The Common Things



The passing of Gary Fries has been very much on my mind, and, as I reflect in my Last Word in this issue, Mr. Fries excelled in his command of the basics of our business. This he learned from one of the very best, Midwestern broadcaster Dick Chapin. So what could be a more fitting tribute to Gary—and a tip of the hat to Dick, who still kicking it well into his eighties—than to devote a sales column to the basics?

Stick to the Plan

Whether you are a devotee of a six-step plan, an eight-step plan, or a 12-step plan—it seems every sales consultant advocates some number of steps, which is fine, as long as the program is proved effective—the key to success is to keep working the plan, day after day, call after call, regardless of the result.

A story which seems apocryphal, except that it happened to me, goes like this:

The neophyte salesperson bursts into the sales manager’s office, lamenting, “No matter what I do, I can’t make a sale.”

The sales manager looks up from his paperwork and says to the rookie, “Make another call.”

This scene was repeated for several days in a row. But finally one day, the newbie storms in waving a bunch of papers, saying, “I don’t know what happened, but I made three sales today!”

The sales manager looks up from his paperwork and says, “Make another call.”

One time when I was consulting a certain radio station, I was in the manager’s office when a salesperson ran in with a bunch of contracts, saying, “Well, I made my budget for this month, so I’m taking the rest of it off.” The salesperson thought she was making a joke, but unless you stick to the plan, you can be as much thrown off your game by success as you can by failure. The only way to power through the highs and the lows is, yes, to stick to the plan.

Small Courtesies

Let’s face it, the field nowadays is more crowded than ever. The latest research shows that on average each of us is subjected to more than 5,000 selling messages every single day [see following article]—including yours. How do you stand out?

For one thing, you become Mr. or Ms. Thank-You Card. Whenever you see a client, follow up the visit with a brief note. Keep track of things like birthdays and business anniversaries and drop a note in the mail to celebrate those occasions. And every once in a while, at random, send a “thank you for your business” card.

As an RAB member—your station is an RAB member, isn’t it?—you have access to a tremendous amount of material pertaining to your customer’s business. When you see something that you feel is noteworthy, send it along to the client with a note saying, “You might have seen this, but in case you didn’t, I thought it might interest you.” (You get extra points if you actually print out and mail the information instead of simply emailing it. It shows you’re willing to go the extra mile.)

Most of the marketing experts I know recommend figuring out a way to touch a client 12 times a year, in addition to your regular sales and service calls. A creative mix of greeting cards, pass-along information, thank-you calls, etc., can help you achieve that objective.

I mentioned this in my Last Word about Gary Fries, and it’s one of the very best things you can do to cement your relationships: Every morning, start your day by calling a half a dozen of your clients to thank them for their business. Not only will you be going a long way toward standing out from the crowd, but it’s an incredibly, powerfully positive way of getting in the right frame of mind to invite more people to become clients.

Words to Sell By

I think I used this quote as recently as last week, so you know it’s one of my favorites: “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” Its author, Henry Heinz, knew whereof he spoke—think of him and remember his words the next time you put catsup on something.