Guest Column: Modern Salespeople Must Be Agile
I believe that the most important skill a seller can have is flexibility. There is an old saying: to the man who only has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We must choose the right tool at the right time depending on the signals the buyer is sending.
Even within one account, with several planners and buyers involved, there may be a dozen different preferences. Some agency people want to receive everything via email. Most only want to hear from the salespeople when something occurs that is related to a current buy. Some buyers want short phone contact. Others want annual in-person presentations. Many rely on social media to varying degrees.
Most client ad managers let their agencies screen out unwanted sales approaches, and some of them may still be open to personal calls or even entertainment from time to time, especially with salespeople who do a lot of business with them. Sometimes even golf, or sailing, or tennis, or dinner still might be called for. You just never know.
Whenever possible, we try to get our salespeople face-to-face with buyers, not only because that is the most productive way to make a strong impression, but also because that's by far the best way to pick up information about their preferences and their current state of mind. That is why we still maintain offices in the major advertising centers.
Sellers should embrace a philosophy of selling to advertisers the way they want to be sold. I realize this sounds very simplistic—but as a former buyer, and a manager of many ad sellers over the years, it isn't. Not every seller is equipped to do this.
The need for versatility has complicated the recruiting process. Not many years ago, it was fairly easy to pick highly successful ad salespeople for major magazines out of a crowded agency lobby. All you had to look for were the well-turned-out people with great social skills.