Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

The Importance of Outbound Calling

Bottom line, there’s no new upsell, gimmick or magic bullet that will fix your classifieds. There is, however, a hard work solution that involves learning new skills.

In an e-mail conversation abut the state of classified revenues these days, a publisher recently asked me, “Do you have any magic potions, elixirs or voodoo that you can send our way?”  Well, now, I did marry into a Cajun family. So, while I could ask my Mother-in-law to throw some chicken bones for the industry or something, I feel a more practical approach is called for.

Bottom line, there’s no new upsell, gimmick or magic bullet that will fix your classifieds. There is, however, a hard work solution that involves learning new skills. I am talking about a serious effort at outbound calling. The only paper I know that does enough of this type of calling is in a small town in rural Idaho. The manager there insists that the outbound calls be done, and done right. She stays on top of it every hour of the day, and leads the department herself in results from outbound efforts. At last report, they spend 55 percent to 65 percent of their time on outbound calls, and those calls generate 35 percent to 40 percent of transient classified revenues.

This outbound calling isn’t the easy money that all of us in classifieds have enjoyed over the last couple of decades just up-selling to the folks that called us. Those were great days and we made money like falling off a log. This next step is tougher because it involves real prospecting and real selling. The very idea of this scares the bejebies out of most of the people working in classifieds, because they have gotten used to always having a steady stream of ready and willing customers. Customers who not only buy, but who initiate the contact with the paper. 

The current culture is to easily close well over 95 percent of the sales presentations that are made in classifieds. Conversely, with outbound prospecting, a true 10 percent closing ratio would be incredible, and anything over 5 percent would be good. That means a lot of effort for each sale, and a lot of rejection to ignore.”

Then the phone pretty much stopped ringing. The fax machine isn’t full. The e-mail account mostly contains spam. Funny thing is, the newspaper/website combo is still the best possible way to deliver a message to potential customers, by far! You just have to find the right prospects and get them to change their minds about advertising with us. You will need points-to-cover scripts, targeted efforts for specific high-value prospects, follow-through and tracking. The managers have to be held accountable for making this happen, including changes to their compensation plan. 

There are proven methodologies that lead to success with classified outbound calling. The biggest problem is best expressed by the old saying, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” Changing culture requires many, many personal touches. 

The current culture is to easily close well over 95 percent of the sales presentations that are made in classifieds. Conversely, with outbound prospecting, a true 10 percent closing ratio would be incredible, and anything over 5 percent would be good. That means a lot of effort for each sale, and a lot of rejection to ignore. That’s why the prospects have to be high value to make this calling worthwhile. The best prospects change with the times. In most markets these days they are: specific groups of service advertisers, larger rental advertisers, and always the employment advertisers. 

Sadly, I’m finding far too many classified folks (including managers) that were great at up-selling, but are having trouble bringing themselves to truly commit to outbound prospecting. This is sad, because the time is rapidly approaching when outbound prospecting for classified ads will be the primary activity.