Lately, we’re in the midst of ramping up our marketing for our performing arts program book management system. After identifying our ideal client, we’ve gotten some help from an awesome advertising agency to really craft our core message and redesign our website. In addition to my continuous cold calling, we have made a commitment to content marketing, direct mail, social media marketing, as well as placing advertising in the three big performing arts industry magazines. We have done some advertising in these magazines before but not consistently, which we are now planning to do.

This is what brings me to the importance of a professional sales force to make sure your program book advertising sales are the best they can be. As I said, we have advertised before in these publications, but what struck me, as I was having to contact each of these publications through their websites, was this one question– why haven’t they been calling me? Sure we weren’t consistent in our advertising in their publications but we had done a half page color ad, or sometimes a full page color ad with them in the past. Certainly a warm lead at the very least!

I did get a reply from each of the emails I sent with a nice note and then the media kit attached or a link to it. Luckily I’m in the advertising business so I could decipher the oodles of information in the media kit to get to the exact ad size and rate I was wanting. However, the one media kit I received via a link did not have an ad agreement anywhere to be found. So I called my contact to find out where I could find this. And this is how the telephone call went, we’ll call him John for purposes of anonymity:

Me: Hi, John, I’m with Onstage Publications and I emailed regarding advertising information for your magazine, but I couldn’t find the advertising agreement.

John: Um, yes, hi, ok, can I put you on hold?

Me: Sure.

John: Um, yes, hi.

Me: Hello again.

John: Hi, can I put you hold one more time.

Me: Uh, sure, I guess?

John: Hi, yes—the advertising agreement I can get you, all I need to know is the ad size you’re wanting and for what issue and I’ll email it to you.

I gave him all my information, and later in the day I received the completed advertising agreement. Then I was struck again. John doesn’t even know what our business does! Furthermore, John doesn’t even know that I’m planning on placing advertising for all of next year with him. Then, I wondered how many performing arts organizations are “selling” their program book advertising this way as well?

You may have noticed I put “selling” in quotation marks because this is not selling, this is simply taking an order. But unfortunately many organizations think this is the way you sell advertising and hope for the best. Wouldn’t my information of what our company does and the insight that I’m planning on advertising with their publication for a full year be great information to put into a CRM? Wouldn’t John’s manager find this information great for when he or she is seeing where their October and future publications are going to end up revenue-wise?

Selling is an expertise. In fact Universities are now even incorporating professional selling courses into their MBA programs. A prime example of this is the University of Dayton with which we have mentored students in their entrepreneurial program in the past. They have now incorporated a professional sales course into their entrepreneurial program because they understand the importance of professional sales. My point is, selling is not something everyone can do and it certainly takes the right individual to do it. And when done right, you can get absolute measurable results. So instead of hoping for $X of ad revenue, you can know exactly where your program book sales will end up.

All of our sales representatives go through a week’s long rigorous performing arts advertising sales course that we’ve developed over the years that teaches them a system for selling performing arts advertising. And when this system is incorporated into the sales call, the potential advertiser has a wonderful experience, learns more about the performing arts organization and demographic, and most importantly feels comfortable because we’ve established a relationship. On top of this we’ve collected a treasure trove of information on this business that is then entered into our proprietary CRM. By doing this on every call we make, we can calculate with an exact science of where our advertising sales will end up. Furthermore, with our new relationship with this business, the next time we call them, they’re going take our call because they now know us and trust us. We have also earned the right to make advertising recommendations because we took the time to find out about their business.

I think lots of times, especially in the not for profit world, sales is a dirty word. But in reality, if done right, a professional sales force will help your organization go beyond any sales goals ever imagined before—be it ticket sales, sponsorships, and yes, even performing arts program book advertising sales. In addition, this professional sales force will be gathering highly valuable information from the businesses around you for all in your organization to use more wisely and build true relationships.

If you don’t have a professional sales person selling for your organization, you will always be hoping and wishing for the best because all you will ever have is an order taker. Order up!

Good selling.

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