Five Common Threads of Successful Salespeople

November 4th, 2016

by Susan Novicki

November is a great time to be closing last minute 2016 business, firming up annuals, aggressively working on and closing first quarter 2017 presentations and reviewing this year’s successes and failures.  As salespeople we are so busy focusing on closing business and hitting our numbers that we don’t take the time to sit back and analyze the current year.  The end of the year is when we can look back on what we have accomplished – and what we didn’t accomplish to help us move forward into the next year.  As great as it is to look at the accolades, it is more important to evaluate what didn’t work such as projects that failed, proposals that never closed, leads that never panned out, skills that need to be sharpened – what kept you from experiencing total success this year?

Successful salespeople are always looking to determine how they can be better.  The most successful are the ones that are always working on improving their skills – “what skills do I need to work on to be a better salesperson and partner with my clients?”  A colleague recently asked me why I thought some salespeople with similar skills excelled while others failed.  Thinking about this, I reflected on 5 common threads of successful salespeople.

First, successful salespeople have a strategy, or a plan. This is not the budget that they get from their managers.  With many of our clients we do a sales meeting toward the end of the year that focuses on the “year in review” and forces sellers to take time to review what they accomplished and what fell flat and create a strategy for the following year. The successful salespeople are the ones that do just this; they think about how much money they want to make and what it will take to get there based on their commission structure. Then they put together a plan of activity as to how they will get to the numbers to hit their desired budget. Within the plan is a strategy that can be tweaked and reworked based on how the year progresses. One seller realized there was an area being redeveloped that was growing exponentially but none of the businesses worked with his media. His goal was to add one new client each month from that area of the city.  A plan should be strategic and forward thinking but fluid, allowing time for adjustments and opportunities as they arise.  Remember, “a goal without a plan is a wish” to quote Antoine de Saint- Exupery.

Second, successful sellers are great prospectors. When we do the planning meeting with our clients for the following year, one of the most important numbers that we determine is how many new leads a seller needs to work each week to hit their desired goals.  Keep track of the leads you are working within your CRM system – keep a tally of the list of leads for three months and within that the ones that moved to a close.  What happened to the other leads?  Are any still viable?  Many sellers will prospect the same way over and over with limited results because they tend to gravitate towards the same leads that are comfortable but may not be profitable.  Think about the audience that you can deliver for a client – who wants to reach those people?   What are the hot categories that make sense for your audience?  Are there areas within your metro area that are not advertising in your media like the example above?  There is no limit to leads – it’s prospecting the ones that have the ability to spend the money and the need for your audience.

Third, successful salespeople understand the role of all decision-makers within the target prospect. Titles can be deceiving and we don’t just want to be thinking about “who buys advertising”.  Who are the external and internal influencers?  Who signs the checks?  Who can say “no” but cannot say “yes”? Who makes deals happen?  Who are the “Seymours” that want to see information but cannot make a decision, to reference Anthony Parinello?  Ultimately, who are the people that can help me close the deal and who are the ones that sign off on the deal; who has the juice?

Fourth, successful salespeople ask the tough questions. Doing a great need analysis takes practice and preparation.  This may seem obvious but few people do an outstanding need analysis.  Asking the same questions you always ask may not bring success in the future.  Ask tough questions to get to the pain and not the ones that you already know the answer.  You need to determine what is keeping the decision-maker up at night – what are the things that they are looking for to become successful themselves?  Remember, it is not about your products and how great they are but instead it is about creating a solution for an issue the client has.  You are an integrated solution partner.  It’s not about the media!

Finally, successful salespeople don’t get caught in the minutia. Focus on what matters and don’t get caught up in small and trifling matters, whether internal or external, that do nothing to advance your success.  There are hundreds of distractions each day that sidetrack sellers – office gossip, rumors about mergers or layoffs, threatening colleagues – all of which use up valuable time and reduce productivity.  Keep your head down and focus on your business.  Find ways to avoid the minutia and keep moving forward to increase productivity.

Success is not as simple as summing it up in five points.  But take a minute or two and have a reality check with yourself.  Are you happy with how successful you are?  How can you be more successful?  What skills do you have to work on?  What are you going to do differently next year?  What is your plan?

Tips for Improving Phone Skills

October 7th, 2016

by Susan Novicki

I just got off the phone with a seller that I am coaching in Albany NY and I realized how important solid phone skills are – and something that we can always practice and hone. I have done phone skill training for inside sales groups and created interactive exercises focusing on tone, pitch, cadence and tempo. The more practice even a seasoned sales professional does increases success to the bottom line. For those of you who have been through our various phone skills trainings, you know we teach the importance of pre-qualifying as much as possible and getting a homework assignment on the phone when talking to decision-makers. Everyone is busy and time is valuable – decision-makers appreciate that you are being respectful of their time by doing this. This also closes the length of the sales cycle and helps you gain instant credibility with high-level decision-makers. Learning to ask compelling questions about THEIR business shows we are legitimate marketing partners who can help them with their needs and create solid solutions. Making calls every week is critical to a salesperson’s success and in doing so phone skills will improve while filling your funnel with qualified leads. Though email communication is also important, nothing beats the personal touch of an old fashioned phone conversation.

Today the Albany seller and I were making a call to a decision-maker who was “on her way out to a meeting” and didn’t have time to talk and told us to email her something. Instead of saying “ok” we talked about how everything we do is customized and mentioned a few campaigns we were in the middle of and talking to her counterparts about in other parts of the country. We asked about her marketing efforts and asked how she reached and engaged with her key targeted consumers. Our conversation was extended and we were able to qualify and move the needle on the prospect.

Picking up the phone can be intimidating, especially when we are calling CEOs, Regional Sales Managers, Field Marketing Managers, Agency Supervisors, Brand Managers and the like. Most sellers are out of their comfort zones when going beyond media buyers or local business owners. To get over the fear, prepare for the call and practice! Make calls on a regular basis – I like Mondays and Fridays because I get decision-makers in their offices. Leave messages for yourself – would you call yourself back? You may not realize it, but many of our success stories initiated during a cold call to a decision-maker during a telecoaching session. But the key to success is consistent phone activity every week. Block out time every week to make the calls -prepare for them and create a compelling opening statement about their business and discuss how you can help them – don’t pitch your assets or an event you have to sell. With each conversation, you will develop solid phone skills and talk with more confidence about what you can do to help them move the needle on their business.

Wouldn’t you want to do business with someone who exudes confidence over the phone? Wouldn’t you meet with that person? Practice moves towards perfection – but no one is perfect!

Planning for Successful Sponsorship Selling

September 15th, 2016

by Susan Novicki

Many of our clients have small and large events to sell and I hear the same thing over and over again: “We have great events and sell them out but our sponsorship sales are below expectations“. How often do you find that you are 2-3 weeks out from a major station event and are not pacing to hit the numbers to reach your budget goal? In working with many of our clients this seems to be a common issue. The revenue in ticket sales is great but what are you leaving on the table? What have you missed to fall short of your goals?

Events are important and created with two major goals. The first is an avenue to drive revenue and the second is to engage and connect with the community, creating both a branding of the property and a value and bonding with our audience. While most events do the second with ease, oftentimes the revenue generating is at a lackluster level. Most of the time it is because there hasn’t been enough sales planning and the sellers are not actually selling the event. Has the value of the event been clearly defined?

First, to be more successful in event sponsorship sales, we have to begin thinking like a “property” when it comes to an event. A property is the right to the possession or use of something; such as a group, institution or event that can be sponsored. The NFL, PGA, NASCAR, and the Olympics are all examples of “properties”. These organizations review their assets and develop packages to sell to sponsors, just like we do but often for much larger investments. They are most often better at explaining the overall value because their packages are not media centric. They can’t rely on media value alone like many media salespeople do when selling sponsorships.

However, as media salespeople we are in a unique and fortunate position because we have event assets, or the ability to sell event assets, in addition to “owning” the media that supports and promotes it; therefore showing event value and media value. We are often better positioned to create customized integrated programs through broadcast, digital, mobile, social and experiential to help our clients activate in a way that regular properties cannot. Each of the clients we work with is an expert at creating promotions to support a client initiative – focusing on the client and their goals. That is what we should do with the events that we have to sell too!

Instead of selling base packages, customize them with activation elements to ultimately increase their investment but more importantly provide them a higher return on investment.

The key to all of this starts with planning. Management needs to prioritize the key events, establish individual goals for each account executive and start the process early.

Did you know that 43% of companies determine their sponsorship budget during the 4th quarter, followed by 23% in 3rd quarter, 20% in 1st quarter and 14% in 2nd quarter?

Unfortunately, we often wait until 2-3 months out to focus sales efforts on key events, and many times I see it even later with some clients. We have to stop this trend. By doing so we can capture more revenue, have stronger and better events and stop the fire drills that occur as the events get closer.

Planning will also allow sponsors more time to activate to build additional components that will make the event sponsorship more valuable to them. Many times the most successful sponsorships have both “pre” and “post” activation elements.

As a seller, create a strategy based on your budget and develop a lead list. Be proactive in prospecting; think about prospects that want to reach the audience that may not be directly evident. This list of categories is endless. Start researching and understand what makes the companies on your list tick and determine if they are indeed a fit for your event. They may not be. It is your job to paint the picture of why a company would be a “natural” and to create some activation idea starters that would demonstrate your understanding of their goals.

Use the research and a hint at the idea starters as a hook to garner attention and initiate conversation, connect with them for a needs analysis and then be thoughtful with the customized programs that you present, using the packages as a base.

Optimize the event’s assets to meet the client’s needs, customize elements so that each client stands out and help them to visualize themselves in the picture.

And most importantly make sure that you are developing a package with a price that recognizes all of the assets that you are presenting – not just the media value. If you can bring some good activation ideas, plus the basic sponsorship elements you will be adding more value to the client, showing them why it makes sense for them to sponsor your event and ultimately capturing more revenue and making more money.

Stories Build Credibility

August 9th, 2016

by Ginny Speaks

One of the things I love about my job when conducting sales trainings, is that I get to tell stories. Whether in a training session or on a sales call, I find that when I connect the information with a real live example of how the information has been applied and deliver it in a story, the message really resonates. You can feel the energy in the room shift. This skill set, the ability to tell a success story, is a powerful tool that can elevate your sales presentations, strengthen your needs analysis calls and help you build instant credibility with your prospect on how you can deliver.

I encourage you to take time and review your successes over the past quarter, then over the past year and take note of those campaigns you were most proud of, the promotions that brought the best results and how you solved client’s needs. Then write them down. Make a one-sheet of these successes and begin to recite them to yourself, to your colleagues and to your family until they are ingrained and flow easily.  Make sure to limit the story to about 5 minutes and hit the high points.  Follow this simple outline and your stories will make an impact:

Set up the story by setting the stage. Tell the name of the company, the decision maker’s title and what the assignment is.

For example; We worked with the Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications to provide a new communication channel that helps Blue Bunny Ice Cream connect with “Jake” via his mobile phone during one of his regular stops at a convenience store.

Establish the challenge, the competitive advantage. What is the main goal or outcome of the assignment?

The challenge was to create an incentive to get Jake, who shops at a c-store frequently during the week instead of going to a grocery store to purchase Blue Bunny ice cream, engage via mobile and sign up for coupons and register to win opportunities throughout the summer that would provide incentive to purchase, opportunity to win and open up a continuous dialogue with Jake.

Share how you provided a solution. The highlights of the campaign created.

We created a mobile campaign titled “Get the Scoop”. Jake was encouraged via in- store signage and staff buttons to join the Blue Bunny summer mobile club and receive exclusive coupons throughout the summer by texting “BLUE” to a dedicated campaign short code, and automatically be entered to WIN an iPad and get a free ice cream that day. Once he signed up, we pushed messaging and coupons out each month with a different offer to purchase throughout the summer.

Share the results.

The client was happy as Jake engaged. The list of engaged consumers were given to the client for future promotional use.

See how powerful that is? A good story will engage your prospect and help them see tangible ways on how your services can help them accomplish their goals. Start today and build your very own success story database. Then, make a commitment to become one of the best storytellers in your market.

Don’t Let Politics Get in the Way of Developmental Business

July 8th, 2016

by Susan Novicki

2016 is and will continue to be a banner year for political across the media landscape. The Summer Olympics are an added cause for media craziness. With all of this, salespeople and station groups get caught up in the fray – with spots getting bumped and “make goods” abounding. Business is great but are you strategizing for 2017? Very few people are thinking about getting in front of the money for 2017 but now is the time to be initiating calls and starting the conversations. A TV seller and I were on the phone with a food association last week and they have already put their plans in place for 2017. This was a shock – I expect that large national banks or large CPG companies could be in the throes of finalizing plans but a non-profit food association!?!?

Remember there are a lot of companies with fiscals that are not calendar year. For example most of the Japanese automotive companies’ fiscal runs April through March. P&G’s fiscal runs July through June. But the majority of companies run on a calendar year which means that the planning is starting right now for 2017. This provides the perfect scenario to talk about their needs moving into 2017; what worked for them this year, what do they want to achieve next year? We can develop fully integrated sales driven and marketing campaigns that afford them the opportunity to engage with their targeted customers and / or businesses.

And don’t forget that these efforts could result in finding dollars still available for third and fourth quarter 2016. A recent conversation with a regional decision-maker at an automotive company resulted in a homework assignment for an immediate program and a budget for $50,000+. We just closed $32,000 with a CPG company for October yet our conversation started with a discussion about first and second quarter 2017.

Even as crazy as everything is with political and with your transactional and local direct business, don’t let your developmental calls lag – missing one week of calls can throw your pacing completely off for the rest of this year and put you “behind the eight ball” for first quarter 2017. You don’t want to be sitting with an empty funnel after elections in November. So now is the time to make every effort to reach out to both current clients and new prospects to start the conversation about 2017.

Talking about 2017 relaxes the decision-makers. When you get a person on the phone this time of year the first thing you usually hear is “my money is spent – there is nothing in the budget to do anything for the remainder of the year”. But if you start off the conversation saying “I just read that you have a new array of flavors being introduced later this year. I would like to talk to you about your marketing efforts and how we can help you translate that into consumer traffic and sales at the retail level in first quarter”. Already the decision-makers demeanor changes and the conversation and questions and answers flow. The barrier is dropped and you get a homework assignment to create ideas to engage their customers and drive traffic and sales.

During a recent conversation with the Regional Marketing Manager of a large health care company we were discussing first and second quarter initiatives and towards the end of the conversation as we started to talk about budgets he interrupted us to say “you know there is a possibility that there might be money to do something in late October / early November around diabetes education”.   With that a proposal was created and we should hear about the close later this week.

If you haven’t already, start the conversations for 2017, make the calls each and every week – no matter how busy you are, and keep your funnel filled moving into 2017.

Do You Have a Level 5 Commitment? Does Your Staff?

June 13th, 2016

by Susan Novicki

When we take on a new client we interview the salespeople and rank them by five levels. The top level, Level 5, is “I’ll do whatever it takes”. Of course my favorite people to work with are the ones that are a Level 5. What makes a Level 5 commitment?

Recently I heard a story about a salesperson that we work with that caused me to take pause and think about what it truly takes to be successful in today’s business climate. There are some sellers that do a good job, those that do a great job, and then there are those that we refer to as a Level 5. Here’s a story to frame up that Level 5 commitment.

This seller always does her homework before she picks up the phone. In her pre-work call, she did all of the standards that we teach — she read the Morrison and Abraham company profile, visited the website, checked out the contact’s LinkedIn profile, read articles written by the person and articles about the company, etc. In her homework she found an interview with the decision-maker (the President of a major company) stating his favorite food was  strawberry rhubarb pie. Even better, he listed the recipe with tips to make it perfect.

When the seller made the initial call she used this in her voicemail sharing her love for the same pie and saying that when they met (although this was her initial call and she didn’t have the appointment) she’d make him a pie. This landed her a call back. Why? Because she did her homework, relating to something that was obviously important to him and she made the call real and human.

This is good but not what makes her a Level 5.

He called her back and during the call she confirmed her credibility and talked about how she could help the company with the issues they were facing and she got the appointment, with the President joking with her about the pie. This is where most people would stop, but she made a decision to show up with the pie! Fast forward to the meeting and she walks into the room holding a box. The conference room had other staff from the company and she placed the box in the middle of the table, demonstrating her Level 5 commitment to doing business with them. This made a lasting impression with everyone in the room. They enjoyed the pie and discussed doing business together. It would have been easy to just show up and have some banter about her voicemail but she backed it up. The rep ended up closing business and executed the program the same way with a fantastic recap for more business.

There are salespeople that are successful without doing all this but they still do their homework, dig in and find a reason to make the call and have a great needs analysis conversation to close business. Even though the pie would not always secure a close, it does demonstrate a level of commitment to success which says “I will do whatever it takes to be successful”.

Let’s look at the levels and think about how your team measures.

  • Level 5 – I will do whatever it takes
  • Level 4 – I will do my best
  • Level 3 – I’ll try, I might, I could
  • Level 2 – I want the result but don’t want to put forth the effort
  • Level 1 – I don’t want to be here – you can’t help me

What level of commitment does your team demonstrate? I assume that you have moved anyone out that is a Level 1 or 2 but is there room for improvement in your team? How many Level 5′s do you have?

Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

May 12th, 2016

by Ginny Speaks

This year I have been working on several new corporate projects where I am assigned sellers across the country and work with them one on one implementing experiential training. We are working leads, calling prospects, opening up new doors, brainstorming ideas, capturing tie-in partners and working cohesively towards a common goal to secure new business. It has been rewarding in so many ways, yet not without challenges. Challenges are part of everyday life, especially in the sales arena.

One of the biggest challenges we experience as sales people is connecting with people when we call. In today’s fast paced work culture, with people on the go, it is hard to catch prospects in their office and to get them to pick up the phone. This is a challenge we face daily and how we respond dictates our success. The great thing a challenge does is it gives us the opportunity to respond. The question is, how do you respond when a challenge arises?   Do you face it head on and keep going? Or do you give up?

During the course of these projects, we have encountered this particular challenge and we have chosen to stay the course and respond with the following techniques:

  • Be pleasantly persistent in calling prospects weekly, leaving compelling messages.

80% of calls are returned after the 5th message and most sales people give up after 3

  • Leave weekly messages for 6 weeks, changing days and times when you call, to increase your chances of connecting

Most of us have weekly routines: days in office and days in field

  • Follow up the calls with compelling emails giving the prospect several times you are available for a phone meeting

To increase response rates, email communications should end with a next step and not be open ended

  • Work with a tenacious spirit, a purpose, a firm determination to connect

Attitude and energy play a huge role, so check in with these!

  • Work with the goal to conduct exploratory conversations to determine a course of action

Ask questions to determine a project or bring it to a no and move on

Sales is a numbers game — it always has been and always will be. How you choose to play the game determines the outcome.

The next time you find yourself frustrated with the challenge of not catching prospects in their office, implement these techniques to take control of your business and watch your connections increase.

Success Breeds Success

April 8th, 2016

by Susan Novicki

Success stories are a great way to garner new business – and not just from the client that you had the successful campaign with, but with other prospects – both within the same category and for a completely different type of company. In fact, success stories are one of the most valuable tools that you have in your arsenal. Even if you personally have not done the program that was successful, but someone within your station or cluster or company has, you can talk about its success. It’s called using the “we” vernacular. For example, if you are calling a brand new consumer packaged goods prospect for the first time you may include “Within our cluster we just finished a successful integrated traffic driving program with Safeway”.  What does this do?

First of all, it gives you the power to talk with confidence about what you do and how you help your clients.

Second, it gives you credibility with the client.

A client wants to work with someone who exudes confidence and works with clients like themselves. When I am making calls with sellers and we get someone on the phone, the decision-maker most times is intrigued and wants to know more about what we have done and how we have helped people like themselves. This will usually flow into a conversation about how we can help them.

The great sellers keep their own library – it is their “brag book” of successful campaigns. As you continue to develop successful programs, continue to add case studies that you can talk about and include if need be after a conversation with a decision-maker.

Success stories can also help you with idea starters.

You don’t want to call a prospect and push an idea immediately -this could backfire if the idea doesn’t interest them. You don’t know what they are interested in or what their initiatives are – although you should have done some research to make an educated guess and that is where the success story, or case study, comes in handy. Many times a decision-maker will say to a seller calling them cold “what have you got?” And the answer is that you “have a lot of ideas based on what you have read about the company but everything you do is customized so you would need to ask some questions to make sure that what you put together will work for them.” This is when you can also talk about some of the successes that you have had in their category or with their company in another market.

If you have just finished a needs analysis conversation and your next step is to come back to them with some ideas, the best thing to do is review your library of successes or talk to your peers about successful campaigns that your station or market has done.

One of my favorite acronyms is R&D – and it is not research and development – it is Rip Off and Duplicate! There is really no such thing as a brand new idea – it’s taking that idea, freshening it up, including social media, mobile, digital, and experiential around the idea to make it new.

Again, reviewing success stories can be a great way to spur activity for you. We have a database of successful campaigns within our network of clients and if a seller is working a category, this is a great way to both find leads to call on and to have ideas that you can throw out to initiate a conversation. I am sure you have a library within your market or company as well. It is a very powerful tool.

Questions are Key to Closing Business

March 7th, 2016

by Ginny Speaks

Being a sales strategist and coach, I work with sales reps on a daily basis. Some are brand new to media and the sales path and others have been in media sales for a long time. In my experience, I find that success does not depend on years in the field, but in the ability to ask great questions. Harvard did a study of the History of “Sales Scripts” in American Business and they found that the one common denominator in all the scripts was the use of questions.

The sales cycle, at all stages, should be a series of questions — not a pitch or a broadcasting session about your package or your medium. You want to cultivate a fluid conversation that engages the prospect in dialogue by asking great questions and then listening.

Let’s review a series of questions to get you thinking along these lines. The first series of questions in the “get to know you” stage should be all about building rapport and establishing common ground. Once common ground is established, you should move into the second series of questions, the “discovery” or “needs analysis” stage. Questions during this stage should be about identifying a need or capturing an assignment by asking questions that bring answers to the following questions:

  • Who – Who is their primary target audience? Who is their secondary audience?   Capture demographics and psychographics to really get a good understanding of who they are seeking and how these people spend their time so you can align your marketing strategy to reach them.
  • What – What is the product or service that is the highest priority? Get clarity on this and learn all you can about it.
  • When – What time frame and/or quarter are they working on now?
  • Where – Is there a retail location that they would like to anchor a promotion? Or is there a business that they would like to collaborate with in the market that is like minded?
  • How much – Always define a realistic budget so you know what you are working with to not waste your time or theirs. It is always good to throw out a range, such as  ”Most of my programs run anywhere between $25K and $75K. Is this a comfortable range for you?” This question will always flush out a number.

All these questions come prior to any pitch or solution and should be well-thought out in advance during the research phase.

Once an assignment has been established and a plan has been put together, we enter the presentation phase of the sales cycle. During this phase, one should be asking questions that determine the interest of the package/program being presented.

  • For Example – “Are you with me so far?”, “Do you see the benefit in that?” or one of my favorites, “Does that make sense?” These questions help determine the interest and make your presentation conversational. Again, keep in mind your presentation should not be a pitch or lecture, it should be conversational and this only happens if you ask questions.

Once the presentation is coming to completion, we enter the trial close series of questions.

  • For example – “How does it sound so far?” or “On a scale from 1-10, where would you rate this program?” If you get a positive response you move on to the closing questions. If you do not get a positive response, you answer the objection or the question.

The last series of questions are the closing questions. These questions should lead the prospect to sign the agreement or at least commit to another meeting. They can be assumptive.

  • For example – “In order to get started, I need to gather some information from you.” Or they can be choice driven, “Would you want a start date this month or the first of next month?” Or they can focus on a deadline or event date, “The event starts 4 weeks from now, I suggest we begin the pre-promotion in two weeks. Do you agree?”

You get the idea. I challenge you to begin seeing your presentations as a series of questions that engage the prospect in dialogue. This will bring results.

Are You Happy With Your Closing Ratio?

February 8th, 2016

by Susan Novicki

It may not seem possible but we are almost halfway through first quarter. And developmentally we should have enough in the pipeline to be pacing to hit our first quarter numbers. Are you closing what you thought you would be at this point in the year? I was on a call this morning with a client and we were talking about how everyone was pacing. Stop and think for a minute, how are you pacing? Are you happy with your closing ratio? Do you know your closing ratio? It’s hard to track your pacing without it.

As salespeople the best adrenaline rush we get is when we close a big sale – that is the “high” that makes us love what we do although sometimes the anticipation leading up to it can be brutal. And many times salespeople have a difficult time actually asking for the sale. If you have done a great job researching the company and industry, landscaped the decision-makers and conducted a great needs analysis to understand the true objectives of the client, the close will happen - but you DO have to ask for it. At the end of the presentation do you ask “When do you want to start?” So many times people stumble around the close, similar to asking for the budget, because they are afraid that they will hear “no”. But you need to get a clear indication of the next step. So look at your closing ratio. Are you making plenty of calls and presentations but they are not closing?

If you are unhappy with your closing ratio ask yourself these questions:

Was this a good prospect in the first place? How much research did you do on the company, their industry and the economic outlook for them? How much money are they spending in the market? How are they faring in relation to their competitors?

Were you clear on what they really wanted to accomplish? Many times we fail to uncover a need and hear what the client is saying because we are too busy talking about how great our stations and websites are – the most efficient media schedules in the world will not necessarily accomplish our client’s objectives. Remember the process to uncover a great homework assignment. Learning to ask the right questions and listening to the answers will result in an opportunity to present a concept to the client that will meet their objectives. And it will save you time and make you money! One of my favorite questions when it comes to asking for the close and they are not willing to sign off immediately is “on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being that you are signing off on the proposal, where do you see this? What are your thoughts on getting this to a 10?” You may think this sounds brash, or even cheesy, but it works and it can give you great insight into why you are not closing this immediately. Again, ask for the sale! If the answer is a 7, ask what you need to do to get it to a 10. They are forced to tell you why they are not closing and what you need to do – believe me, this works.

Did you know everyone that was involved with the decision-making process? There are times the person we are talking to tells us that they are the decision-maker but when the time comes to close you hear “this looks great, let me run it by my boss.” UGH – to avoid this, earlier in the process ask “is there anyone else that would need to approve a program like this?” or “walk me through the process of how your company would make the decision to run a program like this.”

Did you use all of your resources to close? Are you asking your managers for help with closing if needed? Are you using Morrison and Abraham? If you need help, then ask! Another perspective is always helpful.

Make sure you are not letting the fear of asking the tough questions get in your way of closing more business. Know when to walk away if you are wasting time on clients that will never close. Listen and create integrated programs to answer the objectives of the client. And have fun – a big close is the best “high”!