Selling With The Power Of Positive Listening

If you’re selling media these days you are living in a period of extreme changes. Here are suggestions for success: Listening to your prospective client to understand, not just to respond. Thinking about what’s in it for them. Framing your products and services to show value. Changing how we think about our business. Teaching in order to learn.

Some 50-plus years ago, Alvin Toffler defined Future Shock as a personal perception of “too much change in too short a period of time.” That phrase spawned an international bestselling book whose message resonates more as each day passes.

If you’re selling media these days you are living that change more so than many. Where just a few years ago, sales professionals at TV and radio stations were supposed to sell their digital extensions, it’s now required and, frankly, advertisers need the help navigating myriad choices in media.

Twenty-five years before Future Shock, the Japanese were practicing something called “kaizen” or continuous improvement in post WWII reconstruction. That improvement was based on making change for the better in any and all aspects of development, business or personal.

What if we embraced kaizen to address future shock in media sales? What would it look like?

Step one might be that we take a moment to assess our listening skills in a world where we are bombarded by messaging. In this proliferation of messaging. We are inclined to reactive listening rather than proactive listening.

The former is when you’re hearing a story and you’re mentally cueing up a better story. Proactive listening is understanding how that story impacted the individual and responding with questions.


Early in my career, a coach shared with me a technique he used when he knew he had to listen better. It was a simple physical cue. He placed one of his hands atop the other. I began to adopt my own physical cue of turning my head just slightly and found it helped keep me focused on listening to understand.

Taking notes in bullet form is also critical to proactive listening. It shows that you value what your client is saying and provides you with prompts for further questions. It also allows you to repeat what was said to insure clear understanding.

When responding, a pause for thought or simply saying “let me think about that” provides you with time to craft the best possible answer. It also shows you are thoughtful when you speak.

Next, it’s important to remember that when approaching any transaction, the other party tends to listen to WII-FM more than anything else. (That’s What’s In It For Me, not a local FM station.)

Let’s look at an agency buy for example. Yes, buyers want to hit their campaign goals, but, at the same time, they want to stand out as knowledgeable to the advertisers.

Knowledge is power and ideas are the currency of success. What if you passed along some to the buyer so that he or she could share it with the advertiser?

The knowledge might be changes in market demographics, competitive activity, key employers or the general business landscape.

The ideas might be around partnering to leverage complementary skills or businesses, or reviewing current target demographics due to population shifts. All of these make your buyer smarter about their clients’ business.

That takes us to thinking differently about our business. In selling media, it’s about protecting your “share of wallet,” while delivering results to advertisers. In doing so, we are “selling more of less,” as Chris Anderson describes in his book The Long Tail.

The long tail concept touches virtually every business and industry evolution. We are selling a suite of products — broadcast as well as digital.

Each company’s suite is unique and is more sophisticated and effective than any one product. We’ve got to understand what each of these new products can do for our clients and, ideally, keep up with changes that can impact how they work.

While it sounds daunting, we have more data and information at our fingertips than ever before. To augment the training you get, set up your own news feed in Flipboard or alerts in Google that deliver stories and topics important to your product set.

When product training is made available, ask about how you can access the same training content later. Zig Ziglar said it well: “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

One last idea to incorporate is the concept of learning by teaching. It’s pretty straightforward. If we’re constantly teaching our clients (not to be confused with pitching our clients) about how emerging products and services can help them, it helps us understand them better.

Kaizen. Proactive listening to understand versus to respond. Thinking about what’s in it for them. Framing your products and services to show value. Changing how we think about our business. Teaching in order to learn.

All of these activities center on acquiring and leveraging knowledge. If we embrace these few ideas and acknowledge them daily as valuable, we’re well on our way to being architects of our own accomplishments.

Mike Kelly has worked in most broadcast sales capacities including account executive, national sales manager, general sales manager, general manager and VP of sales for large and mid-size media groups. He can be reached at [email protected].

Comments (1)

Leave a Reply

Cheryl Thorne says:

March 14, 2018 at 6:59 pm

Great Article by a sales pro..No wonder he did not stay and work for Nexstar!!!

More News