Finding the right salespeople

September 8, 2016

By Bob Berting
Sales Advice

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 it’s discovered that the new salesperson isn’t  the advertising consultant the publication needs.


Recruitment Advertising 

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

• Creative ad design capability.

• Extensive copywriting experience.

• Ability to sell advertising campaigns.

• Knowledge of all major media.

You might think that you could train someone to do these things. That’s easier said than done. If the person does not have these qualifications, you will end up spending countless hours training them. If he or she can’t do what is necessary to be a creative consultant who knows how to sell long-range advertising programs, he or she will revert to the easy way out—just be an order taker. In other words, someone who just goes around and picks up copy, takes it in to the production department and sends a proof, if requested. The customer will gradually begin to realize that this salesperson is not a knowledgeable or creative, 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 customers.


The interview

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

• Personal drive—the applicant should have a background of determination.

• Empathy— the applicant should have a proven record of being a problem solver and identify with the customer.

• Ability to take direction—the applicant should be able to accept new concepts; be a good sponge.

• Persistence—the applicant should desperately want the job; what’s the reason he or she is really applying?

• Appearance—the applicant should be properly dressed. Observe the person’s attire. 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 contacting references, this is not a good idea. The time to do this is after the first interview. During these contacts, you might find a wealth of information, which could lead to possibly low marks on work performance, engendering a quicker evaluation of the applicant.


The job description

It’s important that an applicant thoroughly understand the job description of the advertising sales position. Many times, a lot of time is wasted on interviews because the applicant didn’t completely understand what the job requirements were. There have been cases where a new salesperson was hired before he or she even knew what the job description is.


The look of your operation

There are two sides to the interviewing process. How attractive is your workplace to the applicant? What are the working conditions? How good is your reputation as an employer? What is the morale of your people? Let an applicant tour your facility and see how he or she interacts with your staff.


Give the applicant a layout to do

In my opinion, you can’t hire ad salespeople who can’t design an ad. If he or she is to be a professional advertising consultant, he or she must know how to demonstrate his or her ideas to the 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 process. 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 turnover to a minimum by developing efficient procedures to identify key job attributes. Effective hiring practices can greatly reduce the failure rate of your sales reps. © Bob Berting 2016


Bob Berting is a professional speaker, newspaper sales trainer, and publisher marketing consultant who has conducted more than 1,500 seminars for newspaper sales staffs, their customers, print media associations and trade associations in the U.S. and Canada. Bob’s advertising sales record in the industry is impressive. For 15 years, he averaged two cold contracts a week, sold 20 shopping centers on yearly contracts, and rarely sold an advertising contract for less than 52 weeks or 1,000 inches during a year. He is the author of the E-Book “Advanced Selling Skills For The Advertising Sales Pro” which can be ordered on at Bob also conducts tele-seminars and webinars for advertising salespeople, their customers, print media associations, merchant groups, and trade associations. Contact Bob at 800-536-5408 and He is located at 6330 Woburn Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46250.


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