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The ABCs of selling print advertising


Start with the letter E!

By Peter W. Wagner
Founder and publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW

The challenge of selling newspaper, shopper and magazine ads can turn into an exasperating experience. There are moments when everything and everyone seems to be working against you. You hit the street early, loaded down with powerful ideas and ready-to-work promotions but closes never come.
The successful sales representative can only turn his back on the difficult buyer, retreat to the nearest telephone booth and change into his “E Man” suit. Empowered with the strength of three important attributes that start with the letter “E” he returns to the store, confronts the customer again and creatively closes the sale.

ENTHUSIASM

The enthusiastic salesperson will always have an edge over the less dedicated salesman.  The most successful sales representatives will admit their biggest orders were won a step at a time. They used enthusiasm to win the opportunity to make a presentation. Then they simply kept selling, restating the positive values of their product – sometimes over many visits – until the buyer ran out of objections.
Because most buyers prefer to be around enthusiastic people, developing that skill can be an important part of building long and lasting relationships. But it is important to make consistent calls on the potential buyers to get the best results.
The salesperson who builds relationships in less hectic times will always be more successful when it’s time to ask for an important order.
Because enthusiasm will close a sale when nothing else can, it is the most important skill a sales professional can possess. Enthusiasm is infectious. Merchants get caught up in the enthusiastic, honest presentation of a salesperson and begin to see the vision being offered. But to make enthusiasm work, it is necessary to sell the client face-to-face work when possible.
Enthusiasm can open doors, build relationships and close sales. So how do we build this priceless commodity within ourselves? There are two easy ways.
The first is to thoroughly learn the power of the product you are selling. The more the print advertising salesperson knows about his publication and how it will benefit the customer, the easier it will be to help the customer use the paper to benefit his business. What are the strengths of the publication? Who are its subscribers and readers? Has anything been done to bolster readership recently? Are there areas of the newspaper targeted toward certain readers? Does it have a quality sports section aimed at men? An entertainment section popular among high school and college students? Know your demographics.
Secondly, the sales professional must believe that advertising truly can produce results. The more you truly believe in your paper, the easier you’ll be able to build the energy and self-confidence to close almost every sale.
It also helps to regularly practice the following professional selling habits:
Always act animated. Animation during your presentation shows your excitement about an idea and your dedication to your product. If you feel your enthusiasm beginning to ebb while trying to close a sale, it will often help to get animated. The action will give you control of the moment and give you time to rethink the best way to close the sale.
Give yourself frequent pep talks. Remind yourself you are good at what you do, that your product is the best option for your client and that you are going to succeed. Most importantly, if you feel yourself losing enthusiasm, get out on the street and make more calls. Often the positive interaction with your customers can work miracles when it comes to rebuilding your excitement in your publication and profession.

EDUCATION

But enthusiasm is just one of the important selling secrets that starts with the letter “E”. You also need an education. An education in the art of selling – prospecting, handling objections and the strengths and unique features of your different printed products. A good solid liberal arts education, sprinkled with a business or journalism emphasis, can be helpful. But many of today’s best advertising sales representatives have never had a day of formal college training. Instead they have acquired a solid “street” education.
During the last quarter-century, I’ve discovered that there are three kinds of sales people in this world. The first usually works too fast and the second too slow. The first type runs into the store and asks for an ad without building any relationship with the client. The salesperson knows nothing about the client: his products, fears or goals.
The second type often talks the account to death, losing the business because he or she didn’t recognize the “ready-to-buy” signals and kept selling when it was time to ask for the order.
The third is the real professional. He gets in and out of the decision-maker’s office after spending just the right amount of time selling his publication or promotion. This professional has a thick file of background material on each of his accounts. He knows the customer’s birthday and wedding anniversary. He knows which of the client’s grandchildren play on the local basketball team and where buyer goes every summer for his family vacation. More importantly, this sales representative knows what kind of advertising the customer finds effective. He knows when the big sales are scheduled and what kind of promotion the buyer always passes up.
The successful advertising representative possesses the same knowledge and commitment as a banker or certified public accountant. He exists to provide guidance to the store owner. The bulk of that information is obtained the old-fashioned way – by asking questions. The smart advertising sales professional spends more time listening than talking when with his customers.
Asking questions and storing away bits of information is an excellent way to take care of his customers and himself. It is easier and less expensive to keep existing good customers than it is to find new ones.

EXECUTION

The third necessary “E” skill is execution. Combined with enthusiasm and education, execution gives the salesperson ability to excel. All three are –  enthusiasm, a “street” education and execution – are necessary to be an exceptional salesperson. They are the secret weapons of anyone who wants to wear the “E Man” suit.
Remember, a resourceful sales professional is ready with a number of different closes in order to make the sale. Resourceful advertising representatives never make a call without at least attempting a close. Getting a no puts you one step closer to getting a yes.
Perhaps you don’t want to be a super hero advertising salesperson. But I’m sure you do want to be successful; it’s why you’re reading this short piece.
You owe it to yourself and to your family to do a good job and earn a good living. And you owe it to your employer to work hard to improve your advertising sales skills. Your publishing company expects you to do your very best every day. That can be a terrible burden. If you live up to your potential today, you’ll be expected to sell even more tomorrow.
Your employer believes in you. That’s why you got the job in the first place. In return, they will expect you to subscribe to the goals of the company. They expect you to believe in the newspaper, the community and the role the publication plays in building a brighter future for everyone who lives in the area.
Finally, your publication can expect you to enjoy every your association with the company. Advertising sales can be a satisfying challenge or a drudgery. If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth the effort. Incorporating enthusiasm, a “street” education and execution will help you stand out in an ever growing group of local media sales representatives.

Peter W. Wagner

Peter W. Wagner is founder and publisher of the N’West Iowa REVIEW

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