In Praise Of Good Ad Sales People

Posted: July 9, 2010
Written by: Paul Entin
Category: Business Life

There's no torture quite like a phone call or meeting with an awful ad sales person to make an advertising professional appreciate the good ones. I try to give a pass to the rookies who are working hard but haven't been given the training or marketing education they need to sound credible and make an effective case for advertising or for their own publications. But it’s still torturous being on the other end of their learning curve. It’s like being a patient at a teaching hospital where your doctors are learning how to draw blood and they’re using the vein in your inner elbow for practice. These rookies haven’t yet learned that advertisers are their Clients – actual people – not simply entries in their databases awaiting conversion. Here’s a recent conversation:

Ad Sales: “Oh! Thanks for returning my call (elation).”

Apparently, most people don’t return their calls. I can hear the keyboard being feverishly attacked as this sales person tries to call up my database entry. But to no avail. Stumped. Then near panic as if having a conversation without my contact information on screen would be too terrifying an experience.

“Wait, where are you located (confusion)?”

Me: “New Jersey. You just mailed me a copy of your magazine.”

At this point, I already know the most useful information I’m ever going to get about this publication is by reading it regularly and reading the media kit. But I play along to be polite. Remember, I’m trying to give a pass to the rookies. Then,

Ad Sales: “What’s your email address so I can send you my contact info?”

Me: “I’m holding your business card in my hand. You sent me your contact info with the magazine.”

And later,

“Send your press releases to me instead of the editor because he’s so busy but I’ll push it through.” Interesting, because I’ve placed news on your front cover, nine of my press releases come up in the online database on your Web site and I’ve never placed a single ad in your magazine. Your editor seems pretty comfortable running my news without a push from a sales person 25 years his junior. In fact, you said on your voicemail it was a press release published in the very issue you sent me that sparked your initial phone call. But I won’t say any of that. Instead,

“Thanks for the offer to help. I’ll keep that in mind.”

It’s even more painful with experienced sales reps because they don’t have inexperience as an excuse.

Me: “It’s more than a month since the issue came out, my copy never came in the mail, and I’m still waiting for the extra copies with my feature article in it.”

Ad Sales: “I’ve forwarded your request to circulation.”

Wow, what service! What dedication! Surely this sales rep must know there are several competing magazines serving the same readership and their ad sales reps would be bending over backwards for our full page ad program.

The good sales reps understand that if their magazine is truly the right fit for the advertiser then very little selling should be needed. If your target audience is converters, for example, and 98% of a magazine’s BPA-audited circulation reaches converters, then it makes sense to advertise. No amount of badgering or rate cutting can make a magazine that’s a poor fit become the right fit. No amount of discounting will entice a vegan member of PETA to buy a lifetime supply of buffalo burgers.

The good ones try to understand what their Clients are trying to accomplish. They understand advertisers are actual people, and paying Clients I might add. From a recent conversation,

Ad Sales: “I know you wanted more frequency of exposure…”

Me: “Yes, but we still need to work within a budget.”

Ad Sales: “If you went to a ½ pg. ad instead of an island ½ pg. ad you could run five times instead of four for the same amount money.”

Me: “Yes, but your graphic designer always stacks two horizontal half-page ads on top of each other. I want my ad to be the only ad on the page so it’s surrounded by editorial. Then your readers spend more time on the page with my ad. An island half is your only fractional size ad that guarantees we’re the only ad on the page.”

Ad Sales: “Well how about if you ran the ½ pg. horizontal and I’ll guarantee your ad is the only ad on the page? No extra charge.”

“Ok! Excellent idea. Thanks for the offer.”

And that didn’t even cost them anything - just some time and effort thinking about how to serve the advertiser. We scored a 25% increase in exposure at no charge and the entire process was done without my contact information being on anyone’s screen.




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