Some of you might not want to admit it, but there are plenty of similarities between working in PR and working in sales. During my PR career I took a brief detour into sales and found the experience surprisingly gratifying and exciting. When I came back to my true passion, I had a few sales tricks up my sleeve that I use on almost a daily basis.
Calls Are still important
Calls are a significant part of the sales process, but in PR some prefer to email and call the media and some choose only email when pitching. I obviously fall into the “prefer to email and call” category. If I had my way, I would require every new PR professional to spend at least two weeks working at an inside sales call center. Some might view this as a form of torture, but the experience you get when making 50-100 sales calls a day is very translatable to the constant pitching in PR. You quickly learn what it takes to communicate effectively over the phone. Here are some of the main rules to abide by:
- Write a script: Write down either a full script or bullet points of your pitch, do not jump onto a call without planning what you’re going to say. No matter how well you know the story, a script will help you stay focused on the newsworthy elements. And don’t forget to read through it a few times before starting your calls.
- Smile: This is the oldest sales/customer service trick in the book and can be applied to every type of call you make. If you are smiling while you are talking on the phone you sound more pleasant to the person on the other line. However, if your voice sounds monotone and unenthusiastic, so does your pitch. If the writer can tell that you’re not excited, why should they be interested in anything you have to say?
- Keep it brief: Don’t rattle on. Keep your calls to 30 seconds or under. Your pitch should quickly get to the heart of the story.
- Don’t hang up: This one sounds silly, but if you want to get through your calls as quickly as possible, keep the phone to your ear at all times, even after ending a call, and quickly dial the next number on your list. Physically setting the phone down at the end of each call will only slow you down and cause you to lose focus.
Find your thick skin
In both sales and PR, you are going to run into grumpy people and you will most certainly hear the word “no” a lot. Don’t get offended, don’t analyze the reasons why, just move on and try that writer again the next time you’re pitching. The sooner you toughen up and forge on, the sooner you’ll find someone willing to say “yes.”
Always have a follow up plan
In sales, there is always a very specific schedule and plan in place when following up with a potential client or buyer. You do not gravitate from this schedule and you always make time to complete your daily follow ups. This same strict schedule should be respected in PR when undertaking media pitch follow ups. Some have a great system and some are a bit more lackadaisical about their follow up process with press. It’s always important to put together a follow up schedule. Assign yourself specific days to handle your follow ups and make sure that you have enough time to complete all of them in the time you have allotted.
We may not sell actual products, but PR professionals are constantly using sales techniques to secure coverage or win new client business. So let’s all take a little extra time to learn some of the effective sales tactics that can only help us grow and succeed in PR.