Do You Have a Recession Sales Strategy? You'd better ...
Making a sale during an economic slump can be tricky -- but not impossible -- provided you're asking your clients the right questions.
Josh Gordon, president of SmarterMediaSales.com, offered his tips on how to deal with clients during a recession to Publishing Executive Inbox. Gordon will also be leading a session on this topic at the 2009 Publishing Business Conference & Expo on March 23-25 at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square.
Inbox: What are one or two ways to get clients interested in buying ads during a recession?
Josh Gordon: The best way to get your clients to buy an ad is to find out how they are changing their business model. The worst thing you can do is sell them an ad at a discount.
… Ask questions. Find out how they are changing their business model in the face of a recession. Are they eliminating products, adding a lower cost product line, extending credit lines, offering different buying terms like month-to-month or pay-as-you-go programs, or do they have any special offers this month? Find out, and then build an ad proposal against that.
Inbox: Can you offer any examples? What if your client did add a lower-cost product line?
Gordon: Come up with a plan that helps them get the word out to customers. If you approach it this way, the recession is the motivator to get the sale. Maybe the proposal needs to include different options -- an ad on a newsletter, a webcast, an e-mail blast.
… Maybe this lower-cost option is cheaper but more complicated to implement. Then, a webinar may make sense for this client.
Inbox: How do you propose selling the benefits of an advertiser going on the offensive during a poor economy?
Gordon: Cite historical examples. An example I like to use is the one of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Post cereals during the Great Depression. Those companies were neck and neck when the Depression hit. Kellogg's kept the ads going through the 1930s. Post didn't. They cut most of them. When the Depression was over, Kellogg's was way ahead and Kellogg's has maintained that lead. Post never regained what it lost.
… If all of your direct competitors are cutting back (on advertising), then you have a golden opportunity to crush your competitors.
Inbox: Can you point to at least one way to overcome the latest crop of recession-driven price objections?
Gordon: There are lots of books out there that talk about price objection techniques. My advice is don't use those techniques in the books. Unlike in good times when someone gives a price objection and has something behind it, in a recession, a large percentage of accounts don't have a lot of money. Don't start doing a lot of Jedi mind tricks to overcome price objections. It will come off badly.
Have a degree of empathy for clients. If you come off like you are using techniques, they will tend not to trust you. They have to tell you what their problems [are].
What can you do? Get back to asking questions. … Their budget may have been cut in half. If you know that, you may recommend moving from a full-page to a half-page ad. Or move from print to online. You have to ask questions.
Inbox: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about selling in a poor economy?
Gordon: That people stop buying things. People still have businesses to run, and they need to communicate and they need products shipped out. A lot of people [are] living in the immediate moment and not seeing the long term. Business has slowed, not stopped. And all recessions will end.