The Key to Effective “Salesmanship in Print”

Mark Clemente ThumbnailI had occasion to be standing on a gas line in the aftermath of last year’s hurricane—red plastic can in hand. Waiting in front of me was a pharmaceuticals sales rep.

Clearly, we had at least a half-hour before reaching a pump to get our allotted five gallons. Our conversation initially focused on obligatory topics: the massive storm, weather-related energy shortages, the impact of global warming, etc. That lasted all of two minutes. It was time for a more productive dialogue—from my standpoint, at least.

I mentioned that I worked in pharma advertising and that I was supporting a major new drug launch at the time. I seized the opportunity to ask him some questions: When doctors look at an MVA, what do they really focus on? How much do physicians truly probe the key clinical data? When all you have is a two-minute meeting in the hallway, what key information do you try to convey?

He was forthcoming and candid. In just a few minutes, I gained extremely valuable insights—much more than I’d gotten from hours and hours worth of reading voluminous market research decks tied to physician feedback and messaging-related imperatives.

I was immediately reminded of the old Chinese adage…

“A single conversation across the table with a wise (person) is worth a month’s study of books.”

So why is this a blog-worthy anecdote? Because it ties to a less-than-positive trend.

I’ve supported several different brands over the past few years, including having worked on two launches. In that time, there have been many client-sponsored sales events, POAs, and other strategic gatherings that would be highly beneficial for creative and account team members to attend. Unfortunately, rarely am I or my agency team colleagues invited to these types of forums.

By definition, advertising is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to support the sales process. Indeed, promotional communications have historically been characterized as “salesmanship in print.” It stands to reason that the more sales-focused input we get—and the faster we get it—the better able we’ll be to shift gears (when necessary) and develop print and digital content that best serves the immediate needs of sales representatives.

So why am I—and many of my colleagues—not getting as many chances to directly interface with client-side sales professionals today? The reasons range from budgetary constraints (“We can’t afford to have agency people attend.”) to a possible lack of recognition that we’re strategic partners with our clients (“We just need you to write and design the piece; we’ll handle the strategy.”).

Sure, we get to see huge research binders and PowerPoint decks. And we get to “sit behind the glass” in viewing physician interviews. But it’s not the same as having face-to-face discussions with the sellers in the trenches.

It may be time to reinforce with our clients the importance of having direct contact with the sellers we support. This should be addressed in initial project planning—and it should be considered in the budgeting process if cost is a client concern.

In sum, we need to have more interactions with sales professionals in order to deliver effective “salesmanship in print” … and other channels.

“A single conversation across the table with a wise (person) is worth a month’s study of books.”

The benefits are obvious. (Not to mention the fact that we already have enough reading to do.)

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