The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our economy, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The stay-in-place orders have hit the retail sector hard, causing advertisers to cut back or cancel their advertising altogether. As you watch your advertising sales dwindle, and you search for an answer, ask yourself, “Did I make the problem worse?”
It’s easy to blame the drop in advertising sales solely on the COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody saw it coming, it’s unprecedented, and it affects everyone. But was your base of sales contracts built upon a sound foundation of customer relationships or on the shifting sands of package selling and discount prices? It does make a difference.
There is nothing wrong with package selling as long as the package is a well-defined, customer-centric advertising package focused on the advertiser’s needs. But, short-term panic packages that focus on satisfying your company’s revenue needs tend to be problematic for the long-term financial health and performance of your company.
When your business is built upon package selling as times get tough like they are now, your only response is to come out with a new package. It’s challenging to switch over to the consultant salesperson right now because your business relationship with your advertisers was founded more on price and features instead of benefits.
Radio advertising salespeople across the country are on the phones, calling clients trying to keep them on the air. Radio stations are offering exclusive deals to advertisers to preserve the business they can. These efforts even risk jeopardizing the Radio station’s Lowest Unit Rate for political advertising. In some cases, offering a package is so irrelevant, some salespeople tell me they can’t even give it away for free. The client simply cannot use the advertising at this time.
The advertising relationship built on the foundation of a comprehensive Customer Needs Assessment with clear goals and expectations is more durable when under economic stress. The advertiser’s business plan depends on the advertising plan to accomplish a business goal. The advertising plan is less discretionary. The advertising plan is part of the company’s strategic business plan and less susceptible to cancellation. The advertiser needed the advertising before the COVID-19 pandemic, and they need the advertising now and in the future.
Do you keep on trying to sell a panic package? Do you try to switch to the consultant sale? Try going back to the basics. Put your sales team back to work on prospecting, qualifying, and doing Customer Needs Assessment interviews.
Develop the Ideal Qualified Prospect Profile
When the going gets tough, salespeople start wasting time, energy, and emotion going after low-probability deals that are unprofitable, are unqualified and are not in the buying window, don’t have a budget, and can’t buy. That’s when you need the Ideal Qualified Prospect Profile.
In his book Sales EQ, author Jeb Blount describes the Ideal Qualified Prospect profile as “a composite that includes buying window, compelling buying motivations, stakeholder hierarchies, engagement, competitor entrenchment, sales cycle, industry vertical, company size, fit, and more.”
Stop wasting your time calling on local companies that don’t make a good fit. Look through your customer list and create an Ideal Qualified Prospect profile using the most common characteristics of your best customers.
The ABCs of a Qualified Prospect
Even if the prospect is a good match for your Ideal Qualified Prospect profile, you must still make contact with a prospect to determine if they are qualified. Can you speak with A, All of the decision-makers at one time? Does the prospect have a B, the Budget for advertising? Does the prospect have a C, a Commitment for advertising? If you can’t get a “yes” to all three, that is going to be a low probability prospect. Don’t forget the D, can you get a Decision from the prospect in a reasonably short time?
Conduct a Thorough Customer Needs Assessment
A thorough Customer Needs Assessment is more critical now than ever before. You should brush up on your CNA skills before getting started. The COVID-19 pandemic accentuates customer needs. Your prospects are searching for answers on how to move forward. A low price for advertising is irrelevant right now. The question is, “How do I move forward?” The question is not, “How much does it cost?”
Get back to the basics now. We will get to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. What will the other side look like? It won’t be like it was before. The future will belong to those who innovate and adapt. Start your innovation today by focusing on the basics.
Stop Training and Start Teaching
If you want some help, let’s talk. I stopped “training” salespeople a long time ago. You train your dog to do the trick or to obey a command. Today I teach salespeople how to think and take action to respond to the many challenges we’re likely to face in our sales careers.
I use the latest learning technology to help growth-minded people who want to expand their knowledge and skillsets. All of my programs use a Competency-Based Education framework to ensure each salesperson learns the material and can demonstrate competency before moving on to a more advanced topic.
Please let me know if I can help.