A few weeks ago, I was interviewing a prospective sales rep for one of my clients in a market with a population well over 250,000. The rep, who had been working at another station in the market for about eight months, said her training consisted of watching sales training tapes from various trainers/consultants. After several information-based questions, I popped the big one: "How do you utilize spec spots, and how many, on average, do you deliver to prospects on a weekly basis?"
With a puzzled look, she replied, "What is a spec spot?"
I was interviewing her in a hotel that had a courtyard with an indoor pool. I almost jumped into that pool when I heard her reply. This response came from a rep who worked for a company perceived as one of the best in the market. I was saddened, and suddenly realized that this is one reason why our industry hasn't grown in the past five years, in comparison to the overall money spent in the advertising pie. If all we're going to do is train people with videotapes for two weeks, then send them out on the street, we deserve the measly 8 percent radio is getting today. More important, if we don't coach our reps in the field, we're in real trouble. The management team that is leading this particular effort should have their management licenses revoked - if managers had licenses, that is.
There is a flip side to this story. I'm writing this article in a hotel room in Thessaloniki, Greece, where in one year the local sales force for a three-station cluster I consult is pacing 93 percent ahead of the previous 12 months. One of the single greatest sources of this improvement comes from the effective use of spec spots - and the creative approach to selling.We're not talking small-market; the population here is well over a million people, and the local sales force's revenue is over seven figures (U.S.).
This is no big secret here in Greece, or at the Canadian stations I work with, which also have posted impressive growth numbers. This success can largely be attributed to their creative departments, which place a heavy emphasis on the use of spec spots. In fact, I notice that spec spots seem to be much more utilized abroad than in U.S. markets.To that end, here are five bullet points that the radio sales department in Greece would like to share with Radio Ink readers:
Specs are mandatory on closing presentations. Two specs are developed for each presentation, so the customer is not limited to saying no to one idea. There is no legislation for hitting a number or doing a number of specs by each sales rep for the sake of hitting a spec goal. All presentations get specs.
Turnaround time is 72 hours on specs. On a weekly basis, an average prospect sees or speaks on the phone with an average of 28.6 salespeople. The longer it takes for the rep to get back to the prospect, the less chance of selling that prospect, because the emotion fades with every day that passes.
The spec (creative idea) is the emotional connection to the presentation. The specs are fully produced commercials, not just written copy. The sweetest word in the Greek language - or any other language, for that matter - is your name and/or business name rolling off someone else's lips.
Initial Training Program. In a new sales reps' fourweek training program, there is heavy emphasis on spec spots. Reps are asked to write them, learn how they are produced and see them presented during a sales call by a veteran rep. This creates the culture of spec spots at the stations from the beginning. The reps don't know of any other way to present ideas unless a spec is presented.
All reps are required to do spec spots. There is no immunity for the rich and famous: Everyone in the sales department is required to utilize specs in their presentations. When you have the kind of sales increases they have here in Greece, this isn't a problem.Veterans are leading the charge!
Oh, by the way, the closing ratios on the Greek sales force are 60 percent. That's 40 percent over the normal closing ratio in our industry. So remember: The next time you take a presentation out in the field without a spec attached to it (or two, as the Greeks recommend), it's not a closing presentation. And the Greeks would like to add: Your sales staff can also have a 60 percent closing ratio - just use spec spots!