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Guest Commentary: Back to the basics of local spot TV

Aug 5, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The local television marketplace has gone through some dramatic changes in the past three years, particularly in Northern California and other strong tech markets around the country. In the latter part of 1999 and into 2000, new business development divisions of sales departments saw banner years.
Many of these new advertisers sought nothing more than name recognition through the most powerful medium around and salespeople were quick to accommodate these requests. Programs in past years were mired in long sales cycles, with repeated calls up through the ranks of marketing, human resource or merchandising managers.
During the dot-com heyday, decision making quickly moved to VPs and CEOs, who sought recognition from their peers (and future investors) and wanted to set themselves apart from their competitors in the crowded field of incubator companies, start-ups and the like.
This isn’t to say that the unique television projects devised in this period were not worthwhile or didn’t deliver the viewers that were promised. It’s just that the strategic marketing needed to ensure long-term growth for these companies (and return business for the television salesperson) wasn’t thoughtfully planned by the clients’ marketing teams.
I recall asking a client what the long-term goals were for his company, since we always want to serve as a consultant to help ensure success in the current and future campaigns. I wanted to determine by what yardstick he would determine the success of our venture. He told me that there was no measure at this point and, in fact, the company’s current business plan didn’t include a factor for profitability.
The idea was to develop a good concept, which a savvy investor would purchase before too long. The directors could then cash out and move on to the next project. I was certainly not alone in hearing these stories, and as I look back over the list of clients we served, many no longer exist.
The world has certainly changed and changed quickly. The year 2002 looks very different than 2000 to salespeople making their living by bringing new and incremental dollars into the spot TV world. The great developmental ideas are still here, and we continue to show advertisers how to use the medium effectively and efficiently. But for those account executives who sold through the dot-com wave and witnessed its demise, frustration at the lack of a quick selling cycle and a close can set in.
It’s the job of a good sales management team to remind the new business development sales team of the skills needed to succeed in a commission-based TV environment. A sound package combined with effective creative, which can meet both the long-term and short-term needs of the client, will ultimately result in sales, satisfied customers and continued advertising. The crucial management role is to support the sales efforts and provide the strategic tools, both technological and environmental, to create a positive workplace with a community of sellers who can feed on each other’s successes and keep focus throughout the process.
It was not so many years ago that this was “business as usual.” The well-paced account executive who could prospect strategically and target effectively ultimately succeeded and learned what it took to build a long-term sales career in this business.
We all read the economic reports and know that business is on the rebound. Patience and persistence will pay off for us all. It’s back to the basics of sound selling that will ensure a prosperous year-end 2002 and 2003.