June 29, 2009

Sales has a Bad Reputation

Why does sales have a bad reputation? When you think of sales you think of someone trying to make you want something that you don’t actually want. So if sales has a bad rep, how do you sell? You change the mindset—just one of the great slices of advice I learned today.

In order for my team and myself to gain a fresh perspective on the day-to-day College Media work, I often step outside of our bubble and reach out to other experts in their fields. For our editorial team, I asked Lauren Brown, previously an editor for the Baltimore Sun, to share her insights on what it takes to be a great editor. Simply put, Lauren rocked. (Soon to come: Editing 101).

Today I invited Sam Sheibani, manager of College Park's Darcars with 17 years of sales experience to speak to our Marketing & Sales team. Right before he joined us, we spent an hour discussing advertising sales experiences so far and unfortunately everyone seemed discouraged. For everyone’s first month of making cold calls, warm visits, and setting up meetings with advertisers, they learned a lot but it wasn’t easy. (Hey, they can’t say I didn’t warn them). Some of the challenges they pin pointed were staying motivated, getting a business owner to meet with them and hearing the most discouraging word of all: no.

But when Sam came into the office, he immediately changed the tone. He challenged us to shift our mindset about sales: to shift from selling to helping. Because when it comes down to it, the reason a person is going to buy a product, whether it’s a car or a magazine ad, it’s because they see the product as something that will help them (get them from point A to B or give them exposure and more business). So how do you do this? Here’s what we learned:

1. Make it your goal to help them. Literally ask: “How can I help you?”
2. Identify their needs. Ask about their business, their team, their life.
3. Listen.

And when they say “no,” ask “why?” The reason may be something you can solve (a payment plan, brainstorming design ideas) so in the end, you can still help them out.

Stay tuned for unique ways to measure advertising ROI.

June 20, 2009

Speed Dating 101

How to Stop Networking and Really Connect

If I could only list 3...

My senior year of college, when my professor asked our class to network, the exercise turned into speed dating. To me, real networking can’t be forced nor can it happen in 60 seconds. Networking sounds like a standardized process for making friends, but if want to make business connections with people, and not robots, it has to be far from standardized.

What I’ve learned:
1. Networking is like dating
2. How many people you’ve slept with does matter
3. Have fun & make friends

1. You don’t want to go to bed on the first date. (Yes, two of my advisors have said these exact words to me in the context of networking). Just like dating, in networking, you shouldn’t be so quick to pinpoint ways this new contact can help you. It’s a turnoff. Right now I’m reading the book Never Eat Alone, and one lesson I’ve already learned from author Keith Ferrazzi is instead of asking “How can you help me?” try instead asking “How can I help you?” It made me think about how often I ask this question. I’d like to think I do this well when it comes to my friends, whether it’s listening to a problem or helping out with a job search but when it comes to those I look up to, including my advisors, I easily forget to ask this.

2. Too many to count? It’s not about how many business cards you collect; it’s about meeting a few people and really connecting. That good looking suit that schmoozes with every person at the party has only given himself enough time for surface level conversation with every person he meets. Just like a one nightstand; he’s a networking slut. Don’t be slutty. Connect with 1 or 2 people and then keep in touch. This is something I've learned by simply being myself when it comes to networking. I would much rather have an actual conversation than come up with meaningless small talk.

3. Why do you think so many people go into business with their friends? Sure they end up regretting it later, but people like to do business with people they are friendly with. People they trust. People they genuinely like. If someone doesn’t like me, I can guarantee they won’t want to even hear my pitch on why College Media Group is the best way to reach students directly on campus. So, if you’re planning to network, loosen up a bit, enjoy it and make some friends. (See my blog Air Guitar and Networking).

June 1, 2009

Air Guitar and Networking

Is this blog entry an excuse to talk about my obsession with air guitar? Perhaps… your point?

Networking isn’t always packaged into a suit and happy hour. The best networking happens in a tour bus after an air guitar competition, rocking out with Björn Türoque, Sanjar the Destroyer, Hot Lixx Hulahan (2008 World Air Guitar Champion) and the founders of the US Air Guitar Championships. Talk about meeting another founder when you least expect it.

So what does College Media have to do with Air Guitar? Who knows, maybe College Media can help promote the 2010 championships. Or we could collaborate on a College air guitar event. With or without a direct connection, just expanding your network of other entrepreneurs is almost always a good thing.

The point is: have your business card ready. Remember, networking won’t happen by simply sitting at your computer, so go out once in awhile and don’t be afraid to bring your air guitar!