Monday, June 22, 2009

The Old Fashioned Consultant Sell

As radio really came of age in the 80s one of the keys many sales teams used was 'the Consultant Sell.' The concept was built around the sales people taking more of a role as a marketing advisor than just being a person who sold 60 second spots. Learn as much as you can about the business you are selling to and apply all your marketing knowledge and resources to help them make a name for themselves or ring the cash register. The goal was to become their trusted advisor, on the inside of their marketing plans which would obviously mean more sales for you and the station.

It was really a great idea and when it was well done by a sales person it did move the needle on the sales budget and also worked well for many clients who now had a trusted advisor at a media outlet that reached the whole market at a reasonable cost.

We don't hear much about the 'Consultant Sell' anymore. In fact you don't hear much about this style of selling in any industry anymore. One would think that this is a basic building block of selling anything - learning as much about your customer as possible and then try to fill their needs. The sales person who could fill this role should be in the drivers seat.

I see a couple of reasons the Consultant Sell could have fallen off in Radio:
  1. Too many Corporate mandates. Who has time to hang with the local Auto Supply store or Insurance Agent to find ways to help them build their business. You have 2 sales meetings, a mandated call sheet, a budget session, 5 spots to write/produce and 3 pitch presentations due today.
  2. Not much support. When you have to do all the research, presentations, write your spots, and work with an overstressed promotion department you have to wonder what resources you really have to offer as a marketing consultant to the local business person.
While these reasons may be factors at some stations I suspect the real reason the Consultant Sell isn't used is because it doesn't work anymore. In today's world anyone who can use Google can network on their own to find out all about new marketing techniques and theories. They can stop in on any number of web sites to learn how to use databases, the web, viral video, search engines, ebay, and many more options.

No doubt the web has replaced the sales person in many industries as an expert on their wares. Here in radio we do still have the sales teams - but do they have a role in today's world to relate to the business owners and potential advertisers? Maybe it's time to take the old idea and rebuild it for the New Realities of the digital and new media world.


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