Robin Brewster uses flip charts, David Bentley paces the floor, and Len Ross tries to achieve an atmosphere of informal intimacy. All three have the same purpose: to sell advertising space for Marketing & Media Decisions (M&MD), an advertising trade magazine published by Decisions Publications Inc. in New York City.
But Brewster isn't counting on her flip charts alone to make a sale. Neither is Bentley relying only on theatrics, nor Ross on personal charm to influence clients to buy thousands of dollars' worth of ads. The three salespeople all depend on another tool to back up their verbal presentations. On every major sales call, as they enter the room, they hand out neatly bound, carefully researched, written presentations.
The typed presentations, which usually run from 10 to 20 pages, contain not only the material the salespeople will review during their meetings with prospects, but also the details about their product, including circulation figures and documented comparisons showing why their magazine is more effective than those of the competition.
Written sales presentations can be used successfully by a variety of businesses. Whether it is a Xerox copy of a flip-chart presentation that costs a few dollars to produce or an elaborate summary of the facts printed in full color, the written presentation reinforces a company's selling points. For example, Berk Swezey, national sales manager for Erisco Inc., a $15 million New York City company that leases and sells software packages for benefit and health claims programs, uses written presentations to reinforce his verbal pitches to his clients on how his company's products, industry position, and personnel can benefit a client in a cost-effective way.
"Any company making big dollar proposals will benefit from written presentations," says Swezey, whose company's software packages sell for $150,000 to $400,000. A written presentation, he adds, not only forces the writer to be specific about the client's needs, but also demonstrates to the prospect that the salesperson has done his homework. Furthermore, putting the pitch in writing allows the prospect to pass information along to other key decision-makers in his company.
Norman Glenn, founder of Decisions Publications, has long believed in written sales presentations. Such presentations, which he did himself for many years, helped him build his magazine to $3.9 million in ad sales in fiscal 1982, a30% increase in a year. When Glenn hired David Bentley three years ago as publisher and executive vice-president, part of the job was the responsibility for training the eight people on the sales staff to write their own presentations.
Bentley's background in advertising and hotel convention sales, most recently as sales manager for a Marriott hotel in Washington, D.C., helped prepare him. "In the hotel business, we'd determine a group's requirements -- how many people would attend, for example, or whether they planned to hold seminars or larger, general sessions, serve coffee or dinners. Then we'd make a written presentation outlining how we could accommodate the group, noting our special features and price."
At Decisions Publications, Bentley found that the salespeople shied away from written presentations. Len Ross's reaction was typical. "My forte was to pick up the phone, make an appointment, and go over to talk to prospects," he says. "From those meetings, I'd gather data and go back [to a prospect] with specific proposals. But the crush of the number of accounts we were calling on made it seem unfeasible to do written presentations." To increase confidence and experienee, Bentley asked reticent salespeople to write follow-up letters to customers after each sales visit, reviewing what was covered during the meetings. Problems generally arose with structure, focus, or the use of repetitious words.
Onee the salespeople began writing presentations, Bentley stressed the importance of prior research and standardization. Salespeople began asking account representatives, by telephone or in person, about their marketing objectives for the year. This research provides the information needed to tailor presentations to a particular client. Usually the personalized portion of the presentation, says Bentley, runs from several paragraphs to several pages.
The balance of the presentation includes standard information about the magazine's benefits, data to support those claims, and information on how the magazine outperforms its competitors. Standard company brochures and other promotional pieces are also incorporated. A dollars-and-cents proposal for the actual business desired from the client concludes each written presentation.
Giving salespeople time to write proposals is important, Bentley emphasizes. "It helps those who would otherwise feel they should be 'out selling,' " he says. "Our salespeople soon learn that they are selling when they're writing proposals, because their proposals get results." Bentley, who purchased Decisions Publications from Glenn last November, adds that most industries are cyclical; if you identify the planning and buying cycle for your industry, you can organize your proposal writing around that.
Last fall, for the first time, Len Ross made written presentations to eight regular accounts. These included Forbes magazine, The Boston Globe, Playboy, and the CBS-TV network. The advertisers increased their business with M&MD 10% to 50%. One longtime account doubled its advertising in the magazine to $104,000 for 1983.
"When you present the client with documented reasons why they should go with a specific dollar proposal and why they should do business with you. rather than your competitor," says Ross, "they tend to go with your proposal." Jerry Maystrik, group promotion director of Hearst Magazines Division, which advertises in M&MD, confirms that a written presentation can be the decisive factor when two or three competitors are running neck and neck. "Sometimes the most effective presentations are sent several days later as a follow-up," says Maystrik. "It's another opportunity to say hello."