Getting the right salespeople for your publication

Developing a great sales force is one of the greatest challenges facing newspaper publishers today. The key to finding the right people is to hire people who have the knowledge and skills to do the work that needs to be done. This simple statement can cut down endless hours of training by management when they discover the fact that the new salesperson isn’t  the advertising consultant the publication needs.

Recruiting Advertising  

The requirements for the position of advertising salesperson should be very specific . A typical ad might state the following qualifications for the job:

  • Creative ad design capability
  • Extensive copywriting experience
  • Ability to sell advertising campaigns
  • Knowledge of all major media

Now you might think—we can train them to do these things. That’s easier said than done. If they don’t have these qualifications, you will spend countless hours training them. If they can’t do what is necessary to be a creative consultant that knows how to sell long range advertising programs, they will revert to the easy way out—be an ORDER TAKER. In other words just go around and pick up copy, bring it in to the production department, send a proof if requested. The customer will gradually begin to realize that their salesperson is not a knowledgeable and creative consultant but just an ORDER TAKER. Most of the time, this scenario can be avoided if only the new salesperson had the qualifications needed to be a strong and capable advertising consultant for their customer

The interview

When evaluating applicants on the interview, look for these traits:

  • Personal drive—have they a background of determination?
  • Empathy—do they have a proven record of bring a problem solver?
  • Ability to take direction— accept new concepts—be a good sponge?
  • Persistence—how bad do they want the job—are they really applying?
  • Appearance—are they properly dressed? Watch what they wear on the interview. Have other members of your management team sit in on the interview and get their opinion of the applicant.


Do a background check

Although many management people will want an applicant to come back for a second (and sometimes third) interview, before calling their references, this is not a good idea. The time to do it is after the first interview. On these contacts, you might find a wealth of information and possibly low marks on work performance, which may cause a quicker evaluation of the applicant.


The job description

It’s very important that an applicant thoroughly understand the job description of the advertising sales position. Many times, much time is wasted on interviews because the applicant didn’t completely understand what the job requirements are. There are even cases where a new salesperson is hired before they even know what the job description is.


The look of your operation

There are 2 sides to the interviewing process. How attractive is your work-place to the applicant? What are the working conditions? How good is yourreputation—what about the morale of your people? Let an applicant walk    through your facility and see how they interact with your staff.

Give the applicant a layout to do

In my opinion, you can’t hire people who can’t design an ad. If they are to be a professional advertising consultant, they must know how to demonstrate their ideas to their customers.

I would never hire someone where I would have to spend hours training them to do layout and copy.

Even if you have a great layout artist, the salesperson still has to know how to get the customer’s personality and image involved in the ad creation. The interaction between the salesperson, the graphic artist, and the customer should produce great creative campaigns.

Newspapers can improve the quality of their sales force and keep turn over to a minimum by developing efficient procedures to identify key job attributes. Effective hiring practices can greatly reduce the failure rate.