Selling Long-Term Business

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Nov 7, 2023 by Sean Luce

  Here's a typical scenario involving a sales rep and a new advertiser, let's say a furniture store:

The sales rep leans forward, looks the prospect in the eye, and says,"What do you say? Let's do an annual schedule." He hopes the advertiser goes along with this, because his manager has told him to sell annuals, instead of short-term schedules, although he doesn't really understand why - at least, not yet.

"Naw," the prospect replies. "I don't want to commit to an annual and get locked in." What she's really thinking is: "I want to try it first and see if it works,"but she says,"How 'bout a month? If people come in saying they heard it, we'll do some more."

The rep feels a small lump in his throat. He's been told to turn down short-term business, and he knows most people won't come in and say they heard a spot. He also knows that one month does not build a brand or business, but he says, "Okay," knowing that he still must hit his monthly budget/quota.

This conversation takes place every day. Why ask for long-term business? Ask yourself this: When do Coke, Pepsi, Best Buy, Circuit City, Wendy's, or McDonald's run a month on and a month off? They don't. But you think, "Well, they are national advertisers; they can afford it. My local business has to be more parsimonious with its money and can't afford advertising that doesn't work."

Remember that an annual contract helps the advertiser build dominance in his/her particular category. It's critical for the sales rep to back up why he/she is asking that advertiser to commit more than their typical flighted off and - on schedules.

Let's look at the furniture store in the above illustration. In a column in Radio Ink (9/29/03), I introduced the Buyers Awareness Cycle, or Pre-Purchase Experience. This research provides the rep with the average time frame during which consumers think about the product before they walk in a showroom. The BAC states that, in the furniture industry, the average time between initial consideration and actual purchase is 3.9 months. During that time, the consumer goes through a complex thought process that leads to a decision. It's important to note that there are four stages to the BAC/PPE:

1. Consumer becomes aware of the product/ service. The consumer starts thinking about a new leather couch for the living room. In most cases, the consumer has not thought about where to purchase the couch, as the switch in their head just went off. Therefore, the local business goal should be to drive awareness and image in this early stage so when the consumer is ready, he/she will think of that local business first.

2. Consumer becomes familiar with the product/service. The consumer talks to friends about leather couches and starts thinking about its location in the living room. The goal of the advertiser now is to differentiate how and why the consumer should shop at the advertiser's business for this piece of furniture. Traditional media plays a big role in this stage with the consumer.

3. The consumer starts to make a connection to the product. The consumer's justification for the purchase is high in this stage, and the consumer begins thinking about where to buy this leather couch. The business on the other end of this stage is trying to convince the consumer that the best quality and value (not necessarily price) is at their business.

4. The consumer is ready to shop. During this stage, the local advertiser must put its business in front of the consumer in order to drive its name into the consumer's final-consideration mindset.

The 4 Stages of The BAC / Pre-Purchase Experience
 Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4
Prospect GoalBecome Aware of Product / ServiceGet Familar with Product / ServiceFeel Relevant Connections to Product or ServiceFeel Confident in a few Choices / Businesses
Company GoalDrive Awareness and ImageDifferentiate Features / BenefitsMake Meaningful Connection Company / ProductDrive Business / Product into Final Consideration Set
Broadcast/Digital Display
Mail Catalog
Newspaper Inserts Catalog
Targeted Touch Points    
Customized Emails
Discount Coupons and Special Offers via E-mail
Page Excerpts
Book Reviews
Offering On-Line Gift Certificates/App Promo's
Promotions / Event Sponsorship / Remotes/Facebook Lives
Degree of Impact High Medium Low
Source: LPG / Prophet 2002 / 2003 Research
Note: Graph reflects the 2/3rd shoppers who purchase based on brand versus price and item shoppers only (1/3).   
This research provides the rep with the average time that the consumer starts to think about the product before they walk in a showroom. The BAC states that in the furniture industry, the average time that goes by is 3.9 months and then they walk into their first showroom. However, what thought process is this consumer going through?

There are four stages to the BAC/PPE. You can use this as back up and use this research to walk the prospect/business owner through this experience to justify why their one month schedule will have little effect of their business unless it's a liquidation sale and if they keep advertising like this, they will be having a liquidation sale.

According to Target Marketing Magazine, these four stages take into consideration the nearly two-thirds of those buyers who are brand- or top-of-mind-awareness consumers only. Price buyers make up the other one-third.

Knowledge is not power until it's used. Instead of meeting with a prospect, hoping to get an annual contract, go in with powerful research that will validate why your advertiser should advertise all the time - day in and day out!

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