Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

In the latest issue of AtF’s “Off the Cuff,” we sat down and discussed company culture and what it takes to build the culture you want. With that still in the backs of our minds, we’re adding Dr. David Vik’s new book, “The Culture Secret: How to Empower People and Companies No Matter What You Sell,” to our summer reading list. Vik is the founder and CEO of The Culture King, a company that helped create its now nationally recognized company culture that has created both loyal and satisfied customers and employees. In the book, Vik offers five steps for creating the company culture you want.

As day one of the 2012 WCAA Conference in Las Vegas comes to a close, attendees have already received lots of great ideas and information that will certainly be valuable to take back to the office. Current President Bill Cummings opened the first day of the conference with his keynote speech, “Leading Through Change: Leadership, Product Mix, Promotion, Pricing and Salespersons.” As we all know, the newspaper industry is changing, and Cummings’ speech emphasized that it’s time to make a commitment to adapting with it. 

Sales enablement is a relatively new concept, and its definition has prompted much debated. Is it a role, a function within a company, or is it a task? While it may appear as though sales enablement is a task performed by a sales manager, it is actually a company-wide organizational process that must be well crafted in order to be successful.

The 2012 America East Conference was jam packed with helpful presentations and even more excited presenters, eager to talk with us about how to implement great ideas in local newspapers nationwide. One of these sessions, “60 Ideas in 60 Minutes,” presented by Jason Taylor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, managed to fit some really meaty concepts in a short 60-minute time frame. Taylor’s ideas ranged from how to make changes in your own departments to how to encourage advertisers to purchase special sections space. 


There has been quite a bit of a time spent discussing the way the industry is changing. Namely, the changes in technology that are affecting how newspapers advertise and how sales representatives sell those advertisements. I am not disputing the fact that the industry needs to accommodate the digital era, however, in an industry where change is mandatory; some things should remain constant, especially sales management skills. 

In the Brainworks-sponsored webinar, Training Classics founder and president Diane Ciotta emphasized the importance of recognizing the needs of an advertiser and steering the conversation, and sale, toward helping the advertiser attain that need as opposed to simply attempting to make the sale. She said the first step was to understand the wants of an advertiser, and how they differ from the need of the advertiser.

Last year, we ran several articles talking about the importance of training or coaching your call center’s sales staff. As the new year approaches, let’s take a look back through the best practices found after months of research. These four tips come directly from you. Some through conference lectures, some through discussion, all through careful evaluation of the changing dynamics in the newspaper classified advertising sales industry. Here’s hoping for another year of helpful hints and techniques “perfected.”

remember chatting with a chemist who works for a large international research company. He mentioned that he and his coworkers make numerous presentations at conferences. "It's always a pressure-packed situation," he said, "because our reputation is riding on the outcome, and a lot of research money is at stake."

He explained that a lot of audiences try to punch holes in their research. "Preparation is everything," he said. "If we're not ready with the right answers, a project can die right there on the spot."

Sounds like a sales presentation, doesn't it? Fumble a question, and lose a sale.

Though cold calling is an integral part of newspaper advertising departments, it’s a skill that can be difficult to grasp. For that reason, many newspapers make the contentious decision to script their cold calls. Scripts are a useful tool when starting in the business, juggling multiple promotions and launching a new product. So how do you script a successful cold calling script? In the November/December 2011 issue of Above the Fold Magazine, we explored the different ways of capturing an advertiser’s attention along with a few industry-tested opening lines. Today, we’re expanding beyond opening lines and looking at some call center scripts that are currently in action.

Janet DeGeorge concluded her Getting Back Your Recruitment Advertising webinar with training tips and sales techniques. She said in order to successfully sell your new recruitment packages, sales reps need to be fully trained on all aspects of the job. To ensure that, train your reps on the following: The various decision makers in the recruitment vertical, including HR managers, temp agencies and recruitment agencies; Advanced relationship building; Design and copy writing; Full online training basics; Understand local marketing stats; How to sell against competition; Overcome objections; How to prospect for new business.

In addition to the basics of operating an advertising department (staffing, administration, account assignments, sales goals, technology procedures, etc.), there are other things that successful publications do to boost effectiveness. Let's take a look at five.

Clearly the toughest challenge faced by most classified supervisors is setting priorities correctly. Most classified supervisors get little or no training in time management. They take the reins of the new position and are bombarded with “zillions” of things that must be done right away. Most of these issues involve human resources, computer system, accounting, production or other processes that have little or nothing to do with getting someone to purchase an ad.

In addition to the basics of operating an advertising department (staffing, administration, account assignments, sales goals, technology procedures, etc.), there are other things that successful publications do to boost effectiveness.

The issues surrounding offering free ads for private-party items are far from settled at most newspapers.  In my consulting practice I get the same questions again and again, and quite often management doesn’t like my answers. Those are the managers that want to hang onto the days when we had little or no serious competition, and could profit from private-party classifieds. At most papers true private-party advertising hasn’t made a significant contribution to profits in a great many years.  By true private party, I mean one-time sales of personal property by individuals.  Any ongoing moneymaking activities, bulk items, or real estate would be excluded by this definition.  The various free online sites have served as a “category killer” for profits from this area.  This is similar to what happened to camera stores when discount stores started selling cameras at or below their costs.  They just could not compete, and many went out of business for lack of a new strategy.

I was asked to speak at the Blinder/SNA revenue summit in Chicago two weeks ago. The summit was two and a half days of revenue initiatives and participants went home with a plethora of ideas they could implement as quickly as they wanted. If you ever have a chance to go to this summit, do so. You will not be disappointed.

Mike Blinder’s presentation on how to “Fix Your Sales Organization” at this fall’s SNA conference went over with a resounding success. In it, he detailed the steps to creating a successful sales team, the brunt of which resides with the sales manager.

Teamwork has always been the corner-stone in the business world, but few understand the nuances of creating a successful team. A team-based, horizontal organization structure is viewed as the best method for creating a successful business with the involvement of all employees. In order to have a successful team dynamic, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of the mission or goals of the company.

Coaching your sales team provides them with the help, support and guidance they need to grow their skills and abilities to allow them to increase their sales revenue. Most managers and directors function with numbers. They set targets, check figures and wait for improvement. They usually don’t take the time to coach the individual team members. Big mistake!

As a leader, you are responsible for  the well-being of your representatives.
If you have a struggling rep, its not uncommon that a director or manager decides to just forgo the struggle and let the rep go without “wasting everyone’s time” to train them in a method that would work uniquely. 

If you have a sales rep come to you saying they’re in jeopardy of missing quota, again, take the opportunity to lend a helping hand. Don’t turn your back on your rep, try these tips to help them gain confidence, achieve success and generate revenue.   

In an e-mail conversation abut the state of classified revenues these days, a publisher recently asked me, “Do you have any magic potions, elixirs or voodoo that you can send our way?”  Well, now, I did marry into a Cajun family. So, while I could ask my Mother-in-law to throw some chicken bones for the industry or something, I feel a more practical approach is called for.

I was talking to Vic about the challenges of selling frequency. “In today’s economy, advertisers are looking for ways to trim costs,” he said. “Frequency is one of the first places they look. No matter how many ads they have run within the past year–a hundred or a dozen–they are putting everything under the microscope.”