Sales Methods

This week, I have been in deep philosophical discussions with a mentor/colleague of mine about the process of sales as it deals with media.

I have always told my consulting clients (and anyone else that will listen) that “you should never let someone sell you advertising; you should buy it.” There’s a major difference between the two.

These days, ad salespeople come in with the words “marketing consultant” on a business card. They’re not consultants. They’re salespeople. They are looking to reach a sales goal and will sell you anything you’ll buy. They’re honest people trying to make a buck and are not trying to con you. (most of them). They are selling you advertising that you’ll use and that may be effective.

But do you need what they’re selling? What if you are “sold” with the newspaper ad “consultant” and a direct mail campaign would have been a better fit for your problem?

There are two ways (which should be used together) to approach this problem.

1) Learn – Become an expert in marketing. Take command of your own marketing. You’ll then know what things need to be done. This is a full time job in and of itself. Make sure you still have time to run the business.

2) Hire it out – (full disclosure – I personally like this one because it involves you using me.) If you don’t know about marketing, you hire a marketer. The trouble some people have with this is they think they know how to market.
You can balance a checkbook, but when you need to depreciate, amortize, file corporate taxes, etc…you hire an accountant. I’m also sure you can buy advertising, but when you need to make those ads effective, develop a marketing plan, build a brand, etc…you hire a marketer.

The other approach – This is where that philosophical discussion creeps back in. The guy I’ve been talking to believes that the “salesperson/consultant” does exist. (Of course, he owns a media company) He says that the long-term trust that the salesperson earns with the client can be used to solve the client’s marketing problems and that the salesperson has the client’s best interest at heart.

There are a few problems with this…. 1) What does a newspaper salesperson know about radio, or a TV person know about online, etc? How will they know to use the other tools? 2) Another issue is the expereince of the salesperson. Will they have the experience to look strategically at a marketing problem? 3) The major item that won’t let me accept this is the trust issue. To be homespun, it’s like letting the fox guard the henhouse. The fox may earn your trust, but someday he might get a little hungry and look out for his own self interest.

There may be salespeople that can help across multiple disciplines and do a good job with it. I’ve never met one. I’ve seen a few that were close, but none on the target.

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