Selling newspaper and shopper advertising is more difficult today than it was just a few years ago. There’s more competition online and in traditional media. But the local market still has great potential and the possibilities for success still exist. Businesses want to advertise. They just don’t know when, where, what, and how. Local newspaper and shopper salespeople simply have to work smarter and harder to get their share of the business.
I have always encouraged our sales team to prepare to sell three levels of advertising every time they make an outside sales call:
First, an exciting, unique, community promotion or special section that will be offered that week only. Such an offer overcomes the “Let me think about it” objection since the promotion could be sold out and disappear at any moment.
Second, a special request for any “run of paper” or general advertising the business might be planning for that week.
And third, a low-priced “By-the-Way” quick and easy promotion that can be pitched and closed on the way out the door.
I’ll clarify the process with some examples, but first I need to share a comment about the need to determine which customers might be most interested in the week’s specific promotion before hitting the street.
Too often print salespeople predetermine — before calling on a slow-to-respond or physically distant advertiser — if he or she will buy the promotion. In doing so they do a disservice to the advertiser, the publication, and themselves. Rather than creating lists of customers who will NOT buy the promotion the sales representative should be brainstorming who might buy it and WHY they should.
Often that list will grow larger and more beneficial if the salesperson allows their co-workers to suggest possible prospects. Too often even the most professional salesperson develops blinders when it comes to seeing the opportunities that await us on the street.
Once the list is fairly complete — but open to additional prospects along the way — it’s necessary to plan the specific approach for each prospect. One business might buy the package because it is a way to invest in the community while another will buy because he thinks the promotion will make him look good. It’s necessary to understand what features will excite the buyer before starting the call so the sales call can be centered on key closing points.
But, on the other hand, it is equally important to truly believe the package will benefit the buyer. Nothing long-lasting ever comes from selling an expensive program to a client that does them no good.
I always consider the week’s featured promotion or special section to be my door opener. It should be something fresh, or proven, new, or expected because it is respected. But whatever it is, the “feature of the week” must be something the salespeople can really get excited about.
It has to be something — a prize giveaway, coupon book, citywide sale, championship salute, or whatever — that will grab the buyer’s attention and give the salesperson the opportunity to share that story as well as two other attempts that call to close — or lose — the sale.
The first presentation needs to include information on how the promotion will benefit the community (every small-town business worries about a shrinking business district), how it will create new revenue for the business itself, what size ad would be best for that business, what to feature and include in the ad and that the salesperson is willing to gather and format the ad information for the advertiser.
Smart sales professionals might also share how the theme of the message might be spun off as part of point-of-purchase advertising as well as on the paper’s website or on other local media.
But win or lose that sale, the door opener leads to other chances to succeed. Once a decision is made regarding that week’s promotion, the salesperson should use the close relationship moment to ask about and obtain a share of whatever advertising is already planned for the next few weeks. The selling process might include readership demographics, other advertiser success stories, combination and volume rates, advertising copy and design services available at the publication, and any deadline details.
But whether ROP is bought or not, the salesperson has one more or third chance to close a sale.
On the way out the door, with the client believing the sales effort is over, the salesperson turns to the prospective buyers and says, “By the way, we’re doing a salute to the (Boy Scouts, high school football team, new city recreational trails or whatever) and you can have your business listed among those at the bottom of the community support page for just $50 or whatever the price. Most often, relieved to see the interview ending or perhaps embarrassed to having said no twice already, the client will respond with a positive “yes.”
Building a personal relationship with the client, taking time to learn all you can about the details of the advertiser’s business, making every effort to provide fresh ideas and making regular service, and “friendship” calls are all good ways to connect with a prospect. Calling on that client with a ready 1, 2, 3 plan is the best way to turn that relationship into cash in the bank.