Sleuthing The Big Idea

This week’s email brought lots of reaction to last week’s article on pitching the big idea. The most common question, “How does one figure out what a client or agency will consider a great idea?”

Last week we referenced “detective work,” and lots of readers wrote to ask what that means in practical application. Good question, because sleuthing is an art all great sales people master.

Great sales pros, those who regularly pitch and close the big concepts (with the big price-tags and rewarding commission checks), make a practice of knowing all they can about their customers and prospects. Not just the questions the buyer is asking, not just what is said on the advertiser’s web site. Great consultative sales people get into the “heads” of the clients and agency by becoming students of those businesses.

Twenty some years ago, when we first started selling space, we were advised by the veterans to buy a share of stock in every company we called on, so we could get the insider financials and the chairman’s message, available to all shareholders.

Today, that’s so much easier – just go online to read annual reports, quarterly filings, any and all corporate positioning. For your big customers and large prospects, you want to be tracking all of that. Watch for press reports and quotes by executives to provide insight into what the business is planning, what they hope to accomplish, what they worry about.

Watch the web site for changes, shifting positioning messages can be a great indicator of a new world view, or a change in marketing approach, which can be a great clue that a new idea might be well received.

What about the offline advertising and marketing? The point of purchase messaging? All marketing communications can offer insights into what a business is hoping to achieve, and those interactive reps who only watch the online creative and placement are leaving important stones unturned. Yes, even your evenings in front of the TV can help you sell more!

Have you checked out industry association sites and news reports for the markets your advertising prospect serves? Trade association sites and publications can point you to insider knowledge on market or ad category dynamics, any of which might point you to a relevant problem your big idea can solve.

Great sales people are students of business, and especially students of marketing and sales strategy. Understanding your prospects’ channel strategies can help you sell them; talking to sales people at conferences and trade shows can tell you LOTS about how the interactive marketing efforts are supporting product sales. All of which can be put to use to construct the really targeted big idea.

Clearly, this method won’t work if you wait till the buyer is awaiting a proposal to start your research. And therein lies the secret of advertising sales pros – they are always gathering data, asking questions, working to understand the prospect’s view of the world, so that they are ready with the information when the time is right. If your information gathering never stops, your creative juices will keep flowing, and you’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes to generate the truly creative ad offerings.

And you’ll be happily surprised at how much rewarding and fun the job of ad sales becomes.

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