By Christopher Banks / Marketing and Media Manager and Consultant – Retired
Many years ago media sales organizations directly tied the success of an advertising campaign to the usage of the “consultative sell”, promoting it as the sine qua non of sales strategies. With it that a “consultative sell” requires in depth research and collaboration with the potential prospect, leading to a greater potential for success, I totally agree. However, the reality of today’s management demands (expedited project turnaround and immediate performance acquisition), has evidenced their proclamation as being nothing short of hypocritical. Is this a uniform practice among all media sales organizations? I believe not, however, those that still subscribe to the common sense platform of your success being tied to the success of the client, are the exception, not the rule.
Account Executives and Media Consultants (as some companies entitle them) are not at fault. I truly believe that most AE’s understand their livelihood is based on the client’s success and on the longevity of the client/AE relationship. Instead, some insiders observe that it is the industry’s new upper management – some with little interest or grounding in sound and sustainable sales and service practices — who bear the lion’s share of the responsibility. These are the self-styled, modern-day media gladiators who subscribe to an ethic that places a far higher premium on attracting new, and too often transient, business than on the cultivation of existing relationships and attention to their ongoing and future needs.
Can the prospective client’s need for in depth consultation effectively dovetail with upper management’s demand for quick turnaround and budget acquisition achievement? Can the AE successfully manage a dual endeavor process that is prone to contradictory decisions? Can a prospective client trust that an AE under pressure to “make budget” will truly have his or her best interests in mind when making campaign recommendations? Can the AE afford to spend the time truly needed to develop a successful campaign, while under the gun to close…right now? Regrettably….I feel the answer to all of these questions is no.
Are anyone’s interests ultimately served by retreating from the basic principles of the “consultative sell” as an organizing tool, a management style, a commitment to the client, a business ethos? Does anyone hope to restore the clients’ satisfaction in a job well done and that of our industry’s professionals in having done a job well? If your answer to the first question is that no interest is served, and you do have an interest in securing a satisfied, productive client base and in reclaiming the pride of working as professionals in our industry, you might consider the following common sense points helpful:
- Recognize that prospective clients are investing their trust…and funds…in you, the Account Executive. You must become another member of that prospect’s “staff”, vested in the prosperity of your client’s business.
- Demonstrate that your work ethic is incredible. This will do much to develop the prospect’s respect for your ability and commitment to the firm’s success.
- Be committed to investing the time needed to be productive and effective–on and off the clock. The completion of a consultative collaboration may require that you start work early, end work late and/or devote weekends to the process. You also will need to spend time actually working at the prospect’s business to gain a full understanding of its dynamics.
- Be aware that you will not be able to help every prospect. Do not be afraid to inform them of such. They will respect you for doing so. For most Account Executives ….this is a difficult conversation. If you keep in mind, however, that the prospect deserves your honesty, combined with this process being a true investment on your part…you will understand the logic.
- Seek employment with an organization that subscribes to your belief in the consultative sell. A number of media organizations have prospered significantly because of their reputations for “putting the client first”. You’ll recognize them by the continuity and stability within their Account Executive ranks.
- Guard your integrity as if it’s your “family jewel”….because it is! If you conduct yourself with integrity, you will earn the respect of your colleagues, your clients, your competitors, and, if necessary, your prospective new employer. Most important, you will preserve your self-respect. At the end of the day, it will be your most treasured attribute.
Understand that those in upper management will probably not change their ways. After all, they too have someone making the same demands of them. However, if you subscribe to the six practices noted above…you soon will be saying…..”I don’t have to go to work…..I get to go to work”.
Marketing and Media Manager and Consultant – Retired