Ad-libs: How to fix a common communication flaw

Ad-libs: How to fix a common communication flaw

By John Foust

Raleigh, NC

The flaw: You’re meeting with a prospective client, but you seem to be communicating on different wavelengths. When you mention a key sales point, your prospect barely acknowledges it. And when he or she talks, you feel like the entire conversation is off topic. The experience reminds you of the two proverbial ships passing in the night, with neither crew being aware of the other.

The fix: The problem may be a matter of complete disinterest – a result of trying to sell the wrong thing to the wrong person. But as long as you’ve done your homework on the prospective advertiser’s business, it’s more likely a clash of communication styles.

These days, there’s a lot of talk about personality types and behavioral styles. There are many systems to categorize the ways we think and act, including the DiSC profile (with four categories) and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (with 16). While these systems are useful, sometimes it’s better to take a simpler approach. In a sales situation, an understanding of Right/Left Brain differences may be all you need to keep the conversation on the right track.

Research has revealed that the two sides of the brain account for different modes of thinking – and that each person shows a preference for one of the two. Left brainers are more logical and analytical than right brainers; they tend to look at parts, rather than the whole situation. Right brainers are more creative and intuitive; they are likely to see wholes, rather than individual parts.

Left brainers like numbers and charts. Right brainers like words and ideas.

A typical left brainer likes an organized workspace, a desk that is free of clutter. A right brainer doesn’t mind a little clutter.

Most accountants, media buyers and computer programmers are left brainers. Most creative directors, writers and teachers are right brainers.

Now this doesn’t mean that right brainers can’t balance a checkbook, or that left brainers can’t play the piano. It just means that these two styles have different ways of looking at the world around them. And different ways of communicating.

When you’re talking to a prospect, look for clues. If he or she has the opposite thinking style from yours, you have to be the one to make the adjustment. If you want to advance the sale, don’t expect the other person to adjust to you.

When you’re meeting with a left brainer, focus on numbers and statistics. Use charts to illustrate readership figures. Show how ad responses can be measured. Pay special attention to the individual ingredients of a proposal (remember, they like to look at parts).

When you’re dealing with a right brainer, don’t drag them into what I once heard  described as “the deep, deep woods of Spreadsheetville.” Cover the numbers, of course, but place more emphasis on the creative angle – what the ads will look like and what they will say.

Neither side is wrong. They’re just different. The best sales people understand how to adapt.



(c) Copyright 2012 by John Foust. All rights reserved.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: