Media ad sales trainer Ryan Dohrn dishes his top 10 tips to close sales in the post-COVID-19 era, and outlines what salespeople should really do when a client says no.

Media ad sales trainer Ryan Dohrn dishes his top 10 tips to close sales in the post-COVID-19 era, and outlines what salespeople should really do when a client says no.

What a crazy year — it seems like it was March just yesterday and we were talking about helping our advertisers survive the first COVID-19 lockdown. But we’re moving into that time of year when we need to close out 2020 ad sales as strongly as possible. And we also need to be looking at 2021.

So what are we going to do in the remainder of 2020 to close more media sales deals as we roll into the New Year, and close them faster?

Here are 10 time-tested ideas that I teach to my ad sales training clients that work for me.

Ryan Dohrn
Ryan Dohrn, media ad sales consultant.

1. Present options and recommendations in the first sales meeting

I’ve said this before in the past, but I want to reinforce this simple fact: the conversion rate is 70 per cent higher when you recommend a product. A full 60 per cent of people make decisions based on FOMO, that fear of missing out.

So why is it that so many media salespeople go on a discovery meeting and then leave that meeting to create a customised solution and proposal? Fear. 

You might be saying, ‘But, Ryan how do I show them a proposal when I do NOT know what they want?’ 

Easy. They want new customers. Stop making it so complex.

Now, in some instances, I get it, you have 40 options. Here is the point…it’s hard enough to get meetings as it is, much less scheduling a meeting, going through discovery, leaving the meeting to create a proposal, then coming back to track the person down to present the proposal. Then after all that they’ve got to think about it. And then you’ve got to track them down again.

So when I’m on a sales call, I’m ready to present options based on my knowledge of other companies within the same category – in that very first meeting. And I am ready to make recommendations and show some proposed pricing options on the spot. If I am wrong, after hearing the client, then I modify what I brought to the meeting. But, I still present ideas no matter what! 

This is a core piece of my media sales training classes that is often overlooked.

2. Use research to your advantage

If you want to move from the transactional selling that has been necessary during COVID-19 to relational selling, you’ve got to use research to connect more deeply with customers.

As I share in my media sales training, I use tools to do this.

LinkedIn is one obvious example. And some of us have LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and it’s a really great tool.

I’m also using a Chrome extension with a website called Crystal Knows. And the shortcut is that Crystal does virtual personality profiling. The extension syncs with LinkedIn when you’re in Chrome to pull up personality profiles and traits of the people that you’re looking at. This tool is not free, but it’s not expensive, either. And I use it all the time.

So, I’m using research to connect more deeply with media clients. It’s called “building quick trust”. And “quick trust” must be built within 5-10 seconds. You’re going to do that most effectively by having more information on the customer, their company, etc. So dig in on LinkedIn and make sure you’re prepared for all your calls.

I realise this is kind of 101, but are you actually doing it?

Professionals prepare for every sales call and connection. Amateurs wing it.

3. Ask better questions

Your questions simply have to be better. One of your main questions that makes me nuts and that I hear in my ad sales training is this: “Tell me more about your business.” C’mon, you’re better than that.

Or “What keeps you up at night?” Okay, c’mon, you’re better than that one, too. And then, “What’s your budget?” You can do better than that.

Those are three questions we do need to ask, but maybe ask them in a more vibrant kind of way so that we don’t sound like every other media salesperson that’s calling on that customer.

Here are four that I really like to ask:

1.) “When you agreed to meet with me, what business challenge or problem were you hoping that I could help you solve?”

That is one of my absolute favorites.

The next one is similar, but it’s more of a storytelling kind of approach.

2.) “If I could give you a magic wand that you wave, what business challenge could I help you solve?”

The next question I like to ask is…

3.) “When you think about competing here in our community or others in your competitive set, do you want to be seen as having some sort of a presence out there? Do you want to be competitive? Or do you want to be dominant?”

And the reason this works for me is because, sure, I can ask them their budget for buying media. But they’re going to give me a number based on their reality.

Let me stress it again: when I ask this question and give them those three options, that’s going to lead me towards a budget number that’s based more in actual reality–rather than simply their reality. 

This simple change to my ad sales training program has really helped my clients.

The other question I like to ask on a regular basis is:

4.) “If everything went perfectly with your marketing campaign with me, what would the perfect end result be for you?”

Or, more simply you could say: “If I’m going to keep you for a lifetime as a customer, what do I need to do?”

I think those are just better questions than, “What keeps you up at night?”

4. Prepare yourself to talk about COVID-19 delays

Delays are happening right now. People are delaying. Be prepared to talk about it.

Jot down the most common objections you’re going to get on one side of a piece of paper. And on the other side jot down what your answers are going to be. And be prepared for delays. 

Ad sales training is a constant pursuit that you must work on every day.

5. Revamp your proposal

You’ve got to think about revamping your proposal based upon the research that I hit on before. Let me give you two tidbits that might help motivate you to do this.

From our 360 Ad Sales research we’ve found when we looked at 1,200 pages of 100 different proposals, that 79 per cent of our test users simply scanned the proposal, and only 16 per cent actually read it.

So I think we media sales pros need to remove about 50 per cent of the text from our proposals.

Another telling find in our research is that nearly all of the most successful businesses we looked at had proposals that presented three pricing options.

And then, the last finding was that these successful businesses used proposals that were full of pictures and a wealth of examples shown in pictorial format.

So, be thinking of the research out there and revamping your slide decks, your capabilities decks, and these kinds of media sales tools. And again, remember that only about 16 per cent of people actually read what it is you’re putting in front of them.

6. Give more than one pricing option

Why do I love three pricing options? I love three pricing options because if you give somebody one choice, it’s sort of a yes or a no. If you give them two choices, now you’re starting to get them thinking. But if you give them three choices, they will typically buy the middle option.

So you create your pricing and your proposals around the middle option.

To reiterate, present three pricing options in your media sales. I want to see a good, better, best in almost every situation. Or a presence, competitive, dominant—or a gold, silver, bronze. However you word it, present three pricing options if you want to sell more.

7. Set a very specific after-proposal follow up plan

So you’re on the meeting (remember, I suggest you go there with a proposal), and you’ve gone there ready to sell some advertising — ask great questions, share testimonials, and show them what you’ve got.

Then when the client says, “I need to think about it,” you’ll be ready for that too, and you’ll be ready to implement three steps, which are:

  1. Tell them “Let’s set-up a check-in 48 hours.” Get a date on your mutual calendars.
  2. If they need more time and 48 hours isn’t enough, ask them, “If you need more time, what are we going to do?”
  3. Ask “What if we miss each other?” which is how I psychologically try to program my customers. “If you stand me up for this date, then what?”

It’s also worth noting that we need to be prepared for when their answer is “no”.

I’m not going to beat them up about it. But I might say, “I’d rather get a ‘yes,’ but if it’s going to be no just tell me ‘no.’” Or, “If the timing isn’t right, tell me ‘no’. We will work together at some point.”

A very specific follow up plan that I stress in my media sales training is: after I get finished with my sales call, I check back in 48 hours.

8. Talk about the love you have for your customers

A lot of times, media salespeople feel like they don’t want to talk about their clients. But you have to.

In the land of COVID-19, stranger danger is real. People are more likely to buy from you if you’ve helped other people be successful. That’s why I’m always open to share and talk freely about my other clients.

Yet, in nearly every slide deck I see, in just about every proposal that I see, there’s no mention of anybody else that we work with — our advertising clients. Why is that?

“Well, you know, we really can’t talk about other people,” many say. But stop. We’re not talking about being unethical. I’m talking about screaming from the mountaintops the love I have for my clients. Don’t be afraid. Tell them how much you love your customers and how much they love you, and that they’re going to love working with you, as well.

9. Get clear on the path to making a decision

Some people will tell you to step it up in advance. I don’t think it’s the most appropriate strategy to do.

For example, “Okay, what’s your timeline here?” “Do you have the authority to make this decision?” “What is your budget?” 

That reminds me of how we used to do things in the ’80s. And most buyers don’t respond to that.

But if I get to the end of the sales call and they’re showing excitement, they’re giving me buying signals, I ask them:

  • “So what does your path to making this decision look like?”
  • “You seem like you love this idea. Do you love it?”

And if they say, “I love it,” then great. I’ll say, “So what’s your path to getting this approved?” and “What do you need from me?”

And then I’ll ask, “What do you think is going to be the biggest roadblock that you’re going to run across? What can I give you — video, can I reformat this slide deck for you, could I record the sales deck using a tool like Loom or Soapbox and give it to you to show your boss?”

A lot of sales trainers out there would say, “Never meet with anyone who’s not the decision-maker.” Well, that’s easy to say if you’re not really responsible for selling anything. I think we have to meet with people that are in the chain of command. That is just a part of what we do.

So remember to ask, “What do you need from me?” Get really clear on this with your clients and prospects.

10. Deal with it if somebody’s answer is “no”

If you’re going to close more ad sales deals, you’re going to need to rock through them. If a customer’s answer is no, I’m not going to beat them up about it.

A lot of times people will say, “Never give them the opportunity to say ‘no.’” Okay, that’s a copyright 1996.

You have to recognise that in today’s world we’re having to resell people all the time. If the answer is “no” or “not now,” your answer should be something like, “We’ll get together and we’ll work together at some point in the future.”

Some people will say, “Well, you never get a second chance to sell them.” I just don’t agree with that. I teach pros at my ad sales training workshops that I feel like we have to resell these people over and over again. 

So, if the answer is “no,” that just means “not right now.” And actually, that’s alright.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results, you are trying to redefine insanity. Stop doing that. You are an ad-visor. Look to do things differently than others in your field. Look to close out this tough year out with a BANG!

In closing, remember — I say it all the time — if ad sales was easy, everybody would be doing it. And they’re not. So we’re either crazy or we’ve found careers that will feed our families for a lifetime.

Ryan Dohrn is the creator of the 360 Ad Sales training system and an internationally recognised media revenue consultant. Dohrn runs a popular You Tube channel and podcast.

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Ryan Dohrn, Founder, Brain Swell Media
Ryan Dohrn, Founder, Brain Swell Media
Ryan Dohrn is the creator of the 360 Ad Sales Training system and is an internationally recognised media revenue consultant. Ryan actively sells print, digital, broadcast, event sponsorships, exhibit space and radio. He has trained and coached over 15,000 ad sales reps to date and speaks over 60 times per year. Ryan loves teaching ad sales reps his simple and effective way to achieve ad sales success. Ryan has media clients in Australia, Spain, UK, Holland and the USA.

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