The Top 5 Things Advertisers Want In A Media Sales Rep
July 7, 2015
We've all seen job postings for media sales reps. They almost always include things like required experience, education, communication skills and software skills. But what if there's a disconnect between what media companies look for in a good rep and what your customers (the advertisers) look for?
Last year, Sales Development Services (my firm) surveyed 665 small-business owners who spent at least $1,000 on advertising during the past 12 months. A portion of the survey was devoted to learning about their attitudes toward media salespeople. Specifically, we asked "What are the top five attributes that are most important to you in a media advertising sales rep?"
Here are their top five wants and the percentage of local-direct advertisers that selected it from a list of 12 traits:
1. Someone Who Knows My Company and Line of Business (64%)
If you think you come across as caring when you ask, "So, tell me about your business?" you'd be wrong. Advertisers get this question from almost every new media sales rep. And given the amount of turnover in the industry, they're getting tired of it. What efforts are you making to learn about the advertiser's line of business, their challenges and opportunities from resources you already have available BEFORE you call or e-mail? That allows you time to ask questions no one else is asking so you can REALLY help their business.
Candidly, advertisers want you to do more than just know about their business. They want you to apply that knowledge by bringing ideas that are relevant to their business and will help THEM make money. 87% of those SMB advertisers agree with the statement, "If you don't know my business, you can't know which advertising is right for my business." In fact, that's the very reason I invented AdMall back in 1995.
Tip for sales managers: When hiring new account executives, it's very important to look for candidates who are willing to do their homework BEFORE making a sales call. During the interview, ask them questions about your company. Listen to whether they've taken the time to find readily available information, such as details that are on your website. If they haven't bothered to do a little research without being instructed to beforehand, end the interview. You don't want them.
2. Someone Who Knows My Customers (51%)
The #1 reason SMBs advertise, according to the same survey, is to attract different customers. They can use other methods to sell more to their existing customers. Media sales is all about matching your audience with the people who aren't customers yet, but are in the market to buy what the advertiser has to sell. A good place to start is by looking at purchase intent research.
Tip for sales managers: Same tip as #1 applies. Ask them questions about who YOUR customers are. Have you shopped at any of our advertisers? Which ones? Are there any missing that SHOULD be our advertisers? Don't get too excited if they mention an advertiser as a non-advertiser. It's possible they may not have been a subscriber, watcher or listener in the past, but if they can't mention a single advertiser that's currently on your website, they haven't done their homework.
3. Someone Who Delivers What He/She Promises (50%)
This is a bare minimum for any salesperson of any kind. You can't expect an account to build a relationship with someone they can't trust. Walk the talk. If you promise to have rates to them by 3p, get them there by 3p. If you promise the ads will start running on Tuesday, they'd better start running by Tuesday. I'm a big believer in the Tom Peters adage, "Under-promise and over-deliver." That's why when I promise you five things in a column, you get six.
Tip for sales managers: Get a job candidate to make at least two promises and see if they deliver. Can you get me a copy of (a previous work sample)? Can you send me an e-mail outlining (fill in the blank)? When can you get it to me? Once you have a promise and a deadline (and preferably more than one) you'll have enough to learn a little about the candidate's planning and time management skills. If you get excuses instead of what they promised when they promised it, that's probably going to be what the advertiser gets if you hire them.
4. Someone Who Knows His/Her Product (47%)
This is another bare minimum for any salesperson of any kind. Eight out of 10 SMB advertisers have already visited your website prior to meeting with you. But if your company's website is like most media companies, the advertiser hasn't found anything useful there (a big pet peeve of mine). So they're talking to you because they want to know how your product can help them. They don't care about how you're the "oldest" this, the "first" that or #1 in whatever. How are each of your products going to generate leads for them?
Tip for sales managers: Don't just train reps on your products, train on how they'll make the advertiser money. If you train only on product features, they'll sell features instead of benefits. It might be a good time to reevaluate your collateral material and that "Advertise with Us" page on your website while you're at it.
5. Someone who is professional in conduct and appearance (37%).
Details matter, but don't get too caught up in the appearance part. A chainsaw dealer doesn't want to do business with a guy in a pinstripe suit and wing tips, but a banker doesn't want to buy from a gal in torn jeans and a T-shirt. Your dress should be acceptable to: 1.) your employer and 2.) the vast majority of your accounts. But there's rarely a good excuse for sloppiness, stains and offensive odors (whether it be from body or a regrettable perfume choice).
Focus more on the "conduct" portion of that statement:
- Show up on time
- Be courteous
- Always be prepared
- Return calls/e-mails in a timely manner
- Deal with complaints head on (don't try to duck them)
- Be considerate of their time and situation
- Be respectful but not intimidated
- Don't kiss their ass, but don't talk down to them or act put-out by their requests. In short, balance being yourself with acting like someone they'll WANT to do business with.
Tip for sales managers: You'll want to evaluate a candidate's professionalism not just in person, but also over the phone, by email -- and if possible by what they post publicly on social media. Six out of 10 SMB advertisers said, "Before I meet with a salesperson, I've usually Googled their name and/or learned about them through social media." Is what the advertiser will find there "professional?" You can always apply more polish to a salesperson once they're under your wing, so evaluate if they're at least making the effort. Look for authenticity, not your ideal professional image, because that's the kind of person advertisers will want to build a relationship with.
And there's one more important thing…
5+1. Knows marketing/advertising concepts (37%)
An advertiser is only going to continue to be an advertiser if what you've sold them actually works. The same goes for digital marketing services. The account is only going to trust your recommendations if your past recommendations have proven to be spot-on. And if you don't make recommendations, you're not a trusted advisor. You're a product peddler -- the lowest form of salesperson. Don't expect to get far with THAT approach.
Tip for sales managers: When interviewing a prospective sales rep, engage in a conversation about good and bad advertising. They don't have to be a subject matter expert. You can teach them Advertising 101, but you can't teach taste. Ask questions like: What's the best ad you've seen/heard lately? Do you think it was effective for the advertiser? What company do you think has the best advertising these days? Why? And then ask about the worst ads or companies with the worst advertising.
Note that "experienced" came in 10th out of 12 at 23% in our survey. If you are willing to work hard and bring these 5+1 things to the table, you'll beat the experienced rep who can't give the advertiser what they really want.
Those are the turn-ons. In my next column, I'll share the top five things that turn advertisers off.
In the meantime, if you have your own thoughts on these findings, I'd love to hear from you. Visit the Media Sales Professionals group on LinkedIn and let's compare notes.