On networking..

Yes, it’s my first post in ages.
So there’s a been a recent discussion on that minefield of misinterpretation we call Twitter. It’s concerning cliques, or for want of a better word, tribes. Now, if you’ve never experienced cliques, go to an all-girls school, as my sister will surely testify. But this is about feeling ignored. And getting annoyed as to why. Just because you are a fan, or follow someone on Twitter, it doesn’t entitle you to stand there, waiting for them to approach you, especially if you’ve never met. So take a leaf out of my book, the sales guy, who is basically paid to network and get connected.
If you’re at a party or networking drinks: Find people in groups of 2, rather than a gang all sharing the same joke. Introduce yourself. Ask them what their objectives are, what they’re currently working on. If someone else looks lost or wanders over, introduce them to your circle, its a really good way to remember the names you were just given and what they do. It’s that simple. Sure enough, you’ll find someone connected to the superstar in the room. Ask for an introduction. Since the advent of social media, where we can check-in to places, join a chat on twitter, post selfies to Instagram, but it won’t ever replace the handshake, the business card or the smile.

The dilemma of paid content

In this world nearly everything has a price tag. And in the past few years, paid editorial has become an attractive commodity to advertisers. This is obviously a great extra sales tool for ad managers, but I’m interested to know if a moral dilemma kicks in? I recently took a great sales call with a company that are willing to start a partnership with my brand. I am quietly confident that ads and sponsorship will be booked, alongside editorial. However they also suggested a great idea for a sponsored round table. Now the sales machine in me would tend to go “Great, the costs for venue, branding, promotions would be..” But I know the value of editorial. I know that if this is published as a paid for feature, not as many people will read this. So I told them that’s what I thought. Sometimes it not all about the sale, up-selling, upgrading, adding a price tag to everything because that’s what your job description says. A competitor of mine is fast becoming notorious for taking the booking, and not following up with any of the deliverables. No after-care, customer service or on-going support to the client. And for that reason they’ve lost business from one of the world’s most valuable companies to me.

Sales Skills: How many do you need?

There’s plenty of old adages for our line of work, such as “born to sell”, able to “sell ice to an eskimo” (this is normally a role-play challenge in 2nd stage job interviews).

But what skills are actually needed in order to effectively sell advertising or media?

Despite countless acronyms, handling objections, assumptive and presumptive closing, pitching, knowing which “colour character” you’re dealing with, I tend to use just 2.

  1. You need to listen. It’s the only thing worth remembering. “Always be closing” is a thing for car salesmen (no offence), listening to the client is the only thing that matters. I’ve gone to too many meetings where I’ve been distracted, or just not firing on all cylinders and I’ve missed out on deals – because I misheard or didn’t understand their objectives when following up.
  2. Find the need. Ok, so this stems from point 1, but by listening to the client talk about their business you will soon get the light bulb moment when they say they haven’t cracked the European market, or not enough people understand their service, or they have a new product they’re working on. If you find the need for them to advertise and highlight this, you are home dry. No pitching needed, (they’ve agreed to talk to you after all) no closing (work together on the ad campaign, don’t just present it and cross your fingers).

And hey presto, you’ve just started a partnership.

Checking In.

One method that I haven’t forgotten was in a sales book I bought when I first started at The Indy. It’s very simple, but easily overlooked by pessimistic sales people or those in a hurry to make a big sale.

So the story goes, there is a door to door salesman selling milk condensing machinery to farms. Each month, without fail he stops by a smaller farm that’s a bit out of the way of his route, but never-the-less he swings by to see how the farmer is doing. Each month, the conversation is cordial, polite, but every time the farmer explains has no budget or valid reason to invest in the machinery. The sales-man accepts this, but requests that he stops by the next month regardless.

Then, one month the salesman visits, the farmer has won a new contract for another milk supplier, and needs to expand. He invites the salesman in to talk costs.

The moral of this story is pretty simple. Despite objections or the same stock reply, it takes little effort to simply check in with companies that are always happy to accept your call or email. You never know what changes are around the corner.