Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Catching the Advertiser

What works to catch the attention of your advertisers during a cold call
To catch the advertiser’s attention, you’ll need to present an interesting opportunity and carry the vivacious communication from initial contact to the end of the conversation.

Cold calling classified advertising potentials is both efficient and effective in practice when looking to make an initial contact; however, capturing the attention of the advertisers is a challenge that all classified sales reps are faced with. This quick and “easy” method of reaching potentials can produce immediate results, and the way that you call could dictate the results, depending on how you conduct the conversation.

To catch the advertiser’s attention, you’ll need to present an interesting opportunity and carry the vivacious communication from initial contact to the end of the conversation. That sounds easy enough, right? Well it’s a little bit harder than it sounds, but not much if you have the confidence and enthusiasm!

The first step in interesting the advertiser is to be prepared! Success in cold calling doesn’t just happen, it takes preparation and strategy. Focus your plan on:

  1. Who are you calling;
  2. What are you going to say;
  3. How are you going to handle conversation stoppers?

Who are you calling?

Identify your target prospect. Include the geographical information when considering how to approach the advertiser. Think about the city, the zip code and the region. Within that territory you can decide which types of businesses you’d like to approach. Some newspapers forgo featuring advertisers outside of their immediate local area, but including the forgotten marketplace is beneficial in adding opportunity and revenue. For example, you might want to target hotels or bed-and-breakfasts outside of the common advertising area.

Once you’ve established where you’re calling find out exactly whom within the organization you want to target as the potential contact. This could be the owner, the manager or an advertising specialist. Gather as much information about this person as possible. Understand their mindset, and develop creative language to engage your prospect, language that will avoid triggering an instant rejection. Think about your reaction to a sales pitch; if you’re approached with the standard: “Hi, my name is Bob Boberstien, I’m with The Star County Tribune. We offer a broad array of classified advertising opportunities. Do you have a few minutes?” You are surely thinking, “Ugh, I’m about to be sold something; what is the quickest way I can get this person off the phone?” Basically, you’re rejecting the sales rep before you hear what they have to offer. Maybe it is a solution you could find benefit in, but you just want to avoid the conversation wholly and get the seller off the phone. Understand that’s what you’re facing when you’re calling your prospective advertiser. Find opening phrases to humanize the pitch and entice them to converse with you.

Find opening phrases to humanize the pitch and entice them to converse with you."

Also recognize their busy schedule is much like your busy schedule, so a successful initial call will require follow-ups. One suggestion to approaching the advertiser is to try sending the contact a personalized letter prior to the call stating your intent. That way if they answer you know they’re interested. And, they’ll have a little more time to talk.

What are you going to say?

I’m not going to tell you to use a script. Some scripts work, some scripts don’t and some people simply panic if the conversation diverges from the rehearsed speech. But do have a few specific phrases written down for slow points in the conversation.

To begin, develop a powerful introduction. While most sales reps fail at this time and time-again, the introduction is the absolute most important piece of the cold call puzzle. Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO of Kodak, suggests that you have just 18 seconds to capture someone’s attention when prospecting, and an additional 100 seconds to convince them why they should continue on with your conversation or, at least, schedule a follow-up call or meeting. Your introduction must tell the prospect who you are, what you can do for them and make an appointment. The tricky part is, you must develop creative language to do so.

Try opening with phrases like, “I’m calling to see if you’d be open to discussing your company.” Make it specific and compelling to the individualized advertiser. Forget about who you are and what you’re selling, and focus on the person you’ve called and the issues they may be having that you can, eventually, jointly create a plan of action to meet their needs. Find out about their customers, get them talking. People feel more comfortable and confident if they’re talking about themselves or their company — something they, without question, know. Next, go into the problems that they’re having with their current advertising strategy. Many prospects will undoubtedly tell you that they don’t have a problem and their advertising strategies are just fine, trying to end the call quickly and, for them, painlessly. If they’re claiming to have an effective strategy, start asking about their return on investments and finding out which facet’s they’re currently using. Suggest advertising on media that best suits their targeted demographic, which you should already know prior to the call.

How are you going to handle conversation stoppers?

You should spend a large percentage of your preparation time on figuring out how to handle the unavoidable objections that you will encounter making a cold call. Being prepared will increase your success rates. One of the top complaints from sales reps is that they hear the same objections daily. Well, use that to your advantage! Develop key responses to the most common objections you hear. When you hear “I’m happy with my current advertising” or “I don’t have time,” you’ll have speedy responses that can still save the prospect and potentially turn it into a lead. Having a plan also will increase your confidence, your sales performance and your opportunities to close the sale.  

Check back with the Above the Fold Magazine November/December print issue to see an extended feature, including key phrases to build confidence in your opening, closing and conversation stoppers!