By John Foust, Raleigh, NC
I was talking to Greg, a veteran sales manager. “Our sales team knows the importance of asking questions and gathering the right information,” he said. “But the key is to write it down accurately and keep it organized. When sales people review their notes later, they need to be able to move as quickly as possible to the next step in the process, whether that’s a proposal or the first ad in a new campaign.
“To deal with the challenge, I put together a simple format for note-taking,” he explained. “It has evolved over time, and I’m sure it comes from a combination of ideas I’ve seen in training programs and books over the years. Our team likes this approach, because it saves time and gives them a track to follow.”
Greg’s format can be used by anyone who takes notes in a meeting where several topics are covered. Although a sales person goes through a progression of questions, a conversation sometimes veers into other areas, and an important point can get lost in a sea of notes. “Simply use a legal pad and divide it into four sections,” he said. “Draw a line from top to bottom and another line from left to right. Label each quadrant with the titles you want – and you’re all set. On the next page, you can continue the same four categories or use four new ones.
Here’s a look at Greg’s favorite quadrants:
- Put audience information in the top left quadrant. “This is for notes about the advertiser’s target audience,” Greg said. “Their demographics, their interests, their age ranges, and especially their buying motives. What about the similarities and differences between their existing customers and the customers they want to attract?”
- Put information about products and services in the upper right quadrant. “This tightens their focus,” Greg explained. “Don’t let the advertiser get away with puffed up generalities like ‘fantastic’ or ‘incredible.’ Dig for specific features and benefits. When you review the notes, you’ll see some connections between audience motivators and product benefits.”
- Write history notes in the bottom left quadrant. According to Greg, this is the place for the advertiser’s previous marketing experiences. What worked? What didn’t work? What media vehicles were used? What kind of budget did they allocate? In their opinion, what could they have done differently to generate better results?”
- Put notes on ad plans in the bottom right quadrant. This is the spot to write ideas for new ads. Do some special tactics come to mind? What about testimonials? Or tie-ins between print and digital promotions?
“The system works like a charm,” Greg said. “If the advertiser mentions a product fact while history is being discussed, there’s no problem. Just put that product note in the proper section. We use this format in other meetings, too. For example, in creative strategy conversations, we may label the sections Offer, Headline, Illustration, and Schedule.”
It’s all about writing it down the right way. Worth a try, isn’t it?
(c) Copyright 2018 by John Foust. All rights reserved.
John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: firstname.lastname@example.org