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Escaping The Most Dangerous Trap


I recently received the following e-mail:

I really enjoyed reading  your thoughts on radio sales. I own a current Country format in California. One of our issues is when the GM goes in to sell and they say, We have all the business we need. How do you come back on that one? The GM has been in the market for the last 20 years on another station, and he says our market is unique. Im not sure if I buy that or not. I would appreciate any help you can give.

Heres how I answered that e-mail:

Im going to answer your question as asked, even though I challenge
the premise. This would be my response:
Obviously, youve been very successful. So I understand that you have
all the business you need. But do you have all the business you want? If the business owner persisted by saying, Yes, we have all the business we want, Id say, Youve obviously made up your mind that I have nothing to offer you and thats OK, Ill be leaving now but would you at least do me the courtesy of telling me the real reason you dont feel I can help you? To be successful, an AE must maintain their confidence and their dignity. Walking out with shoulders slumped and head hanging down is simply not acceptable.

Obviously the line We have all the business we need, is a blow-off. But its not the most dangerous trap into which an AE will step. The worst of all traps is when a new client buys a short flight to test the waters. The AE walks out with a wee bit of cash and a massive, ticking time bomb.

Pay attention to me, AEs. The messages that work best are highly specific. If you walk out of a new advertisers office with an insertion order and nothing else, that time bomb is going to blow any future business with this client completely to hell. Believe me, I fell into that trap many times. Your smartest move is to probe for a specific offer that is new, surprising, and different, an offer that wont be made through any other media. And the client doesnt have to lose money to impress the customer. Just pick a specific product or service that people actually like not something the advertiser needs to dump because no one ever buys it and then write your copy around that item. Think of it as a feature item.

1-800-GotJunk is a junk-removal company with 184 franchisees in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. My firm was hired to write creative ads to make the phone ring. I noticed their pricing structure was based on the percentage of their truck your junk would fill.

How is the client supposed to know the percentage of your truck their stuff will fill? I asked.

We give free estimates, came the reply.

So if I call and ask, How much do you charge to haul off a sofa? what will you tell me?"

Well tell you we need to come out and see the sofa.

Im thinking, Hey! My sofa is the same size as your sofa, stupid!

They looked at me blankly, so I asked, What single item do you haul off more than any other?

Dead TVs was the reply.

Heres the ad I wrote:
ROY: Youve got a dead TV, right?
BRIAN: Dont be embarrassed. Everyones got a dead TV.
ROY: You dont know what to do with it....
BRIAN: But we do.
ROY: Have you got twenty-nine dollars?
BRIAN: Give us a call or contact us online
ROY: And well send some guys right over.
BRIAN: Were a full-service junk removal company.
ROY: You dont have to lift a finger.
BRIAN: Well, thats not entirely true....
ROY: (obviously confused.) What?
BRIAN: You have to lift one finger to point at the dead TV.
ROY: That dead TV will be gone-gone-gone! [relief]
BRIAN: And you paid just twenty-nine dollars.
ROY: Lift that finger again and watch the magic.
BRIAN: Junk will disappear. [sfx]
ROY: Call 1-800-Got Junk
BRIAN: Or visit us online.
ROY: Well quote you a price for hauling away everything
you point at.
BRIAN: Thats one powerful finger youve got there!
ROY: Be careful where you aim that thing.
BRIAN: Were full service. All you have to do is point.
ROY: Call 1-800-Got Junk or contact us through our
BRIAN: And prepare to be amazed.

Result? Sales volume during the next 90 days in our test market was 41 percent higher than the same 90-day period the previous year. If you ask a person if they have any junk, theyll probably tell you no. But ask that same person something specific like whether they have a dead TV and youre likely to get a different answer. And when you use a feature item, you no longer fall into the trap of, Well, business was up 41 percent but Im not sure it was due to the advertising. When people call and say, Dead TV, you know its the advertising thats driving the call.

Now go sell something for your clients.

Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. E-mail:

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