Don’t let your efforts to close the appointment earn you a one-way ticket to the junk folder. TopLine’s Jim Tarantine shares insights into how you can successfully close more appointments — and, ultimately, more sales.
We’ve all heard the phrase.
Everyone wants to close sales, but how about closing the appointment? Getting appointments with qualified buyers has never exactly been a piece of cake, but it’s only gotten harder over the years, even before you take the pandemic into consideration.
So how does a sales executive cut through the clutter to close more appointments? We talked with Jim Tarantine, Product Manager for Futuri’s groundbreaking sales intelligence system, TopLine, about what his team is seeing and how to grow your revenue by evolving your approach to closing appointments.
Q: Why has it gotten harder for sales executives to close appointments over recent years?
JT: There are so many more choices for advertisers today. Broadcasters used to have to think about things like newspapers and even the Yellow Pages, but a lot was about differentiating yourself from your competition across the street. Today, with so many digital choices added to that competitive set, there are way more people trying to get at advertisers to talk about how they can deliver results, not just impressions.
At the same time, on both the buying and selling side, resources have dwindled. The advertiser has less time and potentially less personnel to evaluate all the things to get results for their brand. If you’re not differentiating yourself right out of the gate by showing you’ve done your research about them and time with you will be well-spent, you’re not going to get them to commit that valuable time to meeting with you.
Q: Have changes in the way agencies work with their clients impacted the broadcast sales executives ability to close the appointment?
JT: Agencies are indeed getting more protective of their clients, and they don’t really want media reps in their space. To defend agencies a little, it’s harder and harder for them to keep business today, too. So even though that “don’t go directly to my client” thing has existed ever since I got started in broadcast decades ago, it’s only gotten worse as the opportunity for agencies to acquire business has gotten more complicated. Agencies are doing everything they can to deliver results and be a trusted partner to their advertisers.
When you think about that, paired with the overwhelming number of choices advertisers have today, evaluating your approach to closing the appointment in today’s environment is necessary. Are you presenting yourself as a subject matter expert who’s there to partner with an advertiser to help deliver results? Are you interacting with a prospect in the way they prefer? Things like that are more critical than ever to closing the appointment and, ultimately, sales.
Q: Talk a bit more about that. How can you get that information on someone you haven’t yet met? How can one sales executive possibly be a subject matter expert in every industry they’re pitching?
With TopLine’s Appointment Prep Tools, you enter a small amount of information on the person you’re targeting. Through artificial intelligence, or AI, you’ll get information on the approach to which they’re most likely to respond. Is their personality more about you getting right to the point, or should you start with a little friendly small talk and virtual wining and dining? Do they want to see a lot of information, along with links and examples, or just the headlines? Not everyone likes to see information in the way you do, so tailoring your approach is crucial.
In terms of subject matter expertise, every single day, the TopLine team is creating content to give sales executives valid business reasons to share with advertisers and get them to take that appointment. In 2020 alone, we created more than 5,200 articles on local category business trends and provided more than 450,000 instant custom research stories for broadcast sales executives to open up new business conversations. (Of course, this is A LOT, so it’s all quickly searchable and sortable! Everything TopLine does is designed to help sales executives spend more time selling.)
Closing an appointment is infinitely easier when you use these assets to show an advertiser that you have real insights into what’s happening in their category today. As we say here, “Simply pinging advertisers over and over without insights is a one-way ticket to the junk folder.” Insights cut through the massive amount of clutter advertisers are hit with these days.
Q: That’s a great point, and it’s reminding me of many times when companies have pitched me to buy something based on what they wanted instead of figuring out what I wanted.
JT: Exactly. To be effective in closing the appointment, sellers need to take the approach, “It’s not about me. It’s not about the spots and dots or endorsements or websites I have to sell. It’s about the cars they have to sell, or the furniture they need to get out the door.”
So that leads to — what insights can you provide that tell the story of the customers who might be in the market for their product? (Especially at a time when the pandemic has changed so much!) How are consumers behaving differently in 2021? How are people approaching the buying process? That should start before you even mention your medium. For radio sales executives, once you’ve provided insights, then you can begin talking about radio and audio as a medium, and all the awareness, the endorsements, the on-demand content, the video content, the social media programs, the talent, the podcasts, all those things I can provide. And THEN you talk about your stations.
Unfortunately, I think that at times, we still shoot ourselves in the foot by doing it the opposite way. Here’s what I mean: You start with the latest ranker or the newest profile of my station, without any regard to the buyer’s personality, their industry’s trends, and how their customers’ behavior might be changing.
Q: Any other insights you’d like to share with readers who might be rethinking their approach to closing the appointment?
JT: TopLine has so much more to share on this topic, and we’ll do a series of pieces like this, but my quick hit to close on is this: Even if you’re not a TopLine partner and don’t have access to the wealth of tools we have to help you close more appointments and close more sales, at least show you’ve done some research.
I think many of us in management and buying positions are becoming savvier and savvier and understanding who’s just spamming you with meeting requests vs. who’s done their research. The more exact and targeted you can be in your language, the more likely you’ll get their attention right away. Saying, “I understand you’re in charge of the advertising team at CompanyX, and our StationY can help you get your message across to potential customers” isn’t going to get you far. But say, “I was just on CompanyX’s website, and I saw your article about Y, and point Z resonated with me. That’s where I think I can help you.” That’s the move.