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Jeff Schmidt

Calibrate Your Sales GPS.


Living in the Midwest you get an itch to head south for sunshine when you have a long winter with no end in site. As I write this, Carolyn and I are on a Harley ride along the Gulf of Mexico outside of New Orleans. Carolyn is a fan of fold-up, old-style maps. I'm a fan of GPS. And trumping it all is our local guide for the weekend -- Greg Benefield.

For some, GPS has replaced the local guide, a move made by technology geeks. I've always thought the profession of sales was insulated from technology replacements. In a factory, you can easily automate or have robots replace humans for more mundane tasks. Not so in sales, right? 

There have been recent stories about a new advertising automation service. In one article I read the quote, "Radio is stuck in the Dark Ages where you are required to talk to a salesperson before making a transaction." New software allows media buyers to mathematically calculate the most efficient and supposedly the most effective schedules when buying advertising. Last week there was an article about one of the larger agency's making the threat that a majority of their buying will be done in this fashion next year. The undercurrent of the message was, Let us buy this way, or don't get our business.

Chris Lytle is famous for "The Chart." This is a tool we share to help sellers identify the level of relationship they have with their clients. Level 1 is the lowest level, 4 the highest. Many sellers use the chart as a "roadmap" to get to the next level with clients.

Level 1 sellers can be replaced by call centers and automated buying software. If you're planning on staying at Level 1 you probably should start finding a new career path because sales automation has begun.

Like Greg, our local guide, higher-level sales professionals can never be replaced by automation. Having someone guide you through the buying process has tremendous value.

These skills are required to be a higher-level seller and protect salespeople from automation replacement:

•       Empathy: You understand the struggles of your clients from the customer’s perspective.
•       Expertise: You have the knowledge and the skills relative to your product and services. You are known for what you know.
•       Problem-solving skills: You have the creativity and ability to use your expertise to solve the problems of your clients.

If you want a free copy of The Chart just email me and I'll be happy to share. Use it to help you have Level 3 and 4 moments with your clients.

Senior sellers and managers can protect the future of our profession by being local guides to newer sellers. Someone in unfamiliar territory can easily get lost, distracted, and frustrated.

Carolyn and I love exploring roads and scenery we've never seen before. Each ride has the potential to be a great new adventure. Unfortunately, clients don't see advertising as an adventure. In my experience, most actually hate the process because it appears so complicated. Most business owners are very comfortable and adept at running a successful business. Tell them they need to advertise and they freeze.

The problem with paper maps is that you have to keep pulling over to look at them. And who can fold them back up? The problem with a GPS is that you are focused on the screen and the voice prompts, and don't have the ability to look around and enjoy the scenery. Like the value of a high-level local seller, the very best option is having a guide. A guide can show you the way, and even better, share the stories and the history of new places you choose to explore. We took a horse-drawn carriage ride through New Orleans and learned all sorts of history that we never would have learned from a map or GPS.

Salespeople who want to insulate themselves from automation need to constantly work on their empathy, expertise, and problem-solving skills. Work on having more Level 3 and 4 moments with your prospects and clients. Be the local guide who cannot be replaced. Never stop learning.

Schedules can be purchased  through mathematical calculations of cost per point, reach, and cost per thousand. Indeed, it is a process that can be performed by a computer. The problem is, that is not advertising. That is scheduling. Advertising includes identifying the needs and wants of the business and the customers of that business, then developing a strategy using creativity and experience to meet those needs.

A GPS can get you from Point A to Point B. The goal of advertising is to get results, and automated efficient scheduling is only part of the process. A local, experienced seller is required to guide business owners to true success.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach him at

Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt