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Monday Memo: That First Call

| November 11, 2019

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — I’m encouraged by response to last week’s column, which included commercial copy Do’s-N-Don’ts from experts, and which I have gathered along the consulting road.  ICYMI:

What encourages me most is that so much of the feedback I’ve gotten on that sales-related material was from on-air people who are involved in advertising sales.  As programming cutbacks continue, NOT-being a cog in the revenue machine seems risky.

Some DJs and hosts actually carry a list, if only a couple accounts.  Even if they just ride-along with the rep, I have seen what a difference it can make to have an on-air person on-hand.  For starters, he or she is “a name,” “that voice.”  The prospect/client appreciates the attention.  On one call, the prospect did a selfie with our DJ!  And because information gathered on the call will eventually BE voiced, nothing gets lost-in-translation by having that voice there.

This week: How to get “the sit;” and what to say.

 Are palace guards blocking you from Ms. or Mr. Decision Maker?

End-run ‘em by calling early, before gatekeepers are on duty.  The-person-you’re-trying-to-reach BECAME the-person-you’re-trying-to-reach by being the early bird who gets the worm.

So call the direct number…if you know it.  If you don’t, here’s a semi-sneaky way to get it, a trick I’ve suggested to job seekers, in a 2-minute podcast:

Once you get the appointment…

 Can’t miss questions for the Client Needs Analysis meeting:

Yes, “A-B-C” (“Always Be Closing”).  But more typically, the first call is information-gathering, followed-up with spec spots on the second call, “Based on what you told me last time…”

Here are four questions that have proven useful in that first encounter:

  • “What would make you…happier?” They’ve already got what they’ve already got, so advertising with you has to accomplish something new.  That might be new customers, more-frequent purchases by existing customers, or some product that’s gathering dust or a service they’d like to perform more.
  • “Profile the customer you want.” You’ll hear clues that help you phrase benefits.
  • “What is the most common misconception about your product/service?” This never fails to surface opportune copy points.
  • Ask service retailers “How is your business different than two years ago?” I’ve heard exterminators and landscapers talk about less-toxic “green” techniques; and a home theater installer crowed “no wires!”

YOU end the call.

Before your prospect’s body language telegraphs “time’s up,” YOU say “Greg, I know you’re busy and you’ve been generous with your time, and you’ve given us just what we need to come back and let you hear a couple ideas.”  They’ll appreciate your businesslike consideration.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” an instant download available exclusively from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner on this page.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show on RT America.  Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice