During our week’s long program book advertising sales training class for our advertising sales reps at Onstage, we spend a lot of time on fact finding. We train our program book sales reps on a two call close. Obviously not every call will be a two call close, but when they are, the first call is always the fact finding call. The second call then, is the follow up call to present the program book ad that is put together for the customer.

Fact finding is the foundation on which any program book advertising sale is built. Current information about the customer’s business is vital to a sound, intelligent recommendation. Therefore, it is important that you guide the conversation.

Ask “open end’ questions

Listen and store information

Obtain agreement/guide the conversation

Bridge smoothly into the presentation

There are four important factors to keep in mind during your fact finding, which are as follows:

Validated original ideas

Develop additional information

Create a need—this must be established

Be perceptive to customer’s interest

Depth Probing

Why is depth probing so important to the interview? Because it:

Provides the basis for the recommendation

Allows interplay with the customer to tell you what will sell him or her.

Tells you how to position the program book advertising product

Establishes needs

For effective fact finding you need to know:

What do you want to know?

Why do you want to know?

How will you use the information?

Questions that are pre-planned for fact finding can be powerful, thought provoking, and effective in pushing the customer closer to the brink of the program book advertising sale.

Basis For The Recommendation

In order to make intelligent decisions as to what will best represent the customer’s business in the program book (ie premium position vs. a smaller ad, whether a multi-program book ad buy will make sense, what key points will go into their ad when you spec it up, etc.) it is necessary for you to obtain intelligent information.


Believe it or not, the customer will tell you how to sell him or her. Just as important as good questioning is good listening.

Subtle clues dropped by the customer must be picked up on by you. Many program book advertising sales representatives think that overpowering the customer is the only way not to give the customer a chance to object. If you are planning questions to ask, or planning your next move while the customer is talking, you are missing the most important information you could ever hope to obtain. And believe it or not, listening takes practice.

15 Keys To Good Listening:

  1. Limit your own talking—you can’t talk and listen at the same time.
  2. Think like the customer—their problems and needs are important, and you’ll understand them better if you keep in mind their point of view.
  3. Ask questions—if you don’t understand something, or feel you may have missed a point, clear it up now before it embarrasses you later.
  4. Don’t interrupt—a pause, even a long pause doesn’t always mean the customer is finished saying everything he or she wants to say.
  5. Concentrate—focus your mind on what’s being said. Practice shutting out outside distractions.
  6. Take notes—this will help you to remember important points, but be selective. Trying to note down everything the customer is saying can result in being left far behind or in retaining irrelevant details. Also, less is more in a good program book ad.
  7. Listen for ideas—not just words. You want to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces.
  8. Interjections—an occasional “yes,…” “I see…” etc. shows the customer you’re still with him or her but you don’t want to over do it.
  9. Turn off your own worries—this isn’t always easy, but fears, worries, problems not connected to the current conversation can blank out the customers message.
  10. Prepare in advance—remarks and questions prepared in advance free your mind for listening, and shows that you are a professional.
  11. React to ideas, not the person—don’t allow irritations at things they say or their manner distract your listening.
  12. Don’t argue mentally—you may disagree with what the customer is saying, but keep an open mind while the customer is speaking or you’re likely to unconsciously “close your ears.”
  13. Don’t jump to conclusions—avoid making unwarranted assumptions, or mentally try to complete their sentence.
  14. Listen for overtones—the way things are said, the way they react the things you say.
  15. Practice listening—with your family, friends, where you shop, etc. This will sharpen your listening skills.

Solidifying The Recommendation

A by-product of successful fact finding is satisfying yourself that the recommendation you will make on the follow up call is a valid one. Now is the time to structure questions and get responses that will be of great help to you when you need it most.

If the fact finding is pulling you away from your desired results of supplying you with the extra fuel you need, then the questions you ask can be tailored to pull the interview back in the desired direction.

Questioning Techniques

Open-ended questions are:

Designed to get general information, sometimes needs can surface

By allowing the customer to talk, you can listen and pick out needs and  convert them into secondary questions

Closed questions are:

Designed to get specific information

Used to zero in on key points

Fact Finding Positive Verification

It is in this step of the interview that the program book advertising sales rep determines the customer’s needs. The ability to secure all the facts about the customer and their business and the ability to get the customer to agree to the important facts regarding business needs can make the recommendation a simple step.

It can be said that the sale is either made or lost in this step of the interview. When the program book sales rep encounters resistance in buying or no sale is made, it is usually a breakdown in fact finding.

It is in this “securing information” or “foundation step” that we determine the needs of the customer and how a well-designed program book ad can help solve those needs. It is also this step that the program book advertising sales rep get the customer to agree that all the selling points and factors that are to be used to make the program book advertising sale are of sufficient importance that objections to buying will be overcome.

Therefore, the program book advertising sales rep should ask leading questions to get the customer to talk and for the sale rep also to get the customer to make important statements from the information developed.

Objective Of Building The Sale—Develop The Customer’s “Hot Buttons”

Determine what phase or phases of the customer’s business are most important or most profitable. Determine what types of buyer’s the customer wants to reach. Determine what factors about the customer’s firm are important. These are the building blocks for designing a good program book ad for the customer.

Securing The Facts From The Customer

Before leaving this step, ask yourself 4 questions:

  1. Do I have all the facts needed?
  2. Has the customer agreed that a problem exists and that they want to do something about it?
  3. Have I prevented all the possible objections by riveting the selling points?
  4. What selling points have I developed to be put into their program book ad?

Finally, summarize everything you gathered with the customer. Good selling!


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