by Chuck Nau
‘Care to Dance?’ Remember those moments in your life, when you may have asked that question of a friend, new acquaintance, or total stranger? In many instances, that question was being asked to open a two way dialogue, and to accomplish a simple, yet enjoyable goal …. to dance!! Very often those first few moments were somewhat awkward until one of you elected to take the ‘lead’ and the two of you talked through, albeit quickly, your dancing style and pace ( … probably direction, too!).
A similar awkwardness may exist between your sales staff and you, as the manager or publisher, when it comes to making joint sales calls on new or existing advertisers. Bridging that minor hurdle will be easily accomplished if you remember the aforementioned analogy of ‘wanting to dance’. Someone has to take the INITIATIVE, someone has to ask. I always find it amusing when a publisher or senior manager responds to my question about making ‘team sales calls’ with ‘I have never been asked’. Uneasy as you may be …. sometimes, if you want to dance, YOU have to do the asking.
Once you’ve asked, or for that matter been asked (by your sales staff), the following strategies will serve you well in maximizing your newspaper’s ‘team sales call’ efforts.
• The ‘team sales call’ originates with the salesperson, therefore, the sales call is THEIRS, not yours. Don’t appropriate the call, thereby frustrating if not humiliating your salesperson in the process.
• Set the stage for your ‘team sales call’ by asking your salesperson to give you a brief overview (ideally the day PRIOR) of the current advertiser’s activity AND what ‘we’ hope to accomplish before, during, and possibly, after our ‘team sales call’.
• In some cases, the goal of a ‘team sales call’ is to advance the sales cycle by bringing the appropriate company individual into the sales discussion with a new or existing advertiser. In other cases, the goal may simply be one of education … for the salesperson to observe and learn different selling and situational styles, and for the manager to understand and observe the salesperson’s selling style in action, plus interacting with advertisers. The ‘team sales call’ is NOT an exercise in the hard sell!
• As in any learning situation, dialogue and feedback are essential. Coaching or conversations with your salesperson are important as you develop a concept of encouragement … tell her how she is doing. Coaching is not talking to your salesperson. Rather it is a two-way dialogue or discussion looking at performance, identifying performance obstacles or problems, and developing solutions and action step
• A key benefit of a ‘team sales call’ is availability, YOUR availability to one of your salesperson’s advertisers or potential advertisers. Don’t overlook or underestimate the value of YOUR presence. In many cases, advertisers may not have had many opportunities to interact with a member of the newspapers’ management team. This is your opportunity, too, to learn more about their business, the value they place in your newspaper product, plus minimizing some of their concerns or questions that your salesperson may not be in a position to answer for them. Remember … don’t tell to sell. Ask questions and listen!
An additional point worth mentioning … involving another individual, particularly someone with a different selling style can be very beneficial in reinforcing key selling points AND lending credibility to both of you and your newspaper as you support each other’s statements.
• Speaking of feedback …. pause for a moment during a ‘team sales call’ and ask your salesperson for theirs, it’s important to them and should be important to you. Just as she might ask you ‘How Am I Doing, Coach?’, don’t hesitate to ask her how you are doing.
• Last but not least. FollowUp is not a luxury, it is an expectation. ALWAYS send an informal (e.g. hand written) thank you note to the advertisers and potential advertisers you meet. Sit down and review each ‘team sales call’ with your salesperson, summarizing the meeting and reviewing issues, proposals discussed and planned followup, assigning responsibilities and action steps.
Be sure to deliver what was promised to advertisers in a timely fashion, keeping accounts informed of progress if numerous steps and procedures are necessary.
Good luck as you develop your ‘team sales call’ strategy. Remember, as the old adage goes, a strong sales team Teaches, Encourages, and Motivates.
© Murray & Nau, Inc.
Chuck Nau of Murray & Nau, Inc. is a Seattle area based publishing consultant and sales and management trainer. He has been a speaker for and conducted advertising, marketing, management and sales training workshops with newspapers, niche publishers, publishing groups and press associations, throughout North America.