Plow Through To the Real Decision Maker

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Oct 24, 2023 by Sean Luce

Have you ever wondered why you were cut from the sale at the last minute when you thought you had the prospect signed, sealed and delivered to the traffic department? Other influences might have an impact on the sale. We have been conditioned to call only on people with the right titles: owners, general managers, agency buyers. However, to get the order, you might have to go deeper for influences that you may have not identified.

During a recent closing presentation at an auto dealership, the general manager pulled out his most current survey from his parts-and-service department. He told us that we were No.12 on his survey and he bought only the top five Radio stations. His survey method was to have his mechanics sit in the car and press the five buttons on the car Radio, compile a list of selected stations and turn it in every month. This is how he buys his Radio stations. After using every technique we could think of to overcome this objection, we finally left to try again another day. In the parking lot, the sales rep and I agreed that the mechanics, instead of pushing the buttons, probably were just filling out the survey form and putting in their favorite Radio stations.

Over the next three weeks, we tested the theory by taking in station premiums, pizzas for lunch, and more station premiums to the mechanics responsible for taking the surveys. In the next month's survey, who was in the top five? We were! In 90 days, who was No. 1 in the survey? We were! At that point, the dealership placed an annual contract with us.

I am not saying you have to bribe your way to the sale. In this case, the mechanics were not filling out the surveys properly. The real decision-makers in this case were the mechanics, not the general manager. You should be penetrating all levels of the prospect's business. Do you have a relationship with all the people in your client's business? They can influence the sale as much as the person who signs the check.

1) Who gives the final approval to invest in our Radio station?
This usually boils down to one person, but many factors can influence this decision-maker: current business conditions, past experience with you and your station. You need to find out the spending limit.

2) Who actually benefits from using your Radio station? In many cases, it's the salespeople, service personnel, delivery people, receptionist and maintenance people - all interested in the welfare of the business.

3) Who looks at the specs of your proposal? In dealing with agencies, we gravitate toward the "buyers," feeling that they have the power, and that's where we spend most of our time. However, who really makes the decisions - the AE on the account? the media supervisor? We must form a relationship with each of these people; otherwise, we might find ourselves cut out of the sale at the last moment.

The rule of thumb is not to talk just to the people we feel have the right title. It goes much deeper, because all buys are different and tend to change.

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