By John Foust
Tim manages an ad sales team. “When I started my career in the newspaper business, I quickly learned that advertisers can be worlds apart in their knowledge of marketing,” he said. “That’s why one of my favorite sales principles is the old slogan, ‘Meet them where they are.’
“This means we have to recognize that our prospects have different levels of experience. Most of them don’t have our knowledge of the intricacies of newspapers. If we don’t talk to them on their level, they will tune us out. And most of them are too polite to tell us we’re doing a poor job of explaining things.”
Tim comments remind me of the time my wife and I helped her father select a car. He loved his 14-year-old car, but it was time for a replacement, because expensive things were beginning to go wrong with it. At the dealership, we found a nice used car with only 12 thousand miles – a much newer version of his old model. Our salesperson was sincere and down-to-earth, but unfortunately, he was hung up on technology. He spent most of the test drive talking about the screen in the middle of the dashboard. He was a walking encyclopedia of Bluetooth and wi-fi and digital programming, but my father-in-law had no interest in those things. He just wanted to see how the car drove and learn the relevant differences between his old car and the new one. His patience with the barrage of comments like “look at this other cool feature” was a clear sign that he liked the car.
In spite of the salesperson’s single-minded focus, my wife’s dad decided it was the right car for him. When the transaction was over, he mentioned that the salesperson was nice, but extremely confusing. The next day, he accepted my offer of a simple tutorial. I sat in the car with him, placed my hand over the dashboard display and said, “The first thing we’re going to do is forget about all of this.” He said, “That’s a good start.” Then we reviewed and practiced some basics until he was comfortable. When we finished, he said he was more confident and even more excited about the car.
Age and experience make a big difference. That car salesperson should have known that a person of my father-in-law’s age wouldn’t care about fancy technology. But he was so blinded by his own interest that he couldn’t see things from another person’s perspective.
“It’s all a matter of common sense,” Tim said. “If a prospect is a numbers person, we should talk in terms of numbers – even if we’re not numbers people ourselves. If someone is an idea person, we should focus on ad concepts. Of course, this means we have to be prepared to talk to about advertising from all angles.”
Meet your prospects where they are. Let that be your guideline and you’ll be on the right road.
(c) Copyright 2020 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: firstname.lastname@example.org