Ad-libs: Getting sales traction

Ad-libs: Getting sales traction

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

Traction is a key element in any business. Even the business of football.

Many fans remember when the Green Bay Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys in the 1967 NFL Championship game. The winner would go on to play the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in the second Super Bowl. This was the famous “ice bowl,” in which the temperature was minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 25 Celsius) at kickoff. Before the season, Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi had purchased an underground electric grid system that was supposed to keep the field from freezing. But on the day of the game, the system wasn’t working, and the field was frozen solid. It was so cold that Frank Gifford, who was announcing the game in an open booth, said, “I think I’ll take another bite of my coffee.”

Dallas was leading 17-14, when the Packers were facing third and goal on the Cowboys’ 1-yard line with 16 seconds remaining. Lombardi called for quarterback Bart Starr to give the ball to the fullback, Chuck Mercein. But Starr didn’t want to risk a handoff and decided – without telling anyone in the huddle – to run the ball himself. When guard Jerry Kramer got to the line of scrimmage, he couldn’t believe his good fortune in finding a soft patch of turf. It was a foothold. Of course, Kramer threw the key block, Starr scored, and the Packers won.

It all started with Kramer’s foothold, which gave him traction against Jethro Pugh, the Cowboys’ superb defensive tackle. To this day, Cowboy fans speculate on what could have happened if Pugh had had the soft patch of turf.

There’s a lot of slippery ground in the world of sales. The first step in getting traction is to find the soft spot – the biggest and the best of which is self-interest. British statesman Benjamin Disraeli said, “Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.” There’s great truth in these words – as long as we are completely sincere in our interest.

Here are some foothold areas for sales presentations:

1. Advance research. Show that you have done your homework on the company. Learn as much as you can before your first meeting. Study the company’s web site. If it’s a retail business, visit one of their stores.

2. On-the-spot research. In your initial appointment, ask a lot of questions. Get facts and opinions. What is the company’s marketing history? What kinds of ad campaigns have worked in the past? What hasn’t worked? What are their marketing goals?

3. Previous communication. If you’ve had conversations or an e-mail dialogue with your prospect, that’s a good starting point. If you’ve promised to bring specific information to the meeting, that’s even better.

4. Common interest. As long as you keep it brief – and as long as you avoid political topics – this can be a good rapport-building foothold. Did you grow up in the same geographic area? Do you have similar hobbies?

Or…do you share an interest in football?


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:

(c) Copyright 2013 by John Foust. All rights reserved.