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Jeff Schmidt

Get Off The Treadmill In 2014


January is over. Some companies hit their goal others did not. For those that did not, the panic for a lousy 2014 is setting in. The long-term planning done in November/December to plan for a great year in 2014 is about to be thrown out the window in exchange for short-term fixes that will be repeated over and over for the rest of the year. Just like being on a treadmill, youll be running really fast, but when you look around, youre getting nowhere.

Why is it that the default answer to a sales problem always seems to be: Lower the rates?

I spent over 26 years selling broadcast advertising and whenever there was a sales problem the default answer was: Lower the rates. Ive seen one-day sales, first quarter packages, and customer appreciation sales. The common theme to all of these strategies is LOWER RATES.

You cannot drive long-term demand of any product simply by lowering rates. What you must do is increase value. Author Seth Godin in his great new book, Linchpin, refers to this as becoming so valuable to your clients that they cant possibly think of doing business without you, no matter what the cost.

Are you a linchpin to your clients? To be a linchpin you need to have three qualities:

1. Empathy: You know and understand your clients problems and opportunities.

2. Expertise: You know about your clients business. You read about their industry, you ask questions, and you do research. You know what problems they are facing.

3. Problem-Solving Skills: You know what to do about what you know. To know and not to do is not to know. So after you have uncovered the problems and the solutions, you need to be able to clearly communicate how your products and services can solve the clients problems.

What you need is a repeatable sales process. LOWERING RATES is not a part of that process. Yet the most common and repeated process in most sales organizations is to lower rates when they need to generate sales.

Lowering rates is not a sales process, its a BAD HABIT. Its a treadmill many companies find themselves on this time of year with the 1st-quarter package.

Don Beverage was an early influencer of my sales career. I attended his business school at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. Don said, "You can never maintain a long-term competitive advantage based solely on product and price, it's what you do beyond the product that will give you the advantage." 

In the sales world we screwed that up with a concept called "value added." The definition of value added to salespeople is: What are we going to give them free to get the deal? Not exactly the kind of value beyond the product and price Don Beveridge was talking about.

Here are just a couple of simple and easy things you can do to build value beyond the product for your customers:

1. Send hand-written thank you notes after meetings and purchases.
2. Give them a tour of your facility and have them meet your team.
3. In broadcast sales, create a binder of all commercials you write, give the client a copy.
4. Take the customer to lunch once per quarter just to say thank you, not to sell them more.
5. Make scheduled, but seemingly random phone calls just to say thank you.
6. Respond immediately to any questions or concerns.

One of the best ways you can build value for your clients is to make sure the process of doing business with your company is efficient, easy, and enjoyable.

Chris Lytle and I have developed a Platinum Service Plan for clients. Its a simple document that helps you keep track of what youve done for your clients. If youre interested in a free copy, just email me and ask for it.

The Radio Sales Success Expander is a webinar series Chris Lytle and I are conducting sponsored by Radio Ink. It will help you get off the lower the rates treadmill and ensure that you start building value. The idea we give you in the first five minutes of the webinar will more than pay for the series.

Please read this. Takes three or four minutes, max. See if the series can help you build value.
2014 can be the year you do not lower rates, but instead build value by having a repeatable sales process and becoming a linchpin for your clients.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach Jeff at:
Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

(2/10/2014 10:39:00 AM)
Bravo, Jeff.

Not cutting rates is the first step towards building a real sales force employing business principles instead of the usual childish war with the tower across town.
Another cold hard fact on rate pricing:
The $8.00-30 second ad you sold in 1970, adjusted for inflation, should now be selling for $48.03. Try an inflation calculator on your prices and see if you've even kept up with inflation. I'd bet few stations have. That's why so many have money problems.

- Phil

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