Ten Ideas to Update Your Media Sales Game


All research points to a buying bump that is set to occur soon. We are seeing citizens getting back to some level of normalcy. Many buying habits will soon come back into play. Yet, our advertisers are still throwing us the same COVID-based objections. Do they not want to get back to business? Why is it so hard for them to grasp that advertising starts the process to get customers back in the door? To me, business owners are suffering a sort of PTSD that comes from the massive shock to their business that the COVID pandemic dealt them over the last 12 months.

As a media sales rep myself, I have the chance to speak to advertisers daily. I also have the unique opportunity to coach media sales reps around the globe. They all report a distinct change over the last year in their advertisers. Each Friday I ask a group of my coaching clients to answer this multiple-choice question: What type of advertiser attitudes did you come across last week? Five percent of media sales reps reported that they met with ego-driven individuals last week, and this did not change much between 2019, 2020, and 2021. Interestingly enough—and sorry to all of the agency media buyers out there—reps reported that many clients in this 5 percent were agency buyers. Now, let’s look at the percentage of logical buyers. Down 9 percent from 2020, logical buyers represented 21 percent of the buyers that your fellow media sales warriors met with last week. These logical buyers typically want nothing but facts and numbers.

Next, and what’s really interesting, is the number of emotional buyers—up 9 percent and reported at 74 percent. You read that right. Seventy-four percent of the media sales reps I’m regularly coaching are telling me that the buyers they’re meeting with right now are highly emotional. This doesn’t mean that they don’t use any logic in the process of making decisions, but they’re showing us that they’re very emotional in the way that they’re buying. It’s a lot about how they feel, regardless of the facts that are being presented to them. With this knowledge in hand, we have to change how we sell media. If we keep selling traditional media in traditional ways, we will keep getting traditional results. 

Here are 10 thoughts on changing your media sales approach to increase your close rate as you sell in a post-pandemic media sales world.

  1. Emotional buyers do not respond well to data and stats. You will find your best success in selling with advertiser success stories or case studies. Talk upfront about the advertisers that you love the most and the results they are seeing.
  2. Do not ask the standard questions you have been asking for years. Why ask what their budget is and reinforce the fact that they have no money to spend? Instead, talk ethically about your other advertisers that are seeing results. Paint them a picture of potential. A better thing to know would be “Tell me about a local business you feel does a good job of marketing.” Then, talk about what marketing success could look like for them.
  3. Do not try to win the traditional vs. digital argument. Instead talk about multimedia. Speak to five or six things that other business owners are doing to win. Digital is really kind of the bare minimum, actually. We’ve got to raise the bar or set the bar with our advertisers and prospects, and that’s one of the things I want you to seriously consider. As ad sales pros, we’ve got to control the narrative. Digital-only advertisers limit themselves and their total ROI. 
  4. Talk about minimums required for ROI success. There is a reality to marketing. There is a dollar value attached to that reality. Show the reality. It might sound something like this: “If you’re going to be competitive, there’s a certain minimum number of marketing initiatives that you need to do in any given 30-day period just to be competitive.” These minimums should be shown in your pricing plans/packages.
  5. Come with ideas ready to roll. Most people have lost patience for just about everything. The last thing they want to do is sit through a sales discovery interrogation session. You are 70 percent more likely to close business when you recommend what somebody needs to do as opposed to what they want to do. Sure, ask questions, but stop being a custom solution builder. There is no proof that custom advertising solutions sell more than recommending what will work for a tested category of your clients. Custom solutions require a higher level of knowledge. They take longer to close, and they require the most customer support from your team.    
  6. In a time of crisis, most people want to be led—so, lead. You are a media sales advisor. Recommend media options based on what has worked for our other advertisers. I’ll reiterate: it’s not about budget. It’s about what the advertiser’s category demands. Identify what they need, get them results, and you’ll have customers for a lifetime.
  7. Social media is not the single answer to marketing. If Coke or Tide could get away with doing only social, they would. Yet, they collectively spend millions each year on traditional media. I might ask this to my advertising clients right now: “Mr. or Mrs. Advertiser, so you love social media. We do too, but pretty much every business is on Facebook. What things are you doing to be different?” Since everybody’s on social media right now, it has become saturated. Quite honestly, digital as a whole is saturated. So, the question is, “What are you doing to stand out from the crowd in a digitally cluttered, digitally-saturated marketing landscape?”
  8. Digital and social are different. Social is intrusion-based advertising. The digital we sell as a media company is permission-based marketing. If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” we’ve got Apple, iOS, and Chrome about to block all cookies, and in fact some of those things have already happened. From watching this documentary and from observing numerous other sources as well, I believe we’re going to see a traditional media resurgence.
  9. Traditional media is a dominating marketing play. Not everyone can afford print or radio. What’s interesting for those of you who sell traditional advertising is that we’re seeing in almost all of our research that one of the best drivers of social media activity—search activity, Google, etc.—comes from traditional media sources.
  10. Sell the marketing triangle of success: traditional, digital and social. Since events aren’t really in play right now, stick with these main three now. Yes, there are virtual events and they’re working in B2B, but the trifecta right now is going to be social and digital with traditional media in the mix as the differentiating factor. If advertisers want to be dominant in their marketplace, they have to do what others either don’t know how to do, or what others think they need to do but can’t execute on because of budget or other circumstances.

People have been putting off significant buys for quite some time due to COVID. Now with vaccines rolling out and with restrictions being lifted, the critical question is, “Mr. or Mrs. Business Owner, are you going to be ready?” It doesn’t matter if you’re local, national or global. Are you going to be positioned ahead of time to take advantage of the buying bump that’s going to occur?  Demand for products is going up, and it’s going to grow higher than it ever has before. Remember, you’re dealing with a lot of emotional people (74 percent). Guide them. Lead them. Help them understand what they need to do to be successful.

Ryan Dohrn is a 30-year veteran media sales pro and marketer.  He is an Emmy Award winning motivational speaker and is a sales coach to more than 200 media companies. Find him at 360AdSales.com.


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  • enigma58

    Excellent suggestions, but it pays to remember what Jason Rogers, advertising manager for the Chicago Interocean, wrote all the way back in 1919: Advertising is never about column inches. It is about eyeballs. Several years ago, inspired by Rogers, I put his ideas to the test, seeking to overcome the simple fact that the Molalla (Oregon) Pioneer rarely attracted political advertising. Organizing a "Voters' Fair" at the community center, every political group, candidate, party and ballot initiative supporter was invited to set up a booth, free of charge. The Pioneer published the names and locations of the participants in a special fair pull-out section, which participants were free to advertise in or not, at their discretion. Not only were advertisers beating down the doors to advertise, the momentum of the fair attracted several times the normal quantity of ads through the campaign season.

    Get your readers excited and the advertisers will follow. If you want to sell grocery ads, sponsor a themed public service cooking demonstration at a grocery store, tied to your newspaper. If you want to sell furniture or home improvement ads, sponsor a home decorating event, again, tied to your newspaper, and if you want to sell auto repair/auto sales advertising, sponsor auto maintenance workshops. Take to heart the Silicon Valley mantra, "If the product is free, the user is the product."

    Monday, May 24, 2021 Report this