On Buying, Selling And Thought Leadership

Mar 15, 2022

By Tony Silber, Contributor
In this month’s issue of Fox Tales, we discuss the techniques of selling advertising with the American Public Works Association’s Jared Shilhanek. It’s illuminating, and shocking to me, frankly, that what he describes is the exception, not the norm.

What Shilhanek said, referring Fox Associates (the publisher of this newsletter) is that salespeople from Fox actually listen, both to their clients—in this case the APWA—and also the association’s advertising clients.

It’s unfortunate that this is not the norm, but it isn’t. In my years of selling and managing salespeople, and being sold to, it’s much more common for sellers to sell the products they have rather than the solutions that buyers need.

It takes a certain calmness to be a good seller. You’re trained to internalize a pitch and recite all the cool things your product does. I’ve been in plenty of meetings where salespeople blurt out their spiel rapid-fire, running down a list of bullets. Of course, the seller wasn’t listening to the prospective client because they were rehearsing the pitch in their mind. Of course, this pattern isn’t calm, it’s frantic.

And from there it usually spirals down. The meeting concludes cordially, but the buyer has already become skeptical. The seller repeats follow-up calls and emails once a week, irritating the buyer a little more each time.

The end result is a missed opportunity, definitely for the seller and possibly for the buyer. Which takes us back to Shilhanek’s point. The Fox team started the relationship by listening to the needs of the association and the suppliers who use the association’s media to reach their customers. The result, at least in part, was an expanded array of media products, which can be customized according to client objectives.

And just by listening and then coming up with a plan, Fox aligned itself with the concept of thought leadership. As I said, sellers who are calm and deliberative are better able to discern what the buyer needs. They’re thoughtful. Their ideas carry weight. They’re looked up to and they’re trusted. Which is another characteristic of good sellers. They build relationships that are stronger than the transactional nature of selling. Relationships that endure.

The APWA told me it’s had a variety of outsourced rep firms, but never any like Fox. And Fox is in its 9th year of working with APWA. That’s pretty good.