How your approach to ad sales could protect your reputation

IT was Alec Baldwin’s character in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross who famously yelled the 1990s sales slogan: ‘A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing!’ at the team of brow-beaten sales guys the film followed.

In the movie, ‘ABC’ was an aggressive tactic to shift undesirable land, persuading customers to sign on the dotted line from the get-go. A certain sort of salesperson may still use ABC today, and it could work on some of the people, some of the time. But it’s never likely to work more than once on the same person.

I’ve been an advertising sales professional for many years and if there’s any ABC-style rule I live by, it’s probably something like ‘Always be Consultative’. Let me explain why.Firstly, if you have a relaxed and open discussion with advertisers about what they need and how to achieve it across the most appropriate channels, then they’re more likely to pick up your call. (Compare this to someone approaching the advertiser with an aggressively-scripted call sheet in-hand.)

Secondly, you tend to need more than the one call to get it right for clients. There can be very good reasons why you’d accept a one-time insertion by an advertiser and closing the sale happens in a single call. It could be, for example, the advertiser has a specific one-off seasonal message for their audience. But generally, you’ll need to have multiple calls to plan the optimal way of deploying an advertiser’s budget over several insertions, or appearances on a banner ad, for example.

You can try and do this quickly, I suppose. But if you want them to get maximum value and come back again and again, rushing to close the sale doesn’t make sense.Vitally, the ‘Always Be Consultative’ mantra doesn’t just support sustainable revenues, it also means account managers really get to know their clients. This puts them in a strong position to protect organisations from accepting quick, poorly thought-through sales.

I remember on one occasion, we had a company chomping at the bit to pay a premium for appearing in one of the membership magazines we publish. However, because we knew the business and the market, we identified a serious conflict of interest. We flagged the advertiser’s offer to the client and ended-up politely declining on their behalf. ‘Taking the money and running’ would have boosted the yield on that one issue, but it would have left the client’s message to its members muddied, undermining its credibility and depleting its trust in us.

My version of ABC means there’s no nasty surprises when clients open their magazines. It also represents a model of working where ad account managers are part of membership organisations’ due diligence, instead of a risk they have to manage.

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