Don’t sell your clients short

John Foust
By John Foust, Advertising Trainer

Gene told me about an experience he had when he was fundraising for the Boy Scouts. “I was young and completely sold on the value of scouting because some years earlier I had earned the designations of Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow,” he said. “My boss asked me to visit a Mr. Jones, who had been a big contributor to scouting for a long time. I knocked on his door, and he welcomed me with a big smile. When we sat down in his living room, I thanked him for his support and asked if he would like to make a generous contribution of $2,500 for that year. He enthusiastically agreed, pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check.

“When I got back to the office and proudly showed the check to my boss, he patted me on the back and said, ‘Gene, Mr. Jones is such a loyal supporter that he would have written a check for just about any amount you suggested, even more than $2,500.’ 

“That was in the days before computer spreadsheets and easily access to previous years’ records,” Gene explained. “But I still felt responsible for not doing some advance research. My boss never told me what happened next, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he asked Mr. Jones to increase his contribution. It was an important lesson.”

Gene’s story applies to anyone in sales. Just about all of us have undersold our products and services at times. When you’re upselling, here are some points to keep in mind:

1. Research. As soon as his boss told him about the missed opportunity, Gene realized that he should have done some homework. In today’s world, we have lots of research tools, including in-house records on years of advertisers’ budgets and expenditures, spreadsheets, online searches of company histories and growth plans, and notes from others in your advertising department.

2. Build up to the ask. After you’ve done your research and arrived at a fair and reasonable ask – whether it’s a long-term marketing proposal or a single ad in a special section – put some thought into how you’re going to present the idea. After all, you know it’s more than your client has spent on similar things in the past.

In your presentation, begin with sincere thanks for the client’s business in the past. Then take a minute or two to describe the specific benefits of looking at a new approach to their marketing. Next, compare the benefits of the old way to the new way.

3. Reassure. Your recommendations may be a stretch for your client. As a result, it’s important to reassure them that you – and your newspaper, which has years of experience – are confident in the plan you are presenting.

4. Be flexible. Be sure to tell them you will be happy to work with them to adjust the plan once it is underway. After all, the captain of a ship sailing across the ocean continually needs to tweak the course as it goes.

(c) Copyright 2023 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. Email for information:

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