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June 28, 2022

Selling Direct Mail Advertising. A 21 Year Old Advertising Rep Paid Me $500 For What I’m About To Share With You For Free

I’ve written several books on selling. One was titled Selling Local Advertising. Today I got a call from a 21 year old rep that sells bundled direct mail advertising packages to local advertisers…mostly small business owners.

Te young man told me who he was, that he had read my book on selling advertising, and that he wanted to talk to me. I told him “I charge $500 for an hour of phone consulting. But you get 5 minutes for free. What can I help you with?” He told me, and we agree that it would take more than 5 minutes to help him, so after I processed his card…we started. These are some of the highlights, taken from memory.

He said “I’m only 21 years old. How can I sell someone advertising that’s been in business longer than I’ve been alive?”

Claude “You use what you have. I’m 62 years old. If I were doing a sales presentation today, I’d stress my experience, my tested results, my expertise on advertising, and my knowledge of advertising. Always use what you have. How is being 21 to your advantage…..how can you make it an advantage? What you have is your perceived inexperience. So you ask the advertiser for his/her opinion…ask for advice. Ask them about their experiences in advertising. Ask them how they think you should sell advertising. And listen….don’t just act like you’re listening…really listen.

We all have two impulses when we are talking…we want to brag…or we want to complain. And when you ask them about their advertising experience, they will either brag about their successes or complain about how the advertising didn’t work…and of course it was the rep’s fault.  So your first advantage is that you are young, so you need their advice. Let them talk. let them sell you on how they should advertise. Take their advice and thank them for it.  Your other advantage is that you have no clients. You are so eager to make your client’s happy…that you’ll bend over backwards to make this work for them. And that’s what you tell them…” I’m young and need successful clients. You’ll get so much ore of my attention that you would from a rep with 50 clients.”

The young man gave me his most common objections;

“I’ve never advertised before. I don’t need to advertise”.

Claude “You shouldn’t be seeing them. Half of selling is being in front of people that are used to buying. You sell local direct mail advertising services. Everyone that advertises in print is a great sales prospect for you. Why? You won’t have to sell them on advertising. They are already sold.  You never want to be the first guy they buy from. You want to be the 15th. You want them pre-sold. So you get a copy of every direct mail advertising magazine, your local Gold Clipper, your local newspaper, Val Pak,, advertising on your local grocery store receipts. Even bill boards. These people are telling you “I buy print advertising”. Go see these people, and stop trying to tell the one man shop that he needs to start advertising…when he hasn’t advertised in 20 years.”

“I tried direct mail once and it didn’t work”

Claude “Again, the wrong prospect. But let’s say you’re in front of a store owner, and they say that… what they really mean is ‘I tried direct mail once…when I had no idea how to do it…it didn’t make me money…so I assumed that it would never work”. When the guy tells you that direct mail doesn’t work, just ask “What happened?” and listen to his story. Listen to his tale of woe. And when he’s done say “Of course it didn’t work, your rep did a terrible job. Your rep had no idea how to advertise. I won’t make that mistake. I’ll work with you until your ads generate a real profit every single time. Fair enough?”  Take responsibility for the other rep’s mistake. And make it into a mistake that can be solved, by you.”

We talked about a few other objections he got……how to prospect…the qualifying questions to ask…that sort of thing. And then he asked ” I hate cold calling What’s the best way to guarantee that they will buy from me over and over again?”


And I said “This is the single most important thing anyone will ever tell you in all of advertising sales. This is something your manager won’t tell you, and your company won’t tell you. This is the single best way to guarantee that you’ll be immensely successful in selling advertising. Ready?” He was….

Claude “Learn how to advertise. I don’t mean advertising layout..or graphic design. I mean learn how to create ads that cause people to buy from your client.  If you sell an ad…and you create an ad that brings in three dollars for every dollar the ad cost…you won’t have to call that client…he’ll be calling you. You will no longer be a pesky ad rep, you’ll be  a trusted adviser. It may take you a few months to learn the basics. But the basics are enough. I wrote a book on small business advertising. Read it. If a customer places an ad with you, and it generates a real profit, you’ll never have to sell that person again. And he’ll brag to his business buddies, about how well his ad worked. You’ll get the names of his buddies and have your client introduce you…and then you make sure that the new client’s ads work as well.  If you get ten customers that are having success with ads you created for them….you’ll never have to cold call again. Then you can explain the benefits of bigger ads, multiple ads for different offers….and advertising more often”

And then he said it……the dreaded advertising myth…. he said “You mean you think an ad can work the first time it runs? I was taught that it takes 5 ads before they get a response”. I almost lost my cool. I asked “Have you ever heard a joke that made you laugh?”  He said”Sure”

Claude “Did you laugh louder the fifth time you heard the joke?”

Him “No it’s funny the first time, but not much after that”

Claude “Have you ever seen a movie that made you cry?”  He said “Of course”  I asked “Did you cry harder the fifth time you saw the movie?” And he said…a little slowly (because he was getting it) “No. Really only the first time I see it”.

Claude “And so it is with ads. The same people are seeing the same ad over and over again. It’s always at it’s most effective the first time they see it. If ads became more effective the longer they ran…ads would never be replaced. But that are replaced..often. Why? Because people get used to them. The impact softens. The appeal weakens. The ad needs a new approach. It need to wake them up again. The huge benefit of your client running an ad for 5 months, is that you can test appeals. Test headlines. Test offers. See which one works the best. And then you stick with the winners. That’s how you make highly profitable clients that will stick with you forever and help you build your business. Make sure your ads make them money. Make advertising a real study. Read books on direct response advertising. I can recommend a few books.”

I recommended “Making Advertising Pay,  Tested Advertising Methods, and Triggers….and of course my book on advertising.

And then…the hour was up. And he thanked me profusely. I wish him well….