The burning question—Order taker or professional advertising counselor?

December 11, 2013

By Bob Berting
Sales Advice 

Over the years, there has been an issue in the community newspaper industry, which is how advertising salespeople are perceived by their customers—order taker or professional advertising counselor?

Let’s take a look at how advertising salespeople live their lives selling advertising. Let’s compare the ways they can approach their customers and how this affects their peace of mind to make their life more enjoyable.


The Order Taker

• Is generally called a “sales rep” and could be a beginner or experienced salesperson.

• Could be working long hours because most of their calls are based on selling one-time ads and trying to get the customer to give them copy.

• They have to re-invent themselves on every sales call and sell the customer on why they should buy from them.

• They don’t have goals to sell written cold contracts every week for long-range programs.

• They keep going back to prospects until they’re burnt out. They can’t seem to effectively close prospects in a reasonable amount of time.

• In many cases, they’ve lost their motivation, which affects their performance because there’s no challenge other than being an order taker.

• Many order takers get out of the business because they burn out, by getting into a comfortable rut, and cannot be motivated.

• Many have a big weekly sales volume, but with proper coaching and training, could be selling much more in the same amount of time.

• The deadliest trap is predictability, the usual trait of the order taker. The end result is usually lost business for the publication, because sooner or later, order takers will lose out to other competitive professional salespeople.


The Professional

Advertising Counselor

This type of advertising salesperson has to have the right relationship to openly talk with his or her customers about the customer’s image. In short, the customer has to perceive the salesperson as a professional—and importantly as someone who the customer likes and respects. This likeability factor is huge. Customers many times will stop working with media salespeople, simply because they don’t like their personality.

Let’s look at the traits of the professional advertising counselor working for a community publication:

• They have a weekly goal to sell written cold contracts. If they can sell just one cold contract a week, that’s eventually 52 accounts that could be represented in their weekly sales volume on long range programs.

• They are constantly planning ahead with all their accounts. They sell ideas in chunks—bringing layout ideas for a month at a time, getting them approved, and in some cases leaving a box in the ad for any feature item to promote. This salesperson will e-mail the account for the featured item.

• The budget is a primary tool of the professional advertising counselor. They try to have a budget for every account, which has a blend of weekly ads, inserts, and larger ads for special times of the year. Their accounts feel comfortable with the budget and want to be committed to a long-range program because they trust and believe in their advertising counselor.

• They know how important it is to tap the customer’s ego and incorporate the customer in personalized ad campaigns


Street Smarts

The ability to read people is a valuable asset. Many times selling is done so much from a textbook approach, that we lose our sense of humor, empathy, and understanding of people. The bottom line is that the professional advertising counselor is a good business friend to the customer. In most cases, if a customer likes and respects the professional advertising counselor, they’ll continue to do business with them.


The Bottom Line

The burning question again—order taker or professional advertising counselor?

It’s an issue that every publication advertising salesperson has to consider. The question is about how hard work will pay off if the customer is handled on a long-range program and not on a week-to-week basis with the salesperson trying to sell one-time ads or a special one-time promotion just to motivate the customer to advertise.

At a seminar for publication customers, the following comments were made by the customers about publication salespeople calling on them:

“They don’t take a real interest in my business. They just want to get an ad and get out.”

“Pressure to run larger ads—without reason or logic to do it”

“Belittles my advertising with a competitor. If you want my business—don’t insult me. It’s irritating.”

“Not enough follow through. I might give them a rough time, but I might commit to a long range program if they showed they want to work with me.”

Start today with acquiring loyal customer advocates who perceive you as a professional advertising counselor. It will pay off. © Bob Berting 2013


Bob Berting is a professional speaker, newspaper sales trainer, and publisher marketing consultant who has conducted more than 1,500 live seminars, tele-seminars, and webinars 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 and sold 20 shopping centers on yearly contracts. He is the author of the best selling E-Booklet “Dynamic Advertising Sales and Image Power,” which can be ordered on his website Contact Bob at 800-536-5408 or at He is located at 6330 Woburn Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46250.

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