. Since you’ve pre-qualified and already understand he wants to reach the niche that you own, you have something more than buying ads to discuss with him. You have your market.

C. Try being upfront. Tell him it will likely take more than 10 minutes if “together” you determine you can help him. Reassure him that if he needs to end the appointment for whatever reason – he can just say so and it will be over. (Oh, and if he says it’s over, then don’t drag it on as he either really has something more pressing or you’ve lost him. In either case, you’re better off circling back at a later date than forcing him to listen when he doesn’t want to be there.)

D. Talk about your niche market. Talk about the last trade event you were at or a specific event related to what he does more than about ads in your magazine. Share your insight into his potential customers as you get him to open up about how he really needs to build your niche.

E. You can help him to think like a “thought leader.” You can help him by explaining how his knowledge delivered as thoughtful content might be coveted by your readers and editors and can help establish him and his company as thought leaders. Be careful to follow your publication guidelines on submitted editorial as you don’t want it to be perceived that you are selling your editorial. This one can be tricky if he doesn’t have anything really worthwhile to say.

F. Keep asking him questions. Ask him questions about his business until he starts talking so you can shut up and let him sell himself. Be sure to listen and note what he says because if it’s important to him, it damn well better be important to you. That information will be very useful when it’s time to close.

G. Make the goal more than a single ad. More than just an ad sale, your goal can be to help make him successful in your niche. After all, a successful advertiser is the repeat advertiser a niche publication needs to survive.

H. If you learn he really doesn’t need your niche, don’t try to force it. Your time is more important than that. Move on to someone who needs what you do. In niche publishing we have to think long term as our customer base is limited. Give your prospect time to learn to trust you. Then, be prepared to close when he signals he’s ready. That’s a discussion for a later date but suffice it to say he will signal when he’s ready.

Dave Friedman, Associate Publisher and Sales Manager, Randall Publications LLC and…. self-proclaimed sales pundit; After all, I must have learned something doing this for the past 33 years.

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More about Dave: Dave Friedman has enjoyed a career spanning over three decades in b2b sales with a variety of niche publishing companies including American City Business Journals, Publication Management, Phoenix Media, Cygnus Business Media, Milo Media and Randall Publications. Currently he is Associate Publisher and Sales Manager for Gear Technology, Gear Technology India and Power Transmission Engineering magazines. Dave can be reached at dave@geartechnology.com
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