By John Foust
Abby, who owns a retail store, told me about an appointment with a salesperson from her
local newspaper. “I did plenty of research before I contacted him and decided to run a
campaign in his paper. When I called him, I made it clear that I was going to buy some
advertising and just needed him to drop by to confirm a few details, so I could pay in
“When he arrived, I reminded him that I had a tight schedule, but he launched into a full
sales presentation. In an attempt to move things along, I pulled out my checkbook and asked
if I should make the check payable to the newspaper or to the publishing company – which
had different names. What happened next was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. He
completely ignored my question and started talking about the corporate owner of the paper.
He had positive things to say, but it had nothing to do with my advertising. After about five
minutes of listening to that, I put the checkbook away, thanked him for his time and told
him I might run some ads with his paper in the future.
Even though that happened years ago, Abby still remembers the frustration she felt at the
time. “That salesperson wasn’t paying attention at all. He was completely out of touch with
what was going on in our meeting.”
Hearing about Abby’s experience reminded me of something that once happened to a family
friend. He was buying a used car from a dealership and thought it would be a simple
process. The plan was to do online research, find a car of interest, take a test drive and make
a decision. The transaction didn’t involve financing or a trade-in.
“The price fit my budget exactly,” he said. “I told the salesperson there was no room to buy
extras. But before he accepted my check and handed over the keys, I was introduced to a
finance person and led into his office. Since I knew that was standard procedure at a lot of
dealerships, I said right up front that I wasn’t interested in added features or an extended
warranty. I’ve bought a number of cars over the years. Sometimes I’ve bought extended
warranties and sometimes I haven’t. This time, I didn’t want one.”
“The finance guy was new in his position and didn’t seem to know how to handle a
customer who wasn’t in the market for extras. He was determined to stick to the script he
had been taught, so I had to listen to a pitch on a variety of extended warranties. I repeatedly
asked him to cut it short, but he kept going until the bitter end. Even though he was pleasant
and friendly, he was completely out of touch with the situation. It was a total waste of time
for both of us.”
Two stories, one lesson. When you’re face-to-face with a client, it pays to pay attention.
(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
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