In today’s newspaper advertising world, change is the biggest challenge for advertising sales staffs. A major challenge is that traditional salespeople are not comfortable with the transition of selling digital products. The answer is to train salespeople to be educators and product experts so that they are comfortable asking their prospects and customers to buy their print and digital website packages— as well as social media and video. This is not selling one time ads but taking step-by-step procedures to grow advertisers every week in print and online.
However, in spite of all the attention that is given to these print/digital packages, there is still the burning question of how advertising salespeople are perceived by their customers. The way to build a successful and prosperous sales team is to recognize the difference between being perceived as order takers or professional advertising counselors who are respected, believed and trusted.
Let’s look at the order taker
- They could be working long hours because most of their calls are based on selling one time ads and trying to get the customer to give them copy.
- They have to re-invent themselves on every sales call and sell the customer on why they should buy from them.
- They don’t have goals to sell cold contracts every week for long range packages or programs.
- They keep going back to prospects until they’re burnt out going back to them. Their lack of closing is the excuse they are “building relationships” with people.
- The deadliest trap is predictability, the usual trait of the order taker. The end result is lost business for the publication, because order takers may lose out to other competitive media salespeople.
The professional advertising counselor sales team
This team wants to have the right relationship to openly talk to their customers about their image, how they make money, and where they would like to be in their quest to be successful. The team also recognizes that the likeability factor is important because many times customers will stop working with salespeople, simply because they don’t like their personality. So in dealing with their customers, they must be cordial, upbeat, friendly, and above all, be always helpful, even in stressful situations
The traits of the professional advertising counselor
- They have a weekly goal to sell at least one cold contract, and in some cases, one year program contracts. They have a marketing plan which will give specific benefits for one year programs.
- They are constantly planning with their accounts. They sell ideas in chunks, bring layout ideas for extended periods, getting them approved.
- The budget is a primary tool of the professional advertising counselor. As much as possible, they have a budget for every account. Their accounts feel comfortable discussing their budget because they trust and believe in the counselor.
- They know it is extremely important to tap the customer’s ego and to incorporate this ego in personalized ad campaigns.
- The professional advertising counselor truly cares about his or her customers. They know layout design, can write excellent copy, know type faces—and can convey these attributes to their customers.
Building the sales team
The team members need to be thoroughly aware of all the benefits of not only the print product but the growing benefits of the publication’s online program, which can include the power of video….. and social media. However to build the sales team there are 3 requirements for the team members to be successful:
- To be believed and trusted. In the customer’s eyes, the salesperson has to get things right, time after time. The salesperson has to be a trusted advisor, not an interviewer who pursues progressive questioning tactics.
- Know competitive media. How can a long range program be sold to a prospect that doesn’t think their publication will be a key player in their media mix? Every advertising salesperson on the team should know all the advantages and disadvantages of all competing media—and be able to show decisively why their publication should be the major player in a media mix.
- Sell long range programs with great marketing plans. This is critical if the advertising salesperson on the team is to understand how multimedia packages can benefit advertisers and give benefits to motivate them to commit to a long range program.
The role of the sales manager
Sales managers who want to build a strong sales team need to follow the following guidelines:
- Set goals for productive output.
- Make sure all company policies are recorded and memos distributed quickly.
- Give immediate feedback on job performance.
- Keep in touch with the sales team. Hold sales meetings weekly.
- Reward salespeople with sales achievement contests.
- Show that they are willing to go anywhere to see anyone with salespeople.
The bottom line slogan is “ you can’t push a string—you have to pull it”
Final word about creativity
In most cases, you can’t rush the process of creativity. You may need several meetings to go over concepts, to thoroughly understand the advertiser’s needs, and to hit the right ego buttons. Patience should be a big virtue of the successful advertising sales team—and the payoff will be greater trust and belief that the team is truly the major player in their advertising media mix.