Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shopping Cart Billboards

Selling advertising is a career choice I considered while trolling the internet job boards. In transition longer than I care to admit, my confidence is wavering. I should be good at selling advertising. I have been an account supervisor, global communications director and a chief marketing officer. I should be more than qualified. Maybe. Maybe not. I considered was selling ads on shopping carts in the local grocery store. “How hard could that be?” I thought. So in earnest I met with the national sales director.
“I am Arlo Honeycutt. Cartvertising is a program in place in several states. We are in Kroger stores and in this market the Schnuck’s stores. Our company has cart billboards program. How are you at handling rejection?” he asks. “It doesn’t bother me,” I said with an air of confidence. After that Arlo quickly covered a lot of ground. “With our program you are probably wondering how you can make money. Around here we are really about two things: 1) have fun and 2) make money. It’s really that simple. 30% of qualified leads will buy this program. We will pay a full 17% commission on the full year contract. And you will get paid the full amount up-front as soon as the advertiser makes the first payment. You will work one store at a time. That’s how we structure this. Say there is a real estate sign in a neighborhood and it is marked SOLD. That’s a good lead. The agent who sold that house has some money and will want to reinvest in getting her name out in front of the 15,000 shoppers who shop daily at a typical neighborhood grocery. We aren’t trying to convince people to advertise. We’re looking for people who already advertise. Real Estate. Beauty Salons. Heating and Cooling Repair. Plumbers. Auto Body Shops. Anyone who would benefit from being in front of a potential customer. ”
We parted after a business-like meeting in the shared office space adjacent to the mall. It seems legit and pure enough a sales proposition. We shook hands and he suggested that riding with one of his sales guys in the field might be a good next step. I agreed.
Josh Hickey called me a couple of days later. “Arlo suggested we get together. How about 11:30 in front of the store in Festus just off Route 55. I drive a Lincoln Towne Car, it’s a gas hog but it is my mobile office.”  I found the store and Josh in his big car (about 35 miles from my house).  He was candid about the reality of this challenge. “Prospecting is the most important part of this job. I’m not very well prepared today but I will make a few calls to show you kind of how it goes.” Josh selected prospects from a local yellow-pages phone directory  display ads. I remember now how painful smiling and dialin can be. Josh was skipping randomly around the directory and demonstrated variations in his pitch. Of course, the challenge is to identify the person who can say yes. We spent a couple of hours together and focused on the 3-5 mile radius of the store. Encouraged by the call with Manns Auto Body, he entered the address into his smart phone and headed over to make a live call. It was there I saw Josh in presentation mode.”   
The next step was a conference call with Arlo about the fine art of prospecting for Cartvertising. “Prospecting is the most important part of this job. You will need 1,000 to 1,500 prospects to work a single store. Why? Because with our program you make an exclusive category sale and you will need to move into another category. Where do you find prospects? Start in the store…ask for a register tape, it has advertisers on the back, check the bulletin boards, get a local newspaper, check the bulletin at the Catholic church, drop in on the Chamber of Commerce office…” 50 minutes of this call was very specific steps and a checklist on prospecting.

That evening Josh assigned me a store and I was expected to generate a list for the follow-up classroom training on Wednesday afternoon. I don’t want to be a quitter but my wife really put it in perspective for me. “Why don’t you do something you can be passionate about?”
I e-mailed Arlo and Josh at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday. I’m afraid I am out. Thanks for your time Arlo and Josh but I just don’t see myself doing this.

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