What is Ziff-Davis Structured Selling Ad-Sales Training?

Ziff-Davis is legendary in the magazine industry for its dedication to sales training and in particular for the structured selling approach it demanded of its sales people. I learned about structured selling as a young (and I thought) hot-shot Advertising Director when I joined Ziff-Davis and Backpacker Magazine from American Film Magazine.

I had been very successful at American Film, growing the business by a factor of 5 in 4 years, with my untrained energy and sincerity. I quickly found out there was a lot more to learn.

Ziff-Davis is famous for much more than just rigorous training. The Ziff family and its leader William Ziff Jr. is famous for building a special interest magazine empire and selling it to CBS for over $700,000,000, a seemingly giant sum at the time, but keeping a little-known magazine called PC, around which would build the computer publishing empire that was sold to a private equity company Forstmann Little for about twice a much.

The leaders of Ziff, starting with Bill Ziff himself, and Hersel Sarbin, Dick Friese and Al Traina, understood that media sales required more than a smile and a shoe shine. For each of its magazines Ziff invested in market research that not only measured magazine readership, but also market size information for the specialized products in its interest area, and it gathered information on the way consumers went about deciding which boots or backpacks to buy — for instance — in the Backpacker market, or boats in the Boating market, or skis in the Skiing market.

The structured sales process they demanded focused on bringing value to the sales conversation with market information in order to establish easily shared agreement on the client’s needs well before telling all about a magazine such as Backpacker. Establishing shared agreement to a set of assumptions is the only way to persuade using logic. And logic, not likability, not sincerity, not guilt from accepted favors, is the only portable form of persuasion that allows sales prospects to persuade their own superiors to support the purchase of media.

I didn’t stay at Backpacker long before I moved on to House Beautiful and later a corporate sales position at Hearst Magazines, but I took with me the learning of how to establish easy agreement to the client’s needs before going on with the sales process to tell them about my media.

Since 1994, I have been consulting and conducting sales training that incorporates the principles of structured sales tactics that I learned at Ziff-Davis. Here they are. In the sales process — embodied by your sales presentation:

  • Market: Establish, quickly, that you understand the ad-buyers situation to achieve easy agreement about how much business they have and how much market opportunity there is to grow their business.
  • Media: Help your prospect see and agree to the research on how their own prospective customers use media to be reminded, inspired, informed, motivated or persuaded to purchase the potential advertised product.
  • Property: Show how your media property or service influences consumers in the way your prospect just agreed that customers are motivated, persuaded, reminded, or inspired to buy.
  • Proposal: Show your about-to-be customer a proposal of how to use your property with advertising and marketing services to grow their sales.

At each stage of this persuasion, stop and ask for agreement, or smoke out objections to handle, before going on to the next logical step. If a prospect doesn’t agree to the opportunity for sales, and what triggers his customers to buy, why would he agree to your proposal? Step-by-structured-step agreement is important.

By following this sales process, conducting a conversation that leads from easy agreement to closing, the very best advertising sales people get more meetings and win more business than others. They use the principle of influence that persuasion expert Robert Caldini calls “commitment and consistency.” Once your prospect has agreed to the assumptions up front, on which you base your logic, the natural human instinct to be consistent will help you win more business.

Utilizing “commitment and consistency” is one of the 5 Secrets of the Masters of Media Selling.  Watch a video with more about all 5 secrets.

Learn how to use these principles of advertising sales by attending my public seminars Masters of Media Selling, or engage me to create custom Strategic Sales Tactics Training for your whole ad-sales team.



About Daniel M. Ambrose

Ambrose, launched ambro.com, corp. in 1994 to provide sophisticated strategy consulting and advertising sales training to advertising-driven media clients in the U.S. and abroad. Starting with the founding of About.com and iVillage in 1995, ambro.com has worked with hundreds of clients to help accelerate advertising revenue growth.