Ad-libs: Disadvantages have their advantages

Ad-libs: Disadvantages have their advantages

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

Jared told me about a technique his sales team uses. “I learned it in a seminar years ago, and I’ve seen it used in different industries. It’s based on presenting both sides of the story,” he said. “It’s natural for sales people to focus on positives, but prospects think about negatives. So we package presentations to show disadvantages along with advantages. It creates an atmosphere for open, realistic conversations.

“The first step is to learn the advertiser’s needs and develop an overall campaign theme. The next step is to create three distinct choices – for ad placements, ad designs, etc. The third step is to pinpoint specific advantages and disadvantages of each choice. And the final step is to objectively discuss the choices with the advertiser.”

I asked Jared why he recommends three choices. “Three is the right number,” he explained. “Two can make one of the ideas look like an afterthought, and four can make the sales person seem indecisive – like the cliche of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if something sticks. Three ideas seem deliberate, and they’re easier to keep up with.

After a close look, we can make a recommendation.”

Let’s examine how Jared’s idea works as a presentation starter. The sales person might say:

(Introduction) “Based on our recent planning meeting, you want to reach your target audience with as many impressions as possible. You’ve been running in our print edition for a long time, but your local competitors are beginning to have a bigger online presence. You don’t want to abandon print, but you’d like to make sure you’re keeping your message in front of your customers. I believe we have three choices.”

(First choice) “The first choice is to increase your print schedule and drive people to your web site. The advantage of this idea is that you would keep the print connection that you have built with your regular customers. The disadvantage is that you would need to beef up your web site and sync it with the specials you run in print.”

(Second choice) “The next option is to cut back on your print schedule and shift the majority of your budget to our digital site. The advantage is that you would be more in step with your competition. The disadvantage is that you wouldn’t have as much visual impact on the printed pages.”

(Third choice) “The third option is to keep some print, run some digital and let us develop an email marketing campaign for you. The advantage is that this would put you in position to reach people on multiple fronts. The disadvantage is that it would take a little more time to set up, because we would need to merge your customer database with our lists.”

Although this is an oversimplified example, it provides a glimpse of something that has helped Jared’s ad team. The objective is to give advertisers an honest look at the situation. Mentioning disadvantages can give sales people a real advantage in sales presentations.

(c) Copyright 2017 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: