Ad-libs: Selling on a scale of one to ten

Ad-libs: Selling on a scale of one to ten

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

Image_AdLibsMichael was talking to me about one of his favorite sales techniques. “Even though I’ve been selling ads for a lot of years,” he said, “there’s always something new to learn. A friend in the furniture industry shared a great idea on how to ask questions to get the right kind of information. I don’t know if this technique was developed specifically for the furniture business, but it works just as well in ad sales.”

He explained that the technique involves asking a prospect to rate his or her experience with existing ads. Then it’s easy to shift the conversation to the benefits of advertising with his publishing company.

Step 1: “The first thing I do is determine where they are currently running ads,” Michael said. “If I already know, I just confirm it by asking, ‘I see you’ve been advertising with XYZ Media. Is that right?’ And if I’m not sure where they’re running, I ask, ‘Where are you currently advertising?’ In just a few seconds, they identify my primary competitors.”

Step 2: “The next step is to sincerely compliment their current media choices. Find something positive to say, even if they are the weakest media outlets in the market. It’s foolish to be critical and put them in a position to defend their choice. For example, I might say, ‘It’s easy to see why someone would pick that radio station. I know a few people who work there, and they are excited about their product.’”

Step 3: “This is where the magic starts,” Michael said. “I ask the prospect to rate the experience, by saying something like, ‘On a scale of one to ten – with ten being the best – how would you rate the job those ads are doing for you?’

“People are generally willing to give their ads a rating. A ten-point scale seems to work better than a five-point scale, because there’s a wider range. Most people are reluctant to rate at the very top or bottom, so a rating of eight on a ten-point scale is more revealing than a rating of four on a five-point scale.”

Step 4: “Let’s say I talk to somebody who gives a rating of seven. Next I ask, ‘In your opinion, what would it take to turn that seven into a ten?’ This question can produce a ton of good information. Sometimes they talk about their current marketing results and – most important – what they would like to accomplish in the future. That opens a discussion about what I can do for them.”

Step 5: Then Michael works to manage expectations. “It’s unrealistic to expect a perfect ten,” he said. “After all, a lot depends on things in their businesses that are beyond my control – like parking and customer service. So I say, ‘I think we can agree that perfection is rare. So let me ask if you would be happy if we change that seven to a nine?’”

See where Michael’s technique can lead? Looks like it’s worth a try.


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 2015 by John Foust. All rights reserved.