The Customer's Vote Is What Counts

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Oct 30, 2023 by Sean Luce

It takes about 11 hours in the air to travel from the Dominican Republic to Thessaloniki in northern Greece. I made the trip to assist a radio station client there, and this is another installment on how that task was accomplished.

10 a.m.,Wednesday: I made a call on a furniture- store owner we'll call Dimitris. I was interviewed for two hours on my credentials. In Greece (and probably in the U.S.A.), many people think of consultants as being at the bottom of the business ladder. The prevailing perception is that if consultants are so good at what they do, they should be making tons of money in their own businesses, instead of telling other people how to run theirs. After Dimitris was satisfied that I had the ability to help him increase his sales, we performed an informal needs analysis.

3 p.m.,Thursday: I had the radio-station sales rep call Dimitris, asking him if he would come to the station on Friday afternoon to educate the station's sales reps about the furniture business. I also suggested that Dimitris be prepared  for some questions and answers pertinent to the sales process.

2:30 p.m., Friday: After an hour of explaining the furniture industry to the sales reps, Dimitris began his question-and-answer session. The concepts of prospecting and getting in the door of a new business dominated the conversation. The Greeks can be tough to convince, but once on board, they perform exceptionally well. Although I did not assist with any questions or responses, I thought that Greek-to-Greek, Dimitris was compelling. He convinced them that seeding, video testimonials and creative ideas such as the delivery of a shoe with a note that says, "Just trying to get my foot in the door," are excellent ways of getting the initial appointment with a business owner. Dimitris then popped critical questions to the sales reps: Why should he, a furniture-store owner, advertise with the station? How could the reps help him increase his sales?

For 15 minutes, the salespeople probed and offered suggestions before I interrupted. I told Dimitris that I didn't think we had enough information about his business, and I proposed getting inside his business for three to four hours, talking to his customers. In other words, I was asking for the opportunity to do an "in-field comprehensive survey," carried out by one of the sales reps.The sales rep,who happened to be a woman, of course would represent herself as a member of a marketing firm, rather than as an account executive
from a radio station.The dialogue between the rep and the furniture-store customer would take 60 seconds or less, covering six or seven questions. Examples of questions to the customers:

- Where did they travel from to get to this area to shop for furniture?
- How many other furniture stores did they shop at before they came here?
- What was the most important factor in shopping at this furniture store?
- How did they hear about this furniture store?

I had a comprehensive survey (CS) from a Canadian station we "coach" (not consult). The CS showed how the station was able to sign a new long-term order for its services. I explained that, before the CS was done, we had no chance of getting that long-term client on the air. When I gave Dimitris a copy of the survey, he thought it should be "mandatory" before he signed a contract.

The survey, as I explained to Dimitris, would help us come up with a creative concept and a schedule based on realistic expectations determined by the feedback from his customers. We also planned an informal survey of people on the streets to determine their perceptions of Dimitris' business, including his image and brand awareness and that of his competitors. I also stressed the importance of his salespeople's selling skills and his closing ratios which, if improved, would only help his cause.

The most important vote when targeting a business' advertising is that of the customer, as well as the overall perceptions of the public. Is it worth investing three to four hours at a top-notch prospect to do a CS? Absolutely!

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