Helping Advertisers Prepare for the Buying Bump: 10 Ideas to Update Your Media Sales Game

All research points to a buying bump that is set to occur. We see citizens getting back to some level of normalcy, signalling that many buying habits will soon come back into play. Yet, our advertisers are still throwing us the same COVID-based objections. Do they not want to get back to business? Why is it so hard for them to grasp that advertising starts the process to get customers back in the door?

I believe that business owners are suffering from a sort of PTSD over the massive shock to their businesses that the COVID pandemic dealt them over the last 12 months. So, how do we help them? The first step is to understand them.

As a media sales rep myself, I have the chance to speak to advertisers daily. I also have the unique opportunity to coach media sales reps around the globe. Sarah in Singapore, Peter and his team in Australia, John and his colleagues up in Toronto, and of course my teams here in the United States. They all report a distinct change in their advertisers over the last 12 months.

For the last three years, each Friday I have asked a group of my coaching clients to answer this multiple-choice question: What type of advertiser attitudes did you come across last week? Their response options have been 1.) advertisers making ego-driven advertising decisions, 2.) advertisers making logical-based ad buying decisions, and 3.) advertisers making decisions based on emotion and how they feel at the moment.

This past week when I asked the question, 5% of media sales reps reported that they met with ego-driven individuals last week, and this did not change much between 2019, 2020, and 2021. Interestingly enough, and sorry to all of the agency media buyers out there, reps reported that many clients in this 5% were agency buyers.

Now, let’s look at the percentage of logical buyers. Down 9% from 2020, logical buyers represented 21% of the buyers that your fellow media sales warriors met with last week. These logical buyers typically want nothing but the facts, just the numbers.

And next, and what’s really interesting, is the number of emotional buyers—up 9% last week and reported at 74%! You read that right. Seventy-four percent of the media sales warriors I’m regularly coaching are telling me that the buyers they’re meeting with right now are highly emotional. This doesn’t mean that they don’t use any logic in the process of making decisions, but they’re showing us that they’re very emotional in the way that they’re buying. It’s a lot about how they feel, regardless of the facts that are being presented to them.

With the knowledge presented here in hand, we have to change how we sell media. If we keep selling traditional media in traditional ways, we will keep getting traditional results. So here are 10 thoughts on changing your media sales approach to increase your close rate as you sell in a post-pandemic media sales world:

  1. Emotional buyers do not respond well to data and stats. You will find your best success in selling with advertiser success stories or case studies. Talk up-front about the three advertisers that you love the most and the results they are seeing.
  2. Do NOT ask the standard questions you have been asking for years. Why ask what their budget is and reinforce the fact that they have no money to spend? Instead, talk ethically about your other advertisers that are seeing results. Paint them a picture of potential. A better question to ask would be, “Tell me about a local business you feel does a good job of marketing?” Then, talk about what marketing success could look like.
  3. Do not try to win the traditional vs. digital argument. Instead, talk about multi-media. Speak to five or six things that other business owners are doing to win. Traditional and digital. Digital is really kind of the bare minimum, actually. We’ve got to raise the bar or set the bar with our advertisers and prospects, and that’s one of the things I want you to seriously consider. As ad sales pros, we’ve got to control the narrative. Digital-only advertisers limit themselves and their total ROI.
  4. Talk about minimums required for ROI success. There is a reality to marketing. There is a dollar value attached to that reality. Show the reality. It might sound something like this, “If you’re going to be competitive, there’s a certain minimum number of marketing initiatives that you need to do in any given 30-day period just to be competitive.” These minimums should be shown in your thee pricing plans/packages that you present on every sales call.
  5. Come with ideas ready to roll. Most people have lost patience for just about everything. The last thing they want to do is sit through a sales discovery interrogation session. You are 70% more likely to close business when you recommend what somebody needs to do as opposed to what they want to do. Sure, ask questions, but stop being a custom solution builder. There is no proof that custom advertising solutions sell more than recommending what will work for a tested category of your clients. Custom solutions require a higher level of knowledge. They take longer to close. And, they require the most customer support from your team.
  6. In a time of crisis, most people want to be led. So lead. You are a Media Sales Ad-visor. Recommend media options based on what has worked for your other advertisers. I’ll reiterate: it’s not about budget. It’s about what the advertiser’s category demands. Identify what they NEED, get them results, and you’ll have customers for a lifetime.
  7. Social media is not the single answer to marketing. If Coke or Tide could get away with doing only social, they would. Yet, they collectively spend millions each year on traditional media. I might say this to my advertising clients right now, “Mr. or Mrs. Advertiser, so you love social media. Great. We do too. But, pretty much every business is on Facebook. Let’s talk about what things are you doing to be different.” Because everybody’s on social media right now. Social media is really, really saturated. Digital as a whole, quite honestly, is saturated. So the question is, “What are you doing to stand out from the crowd in a digitally cluttered, digitally saturated marketing landscape?” I love digital. But it is not the single holy grail.
  8. Digital and social are different. Show the difference. Social is intrusion-based advertising. The digital we sell as a media company is permission-based marketing. If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” we’ve got Apple, iOS, and Chrome about to block all cookies, and in fact some of those things have already happened. From watching this documentary and from observing numerous other sources as well, I believe we’re going to see a traditional media resurgence. Now, is it ever going to be the way that it was in the ‘80s? No. But neither is the music ever going to be the same.
  9. Traditional media is a dominating marketing play. Not everyone can afford print or radio. Every business does social. Not every business does traditional. What’s interesting, for those of you who sell traditional advertising, is that we’re seeing in almost all of our research that one of the best drivers of social media activity—search activity, Google, etc.—comes from traditional media sources. Look no further than the NNA, Borrell, or the Association of Magazine Media for facts to back this up.
  10. Sell the marketing triangle of success? Traditional, digital, and social. Because events aren’t really in play right now, stick with these main three now. Yes, there are virtual events and they’re working in B2B. But the trifecta right now is going to be social and digital, and then having traditional media in the mix as the differentiating factor. Because, if advertisers want to be dominant in their marketplace, they have to do what others either don’t know how to do, or what others think they need to do but can’t execute on because of budget or other circumstances.

Media sales warriors, people have been putting off significant buys for quite some time. COVID forced them into that scenario. Now with vaccinations rolling out, with restrictions being lifted, people are going to come back out and buy. The critical question is, “Mr. or Mrs. Business Owner, are you going to be ready?” It doesn’t matter if they’re local, national, or global. Are they going to be positioned ahead of time to take advantage of the buying bump that’s going to occur? Demand for products is going up, and it’s going to go up higher than it ever has before. Are they going to be positioned correctly? Think about it, friends. You’re dealing with a lot of emotional people—74%, remember. So guide them. Lead them. Help them understand what they need to do to be successful.

You know what I always say, “If ad sales was easy, everybody would be doing it.” And they’re not. Is that because we’re crazy? No. (Well, maybe we are a little bit.) The truth is that we’ve found careers that will feed our families for a lifetime. And there has never been a better time than now to sell media.

Ryan Dohrn

President and Founder of Brain Swell Media

Ryan Dohrn is an award-winning ad sales training coach, a nationally recognized internet sales consultant and in international motivational speaker. He is the author of the best-selling ad sales book, Selling Backwards.  He is the President and founder of Brain Swell Media and 360 Ad Sales Training, a boutique ad sales training and sales coaching firm with a detailed focus on ad sales training, internet consulting and media revenue generation. Ryan is also the Publisher of Sales Training World.