Getting To Know A Fox: Meet Bill Bell, SVP, Director Of Sales And Business Development

Apr 18, 2024

Working in media offers all kinds of chances to shine. Perhaps you’re a documentary film maker whose work becomes a hit. Or a news reporter who wins the Pulitzer Prize. For our money, there’s no greater source of elation than when a sales team closes a big deal. There’s really nothing like it.

Indeed, the work you put in while working toward that sale is pretty cool, too. You travel to meet prospects and clients. You go to conferences and shows. You develop relationships, and find common points of interest, both in your work and your personal lives. And the sales conversations are usually fascinating in and of themselves as you seek to help a customer create a marketing program that produces results.

Now imagine your company is a media-sales operation. All your company does is sell advertising. All of these things mentioned above are not just true, they’re amplified. And not only do you sell advertising into your clients’ digital platforms and print magazines, you have to sell your services to the client as well.

Bill Bell.

That’s Bill Bell. Bill has been at Fox Associates for 23 years, and has evolved with magazine and media sales at it transformed from print magazines to a vast array of marketing channels, including websites, newsletters, display ads and content marketing.

Bill is a naturally ebullient person—that’s a huge plus for salespeople because buyers buy from people they like. And he’s a road warrior who probably spends two weeks or more on the road per month.

We were fortunate that he found some time recently to respond to some of our questions. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Fox Tales: You’re the leader of a veteran team of professional sellers. Tell us your approach to sales and customers, and also to managing. Any manager’s role includes keeping a team focused, highly productive, happy, dialed in. 

Bill Bell: At Fox Associates we have numerous customers.  There are the advertisers, of course, but there are also our publisher partners and their respective leaders in both the business and content sides. As a professional sales organization staffed with seasoned sellers, we understand the importance of being responsive, positive and energetic in all we do.

For ad sales, our philosophy is that a sale is just the beginning. In order to ensure the “immortality of the business” our commitment to servicing the sell is of primary importance. So, yes, any manager’s role includes keeping a team focused, but it’s also critical that our sales force be adaptable and able to pivot by industry and by publisher and provide the highest level of partnership possible.

Fox Tales: You and your colleagues are on the road a lot. How do you balance selling with planning, prospecting, prepping for a meeting?

Bell: Again, as a publisher’s integrated advertising-sales partner, our seasoned sales team is highly adept at managing their work through several CRMs. And, while we do travel a great deal to industry trade shows, our computers and our CRMs travel with us. It’s a matter of time and resource management. Business development is pursued through our sponsorships and participation at key professional-development events such as BIMS, SIIA, MediaGrowth and others. Our outreach and timely follow-up, again, is tied to the religious use of our CRMs.

We also have a very effective backroom working hand in hand with our publishers to help our salespeople stay on top of closing dates, materials and reporting. Going back to “servicing the sale,” it’s crucial that our advertisers not be responsible to ask for performance reports but, rather, for us to be proactive and analytical as we maintain, and grow, the relationship with them.

Fox Tales: What’s the most common objection you get from prospects, and how do you reply to it? What do you do when a customer rolls back their budget?

Bell: Of course this question is most easily answered by, “it depends.” If we’re doing our job, we’ve researched the prospect to know how they’re currently promoting their business or solution before ever getting on the phone. Objections are often valid and, despite the common belief that objections are just the prospect waiting to be sold, I find it best to give credence to what they’re saying and to offer solutions as objections are raised. Eventually, it will surface that the objections are real or just ways to get rid of me. In any event, respecting and honoring the prospects preferred way of working (and when to approach them and how) takes listening and communication skills to, at the very least, create a next step in the relationship.

For existing customers, at the risk of being repetitive, it’s servicing the sell beyond the expectations of the advertiser. Be their best representative. Provide ideas and suggestions before a new challenge arises. This takes knowledge of the marketer’s business, the industry they’re in and a full understanding of the solutions you represent on behalf of your publisher.

Fox Tales: Has your approach to media sales evolved over the course of your career? Tell us how.

Bell: As you can tell, my foundation in this business is built on service. I learned this early on in my career. I’d say, if anything, my own attitude with an advertiser or prospect is extremely key to creating trust. If the answer is “no” today, it’s critical that my tone be one of positivity and of future opportunity. I need to instill in the advertiser or prospect that I have their objectives in mind and that everything I bring to them (whether they’re in the market or not) has their best interest in mind. Conveying knowledge, optimism, empathy and trust sets great salespeople apart from just fair or good ones.

Fox Tales: How long have you been with the company?

Bell: It’s actually my 23rd anniversary this month!

Fox Tales: Tell us about yourself. Where have you lived, where do you live now and what do you like best about those places? What are your hobbies and avocations? 

Bell: I grew up in Northern California, but haven’t lived there now for about 30 years. I still miss it because my friends and family are there. Home is where your people are, of course! That’s true of anyone. The ad-sales business moved me from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Seattle and ultimately to Detroit, where I’ve been now for a long time. Because I raised my family here, it’s definitely “home part two” to me. I love the seasons (though I’m not the biggest fan of snow). The summers are wonderful and, since my wife is a Master Gardner working in that business, I’ve become a very happy person just working in the yard. Odd as it sounds, crawling around in the dirt, pulling weeds, watering vegetables and plants while listening to music makes me very content.

I had two sons (the eldest, Spencer, passed in 2006 at the age of 20 from a rare cancer). His talents as a song-writer/poet/musician were the catalyst for an on-going fundraiser on behalf of the University of Michigan Adrenal Cancer program. There is now a permanent endowment in his name as a result. For about 10 years, that was a definite avocation! My youngest son, Braden, lives nearby and manages a rare-and-used book store. He is, in his own right, very creative as well.

Fox Tales: Thank you, Bill.