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Jeff Schmidt

Im A Believer


The sales team, (with few exceptions), had left the building -- literally. Pacing was about 40 percent to prior year. Those that remained succumbed to the package of the week or month in an effort to meet the looming monthly and quarterly goals. Sadly, not realizing that by focusing on the week and month they were missing any chance for long-term growth and were victims of a short-term mentality. They arent alone. The pressure to hit the number is enormous. For some its a shareholder-corporate reality. For others, its the owners ability to pay the mortgage. Hitting financial goals is required no matter what size the company, in order to ensure long-term viability.

My challenge as the new guy in town was to get pacing above water, get a full sales staff on board, and get them excited about creating effective strategies for clients. Looking back, it was one simple rule that changed everything. ALWAYS ASK FOR AN ANNUAL. It seemed like a simple rule to me, but it was met with resistance. Then the magic happened. With some encouragement, and some training, they started asking for annuals. Within about six months, our pacing was meeting last year. Soon it started exceeding last year by double digits. We solved the short-term problem of getting in front of more clients and asking for more business, but we didnt do it with the package of the week, discounts, or tricks. We did it with customized proposals, specific to client needs, and asking for long-term business.

We focused on building communities of customers for the long-term rather than just taking the short sale. Are there times when you have to take what youre given? Of course. But too often, managers, and therefore their sellers, fall into the trap of taking the path of least resistance.
As a seller, I was a total believer in the effective power of radio. I RARELY asked for business that was less than a 2-3 year deal. My best was a 10-year deal. Sometimes the client would resist, and in those cases I would give them a "cancellation clause." I would tell clients, If we haven't been able to meet your expectations at any time during the year, you are free to cancel without penalty. That gave me the opportunity to really drill down on their expectations and whether they were reasonable. In my experience, when people cancelled, it wasnt because we didn't perform; it was because we didn't exceed their expectations. Worse, we went into the deal without knowing their expectations. Its like playing a game without a scoreboard. How do you know what winning looks like?
The big idea for me was, by requiring 99 percent of all presentations to be presentations for annual contracts, we doubled the amount of annual contracts we had on the books in six months, just for asking. 

Heres a bonus. . . Every time a seller would turn in an annual, I would send out an ALL STAFF email thanking them and congratulating them. Asking for annuals and being praised for getting them became part of our culture. The sellers could come up with a zillion reasons why the client won't buy the annual. I would smile and simply say, I guess we'll find out soon when you ask them.
Here are the top nine reasons to ALWAYS ask for the annual:

1. Youll never get an annual that you dont ask for. Ive never presented a client a 13-week contract and had them respond, Cant I do this for the year?
2. Advertising works with a combination of: reach, frequency, consistency, and compelling creative. These are the Four Keys to unlocking the true potential of advertising. Consistency should be measured in years, not weeks.
3. Its even more critical for smaller advertisers. A large advertiser can come into a market and buy heavy vertical frequency for a short period of time, and because of the massive budget, they can dominate. Smaller advertisers have to go with smaller schedules, which require a longer-term consistency to get results. I dont care if they have a $100-a-week budget, if they do that for 52 weeks they can get results.
4. Advertising works on a cumulative effect. Dr. Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist in the 1800s, developed the Curve of Forgetfulness. In short, we forget most of what we are exposed to within a few days, unless we have repeated and consistent exposure.
5. Requiring annuals of your sellers encourages them to do better presentations. When the stakes are higher, you put in more thought and effort. A two-week promotion off the rack needs very little prep time. But if youre going to ask your client to invest for a year, you better have a compelling strategy and reasons why.
6. Asking for annuals shows YOUR belief in your product. If your client wants to be in business a year, or five years, from now, they should have a marketing plan in place for the same period. Most dont, but we are the experts. We need to help them understand how advertising works.
7. Annuals reduce stress and increase growth opportunities. If you can go into a month at 80 percent to goal because you have a lot of annual business, think of the time you have to develop new business or dig deeper with current clients.
8. Annuals work. Simply put, the attrition rate of annual contract buyers is significantly less than short-term buyers, because annuals get results.
9. Annuals elevate the conversation to business advantage/consulting. When you have a client on an annual, you meet with them to discuss strategy, results, and new business challenges. When you have a short-term buyer, youre busy re-selling them all the time and never get to the deeper levels of strategy.

Treat me like Ill be in business next month, said one Barrie, ON, retailer when Chris Lytle asked him what the sales reps in that market could do to provide him better service.
Sometimes advertising reps are so concerned about making their month that they forget theyre in business to help their advertisers make their year and reach their long-term business goals.

Ready for a challenge? In your next sales meeting, announce that for the next 30 days every presentation that leaves the building must be an annual contract. Size doesnt matter, but length of contract does. Go ahead and tell them its just an experiment -- they'll be less resistant. Then, in 30 days, see if you havent doubled the amount of annual contracts you have on the air. You wont get them all, but Im betting youll at least double, just by asking.

If youre taking that challenge, please email me. Ill help in any way I can, and Id love to celebrate your success with you.

Think Big, Make Big Things Happen!

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach him at,, Other ways to connect: