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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Selling Through the Eyes of a Marketer

Three ways to connect with your clients the Don Draper way

Until the pandemic, I didn’t spend a substantial amount of time watching television or streaming online entertainment – and not because of some misguided moral stance about the quality of the programming. In fact, I would argue that between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBOMax, and traditional network offerings, the caliber of scripted shows is at an all-time high. Sadly, however, I rarely had the time necessary to enjoy it with family, work, and other obligations. However, during our forced time at home, I became acquainted with people like Joe Exotic (Tiger King), Uncle Baby Billy (Righteous Gemstones), Ted Lasso (Ted Lasso), and the one and only Don Draper from Mad Men.

If you’re not familiar with Don Draper and are in sales, marketing, branding, or advertising, you might want to consider plunking down $8.99 a month for an AMC+ subscription. Mad Men is a drama depicting the goings-on of Sterling Cooper, a fictional advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City throughout the decade of the 1960s, with its Creative Director – the aforementioned Mr. Draper – as the main protagonist.

The character of Don Draper is charming, dashing, vulnerable, sarcastic, quick, and, most of all, both demanding and exacting of himself as well as others. Even though he is the Creative Director of the agency, Don tends to be a sales closer when working with prospects and clients alike. As I made my way through the first few seasons of the drama, I noted some fantastic sales lessons that continue to resonate today:

  1. Appeal to Your Client’s Emotions – Above all else, Don Draper comprehends that you have to think of the client’s happiness first. This perspective goes well beyond what most salespeople do: trying to sell a product. Instead, think about the deeper need that your client is seeking to satiate, then show how the merchandise can meet that need. By fulfilling the needs of the client on an emotional level, Draper creates a bond between product and message that was nearly impossible for a competitor to break.

  2. See the People – This goes hand in hand with the point above, as there is no better way to make an emotional connection than in person - especially now that the world climbs out of the pandemic. It’s not quite as easy to do today as it was in 1962, but if you make it a priority, you set yourself apart from your competitors that are all-too-eager to hide behind the comfort of a desk.

  3. Challenge the Status Quo – In the world of Don Draper, clients very rarely get what they asked for: they either get more than what they asked for or something altogether different than what they thought they needed. Draper and the fictional agency where he worked recognized it was essential to differentiate from the status quo. If you do exactly what the client requests, you are easily replaceable by the next promotional products company. You make yourself unique and virtually irreplaceable when you can demonstrate insight and vision beyond the client’s request.

In Mad Men, the one thing that made Don Draper and Sterling Cooper so great was their ability to sell clients on winning, forward-thinking advertising campaigns. While this sounds obvious, the fact is that most of your customers prefer to keep it safe when it comes to their marketing. What you – and Don Draper – know is that “safe” will never increase sales the way innovation does.

By appealing to your client’s emotions, seeing them personally in meaningful ways, and respectfully challenging their way of thinking, you build a bridge that takes you from supplier to partner.

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