Hey, What's The Big Idea?

This past year taught us what we already knew: sales calls are harder to come by, so you have to make more of the face time you do secure next year. This renewed emphasis on maximizing face time, with creatively driven salespeople selling multi-medium assets, mixes very well with the desire of buyers to purchase integrated packages, which is why next year will be the year of selling big ideas.

Big--as in selling-a-five-percent-stake-in-your-own-company kind of big. That's what Google acquired from AOL, right? What do you think that proposal looked like? "And here in option three, are four days of home page fixed positions on and five percent of the company... yes, the one billion dollars is net, not gross."

I have no idea how this deal was proposed, but I do know it started like any other deal--with a sales call. Most sales calls are consultative in nature, but I suggest you mix in some good old-fashioned big-idea selling on at least two sales calls a month next year. Hit just one of the first twelve, and you will blow through your quota.



Big ideas come from a place of big thinking. Imagine what it would be like to offer up part of your company in a proposal. For example, if a sales rep from Sports Illustrated offered Budweiser a 520-page schedule (10 ads per issue) at rate card ($151 million bucks) and a "we'll throw in our book division as added value."

Sounds crazy--but so does a "five percent stake," and that sold. The point is that to build a big idea you should start with crazy and then work backward to identify media assets inside your company that you can include and execute, that contribute unique value to a multi- medium communication package. Keep it structured enough so it has a "closing date"--but flexible enough to invite the client and buyer to shape the final proposal submitted as a follow-up to the meeting.

For a big idea to sell, you have to show up to the sales call with a ten-gallon-hat attitude, an oil well full of value, and a custom presentation. The presentation should have three distinct and concise sections.

The first section should restate the client's business needs. For example, pharmaceutical companies need to close the gap between prescriptions written and prescriptions filled. Apparently, according to a friend who calls on this advertising category, over seventy percent of written prescriptions aren't filled--which means that drug companies lose money. Preventing that loss is a well-defined business need.

Section two of the presentation is your hook. It must answer the question of why your property should be in the room trying to solve the client's business need. My friend, who sells for a mainstream financial magazine, shared his hook for drug companies: simply that "readers who invest their time to diligently plan out their retirement will invest equally in managing their cholesterol." That is a great hook.

Section three is where you pitch the big idea. The advertising communication package you present should, at the very least, reflect your understanding of the client's business need.

As for using PowerPoint, until someone shows me how to communicate a complex sales message by waving my hands, PowerPoint is an effective tool. The problem is too much content. This structured approach should be three to six slides, max, along with a few mock-ups. If you have more than six slides, your big idea and the reason it should be bought is not concise enough.

The worse thing that can happen if you walk into a sales call with a big idea is that you walk out with nothing but the respect of your client. The most likely thing that will occur is that you do not sell the big idea, but you end up on the buy. And in those rare cases that you hit one out of the park, you'll be collecting accolades and commission checks as you round the bases.

Here's to the New Year. May it be a big one for you.

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