The Advertising Sales 4 Letter Word That Will Stop You In Your Tracks

4 min read
September 21, 2015

You can often tell long before a pitch meeting ends, how it is going.  When things are good, there's usually a rhythm.  There's a back and forth, an open dialog and good questions asked.  Conversely, when a prospect is constantly looking at their watch, taking calls within the meeting, not taking notes or yawing its generally not a good sign.  But perhaps worse than all is when the prospective client uses a four letter word.  

No, not just any four letter word but the one that advertising sales professionals hate to hear...TEST!  Most sales execs equate it to the screeching sound of nails against a chalkboard that instantly sends chills up your spine.  Whether you're selling television spot, outdoor billboards, pay-per-click, you're not immune, someone is going to use the four letter word.  But is "test" really a foul four letter word or has it gotten a bad wrap?   

"Test everything.  Test your promise. Test your media. Test your headlines and your illustrations. Test the size of your advertisements. Test your frequency. Test your level of expenditure. Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving"

- Advertising legend, David Ogilvy

The truth is testing media, especially in the age of digital metrics is a necessity. Advertisers with truckloads of money to spend are far less common today so marketers are charged with trying one medium at a time. There are different variables that can affect the results of an advertising campaign from ad copy to the market to weather. Marketers must test the effectiveness of their message in each medium to find the best mix for promoting their product or service. Does it make it harder on the seller? At times, but here are three ways you can break through.

Sell to the Right Buyer
Perhaps the number one reason sellers don't get the level of commitment from a prospect that they seek is poor prospecting.  This is one of the fundamental rules in marketing but often overlooked, did you target the decision maker?  Most of the time when the answer is no, a sale isn't made.   However, sometimes we reach a buyer who has a small budget and wants to "test" the media hoping to strike gold.  This is a recipe for disaster.  Their motivations are purely personal.  This prospect is seeking to impress superiors (who probably are the decision makers you should have targeted initially) and climb the ladder.  They sniff out a good opportunity but can't invest the necessary resources into it to make sure its successful.  Like putting five dollars in an empty gas tank, you're not going to get far.  Even if the prospect is eager to move forward, take the time to the make sure they're the appropriate decision maker.  Making a mistake at this stage can permanently ruin your chances with the entire organization down the road.

Develop Good Rapport
One of the major reasons a potential client will want to test your media before committing to a more comprehensive spend is because they don't know you.  We buy from people we know.  This is especially true of large purchases.  The more we know the salesperson, the more comfortable we feel forking over large sums of cash. Rapport makes us feel more comfortable that the seller has our best interest in mind.  However rapport takes time.  Invest in your prosepects.  Get to know them and perhaps more importantly, let them feel like they know you.  Know what their likes and dislikes are and vice versa.  Share personal details, where appropriate, but be careful not to overshare.  Social media is a great tool for opening the door into your world outside of work. The more you know about each other, the more comfortable they'll be committing to the buy you want.  And hey, if the campaign completely bombs, they'll know where you live so they can come see you about it.  

Know your Numbers
Another reason a potential client will want to test is because your medium is unfamiliar.  This has been a challenge for many new media, grassroots media and online ad sellers.  The way you combat this is with solid metrics and knowing your client's target market cold.  This requires that you be a serious researcher or have one at your disposal.  Digital media has afforded us the ability to provide indisputable facts about traffic, impressions, frequency, etc.  Use these metrics to put together a story for your prospect.  Be careful not to dump a bunch of numbers on their desk or in a deck, but walk them through how their investment will reap them an exponential return.  By making it simple, they will be able to see how their money will help to turn a profit.  This should do the trick to loosen the purse strings a bit. 

Getting the advertising four letter word can be frustrating, but today's market dictates it a necessity. History has taught us that under investing and under committing to a media campaign won't net us the results we seek. Thus, its important to manage the clients expectations on the front end by informing the client where the greatest values can be seen in the media investment.  With this understood on the front end, the client will have to assume some responsibility and risk for the results. And where possible, use the aforementioned tactics to avoid this four letter word all together.  

“We have to reverse our thinking. When the wind’s blowing at gale force, there’s no point in sailing against it.”

– Frank Underwood (House of Cards, Season 3)

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