Newsletter No 28 03 May 2006
Advertising & Marketing:
Learning to Sell (4). Closing the Deal

The fourth session of the WAN-Sudan Advertising Sales Training Program for Newspapers Executives focused on how to close the deal in both a simple and complex sales process.

Closing is the skill of getting some commitment from the customer. One objective is always to have uncovered the customer’s needs. It is very useful to practice all this in front of the mirror. Pretend someone asks you a question and then think of the answers you can respond with.

Before you try to close the sale you need to try to figure out whether the client is ready to buy.

There are a number of signals to look for.

- You might find the client picks up the document, like the rate card, and studies it.
- Look at their facial expression. If it is a man, watch to see whether he is stroking his beard. That will let you know he is making a decision. If it looks as though they are thinking, give him a moment
- He might ask a question that makes it look like he is ready to buy. You can answer straight forwardly or with another question. For example, if the client asks whether he can have a color advertisement in the middle of the paper. How should you respond?

If the client asks: “ Is the back page available?” You could just say, “yes”.

But it’s much better to ask a counter question.

For example: “Would you like the back page?”

A counter-question to an almost-ready-to buy question is the better response, because the answer will be a partial commitment. At this point you ask for a commitment to an action plan that you formulate and agree on.

People often tend to lose confidence right before closing the sale. When you went into that meeting with the client, you have an objective in mind. Your objective will differ then depending on the size of the company that you go see.

Remember you will have met these people at least three times. You need to look at the kind of person this is. Some people you can see are very up front and direct. You’ve gone through the benefits, and the proposal, then you say: Here is my order form. Shall we sign it now? Those people are rare.

Most people hate making a policy decision. So you don’t say to them ‘would you like to advertise in my newspaper’. That will suddenly fill them with panic. So you go around or under this or jump over it.

Whatever happens, do not be tentative. At this point, you don’t have to be pushy but you need to be decisive. For example, if you are doing a complex sale and you want another meeting where they will look at a proposal, don’t say: “would you like me to write a proposal”. You say “I will write a proposal and I will phone you next week for an appointment”. Show them that you are going to do some work. The person you are seeing in a complex sale has got to sell it on to the managing director and the director. So you’re going to do the work.

The Simple Sale:
If you are going to see a hotel or restaurant owner who makes the decision on his own, your objective will be a signature at the bottom of the order form. There are several ways of closing.

When you see they are looking at the rate card, or have asked a question and you know they are ready to buy, here are some closing methods:

The Alternative Close: “Would you like the back page or would you prefer the solace on page three?”

The Assumed Close: “If you can get me your wording by Tuesday, I can get the ad prepared for you.”

The Shut up Sale: You are going to have to become a reader of people’s characters. There are going to be some people who don’t want to be pushed into this close. You’ve told them the benefits, you’ve made the proposal with the cost and you can see they don’t want to be pushed. You can see they’re thinking about it, they see the benefits, they know the facts, and then you keep quiet. People don’t like a vacuum, or silence. Very often they will fill this vacuum with “Yes”. But this needs you to be a very good judge of character.

The Puppy Dog Sale: Sometimes you are going to find yourself in front of someone who cannot make a decision. Then you can try this technique. If you were a child who wanted a puppy, and your mother said absolutely no. If the owner said ‘let your child take the puppy home over night, try it out, see how it goes.’ Is there any way your mother would be able to take the puppy back to the pet shop the next day? This type of sale is a last resort – and you only take this option if you KNOW that a client will get a favorable and measurable response to this ad. So you can say to them, “We’ll put your ad in the paper and we’ll see if it works”. However I do not like discounts or giving things for nothing. This is an absolute last resort technique. But if you are convinced it will work, you will pull them in.

The Complex Sale
In a complex sale, closing may be an agreement to take the sale to the next step. Your objective is something that takes your sales objective further along the line. With a large, complex organization your objective is a commitment to take discussions to the next step. Your objective is not going to be a single ad.

For example: If you approach Toyota or Shell, you are not going to get them to sign on the dotted line that day -- they have a complex buying process. Your newspaper will have to be put onto a media schedule, approved by a committee. It is a long process.

Companies like this are more impressed by a well-thought out and detailed plan than a simple one. Even if it is more expensive. Large corporations very seldom make an ad-hoc decision. They are more likely to agree to a comprehensive campaign, but this means that the benefits that you list must be written out again in the proposal.

When you go to see them the first time: It is preferable NOT to bring the proposal to the actual meeting. You have gone to identify their needs and your goal during this meeting is to get them to agree to review the proposal at a follow-up meeting.

If you read between the lines, they will sometimes even tell you what to put in the proposal. Let them know what the next step is that you are going to do. Let them know what you want them to do and get commitment from them for that. It might be an agreement to get the person’s boss to come to a meeting with you when you bring the proposal. That you can see as closing for that part of the process.

You are very lucky if a large company approaches you rather than the other way around. Don’t think, however, that you don’t have to sell to these people. You have to sell UP. Remember the 80/20 ratio. You need to get more from these clients. Even if they say they want to place an ad in the newspaper the next week. You say that’s very nice. You book an appointment and you sell them more. You get more commitment from them.

Think Laterally!
You need to start thinking laterally. Don’t only think advertising. Some big companies want to get involved in social responsibility projects. They might be happy to sponsor a series of pages or pages. I have found that one of the most lucrative proposals I ever made involved asking a company to sponsor a four-page editorial supplement on education. Sometimes it takes a year to go through all the people it needs to go through, but if it is well thought out and meets their needs, it can be worth millions

Ex: A large trucking company is coming into the country or growing. They might know that truck drivers transport HIV/AIDS all over the country. And they might be interested in sponsoring the centre spread as a poster to put up in the walls of trucking companies so that truck drivers get some AIDS education. Or there could be some international organizations that want to educate people about democracy and elections. You suggest the same thing to them.

This is editorial, which means you sit down with your editor and knock out this proposal together. And you might have to give the client ‘naming rights’ they might have a strip along the bottom or logo, but it is your editorial.

This is soft marketing for the client. And if you can get them to do this, you can also probably get them to put in some hard selling advertisements as well. What you are suggesting is a branding exercise where your readers warm to the client’s brand.

Quick Guide to Closing a Deal:
When do you close:
Only when you are sure that they want to buy
Don’t pressurize or manipulate an unwilling buyer or you will get only one sale

Suggest the following:
- A position in the paper
- A publication date
- Ad content and style
- Added value - a special position, volume discount
- Ask a slightly presumptuous question:
“Shall I book a space in this or that section – or on this or that date?”
“Would you like a full page or half page?”
“How often would you like to advertise?”

Be clear on what has been agreed. Make sure they know the cost of the advert. This is the point where many sales people falter.

Take a deep breath, and then do one of the following:
- Request an order number
- Get the buyer to sign a contract
- Get an appointment to bring a proposal the following day.
- Get the client’s agreement to a follow-up meeting with a colleague (yours or his) to finalize the agreement. Agree on the proposed day and time.

Confirm with all parties as soon as you can. Write up the proposal and get it signed.

If the client is not ready to buy advertising, get them to commit to another action that will take them further along the road to buying:
- Agreeing to read the newspaper
- Agreeing to study the proposal
- Agreeing to meet again with a colleague (of theirs or yours) to explore further
- Let them know that you will call again with a modified proposal at a particular time for further discussion.

Next newsletter: Handling Objections