It pays to pay attention

John Foust
By John Foust, Advertising Trainer

Abby, who owns a retail store, told me about an appointment with a salesperson from her local newspaper. “I did plenty of research before I contacted him and decided to run a campaign in his paper. When I called him, I made it clear that I was going to buy some advertising and just needed him to drop by to confirm a few details, so I could pay in advance.

“When he arrived, I reminded him that I had a tight schedule, but he launched into a full sales presentation. In an attempt to move things along, I pulled out my checkbook and asked if I should make the check payable to the newspaper or to the publishing company – which had different names. What happened next was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. He completely ignored my question and started talking about the corporate owner of the paper. He had positive things to say, but it had nothing to do with my advertising. After about five minutes of listening to that, I put the checkbook away, thanked him for his time and told him I might run some ads with his paper in the future.

Even though that happened years ago, Abby still remembers the frustration she felt at the time. “That salesperson wasn’t paying attention at all. He was completely out of touch with what was going on in our meeting.”

Hearing about Abby’s experience reminded me of something that once happened to a family friend. He was buying a used car from a dealership and thought it would be a simple process. The plan was to do online research, find a car of interest, take a test drive and make a decision. The transaction didn’t involve financing or a trade-in.

“The price fit my budget exactly,” he said. “I told the salesperson there was no room to buy extras. But before he accepted my check and handed over the keys, I was introduced to a finance person and led into his office. Since I knew that was standard procedure at a lot of dealerships, I said right up front that I wasn’t interested in added features or an extended warranty. I’ve bought a number of cars over the years. Sometimes I’ve bought extended warranties and sometimes I haven’t. This time, I didn’t want one.”

“The finance guy was new in his position and didn’t seem to know how to handle a customer who wasn’t in the market for extras. He was determined to stick to the script he had been taught, so I had to listen to a pitch on a variety of extended warranties. I repeatedly asked him to cut it short, but he kept going until the bitter end. Even though he was pleasant and friendly, he was completely out of touch with the situation. It was a total waste of time for both of us.”

Two stories, one lesson. When you’re face-to-face with a client, it pays to pay attention.

 (c) Copyright 2019 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. E-mail for information:

Other recent columns