I had a call recently from a very frustrated sales manager who works for one of the large publishers that has been struggling. He wanted to know what was going on in the industry, and what I thought the future looked like. Despite his many years in the industry, clearly he was dismayed with the current state of affairs. It’s a conversation I‘ve had with more than a few of you lately.
The more we talked/complained about the growing perception that print is dead, the rising onslaught of out-out/opt-in legislation aimed at the Yellow Page industry, and a host of other issues facing the industry, I realized it was time for a reality check. While I have no special crystal ball, several things seem clear to me:
- If you are expecting a large media advertising blitz from the industry associations to remind the world that print Yellow Pages are
still the most powerful local advertising and shopping tool across all media, I hate to tell you, it’s not going to happen.
- If you expect that the paper atheists who see our print
products as the source for the environmental issues on the planet, to suddenly get it and realize that print Yellow Pages are less than one percent of the typical municipal waste stream, and that the industry uses waste products (not virgin wood) to make our paper, your prayers are not going to be answered.
- If you are waiting for your publisher company to
initiate a significant TV, radio, and billboard campaign talking about the ongoing, verifiable ROI value of a Yellow Pages program, don’t hold your breath.
- If you’re expecting your sales trainers or senior sales leadership to provide you with some magical bullet that’s going to make every small business fling open their doors and shout with glee that today is the day I’m going to get excited about the opportunity to buy Yellow Pages advertising, hell will probably freeze over first.
Now is definitely a time for each of us, individually, to the take the lead and stop waiting for someone else to resolve all of these issues. To survive, to prosper, it’s
time to take the initiative to move things ahead in your world, your little
part of the industry. As a former manager once told me – don’t try to boil the ocean, just make your part of it better.
Let’s start some basic meat and potatoes strategies. My observation has been that those reps who continue to be successful in this industry despite an extended economic downturn, despite significant issues within their own company (such as bankruptcies), and despite the perception that print Yellow Pages are dead, are the reps that still do a couple of very simple things really well:
- They turned doors. Could you imagine the impact if every sales rep in this industry could have one more discussion each day with a small business about the ROI they can receive our Yellow Pages
program? Just one more. One. Assuming a typical industry ratio of one sale for each 10 doors opened, if every rep in the industry made the effort each day we would see an immediate 5+% plus increase in total industry revenues. Can you imagine what that would also do to each reps income? Net net: they can’t buy from you if you aren’t talking to them.
- They don’t wait for corporate. One rep shared with me how they spent their own money to buy thank you cards for each of their advertisers, and then over a weekend (when the weather wasn’t very
nice) they wrote out personal thank you cards to each of their advertisers for a recently delivered book. Not long notes,
but short personal messages thanking them for their business. This rep even paid for the mailing costs to send the thank you notes out. Would it surprise you that the new/additional orders that this rep received from appreciative advertisers resulted in a 15-fold commission increase vs. his out-of-pocket costs? Why are you waiting for someone from marketing to suggest/require that
you implement such a program? How do you think your advertisers would respond if you sent them a personal note?
- They provide their own air cover. Even if your publishing company isn’t doing TV or radio or billboard advertising, have
you thought about getting together with several of your fellow account executives and grabbing a booth at the next local small business Expo or home show? If you do the ROI on this one, it only takes one or two new sales to more than offset your cost for this effort. Isn’t it time you start investing in your own career, your own future??
- They tell real-life value stories. In YP Talk I have covered a range of situations where those print Yellow Pages have been
invaluable to me. For example, the case of the broken garage door opener (link), replacing a floor (link), or finding a local carpet cleaning service (link). Don’t you have several real-life stories of
your own just like these? Then why aren’t using them in your sales presentation when the objections come up that no one uses print Yellow Pages anymore? If you and 3 other reps got together, combined your actual, real life experiences, don’t you think you could put together a killer testimonial handout to use with non-advertisers?
- They understand that the RASCAL factors still
work. It doesn’t matter whether were talking about print or digital or mobile, if that business doesn’t have those factors in their advertising, they are going to lose out on business. Do you run down that list of RASCAL factors with each potential advertiser that you’re working with? Why not?
The time is come for the 50,000+ people who make their income in this industry to get over it, and to individually stop waiting for some magically event to occur, and start rowing on their own. There are no white knights anymore that are just about to come charging down the hill to save the day. Instead, it now requires each of those 50,000+ people working a little harder to move the needle forward in their little corner of the world.
Now the list of suggestions above was very sales centric. However, all of you that work in this industry that think your aren’t in sales, really are. You just aren’t commissioned for it. While at the kids soccer game or during that Saturday barbeque when someone starts complaining about the fact that they just
got “another Yellow Pages today”, how do you respond? When you favorite ”green” sister goes on a rant about how print Yellow Pages are neutering the earth and destroying the forests, do you politely take the time to correct the record for her? When you do business in the local store, do always take the opportunity to remind them that it was a good thing they had that ad
in the Yellow Pages, or you probably wouldn’t have found them?
Together these individual efforts will help things move forward much better and much quicker than any multimillion-dollar TV ad program, which we already know isn’t going to happen anyway.
It’s a time to lead. Will you take the first steps? Let me know more about what you are doing at firstname.lastname@example.org.