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Overcoming the most common media sales objections

Is there any part of the selling process that scares you? Cold-calling maybe? The close? Or perhaps it’s the part where your prospective client hurls a metaphoric wrench in your up-to-now perfect presentation by raising an objection. An objection! Your mind spins, your mouth is suddenly dry, and you watch, helplessly, as a lucrative sale spirals down to crash and burn.

But, and this ‘but’ is the size of Mount McKinley, it doesn’t have to be that way. And I’m going to tell you why. It actually comes back to one of my favourite sayings, and I make no apology for saying it again now: “Amateurs wing it, professionals practice”.

Have you ever watched a top comedian being heckled during a show? Ever see that comedian fazed by being heckled? Of course you haven’t.

These guys do not mind being heckled because they have endlessly practised the art of the pleasant put down, and being heckled gives them the opportunity to more closely engage with their audience.

They are always ready with a pithy response aimed at getting a laugh without necessarily insulting or alienating the heckler. It often seems like an ad lib, a quick-witted gag thought of on the spur of the moment, but folks – it isn’t. It’s an art and they’ve practised it and practised it and practised it. You, as professional media sales people, have to do the same.

Ryan Dohrn.

Now, as you know, my name is Ryan Dohrn and, just like you, I’m out there selling in the media market every day – and I know just how challenging it is. I bring you thoughtful, useful advice aimed at helping you succeed. In this post I want to look at a common topic, one I am constantly being asked to talk about; the four or five most common media sales objections, the ones I hear all the time in both the business to business and the consumer spaces, and how to address them.

“Word of mouth is my best marketing vehicle”

Along with, “I have no budget,” (which I’ll get to in a while) I’m most often told, by clients, that “Word of mouth is my best marketing vehicle,” or, “Referrals are my best marketing vehicle.”

I like this. I like it because, like the comedian, I have thought about and practiced my response. “Mr (or Mrs) Advertiser, I respect what you say, but here’s one of the problems with word of mouth and referral business. With that kind of business, you lose control of your marketing message. You are relying on untrained individuals (no matter how well-meaning) to take your marketing message to the world, and that can be problematic at best.”

“There’s another potential problem too, Mr (or Mrs) advertiser. And that is that word of mouth and referral-based marketing is based solely on your ability to 100 per cent control customer satisfaction. If a customer leaves your business unsatisfied; if they have a bad experience with your company, your staff, your service, your software, whatever, at that point, you have lost control of customer satisfaction, and word of mouth and referral-based marketing will actually work against you.”

We’ve all had similar experiences – I know I have. How often have you visited a restaurant and been somehow not entirely satisfied? The food was fine, the wine was fine, the service was fine, and yet…something wasn’t quite right. You’re probably not going to go online and give the restaurant a bad review, but, equally, you’re unlikely to recommend it to your friends. You may even advise them not to eat there.

Or maybe you’ve bought a software program. You’ve installed it successfully on your computer and started to use it. But something isn’t quite right. The software works, but not quite as you expected it to. You feel somehow dissatisfied. You’re not going to complain, even if the company sends you a customer service survey – it just isn’t worth the hassle. But you won’t be recommending that company to anyone else.

When you are discussing this objection with a prospective advertiser, they are likely to tell you they always work toward 100 per cent customer satisfaction first and foremost. That’s just them.

It’s a great mission statement, one I applaud, however, in the real-world, customers are only as loyal as their last customer service experience, or the last time a company messed with their prices. So it’s important for us all to realise that because of social media, when a customer doesn’t have a good experience with a company, staff, the product, whatever, they tend to go online. And when they go online they tend to get quite hateful behind the keyboard.

What I’m saying here is that unsatisfactory customer experiences really do hinder word of mouth and referral-based marketing.

During my media sales training workshops, I like to walk my clients through that scenario and you should too. I’ll say something like, “I absolutely respect that word of mouth and referral business is important to you. May I ask what else you’re doing in the marketplace to counter the occasions when someone has a bad experience with your company and goes online to give you a bad review?”

One last point about word of mouth and referral-based marketing you should be aware of – and not be afraid to explain to your potential customer. It’s slow! It’s a slow process that takes time to produce results, and it can be pushed back by just one disgruntled customer making a derogatory digital noise online.

“I’m not seeing an ROI on my advertising”

The second common objection I hear is: “I’m not seeing a return on investment from my advertising.”

My immediate response, when I hear that message from a potential advertiser, is that I have to drill down into that statement, to isolate the facts behind the statement.

So I ask, “What were you expecting? What were your expectations from this ad campaign?”

As an aside here, I would suggest, from a coaching or training perspective, that this is a question you should probably have asked during the sales call, before the campaign began.

However, even if you did ask the question, over time, an advertiser may have a change of mind about their expectations. It might be wise to do as I do which is to ask the question during the sales call and make a note of the advertiser’s response. If, later, the advertiser tells me he is not getting the return on investment he expected, I can go back into my notes (recorded in my CRM tool) and say, “When we first met, you said you wanted…” quote the advertiser’s words to him, “Did something change? What really were your expectations?”

Then I will listen carefully. I’m looking for the signals that the advertiser might be selling a product or service that’s quite expensive. I’m listening for direct response language, direct response triggers. I mean by this that, sometimes, people are selling products or services that are more expensive than direct response advertising will allow.

Just to make sure everyone is on board with what direct response advertising is, think, “Buy now! $19.99,” or, “Three payments of $29.95.” The kind of ad where the advertiser is looking for an immediate action from prospective buyers.

I often find myself working with an advertiser who is selling high-ticket items or services, $200, $500, maybe even $5,000. The advertiser may feel advertising stuff at that level is still transactional, but it isn’t. Products and services at those sorts of prices require branding, consideration and research.

So the bold statement that someone isn’t getting a return on investment from their advertising is just not enough. I need to know what their expectations were and are. I ask the questions and then listen for the signals that tell me they’re trying to ‘force’ a direct response on a product that isn’t priced to be within that direct response price bracket.

Okay, now I have clarity on what they wanted to get out of the ad campaign, I need to probe whether or not their expectations were realistic when looked at in the context of ad spend. For example, if they spent $500 on ads and were expecting sales of $500,000 in return, I’d say their expectations were unrealistic and I would have some gentle educating to do.

The last facet of this objection has to do with the ‘value’ of a single customer. What would be the initial value of a customer you brought to a business? And what would be the lifetime value of that same customer?

For example, to a hair salon, a single new customer might be worth $100 on their first appointment. But over the course of a year, that same customer could be worth $800.

Another example: a software company might sell multiple licences to a customer brought in by your advertising. In that case, a single customer would be worth the initial cost of a single licence multiplied by the number sold.

What I’m essentially doing is figuring out the real value of the company acquiring a customer through my advertising. And I’m doing this out loud, in alliance with the advertiser so we both understand the real figures.

This is quite a complex objection and it involves a number of separate issues, none of which you should be afraid to address. Remember, it’s a conversation. Involve your customer, ask the questions to get the answers that will allow you to move forward with your sale.

“I’m dropping print in favour of social media”

Now here’s an objection I come across in my ad sales training workshops and more and more frequently in the real world. It goes like this: “I’m moving all my ad dollars into social media. I’m dropping print, I’m dropping radio. In fact, I’m doing everything on social media.” Heard that one yet? If you haven’t, you soon will.

My immediate response is to say something like, “Cool! What are your plans? What are you doing with social media?” I’ll listen to what they say, chipping in with questions I need the answers to. I need to drill down into what they’re saying. In particular I want to know how much time and money are they going to spend managing their social media accounts? Why is that information useful to you and me? Because many of us offer social media services that are a lot cheaper than if they spend the necessary time to do it themselves.

An article on Inc.com recently stated that successful social media marketers spend 15 to 20 hours a week managing their accounts. That’s 15 to 20 hours spent on matters outside their core business.

It’s a natural step from there to explain to your advertisers that social media is not cheap, especially mis-managed social media. We featured this subject in a recent blog post, looking at how Facebook shifted the goalposts on 15 January this year. In very few cases will you find advertisers are aware of these changes.

You will also find it useful, when talking to advertisers, to refer to some pricing history. According to Hochman Consultants, in 2013, a typical cost per click average was around US$0.92 cents. By 2017, that average had increased to £3.25. Eye opening figures, and I quote them to highlight the importance of recognising the cost of social media and how much it has increased.

Here’s some more figures you can use: In 2013, it cost around US$10.50 to convert a click into a client. By 2017, it was as high as US$42. When you look at those numbers you can see that social media marketing is actually pretty expensive – especially if you’re no expert and don’t really know what you’re doing.

“I have no budget”

The final objection I’m going to deal with today is one of my favorites. It’s the old perennial, “I have no budget,” or, “My budget for the year is already spent.”

In general, when someone uses this objection, I have my very well practiced response ready. “Okay, tell me about competitor X.” (This will be the name of one of their competitors I will have researched beforehand.) “What are you doing to out-position them in the market place? If you aren’t spending anything on advertising, what are you doing about them.”

It’s quite blunt but it’s also to the point, and one of my go-to’s because I want them to understand that their marketing absence is their competitor’s opportunity.

I often say, “Mr/Mrs Advertiser, when you think about advertising to this community or industry, do you want to have a presence, be competitive or be dominant?” No budget means that they have chosen a fourth option, being absent. This is very bad and means they will get left behind.    

I’ll go on then to suggest there’s little harm in me sharing some ideas with them because why would they not want to hear about something that would give their competition a run for their money?

There is a lot more to this objection, but I tend to find that once I’ve mentioned competitors and what’s happening in the market place, I’m usually able to steer the conversation to the point where I am sharing some of my pre-prepared ideas with them.

Those are the main sales objections I encounter time and time again. If you aren’t prepared, any one of them can be daunting to the point of killing a sale.

What I’d ask you to do, right now, is go over this post once more. Then write your own objection handling scripts to suit your own personality.

When you’ve done that – LEARN THEM. Learn them so you are word perfect. Learn them until you can recite them in your sleep. Then practice them. Say them out loud over and over and over. When you are in front of that advertiser, and he hits you with one of these objections, you’ll inwardly smile as you move smoothly into one of your conversational objection rebuttals.

Don’t ever forget, amateur sales people – they wing it. Professional sales people – they practice.

Remember, if selling ads was easy, everyone would be doing it. And they are not. So, we are either crazy or we have found a career that will feed our families for a life-time.  

Written by 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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