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The Perfect Pitch - 1/19/2010 -

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to analyze your association's advertising sales approach and tune it up.

By Steve Fretzin

TRULY SUCCESSFUL SALES PEOPLE ARE CONSTANTLY REFINING THEIR SKILL and adjusting their sales pitch to fit the time and needs of their prospective clientele.With the dawn of a new year—and the fact that your association may be competing in a fiercely competitive, for-profit world—it's time to analyze your sales pitch and tweak it to perfection.

Some associations handle their sales in-house, with the person responsible for sales wearing multiple hats. Other associations use outside sales representation. Whatever route you choose, it's certain that your association will be competing against some very polished sales professionals presenting their media products in the marketplace as a viable alternative to yours. Therefore, for your association publications to compete successfully, you must master the art of the sell—and to do that, you first have to master the art of the perfect sales pitch.

The perfect pitch is not one size fits all. Here is how your association's sales team can create persuasive pitches for every potential client, each and every time:

  1. Shut up and listen. Contrary to popular belief, selling is not about winning advertisers over with persuasion and smooth speeches. While it is a good idea to have a few main bullet points memorized that you want to share during your meeting or phone call, remember that the most important thing you can do is just listen to what the person is saying. The sales meeting or discussion should be 80 percent about the client and his business, and only 20 percent about your association, its media products, and related services.
  2. Find their pain. As you listen to the advertiser, discuss his business and his needs. Listen closely to hear where his "pain” is. In other words, try to find where he is hurting the most. Is he finding it frustrating to reach your members? Is his pain in finding new customers? Is it in reaching out to different demographics? Or is it a lack of online presence? Listen for where his pain is so that you can tailor your media product offerings to best fit his needs.
  3. Always soft sell. Once you have the advertiser's needs in mind, use a soft-sell approach to show what your association can do for them. Offer examples of similar suppliers and vendor partners with whom you have had success in the past, and illustrate your points with graphs and facts rather than hyperbole. In the end, your association's media offering can speak for itself—all you have to do is present it as simply and eloquently as possible.
  4. Use different media formats to increase your reach. When meeting with a potential advertiser, get creative with your presentation. Power Point presentations, visuals, graphs, and video conferencing for long-distance meetings can help impress your advertiser.
  5. Lose the pitch. Yes, you read that right. The perfect pitch is no pitch at all. There is a reason people cringe at the thought of salespeople and sales pitches—they don't like feeling duped into buying a product they don't need or a service they don't want. Slick speeches are a part of that stereotype. People want to be treated honestly and fairly, and if you start from that intention, your ‘pitch' will dissipate.

Instead, you can impress the advertiser with your talent, your association publications' successes, and your association's commitment to excellence. If your association has something people need, you don't need a pitch—all you need is hard work and a talented staff.

Remember, the next time you feel yourself trying to ‘sell,' stop yourself. Listen to what the advertiser is actually saying and suss out potential issues they might have. Then, cater what you have to say to their needs, and let your work speak for itself. Voila—the perfect pitch.

(Editor's note: Look for more information on improving your publications' competitiveness in the marketplace in the upcoming March/April edition of Association Media & Publishing's Signature magazine.)

Steve Fretzinis president of Sales Results, Inc.


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