SELLING THROUGH ADVERSITY
About Tom’s Book
Over the decades, there have been events that are watershed turning points for local advertisers and their media partners. Events that become game changers that launch us into periods of “the worst we’ve ever seen.”
October 22, 1987. “Black Monday”. The Dow Jones fell by 508 points, the largest drop in one day in history. It was the worst we’d ever seen.
September 11, 2001. 9/11. It changed the course of our history. Rules changed for how business was conducted. It was the worst we’d ever seen.
September 29, 2008. The Great Recession. On September 29, 2008, the stock market collapsed when the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a bailout bill. By fourth quarter 2008, every business was in panic mode. So were the managers and account executives at the media outlets they partnered with. It was the worst we’d ever seen… until now.
The COVID-19 pandemic has set the next “worst we’ve ever seen” standard. It will be a tough go for local businesses and their media partners for quite a while. But there are lessons we can learn from the last “worst we’ve ever seen” climate that can guide us along the way to recovery.
Recession Lessons is a collection of articles written from Tom Ray’s time on the streets during the lead up to and the darkest days of the Great Recession, and the recovery period thereafter. The articles are a collection of thoughts on sales, advertising, and inspiration/motivation. The articles appear as they were originally written, along with updated commentary. The lessons learned from the last “worst we’ve ever seen” can help us navigate the dark waters ahead.
69 different lessons learned during the Great Recession that will help you navigate the current “worst conditions we’ve ever seen.”
The Confusion of Choices
Ways to Reduce Risk
When to Advertise Price
How to be a Good Soldier
I had five Zoom video meetings today with five individual account executives from across the country. Emotions ranged from optimism to fear to helplessness to utter defeat. It’s tough out there. Damn tough. For everyone.
We are in a very difficult but rewarding business. We help local businesses survive and thrive, we apply our advertising and marketing expertise, using the tools our companies provide—both over the air and digitally—and we help businesses educate and inform their target. It’s all I’ve ever done for more than 35 years, and I love it.
Over the course of those 35 years, I’ve seen good times and some not-so-good times. When the economy is humming, when consumer confidence is high, when business is good, it’s a blast. Optimistic business decision-makers are apt to try new and different things as the risk is lower. Mistakes hurt less. It’s fun. When things are iffy, when disruption is in the air, when gas is $3 a gallon—then $4—when political uncertainty reigns, it gets a little more serious dealing
with local decision-makers.
Then there are events that are watershed specific turning points that change the game.
October 22, 1987. “Black Monday.” The DJIA fell by 508 points (22.6%), the largest percentage drop in one day in history. I was selling radio advertising. I was young—in my late twenties. I knew something was serious, but I didn’t quite understand the scope of it. All I knew was that my billing took a hit, for
a while. Thankfully, I worked at a classic rock powerhouse, and I had enough bars and nightclubs on my list to get me through. (We like to drink when things go south).
It was the worst I’d ever seen.
September 11, 2001. 9/11. I was the Director of Sales for an Internet development company. We were in our weekly production meeting when our lead developer’s wife called three times to tell him a plane had crashed into the tower. We went on with our meeting. We spent the rest of the day in the big conference room watching the news, in silence. I remember looking into the skies for days, at nothing. No planes. No white streaks. I think our spirits were more hurt than our business. It was a game-changer.
It was the worst I’d ever seen.
September 29, 2008. The Great Recession. On September 29, 2008, the stock market collapsed when the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a bailout bill. I was traveling the country as a sales and advertising consultant (as I still do). I had been feeling the effects of the failing economy all year. Throughout the course of 2008, I met ag-related businesses in the Midwest who were nervous about prices. I met car dealers all over the country who were watching inventory, I met furniture store owners, bankers, home builders, and people in every other category imaginable who were beyond nervous. By October 2008, every business I met with was in panic mode. So were the managers and account executives at the media outlets I teamed with.
It was the worst I’d ever seen.
And so, I spent the years of the Great Recession—starting really in 2007 all the way through to 2011 for many—meeting local advertisers across the United States. I travelled at least every other week, racking up frequent flier miles and visiting local businesses. I worked side by side with local media account executives and managers trying to save budgets, create ideas, stay positive, be realistic. But it was tough.
It’s tough when you say to a business owner, “Thanks for your time today. I’ll be back in three weeks and I’ll bring you some ideas.” And the business owner says, “Brother, I may not be in business in three weeks.” That happened to me more than once.
It’s tough when you hop into an account executive’s car for our first ride of the week together and I enthusiastically greet them with, “Hi! How’s it goin’?” And their response is, “Well, I’m gonna make twenty grand less this year. How do you think it’s goin’?” That happened to me more than once… a month.
The Great Recession. Nothing “Great” about it. It sucked. Businesses went under. Good people, good AE’s, good managers left our business. Unlike the single event of 9/11, it was a slow burn. If 9/11 was a Mike Tyson first-round knockout punch, the Great Recession was an Ali-Frazier 15-round slobberknocker. You just didn’t know when it was going to end!
Did I mention it was the worst I’d ever seen?
March 11, 2020. The Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic. On March 11, 2020, a player on the Utah Jazz preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19. It triggered a league-wide suspension of play. Things just got real. Sure, we had all been aware of this virus for months. In January of 2020, Jim Doyle &Associates hosted 150 high-performing managers at our Boot Camp. My kickoff introduction on Sunday morning, January 26th, was basically a 15-minute monologue of jokes. I had rehearsed the day before with my wife. “Welcome to the Suncoast of Florida! Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I hope you have a chance to visit them while you’re here. But be careful, there have been reports of Coronavirus on Siesta Key Beach. Yeah. You get on the beach, see someone open a Corona, and you immediately want one!”
Thankfully, my wife nixed that joke.
For me, the NBA season suspension was the moment the game changed. It was here, it was real. And it started the dominoes tumbling. Events cancelled. Leagues suspended play. My schedule fell apart. Jackson, MS on March 19th, postponed. Amarillo on the 26th, cancelled. Miami on March 31st, don’t even think about it.
By Monday, March 16th, our team huddled on our regular Monday morning Zoom meeting and began strategizing. By Thursday the 19th, we were hosting a webinar for all of our media partners titled, “Dealing with Disruption.” Attendance exceeded our 500-registrant capacity. We gave tips on how to Work from Home Effectively and Tips for Video Conferencing. By Tuesday, March 24th, I was a guest on the Kentucky State Broadcasters roundtable call-in with Governor Andy Beshear and former US Senator and President of the NAB, Gordon Smith. By Friday, March 27th, I was hosting a Special Edition of our MONEY CALL, sharing an hour of ideas to take to advertisers to address COVID-19.
By the hour, we were learning of advertiser cancellations—massive and immediate cancellations—for our partners in markets big and small, all over the country. We were told not to show up at the office. On Tuesday, March 31st, I spent a half hour on Facebook Live, reading children’s stories as a way to give our “work from home/teach from home/try to keep it together from home” parents a break. I ended my Facebook Live session by playing Bob Marley on my ukulele. “Don’t worry, about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be all right.”
This is the worst I’ve ever seen.
I’m not a “futurist.” I don’t like to predict things. I’m much more of a “presentist” (I think I made that word up). I like to address what’s happening today. So, I’ll leave the prognostication to those much smarter than I, except to say, it’s bad and it’s going to be bad.
Today, while I was meeting with five different account executives, I thought, “What can I tell these wonderful AE’s about selling through adversity?” I said, “Stay active. Action promotes activity.” And “don’t lose alone. Keep your managers in the loop on everything.” That was a mantra at the radio station where I worked during the 80’s. I wrote an article about it during the Recession. I said, “Avoid the naysayers. Focus on ROI. Reduce risk…” I wrote articles about all of this during the Recession.
I’ve written a lot for our various Jim Doyle & Associates newsletters, publications, and training platforms. In fact, in 2008, I committed to writing at least one article a week for our previously published AE newsletter, The Achiever’s Circle. It was probably my most prolific period of regular writing. The content was driven by my every-other-week travels and the 25-plus meetings per week with local advertisers. Throughout 2008 and 2009, the conditions were the worst I’d ever seen, for advertisers and account executives.
This book is a collection of those articles. It’s all the lessons I learned during my time on the streets leading up to, and in the midst of, the darkest days of the Great Recession and the recovery period thereafter. The articles are a collection of thoughts on sales, advertising, and inspiration/motivation. I’ll share the articles as they were originally written, and I’ll add some updated commentary. The lessons we learned from the last “worst I’ve ever seen,” can help us navigate the dark waters ahead.
About the author.
Tom Ray is Executive Vice President of JDA.media, the nation’s premier media sales and marketing consultancy. Recognized as a Certified Speaking Professional by the National Speakers Association, Tom regularly travels the country addressing local advertisers and their media partners.
Tom is author of the Amazon best-seller, Branding is OUT, Results are IN! Lessons for the LOCAL Advertiser.
I’ve spend a nice, quiet afternoon reading your new book. Tom, I have to say this is one of the best, most comprehensive sales reads I’ve had in a long time. Not only do you jolt my memory on practices I’ve heard for years from JDA, you also tie-in and tweak these principles to the conditions we all face today.
Mike – VP/GM
I started reading your e-book last night and know that things have dramatically changed in your world too. Thanks for the positive messages.
John – LSM
My proposal had been written for days and was ready to go. Not only did I go back in and change my title, but after reading the first 50 pages, I went back in and added the Proceed page. When I got to that page in my proposal, I asked them the question and shut up. The owner said, “well, I definitely don’t want to stop the process." They said yes to a campaign.
Brett – AE
Thanks for the gentle reminders that during these times, we need to get back to basics. I had gotten away from some of those basics recently.
Sue – AE