Selling Ad Campaigns is Hard Work

Bob Berting

These must seem like the roughest of times for advertising salespeople, with so much talk about the status of newspapers in the media mix. But one thing advertising salespeople must keep in mind is that for all their troubles, newspapers are seen by media buyers as a vital part of the media mix in any community.

Media buyers would like to see newspapers rebound and reinvent themselves. Ad salespeople need to have the motivation and desire to accomplish their goals of selling retail merchant prospects and media buyers with more motivation and enthusiasm. The following tips will help them compete in this new, tougher environment:

1. “Let me tell you who reads my paper.”

You may be selling ad space in your paper, but the advertiser is buying your readership and your readership is your greatest asset on a sales call. The readers of the publication are the people advertisers want to reach. You can’t know too much about these people. The more you know, the better results you’ll have in selling your publication.

2. “My paper can boost your sales.”

Advertisers want and expect data on what they can expect of their ad dollars, but few newspapers have the research to prove their publications can deliver. Worse, they simply don’t sell advertising that way. So get the research going. Get testimonials where you can. Make the argument.

3. “I believe in my paper. I believe in free papers.”

Selling free paper advertising these days is tough. So many papers are dying or already dead. But you have to believe. If you don’t believe, you’ll sell fewer ad campaigns. You can be a believer by mastering points one and two. Know your reader and be able to prove advertising in your paper can deliver.

4. “I can sell against my media competition.”

The old newspaper days were great. You were the one paper in a one-newspaper town. Media was a silo business. Each silo had its slice of media dollars it could call its own. Digital came along and blew the silos down. Now everyone competes for every scrap of business. To sell in this new environment, you need to know your paper, but you also need a deep understanding of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. All have weaknesses. Catalog all the arguments against newspaper advertising and marshal arguments knocking each one down. Put yourself in the position of the advertiser facing many media choices. How does he or she choose? How do you help him or her choose? By understanding all the choices.

5. “I know what’s in my paper because I read every page of it”

The worst thing an advertising salesperson can do is to flub a simple question about the paper. You come off not caring, and in front of someone who you want to invest ad dollars. Assume the person you are selling has read your paper and has read it for years. You need to read your paper every day and be able to discuss what’s in it. You are the advertiser’s one human link to the paper. Put it to work for you.

Media has curves of changes. What is true one day may not be true the next. You must know about all the changes. You must closely follow not just other newspapers but all media:  radio, TV, billboards, direct mail, Facebook, and of course all things digital.

Bob is a professional speaker, advertising sales trainer, publisher marketing consultant, and columnist in many national and regional newspaper trade association publications. He is president of Berting Communications and can be reached at or 317-849-5408. He is currently offering his new e-book for the newspaper industry, “Power Selling Tools For The Advertising Sales Consultant”.  It has content for both beginning and experienced salespersons.  Go to to order this and other e-books on a bundled-purchase basis.