Selling is a complex process that determines the overall performance of any organization. A sales person therefore is one of the most important assets in the organization as he not only acts as the link with the customers, but determines the rate of product transfer from the hands of the organization to the end user. (Greening, Jack (1993). There are different types of sales depending on the tangibility of the products. Tangible products like consumables are easily sold compared to intangible products like services. Advertising falls under the category of intangible products, as it cannot be felt or seen.
While selling advertising space in the community magazine I realized how true this fact is. Because of the intangibility of the service that the magazine offers it is difficult to quantify the full impact of the services sold in the short term. Because of this challenge I have realized that most customers unless they are well educated on the importance of advertising they don’t see a great need to engage in the service. Therefore I have developed an Eight Step Sales Process that makes sure that our magazine not only gets new orders but sustains the already existing ones. I am going to discuss these eight steps from the context of my real experience in selling the spaces
STEP 1: Develop Right and Positive Attitude
In the advertising market there so much cut throat competition which calls for a resilient never-say-die spirit. Without the right attitude it’s very easy to give up or to loose patience especially when customers/prospects are slow in decision making. I have realized that the greatest attitude that I need to develop is a powerful and positive attitude that sees me through the low moments. (Dale Carnegie’s (1937)
) It is a fact that in sales, rejections often constitute a higher percentage compared to the actual sales. I have chosen to use the rejections as stepping stones towards achieving my goals. Everyday, I have to empower myself with the right materials like reading motivational books and magazines, listening to motivational audios, attending sales seminars and so on. I also make sure to keep for myself a very positive company of friends with whom we exchange great ideas and motivate each other. I strive to avoid any form of negative thought which would obviously throw a spanner in the works. An unfit body most times has a major negative bearing on my psychological output, thus I exercise regularly to keep myself in good shape, this ensures I exude positive energy every time.
STEP 2: Opening/Qualifying
This is a critical stage in the sales process where I create rapport with my prospects. Across the board most prospects would be unwilling to give new business if there’s no relationship from the word go. One has to be very careful as at this stage a buying/not buying decision is arrived at. Most often humans are willing to offer help especially when they have the capacity to do so. Therefore I use this method to gain some form of rapport. I find ways where I would for example seek help or advice on certain issues which I am sure my prospect would be willing to offer assistance. For example, when I target attorneys, I go to them with legal questions that I would want them to give me advice on.
Also I would find out the various places my prospects would likely to hang out for social gathering. Through the informal interactions the relationship is being nurtured and developed. I have designed very attractive cards which sometimes act as connection between me and the prospects; they become the ice-breakers for a conversation. (R.C. Whiteley, Pfeiffer ; Company, 2000)
When prospects develop confidence in me, a rapport is established and the relationship is ripe for the next stage. At this stage also it’s important to gauge my prospect and try to find out his/her values in business. I dig deeper to find out his/her target market, the competition and other necessary information.
STEP 3: Information Gathering/Interviewing
This is also another crucial step that follows after the qualifying step. After prospecting, it’s important now to schedule for an appointment that is agreeable between us. Of essence to me is to be talking to the final decision maker for the particular organization, it helps me from wasting a lot of time being taken round. During the waiting time I acquaint myself thoroughly with the specific business that my prospect is in. If need be its important for me to understand before hand the scope of the business and how our magazine can help turn around this prospects type of business. It’s important for me to be aware of the customers that the organization is targeting. Thus when I go for our scheduled meeting am better armed about my prospect needs.
Here I gather information about the client by interviewing him/her about the needs of his/her organization and the values that the business upholds including any future plan for expanding. I also ask about how they conduct their business and of great interest to me is whether they advertise at all. It’s important for me to find out their views and feelings on the effectiveness of advertising and the budget they allocate towards this end if any. From the information I gather, I am better placed to understand where the organization is coming from and where it is going. At this stage I am better placed to know whether what I am recommending would make sense or not. I make sure I come up with an action plan for my prospect that will definitely suit his/her needs.
STEP 4: Create Desire for My Product
The fourth step that I use is very important as well, because here I talk much about the benefits of advertising with us. Prospects like seeing real benefits and I help them through my already existing clients and the difference our magazine has made their sales turnover and awareness levels it has created. When I armed with statistics most times I have observed that the client develops more keen attention and is readily convinced. If they consider advertising a waste of money I take this opportunity to educate them on advantages therein. At this stage I make sure he/she feels very uncomfortable with the status quo without my product or services.
STEP 5: Proposal/Plan
Here I use the information gathered in the 3rd step to make a recommendation or plan that I am so confident that it will not only make financial sense but will be acceptable. In the plan I try as much as possible to point out the gains by utilizing our magazines innovative advertising style. I help him/her see the many spots that our magazines are distributed, plus the readership that it attracts.
STEP 6: Overcoming Objections
Most times prospects come up with objections which more or less are fears that arise for the unknown. Objections if properly addressed determine the successfulness of the sale. (Lior Arussy, John Wiley ; Sons, (2005)
I have listed below the various types of objections I have encountered from my clients and how I handle them. Most times the objections are the similar.
a) Advertising doesn’t work and it’s a waste of money.
Here I list the advantages of advertising and especially for our magazine.
Because the magazine is available in all the sales points in this area, your products will be highly visible to most people. The coupons that offer discounts are an effective tool to encourage consumers to try out your place. They always look for better bargains. The coupons can be cut out easily from the magazine making it easier to be used and remembered. Moreover it’s a very new concept that would obviously attract the consumers.
We have done a survey in this market and 7 out of 10 readers surveyed said they have tried most of the products that have been advertised in our magazine. This is because of the discount coupons and the customer royalty our magazine has.
The adverts educate readers on the locally available products and services. And for new residents of this area, the magazine always acts as a guide on what and where to buy everything. This is the only chance you have to win and maintain new customers before they try anyone else in the market.
Our magazine is distributed to all the offices in this area. Most of these offices have a closed door policy to sales persons. Thus our magazine enables you to access this important market .We have close to 1,000 subscribing offices where our magazine is distributed.
b) Am satisfied with my sales level
When you advertise you create a certain impression for your loyal existing customers. It gives them confidence about your products and services and they would not likely to switch or sample the services and products of you competitors. Thus advertising helps you sustain certain sales level.
c) I Advertise in a different magazine
It is always important to diversify. The readership of our magazine is quite unique because it particularly targets the buying decision makers of all the households, and offices. They are the determinants of what and where to buy. They are always willing to cut down on spending and the coupons that are unique to our magazine help them towards this end.
d) I advertise in the daily newspaper.
Newspapers are only read once and then discarded. However our magazine lasts for a whole month. Your advertisements will likely be seen in our magazine than in the newspaper. The more they are seen the easier it is to remember them.
e) I advertise in the electronic media
Chances of your adverts reaching your target market are very slim, besides they are quite expensive and do not offer the advantages our magazine does. In the magazine advert, you can give instructions on how to use, and give direction to your physical location at a relatively low cost. Because it’s written it’s easily remembered.
In summary the objections arise because the client wants an assurance from me. They want to be convinced that indeed they are making the right decision to savor our services. In other words he/she is looking for a justification. Objections are good because at least they enable me become aware of the buying challenges of my prospects and help me know whether they will buy or not.
STEP 7: CLOSING SALE
Here the customer decides to buy or not to buy. Most clients buy for one reason; they buy when the product or service makes sense to them. Therefore it is at this stage that I lead the customer to a logical buying decision. This is done by giving a great offer that is not only irresistible but that it will be available only for a short while. The customer is made to see the urgency that is required to purchase now and not any time later. Some times the client requests to be given time to revise on our discussion and then arrive at a decision. This now takes me to the next level of following up. I normally follow up within 48 hours when the discussion is still fresh. I have observed that if I take longer the clients pullout.
STEP 8: FOLLOW UP
This is the final step of my selling process. If a customer has purchased or chosen to advertise in the magazine the follow-up includes taking samples of the type of adverts they would want. When they are fully satisfied with the artwork they authorize it and it’s ready for publishing. I also make sure they have a look at the advert the moment the magazine is out. However, sometimes the prospect has not made a decision to buy due to one reason or the other. At this stage it’s easy to gauge the commitment level that they are at. This would give me the green light to continue following up or stop all together. Often, my prospects sometimes are genuinely unable to use my services at that moment due to varied reasons. It’s important for me not to cut the rapport with them because they would be willing to buy at a future date. So I always update them every time on the progress of the magazine and when we have new items or special promotions. These prospects can always play a major role by referring me to their colleagues. When one has such a credible referrer, it shortens the selling process even further because of the trust that is already in existence. Also I have realized how important word-of-mouth is. If I maintain a good relationship with them they can always refer their business collogues to the product and services that we offer. This is a very effective way of advertising.
Things I have learned from this experience
There are several things I have gained from this life changing experience and include:
Improved self-esteem especially through positive thinking gained from motivational books and audio materials.
It has tremendously improved my confidence level, am able to establish new business relationships very easily.
Previously I could not be able to plan my day and stick to it, but this experience has helped me not only plan my day but stick to it as well.
I have learnt a great deal of prospecting and strategizing to handle client’s objections.
My negotiation skills have been enhanced thereby enabling me to add value to the products I have.
I am a better person because of the rejections I have faced. This is because my patience has improved and I don’t take them personally anymore.
All in all I have gained so much as a person. And with the practical experience I have gained, I have discovered a great talent that I posses that was previously dormant in me.