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7 Questions To Ask Before You Hire A New Pre-Show Provider

So, you have done your due diligence: You have asked a bunch of questions, checked references, watched sample programs, spoken to current advertisers in other locations, and you have whittled it down to just 2 or 3 possible candidates to provide you with a new pre-show program. What else can you do to give your theatre and the new vendor to have the best chances of success? How will you know the new provider will give you their best?

Well, there is really no way to know for sure, but you can get close!  Below are seven (7) questions you can ask either yourself or your prospective provider.  You may have already asked these questions or have discovered the answers while chatting with the representative.  I’m going to assume that you have already asked the typical questions about how long they have been in business, have gotten some references and looked at a sample of their program.  I’ll list a few more specific areas you might want to look into . . .

  • Sales: How does this company conduct their sales for the advertising portion of the program? Particularly the LOCAL sales!!  Phone?  E-Mail?  Letters?  Referrals? Personal Sales meetings?  (Sales rep comes to the theatre’s city or town).  Typically, it is not economically feasible to have a full-time sales representative stationed in a city for just one theatre.  So, the question is: How often will they come out to your city to sell?What determines how often?  They should have a plan for this, and the plan should make sense.  Obviously if your play-list if full of happy advertisers, they don’t need to come out very often, if at all.   At POG, we have specific plans for who, when, how and where we go selling, and then a very specific sales plan called “EPS”.  For more information on either of these plans, call or e-mail Luke McCann in our home office.

a. What type of sales reps do they hire and why?  How are they trained?   Selling is a true profession. While not regulated, a true sales professional has spent many, many hours over many years studying, going to seminars, training events, reading and researching.  A true sales professional never stops learning and improving.  Sales is always a moving target.  A true professional sales organization has a system that has been put in place specifically to accomplish the particular sales at hand.  Just asking this question will give you a lot of insight into the company philosophy.  In sales, there are many different levels of competence, skill levels and personality.  If the proposed new provider cannot easily explain what they look for in a sales rep, then they have no real plan for this.  Be wary.  If they can explain, does what they describe sound like the type of person you want out on the streets and on the phone representing your theatre?  Here at POG, we have a very specific type of professional sales representative that we look for and hire.  Please contact Luke McCann here at the POG home office for more information on this subject.

  • Production: Who produces the program?  What marketing background does the production team have?  Here at POG, we have several systems in place to keep us on track and to make sure that every production, whether for an advertising client or for the theatre meets or exceeds our standards of quality AND proper marketing techniques.
  • Accounting:  How often will you be paid?  Some companies pay only four (4) times per year.  Some pay weekly.  What’s the difference in all of this?  Here at POG we have chosen to pay out commissions on a monthly basis.  Any more creates extra work that costs more making it difficult to pay out some of the highest commissions in the business.  We believe that Quarterly does not give the theatre owner enough information to judge how well the vendor is performing in a timely enough manner.
  • Commission:  There are as many different commission structures as there are companies.  Some are a flat percentage, others have a tiered system, still others have just a flat dollar fee.  Each one has its pros and cons.  So, I can’t really guide you too much on this point.  I can let you know that we have the attitude that we are in a loose ‘partnership’ with the theatre and if we BOTH can make a reasonable profit, everyone will have the best attitude possible, and attitude affects performance to a great deal.  If either side feels like they are not making enough profit, the whole program will suffer.  Additionally, part of the profit from sales goes not only to pay the sales portion of the program, but finances the upkeep of the trivia, concessions, policy and other entertainment portions of the entire program.
  • Reporting:  What kind of and how detailed are the commission reports?  In my opinion, reports should be as detailed as possible showing advertisers’ company name, monthly rate collected, theatre’s percentage and amount and totals for each theatre for each month.  Some providers simply send a check, or a gross amount collected with a percentage and a check.  Here at POG, we provide a complete play-list of all clients, a list of all payments received and for what company along with the theatre’s percentage, amount and any special bonuses (if applicable).  There should NEVER, EVER be the slightest appearance of trying to perform “funky accounting”.  ASK for sample of their commission reports.  It should be straight forward and easy to read.  If a special calculation is performed to determine tiered commissions, the provider should gladly provide you with either the formulas and excel Spreadsheet, or both.
  •  Accessibility:  Is it easy to get in touch with the person you are seeking at the provider’s place of business?  Do they answer questions promptly?  Do you get a lot of Voice Mail when you call in?  Are e-mails answered quickly?  If the provider is not prompt while trying to earn your business, how well will they respond once you are under contract?
  • Problem Resolution:  Does this vendor have a system for problem resolution?  Do they have a technician available 24/7/365 to help with technical issues?  You WILL have technical issues from time to time, it is the nature of the beast.  You NEED an emergency phone number to handle these issues when they pop up.

This list is not exhaustive, and will be updated from time to time.  If you ever have a question about anything having to do with Pre-Show Programs in general, regardless if you are a POG client or not, please feel free to call or e-mail me!  I love this business and want to help it thrive!

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You have heard the term “Professional Salesperson” on many occasions.  But . . .  Just what is a Professional Salesperson?  Since this profession is not regulated by any governmental or recognized organizational agency, this term can be used by anyone who chooses to do so.  So, how does one spot a real “Professional” Salesperson (PS)?

I have thought a lot about this and done some additional research to see if I can define such an animal concisely.   Since there are no “Official” qualifications for a PS, the definition falls to the social arena to define/describe.  How do others, particularly those who are in sales, business owners, sales managers and other people who come in contact with sales people, define/describe a PS?

Below are some common thoughts that have been expressed by this “group” of judges of what exactly defines a PS . . .

First, it appears that the definition comes in two flavors: (A) What is a PS as applied to the “internal”.  Or in other words, how does a business owner, sales manager . . .even the salesperson themselves, define a PS, and; (B) The external:  How do the people who are on the receiving end of a PS define a PS?  By the way, almost each of these attributes are worthy of their own “White Paper”.  I’m working on getting each of these done for you to read later . . .

 

INTERNAL

In the beginning of my personal sales career, I had a little saying pounded into my head: “Nothing happens in the world until someone sells something.”  Now granted, this is a little broad and dogmatic, but it has a great amount of truth.  It assumes that “Nothing” is describing those things that man initiates; not nature.  So with that framework, think about this for a moment. . .

You buy a new car.  Were you sold on this car?  Sure, that’s an easy one.  You buy a cup of coffee on your way to work.  Were you “sold” by someone?  YES!  Sometime in the past either someone (or yourself) sold you on the idea that having a cup of coffee would wake you up and help you perform better.  OK, let’s make it less concrete: You get out of bed in the morning.  Why?  Because someone (or yourself) has sold you on the idea that doing so has certain benefits.  Are you married?  This is one of the greatest sales jobs ever!!!  BOTH of you sold the other on why you should get married.  Sale Made! 

So, I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.  Sales is a way of motivating someone to take some sort of action (or inaction).  This motivation can be internal or external.  Internal motivations are usually they kind that “stick” better, but not always.  Let’s get more concrete.  Here are some internal characteristics of what most people would call a PS, in no particular order.  A PS subscribes to the following thoughts, ideas and actions:

  1. Is proud to call themselves a PS and believes and thinks of themselves as a professional.
  2. Knows that selling is something that you do FOR someone, not TO them.
  3. Thinks of themselves to be a teacher or a messenger bringing new or better ideas to their prospects and customers.
  4. Forgets about themselves and serves their employer and the customer’s needs and wants above their own. (See number 23 below)
  5. Does not think in terms of sales, numbers or dollar amount(s), but rather in terms of building a relationship of trust, creating an environment where an act of faith (customer’s decision to buy) can occur and thus a “Book of Business” (BOB).  PS are building a “business”, not just trying to make a sale.
  6. Understand that their BOB is built ONE customer at a time.  Don’t “sell & forget”, but rather “Sell and Nurture”.
  7. Leverage their relationships to open new doors of opportunity thru referrals.
  8. Listen MORE than they Speak.  This way a true PS can offer the best solution for their customers.  Sometimes this means NOT selling them a particular product or service.
  9. Knows the purpose and the intended/desired result for each and every word that comes out of their mount. (Another white paper subject).
  10. Deliver more than they promise.
  11. CONTINUALLY are learning more about their profession by Investing their time and resources in activities that increase and improve their knowledge, skills and abilities.
  12. Love the selling profession.
  13. Create their own “economy” and are not affected by the economy.
  14. Have a specific plan or route for the sales process, but have the ability to deviate as needed. Does not “wing it”.  This includes but is not limited to: The initial Meeting and Greeting (Engage), Qualifying (Pain), Presentation (Solution), Demonstration (Solution), Recap & Appraisal, Close & Delivery. (each of these will have a white paper as well).
  15. Knows, understands and can explain the difference between Features and Benefits and uses them properly.
  16. Knows, understands and can explain the difference between a Trial Close and a Final Close and uses them properly and at the correct time.
  17. Knows, understands and can explain several different closes. (I teach 27 different closes and how & when to use them).
  18. Knows, understands and can explain the difference between an objection and an excuse.
  19. Knows, understands and can explain the six (6) questions that are in EVERY prospects mind that MUST be answered YES in order to complete the sale. (White Paper).
  20. Knows, understands and can explain the purpose of the different types of sales phone calls and the five (5) phases of such a sales phone call. (White Paper).
  21. Becomes a master at handling objections.  Understands that objections are not “no’s”, but a request for (sorry, this is secret information). J (White Paper)
  22. Keeps up with evolving technologies and methodologies and how to best use them to help themselves, their employer, their customers and prospects. (White paper time!)
  23. Continually remind themselves that “If I help others to get the things that they want, I’ll naturally get the things that I want.”  Serve others gratefully, positively and with honesty.
  24. Subscribe to the H.E.L.M philosophy.  The “helm” of a ship (boat or starship) controls its direction.  The direction of ALL of a PS’s motivations and desires are ALWAYS put to the HELM litmus test:  “Is what I am doing or proposing Honest, Ethical, Legal and Moral.  If so and you see a benefit for the customer, then proceed.  If not, STOP!”
  25. Surround themselves with positive people.
  26. Don’t need Sales Manages . . . they push themselves further & harder than any “manager” could push them.
  27. Are excited when they get a “No” as they know that puts them closer to the next yes!
  28. See failure not as failure but a learning opportunity.
  29. Never give up on themselves or a “no”.  “No” means simply that you have not given the prospect/customer (Sorry, “Secret Information”). Wanna know the answer? Call me!  I’ll be happy to share . . .  J
  30. DON’T major on the minors. Invest their time on actions and people that really matter.
  31. Hold themselves to a higher standard (HELM) than required by management their company or others.
  32. Are always thinking about how to improve themselves and how to help others.
  33. More to follow in future updates . . .
EXTERNAL

“External” in this context refers to “How does the customer or prospect experience the PS and the sales process?”  You may notice some overlap here from the Internal.  This is because if a PS subscribes to a certain “standard”, it will be readily observable by the customer or prospect.  The Sales Professional, “1,2,3 . . ” during the engagement . . .

  1. Generally smiles
  2. Never Smokes
  3. Dresses appropriately for the engagement. In some cases, this is a full suit, others it is a golf shirt.  Other cases are specialized and driven by the environment.  Like, PS for drug companies or medical supplies might suggest that the sales person wear “scrubs”.
  4. Does not spend too much time in idle conversation, gets to the point of the meeting, unless the environment, personality of the customer or prospect, is conducive to such conversation.  (PLEASE NOTE:  This is where a thorough knowledge of Personality Types comes into play, which knowledge and understanding is of paramount importance for the PS.  There is an entire syllabus in learning about the psychology of selling which the PS must know about and apply, and is a subject for an entirely new and separate “white paper”).
  5. Sets the condition for the engagement. (Another white paper subject).
  6. Uses the customer or prospect’s name properly, and with the proper social rules for such an engagement.
  7. NEVER, EVER knocks or says negative things about a competitor!
  8. Admits when they don’t know the answer to a question and does not “make one up” (see HELM) above.
  9. Gets the answer to an unknown question for the customer or prospect as fast as possible.
  10. Delivers what is promised, or more if possible.
  11. Knows when to SHUT UP!!
  12. Uses customary manners like “Please” & “Thank you”
  13. ALWAYS thanks the customer/prospect for their time and attention!
  14. More to follow in future updates. . .
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