Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!

I walk into the bakery and smile to the counter person. My attire and accessories give me away. The donuts and baguettes are safe for another few minutes.

The attendant chooses a grim countenance as she inquires about my need for assistance. My card flashes forward and I give my usual introduction – part explanation and part request for the owner’s attention. My words of greeting were halfway to their intended recipient when an angry-looking man appeared from who-knows-where and practically charges the counter:

“We aren’t interested!” he nearly shouts.

I step back involuntarily and assume the surrender position, saying:

“Hands up, don’t shoot.”

Angry-man just glowers. There is tension but I’ve been here before so I try again.

“I come in peace. Maybe, there’s a better time to talk but I made sure the bakery wasn’t busy before I came in.”

The redness in his face pales a couple of shades but his face doesn’t soften. Not even a little.

“People come in here all the time trying to sell us advertising. We are happy with what we are doing and don’t want whatever it is you’ve got.”

Okay, I get it. When one sells advertising door-to-door this interaction is as common as it is frustrating. After all, none of us is intentionally trying to waste a business owner’s time, so why do they act like we are? More importantly, how do we get past the initial skepticism, or worse, to have a more productive conversation?

While we can debate the merits of selling advertising via door-to-door cold calling, the fact is that many of us do it and the practice isn’t likely to stop just because it’s difficult. So, simply saying one should never walk in cold is just not reality.

Since many of us are going to keep on doing it, our first step is understanding the likely root of the owner’s reaction. Even if he isn’t angry, he is not likely to be forthcoming. That’s because he doesn’t have a relationship with you.

Ah, you say, the first step then is to build a relationship with him. Okay, yes, but we are talking about a business relationship – not a personal one. Going in and inquiring about the owner’s health isn’t going to get it done. To figure out what to do, we must understand the basis of a business relationship.

Business relationships are built on the twin pillars of TRUST and CREDIBILITY. When you walk in off the street, you have neither. The objective should be to begin building the relationship on one of the pillars, but which one?

Most sellers attempt to go the TRUST route. They attempt to convey the commonalities shared with the prospect. “You can trust me because I’m just like you with a wife and kids and a business. My kids play soccer and go Trick or Treating and so do yours. Awesome! We should be business partners!” The problem with going down the trust route is two-fold:

  • The owner thinks all sellers are disingenuous – acting with their own interests in mind at all times.  A disingenuous salesperson can’t be trusted with important details about his business!  Any initial attempt at building trust is stonewalled.
  • Trust is built by performance over time. Trying to invoke trust as the germination of a business relationship demonstrates a lack of understanding about the nature of trust. Trust is not built on a set of commonalities. We build trust in layers by demonstrating our dependability, honesty and forthrightness.

Because of these truths, the only possible pillar upon which to build a business relationship is CREDIBILITY. Luckily, for those of us walking cold into a business, credibility can be granted instantly. Here are few simple ways to gain credibility:

  1. Dress Appropriately
  2. Be respective of the ongoing operations
  3. Be prepared to do business
    1. Have appropriate sales collateral and “leave behinds”
    2. Bring testimonials from nearby or similar businesses

Of course, there are more but the point is to work on being credible so the business owner will take the time to meet with you. Then, you’ll have opportunities to demonstrate your trustworthiness and the relationship will have a chance to grow.

Don’t Answer the Phone!

The phone is ringing but I recommend that you don’t answer it.  There might be opportunity on the other end and you wouldn’t want that.  After all, opportunity comes with responsibility.  If someone were to offer you the chance to perform better or increase your revenue or help you achieve some goal or another and you knew it, well then, you would probably feel obligated to do something about it.  So, don’t answer the phone.  Then, you’ll never know about the opportunity and the responsibility to do something about it will not be yours.

Don’t go anyplace where strangers have the opportunity to walk right up to you and start a conversation.  Why take a chance on meeting someone new?  New acquaintances are so much work.  You’ll have to tell your story and listen to theirs.  That’s not a lot of fun.  Pretending like you care about the pathetic details of someone else’s life is just a gargantuan waste of time and you don’t have time to waste.  You are far too busy to get to know people.

Don’t respond to e-mails!  You’ve done such a good job of being unavailable via phone and in person it would be a shame to let some eager overachiever hear back from you via e-mail.  In fact, your e-mail address should be purposefully difficult to figure out and hidden from public view whenever possible.  If someone were to actually get through to you they’ll have no idea they’ve got the correct address if you never acknowledge the e-mail in the first place.  In fact, if you don’t recognize the sender, don’t even read the e-mail.  Just delete it.  Or, better yet, instruct someone else to delete it and you won’t even have to see the subject line.  Some of those are clever and very tempting.  No need to be tempted.

Don’t accept invitations to connect via Linkedin!  Even if you have a profile, be sure not to put too much information on it.  If you’re purposefully vague about your work responsibilities you’ve improved your odds of not being called or messaged.

Don’t take a meeting!  Someone with an idea might be trying to steal precious moments of your time.  She may have found a better way to attract customers or fulfill orders or communicate your unique selling proposition.  But, to convey that information she’ll probably want a meeting and you don’t have time for that.  Don’t people know how busy you are?

Don’t answer the phone!  Have someone else answer the phone and say that you are busy or that you’re not there.  Or, save some money and just let the phone go to voicemail.  You don’t recognize that number and it’s best to only answer the phone when you know who is calling.  There’s safety in the familiar.  The unknown is scary.

Besides, you are far too busy.  Don’t people know that?

A Distinction Without a Difference

Jen is late for our meeting but I’m used to that.  Not that Jen is always late – we’ve only met a couple of times – it’s just that clients and prospects rank a meeting with the local advertising seller below things like:  staff meetings, one-on-one evaluations, a quick trip to the bank and a pleasant walk around the block in the beautiful San Diego sunshine.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Jen finally shows up feigning out-of-breathness (she drove an automobile for pete’s sake, not a pedal car) and greets me in the waiting area of the local YMCA where she works.  For the previous four months, the YMCA had been conducting an advertising campaign with my Money Mailer direct mail company.  When I called for the appointment to discuss the results of the campaign, Jen had agreed to meet but had hinted that during the meeting she would let me know that she wasn’t happy with the results.  She did this by saying,

“We can meet but based on the results, we won’t be continuing the campaign.”

Jen ushered me to an outdoor seating area featuring bright yellow tables with metal umbrellas.  During previous meetings, we had met in her office.  But, now it was best to meet in a large, open space so Jen could both deliver the bad news and plan an escape route if need be.  This is akin to the break-up strategy that Jerry suggested on Seinfeld.

“Meet at a very nice, very public restaurant.  There’s no way she’ll make a scene.”

But, in this case, I was the “she” with whom things were about to be broken off.  Jen got right to the point,

“We didn’t receive any coupons from the campaign so it didn’t work and we won’t be continuing,” she said.

“Well”, I started. “The ad was clearly not designed to encourage redemptions so it’s not a big surprise that people didn’t bring the ad in when joining the Y.”

“What do you mean,” Jen asked.  “There is a $50 offer right on the ad.”

“That’s true,” I agreed.  “Let’s look at the ad, though.”  I brought out a copy of the ad and showed Jen the $50 offer was written as regularly sized copy along with other copy about how the Y promotes a healthy community, strong bodies and spirit.

“Look.  This ad is whispering the $50 offer – not shouting it out like most advertisers.”

“That’s not our style,” Jen lectured.  “We have a specific design standard to which we must adhere and we can’t put a coupon on the ad with a white background and a dotted line to indicate it’s a coupon.”

“I totally get it.  The Y wanted to design the ad to look like its billboards and its in-house collateral material.  Perfectly understandable.  Which also means the Y must have understood that this particular style of ad would be less likely to result in verifiable redemptions.”

“But, I told you we were going to measure the campaign based on the number of redemptions.”

“Yes, you did.  But, I didn’t know the ad was going to be designed to limit the number of redemptions.  This ad was delivered to 10,000 homes in your immediate area for four months in a row and it definitely resonated with our consumers and your target audience.  Did people join the Y during the promotional period?”

“Yes, but not because of the ad.”

“That can’t be known because there is no way to know which specific ad or experience or discussion influenced someone to join the Y.  After all, how many people mentioned the billboards when they came in to join.”

“I can see you are getting upset.  We expected people to bring in the ad.  They did not bring in the ad and therefore the campaign – in our estimation – did not work.”

Of course, the meeting was over and I didn’t even have to get ushered out of Jen’s office because I was at a picnic table in an outdoor square.  She packed up her stuff to disappear into one of the surrounding buildings and then I would be left alone to slink out of the Y and try again with someone else.  My parting shot was:

“You keep saying the campaign didn’t work because you didn’t get redemptions of an ad that wasn’t designed to be redeemed.  What you should be saying is that you didn’t get redemptions – not that it didn’t work.”

Jen just said, “Okay” and the meeting was over.  You see, my point was a distinction without a difference.  To almost all local advertisers, direct, trackable, quantifiable leads are the measure of whether or not a campaign “works” even though it’s not accurate, fair or sensible.  It really doesn’t matter because that’s what they want and that’s what they think they are buying when we sell them advertising.

For our part, we must continue to educate our prospects and clients about all the benefits of the advertising they are buying and then cross our fingers that something positive happens relatively early on in the campaign.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.


Every now and again, an industrious marketer will contact me and ask if he or she might write a guest blog post about something near and dear to their hearts.  I always decline.

And, the reason I decline is the same reason my Mom always used to change the radio station when the DJ would put a caller on the air.  Mom tuned in to hear the music and the professionals in-between the music – not the “dumb” people who called in to radio stations to hear themselves talk.

My assumption is that readers tune in to this blog to read my opinions and they might be disappointed if I hand over the reins to someone else with an agenda.  Not to say that I’m the only scintillating writer on the internets.   Or, that I don’t have an agenda.  Or, that other writers are dumb.  I didn’t mean that.

However, recently the folks at LiveHive shot me an e-mail asking for the chance to address the Sales Loudmouth audience and wondered if I would like a demo about their product.  They explained in the e-mail that their product tracks the “performance” of e-mail.  Think of it as a system for tagging an e-mail – like an Orca – to see where it goes and what it does throughout its life.

While I was intrigued, I didn’t do anything about the e-mail. Then, I got a phone call from LiveHive and they noticed that I had read the e-mail and opened the attachment and were wondering about my questions, which they assume I had since I hadn’t yet taken them up on a free trial.  Hmmm, they knew a lot about how I treated the e-mail.  Does this seem like something that could benefit my business?  Yes.

So, I scheduled a phone call and went over the LiveHive product with a couple of very eager, thoughtful and polite gentleman.  As Kenny Mayne might say – useful.  With the LiveHive add-on, you’ll know when your e-mail was read and to whom it was forwarded and whether any of those recipients read it.  Based on the activity, or lack thereof, you’ll know how to rank this prospect in your pipeline and which action steps will be most productive.  I thought it was pretty cool. But, was it enough for an entire blog post?  No.

So, I did a little research about modern sales tools and found out all kinds of neat stuff that you should know about.  I produced an outline and started to flesh out each topic.  My plan was to follow the sales process and discuss all the tools available for each pipeline event.  Frankly, I’ve been planning on doing this for about two weeks and the LiveHive guys have sent me the occasional e-mail asking if I was planning on writing the post sometime this millennium.  Yeah, I was planning on it but it seems like such a huge amount of work and with all my social media to catch up on (did you see the video about the first woman to complete an American Ninja Warrior finals course?)

I was having trouble figuring out when to do it.  I was about to schedule it for never when a funny thing happened. During my research, I came across a slide show organized in exactly the same fashion I intended.  The best part?  The guys from LiveHive wrote the entire presentation!  They could have saved us both a lot of trouble by just telling me the blog I wanted to write had already been written.  Of course, they would have to have read my mind and there isn’t yet a sales tool that does that.  Although I hear Google is working on it and they are getting close.


So, without further adieu here is the link to the presentation written by LiveHive about all the tools needed for the modern seller.  Remember to go to their site and take advantage of your free trial of their product and you can just thank me later.

An Argument Against Persuasion

Whenever a list is made that identifies the talents of sellers, “persuasion” is always right there near the top.  One can certainly understand the thinking – if a prospect isn’t buying what the seller is selling, then it’s the seller’s job to persuade prospects to their point of view.  But, I don’t think it works that way anymore and I think a seller that spends too much time trying to persuade is not only not going to make the current sale, they will set themselves back for future sales.

I first discovered this truth about six months into my current role as the owner of a Money Mailer franchise.  Money Mailer is an integrated marketing company whose primary product is “shared envelope” direct mail.  My job is to visit face-to-face with business owners and talk to them about their marketing and then offer products and services to help achieve their goals.  I was analyzing my sales statistics when it occurred to me that I hadn’t convinced a single person to buy Money Mailer advertising who didn’t already think that direct mail was a good idea.

That seemed to fly in the face of the supposed critical nature of persuasion in the sales profession, so I looked a little deeper.  For every single sale I made during the initial six months of my time with Money Mailer, I recounted the conversation with the decision maker. If the owner or decision maker stated their adversity to direct mail they were not my customer.  Every single customer was either:

1) Someone who had purchased Money Mailer or a direct mail competitor in the past or

2) Who told me they had been thinking of advertising by direct mail or

3) Who had agreed to a meeting set up by a telemarketer or

4) Had been told by their franchisor that direct mail advertising worked

Not a single customer was a prospect who had initially objected to the idea of direct mail!

I began to wonder if this had always been the case in my advertising sales career or if something had changed.  To figure it out, I had to recall my days of selling radio advertising in the early 90’s in Charlotte, NC.  Radio advertising tends to be a fairly large ticket and those who buy radio advertising regularly are often represented by media buying agencies or full-service advertising agencies.  Sales that I made to those folks didn’t count as persuasion because they were already inclined to buy radio.  Although some of them didn’t think much of my station, they didn’t buy my station because I persuaded them the station was better than they thought.  They bought my station either because I made a compelling case that doing business with me was going to be worthwhile or the price justified taking a chance on a second-rate station.  I’m not sure that either or those establishes persuasion as the compelling cause of the sale.

But, what about those business owners who bought radio from me.  Did I persuade any of them that radio advertising was a good idea when they thought it was a bad idea?  I racked my brain and decided this:

– I may have persuaded some business owners to buy radio advertising from me who didn’t yet know if radio advertising was a good or bad idea.  In that sense, I’ll have to give myself some credit for persuading the business owner to my point of view.

So, what happened between the early 90’s and today?  Have I lost my ability to persuade or is there something else going on?  Before I tell you what I think, ask yourself if your experience is the same as mine.  If someone thinks that using your advertising product is a bad idea have you been able to convince them it’s a good idea?  Are you less persuasive in this regard than you were ten or twenty years ago?

I don’t think it’s us.  If we were at one time persuasive then we still are persuasive – as long as we’ve been exercising our talent and haven’t let it lie dormant for several years.  The difference is the business owner.  Thirty years ago, there were limited advertising choices and business owners often relied on sellers to explain the benefits of their product.  Now, there are hundreds of choices and business owners no longer have time to meet with every advertising seller to become educated about the options available to them.  The savvy business owner has educated herself about the options.  The less than savvy business owner has established her opinions without educating herself.  The result is the same.  If an advertising seller approaches a business owner with a product the business owner values then the seller has a chance of making a sale.  If not, there will be no persuading the owner because the owner doesn’t have the bandwidth to continue to absorb more and more information about advertising media.  Put simply, they will go with what they know – even if they don’t know that much or what they do “know” is just wrong.

Now to my point that trying to persuade business owners with a negative opinion about your advertising media will result in less sales down the road.  To me, when one tries to persuade someone they are wrong the result is a broken relationship – not one in which trust is established and a chance to do business in the future is preserved.  When I run into someone with a strong negative opinion about my product, I ask why they believe that which they believe and then they tell me.  I try to acknowledge their opinion has value based on their experience without agreeing with the opinion. Often, I ask if I come up with a good idea or a different advertising product would it be okay to return and have another conversation.  Typically, a business owner dealt with in this way remains open to future possibilities.

For those who believe that selling is a “numbers game” and that it is important to see a large number of business decision makers in order to achieve one’s goals – my theory provides validation.  Seeing a lot of people in order to identify the small percentage of those who believe in one’s product does indeed make sales of certain advertising products a numbers game.  But, it’s a game one can play if one doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to persuade the un-persuadable.



And the greatest of these is . . .

Despite Tom Hanks’ outburst in A League of Their Own, there most definitely is crying in baseball.  Face it,
baseball is the youth sport most likely to result in tears.  Unlike most team sports, baseball is slow moving and the spotlight shifts from one player to the next so that each participant is
a hero or a goat on nearly every single play.  Nowhere is the spotlight greater than on the pitcher.

Shortly after soccer season ended in December, we signed both …

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The Challenge of Self-Analysis

Having decided it was time to get better at golf, I contacted a PGA professional at my local driving range and signed up for a series of lessons.  On the evening of the first lesson, I eagerly
packed my clubs into the trunk of my dark green Passat and drove the two miles to the range – dreaming of the day when failing to break 80 would elicit howls of pain and protests of “I haven’t played
that poorly in years!”  As it was, those days were currently reserved for failing to break 100.

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How a Consumer Decides

During many of the conversations that I have with business owners, I hear some variation of the following:

“We’re getting away from print advertising and focusing more on the internet.”
I usually try to understand more by asking:
“How do you mean?”
While the grammar may be a bit suspect, this question serves the purpose of getting a clarified answer much better than the typical, “What do you mean?”
“We are spending money on an SEO and SEM campaign so …

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Sources of Inspirational Support

On the same day last week, I spoke to two people who’ve had a tremendous influence on my life for different reasons and in different ways.  The first was Allen.

Allen and I worked together at a radio station back in the go-go days of the late 90’s/ early 00’s.  He was an Account Manager and I was the Sales Manager – which made friendship a dicey
situation.  But, friends we were and it was as a friend that I sat down with Allen one day and told him it was time for him to …

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The Truth About Everything

Today a person called me to inquire about buying advertising in the Money Mailer envelope.  She asked how much it costs and what she could expect in terms of results.  Then she said this,

“And don’t lie.  I need to know the truth.  You want to do business, I want to do business but it has to make sense.”
Yes, it does.  Otherwise, I will be re-building my business every single month as one unhappy advertiser after another departs for greener pastures.  But, the truth can hurt.
 And, I didn’t want …

this work is protected by copyright law and may not be republished without the permission of Tim J.M. Rohrer