Working with TV Salespeople
What you should know about television salespeople before you even meet one!
When you call a TV station and make an appointment to talk about producing or placing television advertising, the local Sales Manager will assign a salesperson to you. Your experience with the station and, to some extent, your success advertising on that station, is going to depend on that person.
Some salespeople are very new to the business and know nothing more about it than what they've absorbed in a few sales meetings. Like news anchors, they are likely to have been hired for their cute and perky personalities, not their knowledge or intelligence.
In fact, most new TV salespeople have no knowledge of how to make TV advertising work. (Unfortunately, this is also true of many salespeople who have been in the business a long time and it is also true of many people who call themselves advertising agents.)
On the other hand, there are some great salespeople out there, who know what they are doing and will do everything in their power to help you succeed. But there are also salespeople who will just take your money and deliver only disappointment. For your own safety, assume that you have an "unhelpful" salesperson until you learn otherwise. (My description of one of these "unhelpful" salespeople.)
It is possible that you will have an experienced salesperson assigned to you -- one who understands how TV works and will work with you to make your experience as profitable as possible. There are a few of them out there. There are some very good ones among the reps I work with. But don't just assume you're going to get a good one.
(My description of a “helpful” salesperson.)
How to increase your chance of getting a helpful salesperson:
1. If you can, get a recommendation from another TV advertiser who's had a good experience with a particular salesperson and then call that salesperson directly.
2. If you have to go through the Sales Manager, ask for someone who has been in the business at least 5 years.
3. Even though you are a "direct" client, not an agency, ask for someone who has experience dealing with agencies. These salespeople may be a little more inclined toward straight talk and less toward all the sales meeting bull, since agencies are less susceptible to at least the most obvious lies.
How to create and keep a productive relationship with your salesperson:
1. Know what your offer will be; know the results you expect from your advertising; know how much money you are willing to spend to get the results you want -- all before you walk into the TV station.
2. Tell the truth. Treat the salesperson in the way you would like to be treated.
3. Pay cash in advance. You can pay a week at a time, but pay in advance. Don't fill out any credit apps. This keeps you honest with yourself and lets everyone you are working with know that you are the type who puts his money where his mouth is. They'll respect you for it and do a better job for you. (If they don't, they're fools.) Actually, there are several reasons to pay "as-you-go". Read about them here.
Keep in mind that even the best TV station salesperson works for only one TV station. If he or she recommends other stations, or other advertising media, to too many prospective clients he makes no money and eventually gets fired. For this reason, I have found that many of the better salespeople -- those who really want to serve their clients' best interests -- eventually start their own agencies or go to work for existing agencies so they have more options to offer their clients.
Negotiating money with your salesperson: Make no mistake about it -- while you can make a lot of money with television advertising, you are much less likely to make money if you consistently pay top dollar for your TV time. Cost per lead is everything. So negotiate! Try to get the cost of the spots you buy in the day parts or programs that work for you down, down, down.
Here's a tip: To find out if the rate being asked for a TV spot is too high, ask the salesperson, "How soon can I get on?". If he says, "I can get you on right away," then it is at least possible that the rate he is asking is higher than what he will take, since, obviously, there are plenty of availabilities at the rate he has quoted you. If you have to wait a couple of weeks or longer to get on at the quoted rate, then it is probably closer to the lowest he will take.
Tell your salesperson: "I want the lowest rate that will run in the day parts and programs that work for me. In fact, I want my spots to get pre-empted (bumped) every once in a while! That way, I know I'm getting a decent rate!"
Then, do anything you can to find out what other people are paying. I have found that, occasionally, accounting departments will erroneously send me other peoples' invoices, so I get to compare what they're paying with what I'm paying. That's sweet.
In general, you should get lower rates in first and third quarters, higher in second and fourth. The lowest rates of the year should come in January and February. (If you don't get a price break from December to January, you are probably not being treated fairly.)
Whenever possible, I try to reward salespeople who get me lower rates with higher shares of the budget. Try not to use a lowered rate from a station as an excuse to lower the amount of money you spend with that station. Reward helpful behavior (lower rates) with more money; unhelpful behavior (higher rates) with less.