Notes-Off-the-Napkin-logo1By Andrew Frame

A colleague posted a note to one of our message boards asking for “ideas or promotions used in the past” to help them get a real estate company on the air. She said they presented an idea of listing available properties, but so far the client wasn’t leaning in their favor.

I wish I had a dime for every time this came across my desk when I sat in the cubicle. As a freelancer, it still does. But now, as a freelancer, you have to learn to separate the futile from the possible. That means doing what good salespeople do -- identifying the root of the objection.

In my experience, poorly trained salespeople are taught that if they show up with a “really amazing” spec spot, the customer will be so happy to hear it, they’ll sign a contract for airtime. When the customer objects, they come back and request a new spec, hoping some additional dazzle with get the signature. I’ve had these kinds of orders cross my desk four, five, six times for the same unsigned prospect -- all in an attempt to dazzle them onto the air.

I wrote my colleague back and asked her a couple of questions. What is the realty company’s objection to advertising on your signal? Is it rate? Coverage area? Salesguy won’t pose naked with a flock of ducks? Salesguy a jerk?

She wrote back that she “didn’t think they believe in radio”. They were “entrenched with the local newspaper, and they tell the rep that they are happy with that”.

Wow. That was easy. There’s the issue. I wrote back, “This is a business problem. You haven’t got to the point of it being a problem with the creative. Solve the business problem and the creative is a cakewalk.”

The sales rep is tapping production for creative -- and it hasn’t even got to that point in the sales process. The rep isn’t at the stage of negotiation where creative becomes a player. He hasn’t convinced the prospect to even try broadcast -- and he wants to take in specs?

As a freelancer, time is money in a different way than when you are on a paycheck. Particularly when you develop relationships with individuals and companies, and they ask for your thoughts on something, or send you a job that you know is “make busy” work. I call them “paper specs”. Those are the specs that reps will put down on their daily or weekly reports to make themselves look active to their manager -- but in reality end up in a desk drawer, never being presented.

I wrote back, “ Put your efforts elsewhere for now. This is one of those customers that the sales rep has to take a while to develop a relationship with -- not just come by and make a sales call. If they cultivate the relationship, in time the business may be willing to give it a try, and at that point, we sit with them and take the time to craft a message that will work.” Walking in the door week after week with a new bit of audio isn’t going to get them on the air.

Sales takes time and finesse. Creative takes time and… well, creativity. The selling part and the creative part share the important fact that they both take time to do effectively.

As a freelancer, you may find yourself doing far more selling that you imagined when you were drawing a paycheck. Look through the “problem” and find the root issue. Help your customer solve that issue with their prospect. Be more than an order taker. Be a part of your customer’s success.