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Telling isn’t selling!

As a young sales person in 2002 I recall our ‘Selling Excellence’ instructor, Brian, drilling the team on all the usual tedious selling techniques. His experience and insight had us amazed and panicked at the same time. After trawling through a chapter, he would then insist that we role play various scenarios and discuss how we could apply this to our own clients. No matter how many times I’ve been exposed to a similar repertoire of selling skills, one phrase from the original drill sergeant has remained etched into my memory. ‘Telling isn’t selling!’

Unbelievably amazing deals will sell themselves. Everything else risks being part of the general noise of advertising. We live in a world where we are bombarded by short quick-fire messages. In the car, at home, on the computer, out in the open, wrapped around a building, falling out of a newspaper, and the list goes on. The mere fact that I have told you about my product or service, will do little more than raise awareness and stir some initial interest. Very few people will change banks, sign up to another cell phone network, apply for legal insurance or purchase a vehicle unless they are truly converted to the product.

The Media Connection is the most significant commercial player in the community radio sector in South Africa. We are well aware of the power that exists through this intimate radio medium. Even so, we identified a gap in the conversion process of the general consumer.

Since 2008 I have spent countless days and hours working on activations in communities around South Africa. The standard activation, although with an improved conversion rate, leaves much to be desired in terms of execution and real engagement. Telling isn’t selling!

We learned through experience, the art of conversion. The following specifics are non-negotiable if you would like to ensure a high conversion rate.

1.The individuals delivering the message need to be credible with the intended audience. Credibility is achieved by those who have a positive profile in their community. Local residents appreciate and value a message delivered with language, subcultures and political nuances in mind. If the MC is not local, he had better make himself familiar with his audience. In addition, the information needs be delivered by a person who matches the message. Young male hip hop artists cannot promote women’s hair care products.

2.The individuals delivering the message need to be properly trained. Brand damage occurs when brand ambassadors are visibly and audibly clueless about the subject. They are obviously being paid to reel off a script, often fumbling over jargon and apologising for their errors. Members of the public who take time out of their day to stand and listen, leave with no confidence or affirmative memory.

3.The look and feel of the activation needs to match the perception the client is trying to create. What you see at point-of-sale, generally represents the service you’ll receive at a later stage. If you want to be taken seriously, show some pride in your promotional setup.

4.Potential customers must have an opportunity to ask questions. The answers need to resolve all concerns and barriers that exist in the mind of the consumer. This final point is the most important of the lot. Just as we learn in selling skills training, that exploring and resolving concerns is fundamental. During a roadshow for the Post Office’s banking division, Post Bank, I personally witnessed the conversion of a middle-aged woman. I stood under a Post Bank Gazebo, watching one of our promoters engage with this woman. He listened to her, he prompted her to elaborate on her concerns. He identified her needs and wants and then used that knowledge to sell the product. I saw the penny drop, excuse the pun, as she realised that this new bank account suited her needs. She was also convinced that she understood the so-called fine print and T&C’s. Take that new account holder and multiply it. Numerous trained staff, all engaging your market with the skills required to ensure sufficient ROI on the client’s spend.

South Africa is a unique country with numerous advertising needs and opportunities. There will always be a need for the 30 second advert and the full-colour insert. Nevertheless, marketers need to take a closer look at the ‘how’ of brand communication and sales.

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