The Ruthless Rules of What Advertisers Need

Staff Writer

“Media salespeople are trained to sell their inventory, not your inventory. Once you absolutely understand that you’ll be in a position to use media more effectively”.

When I first read this quote I have to admit I was shocked, thinking to myself “no, we’re not like that”. I squirmed even more when the author of the book I was reading added “Media salespeople are not trained to understand the business of advertising; they understand the selling of advertising”. Ouch!

The book both quotes come from (and a whole lot more) is called 'The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising' first published in the mid 90s by Michael Corbett. It’s not easy to find anymore, but it’s a book every direct media sales person should read before they ever conduct a face to face client meeting. Corbett knows many of our secrets – he used to be one of us and he has the experience as well as the credentials to support most of what he says!

From my perspective and nearly eighteen years after it was written, most of the key messages are still valid and still relevant. Admittedly, there’s no section dealing with digital or social media, but otherwise it makes absolute business sense.

As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I get to work with media sales people all over the world as well as here in Australia and New Zealand. I see and hear how sales people interact with their prospects and current clients and here’s the thing. It seems to me that the two quotes I highlighted are often spot on!!

Too many media sales people only want to talk to prospects about their station or network, their numbers, their presenters, their website, their advertising solutions. See the common word “their”?

Additionally many of these same sales people only want to talk about the features, not the benefits – you know the “what’s in it for the client part”?

Only the best want to talk to advertisers about such things as:

  • Measurable advertising objectives
  • Using a medium to gain an equity position
  • The buying cycle in the prospect’s industry
  • Outcomes using long term v short term campaigns
  • Identifying what’s getting in the way of advertising success


If you are a direct sales person and want to be better at what you do and gain more trust, respect and commitment from your clients I suggest you take a couple of Corbett’s 33 “rules” and  apply the ones you feel are going to be the most beneficial to the partnership. Then learn more about the business of business; develop some great “business” focussed questions and work diligently to help your clients grow their business. 

That way both of you will be more successful.


Stephen Pead is a media industry sales and marketing veteran of 30 years with significant experience in sales, sales management and general management. He is based in Sydney and specialises in providing training and coaching for salespeople and sales managers.

He can be contacted at [email protected]

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