Persistence isn’t everything in TV sales. In the hand-to-hand combat for a larger share of local advertising, victory may depend on the genuine personal relationships you build with clients. That involves getting to know the clients, offering service guarantees and dropping by with some treats when you’re in the neighborhood.
Local or national, transactional or direct, it’s increasingly important for TV account executives to remember the blocking and tackling of sales: strong client relationships.
It is no secret that the transactional base that stations have enjoyed for years has shrunk. Dealer group money is gone. The competition to garner the local advertising dollar is fierce. More reps are out on the streets. Senior reps that have made a living riding large transactional lists are now refocusing their efforts to developing direct local business. One advertiser reminded me that “there are 100 of you and one of me.”
The quickest way to grow local share is by switching your local newspaper, cable and yellow pages advertisers to TV. This will mean more “hand-to-hand combat” in your local market. Our ability to know and super-serve the customer will make all the difference.
Relationship building is the foundational skill needed for account executives. It’s the first step in the selling process.
Congratulations. You’ve secured an appointment with the general manager of your local Ford dealership. As you detail the shows your station has to offer, he has already sized you up in his corner office. Can he trust you? Will you under-promise and over-deliver? Are you just another media rep hawking your newest promotion or are you there to truly help grow his business?
Persistence is great, but persistence without the ability to show you care is like building a house on sand instead of stone.
This year has proved to be a tough one for the television business. However, some reps are having a banner year. When asked for the keys to their success, the top two answers are:
- Keeping a fuller funnel of new business prospects.
Staying close to current clients.
Here are some simple and inexpensive ways to create deep meaningful relationships in your market:
- Keep a running bio of each client in your Outlook contacts. Know their birthdays, favorite sports teams, hobbies and background.
- Offer a “service guarantee” to prospective clients. If you fail to visit them at least twice per month, you’ll refund their month’s advertising expenditure. This type of guarantee lets them know up front that you are committed to super-serving them and developing a deep meaningful relationship.
- Drop off bagels/donuts with your station’s logo on the packaging. (This also works with cookies in the afternoon.)
- Stop by without pushing your newest promotion. Explain you were “in the area” and wanted to see how this month’s sales were going. Take the time to care.
- Send a handwritten note after your first meeting with a new client.
- Draft a welcome letter from your GM that goes out to new clients.
- Make sure your station’s top 20 accounts are getting a visit in person from upper management each quarter.
- Don’t be afraid to ask how their advertising is working. Often times we scramble to make changes to the schedule or creative after we get the call to cancel. This is too late. Be proactive.
- Develop a Personal Marketing Portfolio with campaigns you’ve developed and testimonials from other clients. Show this resume on your first call to establish credibility and tenure.
Recently I was at lunch with an owner of a multi-location fitness business. He explained that his advertising was working, but wasn’t sure which media were most effective. He noted quite candidly that he wasn’t sure if it was our station that was getting his phone to ring. He looked us dead in the eye and said, “I am going to renew with you for another six months because I like you guys. You take the time to review my campaign’s performance and we really feel we have a true partnership with your station. I will be trimming back some of my other stations, but not yours.” There are scores of clients just like this in your market who are not looking at rating points, posting or CPMs. They just want an efficient marketing solution sold to them by someone who cares. Be that someone.
The fact is that we sell a medium that can be a bit difficult to track at times. Customers can’t haul their TV sets into a car dealer’s showroom like they can their daily newspaper. Often, we don’t get direct credit for developing the lead. When asked “where did you hear about us,” customers give credit to the Internet or yellow pages. They have forgotten that they saw an ad three times on TV that drove them to search for the number online.
As our business grows from one screen to three, the ability to develop deep meaningful relationships within the local market will make all the difference.
I think Dale Carnegie said it best back in 1937 with his breakthrough book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Financial success, Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership and to arouse enthusiasm among people.”
I would encourage us all to pay special attention to the way we excite our clients while developing deep, meaningful relationships.
Charlie Sternberg is the local sales manager for WRDQ, an independent station owned by Cox Television in Orlando, Fla. He can be reached at 407-822-5635 or [email protected].