Industry Views

Pending Business: Your Trial Balloon

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp

Talk radio - Talkers MagazineIf you float a trial balloon, expect it to be shot down.

And to make the story driving the news headlines a better metaphor for our sales world, it should be noted that gathering information is always part of our mission. Sellers and managers should be floating trial sales balloons all the time.

Consider how many times we talk to our best advertisers to float an idea, a package, picking up a known talent or play-by-play rights to a popular team. But here is where the news story and our sales world take different forks in the road. Although the woods are full of downed sales balloons, it’s a good thing. Because in our sales world downed trial balloons mean we’re trying new things, communicating with our advertisers and not rocking along in the comfort zone. It also means some of these trial balloons make it to reality and become innovative ideas and viable sales opportunities.

I have certainly floated my share. There is a strategy behind floating a trial sales balloon to help you get the result you need. How do you improve the odds of a trial balloon becoming a sales reality? Here are some field tested tips:

— Determine your goals before you start. It’s so important to know what you’re looking for. Pricing input? Viability? Excitement? Sometimes sellers are so excited they misread the advertiser’s enthusiasm level. The reverse is also true. Sellers can be lukewarm as they focus on the transaction ahead instead of the first stage advertiser input.

— Ask permission. This is very important yet most sellers and managers never think about the advertiser reaction. What if they just don’t want to be surveyed? Always ask first.

— Confirm the confidence. Be sure everyone in your loop understands the trust you show in seeking their input.

— Keep your “ask” simple. You are asking for input. The simpler the ask, the cleaner the input.

— No commitments. Be clear the conversation you are having is early-stage preliminary to test the waters only. You are not even close to asking for a commitment, just sharing ideas and looking for input.

— Who wants to know? Be ready with the right answer.

Sellers and managers have been in the trial balloon business since the first ad was sold. Be sure to review your pre-flight check list before launching that next trial balloon.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: