Progressive prospecting for more ad revenue

July 11, 2017

By Stanley Schwartz
Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

When it comes to selling ads for your newspaper, sitting around and waiting for something to happen is a sure guarantee nothing will happen.

During a workshop session at the Illinois Press Association convention, Randy Schoults, a sales trainer with ProMax Training and Consulting Inc., motivated the audience to return to their papers with some solid training ideas and tools to help them increase their advertising.

He advocates progressive prospecting, because the best way to get ad sales is to prospect for them. Even if a newspaper has a strong and stable ad base, he noted, eventually those advertisers will go away, leaving one with fewer advertisers and less revenue to run one’s operation.

In a lively interactive session, Schoults helped the audience learn that of all the work-related things they have to do every day, the most important aspect of their jobs is selling, because that’s why they were hired—to sell ads into the paper, and online. Some people in the audience noted that they face competition from social media and other such digital operations. But most newspapers have started their own digital products, either through Facebook, a developing a website or using some form of social media to combat this competition.

Schoults asked the audience what they did the first thing after getting into the office. Most said they check emails. He said the first thing one should do is make two prospecting calls.

“Do two at the start of your day and two at the end,” he suggested. That way, every day you will have at least four prospecting calls under you belt. At the end of the week, that amounts to 20 prospects you’ve reached out to.

Everything needs to be planned and structured, he said, because when it comes down to it, your paper should be a sales organization, not a service organization. He noted that even making small adjustments to how you operate your sales department would have huge benefits in the long run.

Schoults calls it the law of a slight edge.

“How we sell is just as important as what we sell,” he said. When contacting a prospect, you first have to sell yourself then, your publication. It’s what you’re offering the prospect that makes the difference.

Some people are born to sell, he said. They have the ability to face each day with a positive outlook and want to help prospects succeed in their business through advertising in the newspaper. That takes research on each prospect you reach out to. Staying positive is extremely important, he emphasized, because it can take from five to 12 contacts with a single prospect before making a sale.

You cannot wait for ads to come to you. One might say that even a broken watch is right twice a day, but in the end, it is still a broken watch.

“Having a positive or productive mindset will serve you better,” Schoults told the audience.

Everyone faces hot, mild and cold prospects. It’s important to know what the peak seasons are for different industries, and then contact those businesses well in advance of those seasons.

Fear of rejection is a big stumbling block for many salespeople, he noted.

To deal with this, he provided the audience with handouts that addressed objections a salesperson might face when approaching a new prospect. When faced with a strong no by a sales prospect, an unprepared ad rep could be stopped in his or her tracks. But with some planning and a script, a sales rep can overcome various rejections.

He suggested using a bridge to span the gap between the salesperson and the prospect. He said first agree with, compliment or empathize with the prospect. According to the handout, one could say, “I agree; advertising that doesn’t produce results is expensive,” or “I want to compliment you on appreciating the importance of preparing an annual advertising strategy,” or “I understand your concern about finding an affordable plan that delivers results.”

With a second no from the prospect, Schoults said the salesperson should pivot by asking a question, providing some needed information about sales or providing testimonials from current advertisers. According to the hand out, start with, “May I ask you a question?” or “I know I can help you with that …” or “Successful business owners tell me …”

If this has worked, he noted, the salesperson could advance to close the sale or encourage a meeting.

But he also cautioned that if the prospect continues to object, the salesperson should go back to the bridge and start again. If the prospect is still not receptive, the salesperson should have a professional exit strategy and make contact another way.

The initial prospecting call is important, he said. Schoults provided example sheets that salespeople could use to reach out to prospects.

According to the handout, one could say, “Hello, I’m (your name here) with (your newspaper name here). I know you’re busy, so I’ll be brief. I help businesses like yours increase traffic and sales through multi-media advertising campaigns. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you, learn more about your business, as well as share a few ideas with you to help you get a competitive edge. I will be in your area next week; what day works best for you?”

Before launching into a sales pitch, Schoults said, a salesperson should do a thorough needs analysis on the prospect’s business to help in developing a customized campaign so the business can achieve its goals.

Schoults said it’s important to always anticipate your next move. Schedule your workweek by blocking out time for your various tasks. Know ahead of time what prospects you’re going to call on and script out what you want to say. Being proactive will go a long way to improving one’s sales, he said.


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