How to Put The Client’s Mind Behind The Wheel

In Montana, I once sent a television salesperson to a doctor’s office for a white coat.

sales skills: you can wear the white coat for a spec ad

Photo by Oleksandra Voinova/dpc

 We were working on a proposal for a doctor who wanted to market a procedure she had developed. I’d written a script in which the doctor would deliver the message herself on camera, and wanted to show her how the ad might look.

For that, we decided to produce a version of the commercial in advance of the presentation — a “spec ad”.

Of course, we couldn’t ask the doctor to appear in the spec — that would’ve spoiled the surprise. So the AE went to the doctor’s office and borrowed a lab coat.


Sales Skills: The Power of the Spec Ad

sales skills: spec ads put the client behind the wheel

Photo by ellisia/dpc

Spec ads are a very powerful way to move an advertising prospect toward a buying decision.

Why do they work so well? One of the best explanations comes from an old radio sales training recording by Jim Williams*:

What we’re doing is a thing called demonstration selling… it ranges from the tiny nibble of peach at your outdoor farmers market by the peach vendor to the one-ounce tube of shampoo they hang on your doorknob to the showy exhibition of all the uses from slicing and dicing of those famous knives on TV.

When you test drive a car, slip on new shoes and walk about or study the floor plan of an unbuilt home, you are involved in one of the many forms of demonstration selling.

When you enter your client’s office and play a cassette tape as part of your presentation you are doing demonstration selling. The words and sound that come from your tape recorder, regardless of content, are a demonstration of how radio works.

Thoughts come out of a small electric box and into the brain of the listener. That is the essence of radio. You are using radio to sell radio.

The tools have changed since Williams recorded those words. Cassettes are gone, replaced by digital files you can play for your client on an iPhone.

The principle is the same in the Age of the Smartphone as it was when we operated on tape: use radio to sell radio. Use TV to sell TV.

[bctt tweet=”Technology has changed. Human nature hasn’t. Spec ads should be in your sales arsenal.”]

In the demo we produced for the Montana medical clinic, the AE played the role of the doctor. It was not award-winning work — the station Production Department was very busy with paying clients, so they banged ours out quickly.

When we presented, production quality didn’t matter. The doctor immediately imagined herself in front of the camera. She went back to her office to make sure she had the money for the campaign, and signed the contract the same day.

Spec ads work for the same reason that test drives work on the car lot: customers are beginning to experience “ownership” of the product. You are putting them, mentally, behind the wheel.

You can’t make a commercial in advance for every proposal — production departments are busy and frequently undermanned. Pick your spots carefully, make them count, and take your Production Director to lunch every now and then.

Deployed properly, spec ads will move your prospects one step closer… a BIG step closer… to buying. Use ’em.

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* A tip of the hat to my friend Rod Schwartz for introducing me to Jim Williams, whose work has held up quite well in the decades since it was recorded. Rod has digitized some of Williams’ material, and you can listen to it here.





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