Selling Annual Agreements -- All The Time

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Aug 28, 2023 by Sean Luce

It's mind blowing and excruciatingly tough to sell short-term, one-hit-wonder schedules. It's fatiguing and quickly burns out a sales rep. If you're selling short term and you're dealing with more than just agency business, then your lifespan in media sales is about the same as the average running back in the U.S. National Football League -- very short.

Since the "Shift" of 2007, where measured media started to have money allocated to it, and tacking on the "great recession" of 2008/2009, I've seen short-term schedules being carried out the door of media companies in hopes of at least getting something from the prospect -- or at least another month of the rep hanging onto the client in hopes that they might eventually do "something" of a long-term nature. Even if that means extending that schedule one more month and the rep having to re-sell their company yet again and again. Again, this is very fatiguing on both the client and the rep. In my 40 weeks in the field each year, I see no expectations or objectives being set up, and the hit-and-run crime of taking money for short-term instant gratification becomes the norm. It is what it is. Unfortunately.

There is a better way. Ask for 12 months minimum every time you go sell a schedule. The prospect might have told you "No way will I okay an annual agreement when you qualified this local gem of a business up front." That's fine. I will notify them that along with what we did qualify, based on their expectations and objectives, that one of the schedules I will be bringing back will be a campaign that has 12 months attached to it where we can lock in the rates and guarantee placement of the schedule -- two benefits right up front of doing a long-term agreement. I always mention that closing happens on the CMP call where you tell the prospect, "If I bring back superior creative that you we think will rise above the clutter and a schedule that will meet your expectations of increased R.O.I. (based on what we agreed on), are you prepared to do it?" If no, I have more work to do.

Seventy percent of the time, they say yes and I have my initial negotiating gambit on the table and the prospect will be expecting that 12-month schedule on my return. Nothing should ever come out of left field when you're selling 12-month annual agreements.

Do people buy based on emotion or logic? Emotion takes 80 percent of the buy. However, you need to reinforce your "ask" with some logic or you'll be left disappointed at the altar. Emotion only goes so far. You need both.
If I'm selling into a consumer electronics store where the average buying cycle is approximately 3.1 months, according to the most recent BAC-Buyers Awareness Cycle, I have about four buying cycles in the course of a year. You don't sell them a three-month schedule. You sell them an annual schedule with four evaluation points in your 12-month agreement based on the expectations you set in your CMP meeting, and some of that could include "branding" (however, be careful, many who have good intentions of "branding" also have intentions of wanting to see business go up over those 12 months). Set realistic expectations (a whole other article) and then have evaluations every quarter based on the buying cycle, which in this case, for a computer electronics store, is about three months. This doesn't mean you come back once every three months to check on them. No, you're in there all the time making sure your creative is "sinking" into the target audience and you are getting some traction with your media schedule.

During that one cycle, you have people coming in and out of the buying cycle at all times. Once you start, you should never stop along that 12-month roadmap to the desired results you and your client have agreed on. Can you tweak and tune the schedule? Yes. You will change creative also and, depending on the media you sell, in some cases weekly. Internet could be every three to four days you change creative, depending on the traffic to your site. You have four different stages in each and every buying cycle:
Stage 1: Consumer becomes aware of the product or service.
Stage 2: Consumer becomes familiar with the product or service.
Stage 3: Consumer starts to make a connection to the product or service.
Stage 4: Consumer is ready to shop.

The stages are not equal in time either. You might have a consumer that spent three months in Stage 1 and then rolls quickly through Stages 2 through 4. The point is: the business must be there all the time. The buying cycle never stops.

When asking for a 12-month agreement, in many cases I know the prospect might be fidgety on "okaying" a long-term agreement. We're dealing in reality here also. Not every business owner is dying to drop 30 or 80K with you tomorrow for advertising in the next 12 months. We put in a six-month back-out clause -- which states that after six months, the client can use this clause if we are not meeting our goals and expectations we set out to accomplish. Do not use the word "cancellation." This has huge negative connotations and if this language is used by you or by the client, there is a good chance they will cancel. In my experience in asking for an annual agreement with a six-month back-out clause, only 5 percent ever back out at six months. Normally, that was due to account rep turnover, rather than not meeting expectations. This also gives you six months to provide results and excellent service. And it's hard to cancel results and excellent service.

Also, it takes the same amount of preparation and time to put together a 12-month agreement as it does to put together a one-month agreement. So.ask for 12 months. They won't shoot you for asking.

Sean Luce is the Head International Instructor for the Luce Performance Group can be reached at or


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