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Strictly Confidential

April 20, 2010

By Sean Luce

I recently had something hit me like a smack in the head -- metaphorically speaking. It was in the form of a client reminder and a question. I was on a rather important customer marketing profile call (a.k.a. a CMP). I was delving deep inside the client's business with one of our reps in broadcast and Internet sales. We identified significant marketing dollars based on six-figure growth over the next 12 months, and we obtained the exact information that was needed in order to make the closing presentation.

The call was textbook CMP except for one thing: We omitted one key piece of information when introducing the CMP. At the bottom or top (depending on which version) of the CMP document, it states "THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS CLASSIFIED INFORMATION." We forgot to tell the customer, "The information that we gather is strictly confidential, and will not be shared with anyone unless we have your permission." We should then have gone on to say, "The only individuals who will see this information (including any confidential numbers) are my sales manager and the production team who will be working on the creative ideas." All of that goes without saying, right? Wrong. We assumed confidentiality. Never assume, and always state and reiterate to the customer that information sharing is strictly confidential.

The CMP happened on Friday afternoon. On Saturday morning, I made a stop at the business in question to buy some products from their store. The owner asked me, "Does the information we shared with you and the rep remain confidential?" She added: "We certainly don't want those numbers out in the market." I told her that the information is never shared and is kept inside the CMP. The only people who have access to it are the rep and sales manager. I went on to mention that the closing presentation is also confidential. The sales manager, the sales assistant, and the rep are under confidentiality clauses. They are prohibited from sharing this information. The owner was relieved. We gathered information that no other media company in the market had learned, and this customer will now become an A account from ground zero.

The moral of the story: Keep information confidential. Many prospects have good reason not to share their deepest and darkest challenges, because they simply don't trust sales reps to keep it confidential. This point holds true for all closing presentations. Please do not forward a presentation in an email and use it as an example of what other clients are doing, or imply that this is the amount that the customer spends with us. When a proper CMP is conducted, no competitive information should be necessary, since it has been tailored to meet the client's needs. I understand asking a fellow rep for ideas on how they did this or that, but remember that what happens in the sales department stays in the sales department.

The above-mentioned account was closed in a multimedia presentation by two sales reps representing two different media. One was broadcast and one was print. They will add Internet once the customer tunes up their online sales capacity.

Here are a couple of additional points from this sales call that are worth noting. Regarding confidentiality, I believe many business owners are not comfortable giving out numbers right away unless the rep establishes the first of the seven steps on an opening call, which is, "Break the ice -- build rapport, commonality, and trust." If a rep starts by asking about or implying the problems they have identified, they can kiss that call goodbye because the client will probably become defensive. If a rep is a package seller, they have no intention of understanding the needs of the client, and a CMP is useless. Unless a rep executes the first step and does the research, the chances of this account opening up about their business are fairly slim. Without this valuable data about the business, it will be challenging to demonstrate results for the client.

The first step of a call leads to the bigger picture. If the rep does not have the client's past and present sales numbers, plus any seasonal peaks and valleys, how will the rep track the success of the advertising or be able to change the creative, schedules, offers, placement, etc.?  If there are no concrete goals, how will the success of the campaign be measured? What closed the sale with this customer was that they shared the store's revenue goals for 2012, and total retail sales for the past few years. By using the ROI (Return on Investment) Calculator (www.luceperformancegroup.com), the reps were able to show the customer how spending a calculated amount on advertising would accomplish the store's sales goals for 2012. The next step for this customer is tracking. How does a business track their advertising? The answer is not in the question, "How did you hear about us?"

Stay tuned for the tracking, measuring, and sourcing in the next article.

Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor at the Luce Performance Group in Houston and can be
reached at sean@luceperformancegroup.com.

 




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