Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

“Recently I fired a great salesperson,” Stacey Alcorn wrote in the opening sentence of her article for The Huffington Post.  It took me by surprise, and I’m willing to bet your reaction was similar to mine. The success or failure of a newspaper ad department often hinges on the sales team. So why on earth would Alcorn fire someone she defines as a great salesperson? That is what she went on to explain in her article, “Firing Your Sales Force – Redefining Greatness.” As she noted, the sales industry has undergone a complete and utter transformation in the past 50 years, if not in just the past decade. It wasn’t so long ago that we would receive a knock on the front door and be greeted by a salesperson trying to sell kitchen utensils, make up or the like. Those days are past us, and now, with the help of smartphones, laptops and tablets, consumers go to the source for their purchases, often circumnavigating the salesperson. Although many salespeople, like the one Alcorn let go, may be great at their jobs based upon previous definitions — like the number of sales they can close — that may not be the case any more. Alcorn implored readers to redefine what it means to be a great salesperson and hire accordingly. She set up three key characteristics to look for when creating a sales team to be reckoned with.

The flaw: You’re meeting with a prospective client, but you seem to be communicating on different wavelengths. When you mention a key sales point, your prospect barely acknowledges it. And when he or she talks, you feel like the entire conversation is off topic. The experience reminds you of the two proverbial ships passing in the night, with neither crew being aware of the other. 

In mid-November of this year, a brand with a distinguished reputation as a staple of American life announced its intentions to liquidate the company after filing for bankruptcy not quite a year earlier. This company is Hostess, the maker of products that have become more than dessert treats — they have become fond memories of Americans for nearly 80 years. Although the company’s many products, including Wonder Bread and Twinkies, have been taken-for-granted regulars on the shelves of grocery stores all across the country, that alone was not enough to keep the company going. Now that Hostess has been relegated to become another bit of nostalgia for American consumers, it’s time to see what business lessons we can take from its shortcomings. Huffington Post’s Joseph F. Coughlin investigated just that in his article, “Hostess Twinkies and Three Lessons About Brand and Innovation.” 

The 2012 REALTORS® Conference & Expo was held in Orlando. It offered real estate professionals the chance to learn about some of the best new advice for marketing homes, getting referrals and dealing with their current markets. It also provided many networking opportunities, as well as the chance to peruse various vendors. One of the most informative and illustrative sessions at this year’s conference was “Powerful Advertising” by Ian Grace. In his talk, Grace discussed the problems of traditional advertising as well as tips and tricks to solve those problems. Many of his suggestions caused light bulbs to turn on in the attendees’ heads, as his advice was both attractive and strategic. Although he brought many strategies to the table, the intent was the same throughout: to sell homes you need to tailor your advertising to the lifestyle that home could provide, instead of focusing on the specifications of the house.


“As crazy as it sounds, losing a sale can be good for business,” Gerald told me. “It offers a unique chance to build rapport over a long period of time. And when they conduct another advertising review, I’ll be in a better position than before.” 

“Failure” is a scary word for sales reps, whose jobs hinge upon successfully closing a deal. However, it’s time to shine a new light and perspective on the word failure. While you should always aim for success, you should not allow the fear of failure to dictate your actions or inactions. The possibility of failure is always present; it’s part of life. Therefore, we must learn how to coexist (and sell) with failure. We have gathered some reasons why failure might not be such a bad thing for your career after all, in hopes of alleviating some of the stigma surrounding the word.

It’s common knowledge that the majority of salespeople are extroverts. They’re confident, personable and extremely social beings. However, in his Huffington Post article, “The Gregarious Salesman: Death of a Stereotype,” Wray Herbert brings this common knowledge into question. Do extroverts truly make for the best salespeople? Instead of fact, Herbert believes this notion is actually a myth. 

When it comes to products and services, options are king. People look for variety and choice when searching for what to buy, and your clients aren’t any different. So, when deciding on your pricing structure for your products and services, err on the side of choice and variety, not rigid rules. 

Golf magazine runs features that focus on problems and solutions in golf swings. It's a good way for duffers — as well as experienced golfers — to improve specific elements of their games.

In the spirit of improving our advertising swing, let's apply this concept to the ad business. Here's a look at two problem areas — one involving a sales presentation, and one involving a challenging creative situation.

It seems more often than not, no meeting is complete without food. Whether it is because we are all so busy and the two-birds-one-stone approach allows us to eat and work, or because meetings are always more fun when you can score a free muffin, food is essential. We found an article on that highlights some of the ways to have a successful business lunch so that your attempts to multitask or feed your employees and guests run smoothly. This article, called “7 Rules of a Successful Business Lunch” by Matthew Swyers, details the (you guessed it!) seven best ways to ensure productivity while your members are filling their stomachs.

It can be a hard thing to hear that the majority of you success can be mental, but it’s true. Having and maintaining a positive attitude is one of the keys to success, especially in sales, because it allows you to keep going, even when times are tough and the road ahead looks hard. In “Three Mindsets of Long-Run Sales People,” an article by Ted Haro found in the Huffington Post’s Business Section, the author discusses some keys to having and keeping a positive attitude.

The first order of business for a small advertiser is to make some strategic decisions (including competitive points of differentiation, budget, schedule, web presence and co-op availability). 


People talk about how your attitude can be a self-fulfilling prophecy; “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”. Accurate this information may be, the words you use, both indicative of your attitude and your approach the situation, can either help you succeed or cause you to fail. In an article found on, Geoffrey James, lists five words that often cause failure in sales and in life.


There is a well known quotation from Albert Einstein that goes something like this: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish based on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Now, Einstein may have jumped the gun a little when he said everyone is a genius, however the premise is not flawed in the least. We all hold within ourselves at least a modicum of ability for something or another, whether its management or sales.

There is a common philosophy regarding situations where networking or business dealings can occur. Bring as many business cards as you can and spread them out to as many people as possible. Maybe, just maybe, with all the information out there, you will snag a sale. Although this philosophy makes a lot of sense, Andy Ellwood, a contributor at Forbes Magazine, thinks otherwise. In an article called, “Why I Only Carry One Business Card”, he explains why — you guessed it — he only carries one business card. Many of us, who network frequently, balk at this idea. What? How will people I talk to get my information? How will they contact me? The answer is deceptively simple. You will contact them. By only bringing one card, you force possible connections to give you their information, thus ensuring that the proverbial ball stays in your proverbial court.

Sales reps face a tough job day in and day out. Often, when customers are approached by a salesperson, they are cautious, or even worse; they’re suspicious. This distrust can throw more than a mere roadblock in many sales deals; it can stop the sale before it even gets off the ground. As a result, what Ted Harro called sales “shortcuts” in an article for The Huffington Post tempt many salespeople. These shortcuts, however tempting, can do more damage than good. They can have a long-term negative impact on a sales rep’s reputation within the industry. Below, we assess five of these shortcuts and why they should be avoided.

The most successful sales reps tend to be great talkers. Therefore, in order to close the deal you need to have great interpersonal, social and — perhaps most importantly — communication skills.  However, there are a lot of things that can get in the way of communicating effectively, whether it’s with a co-worker, a manager or a client. For instance, communicating too hastily and not truly listening are common pitfalls. Below, we offer some quick advice to carry with you, ensuring you are communicating to the best of your ability.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Sara Arnell, the CEO of Arnell Group, discussed her new concept for brands looking to change their image and marketing campaigns. She calls it “freshing,” a play on the notion of refreshing a company’s brand image. Arnell explained that, typically, companies spend years and a great deal of money to change their public image, with new ad campaigns, logos and products. In contrast, freshing is the practice of changing up a brand’s image more frequently on a smaller scale. She argues this is a more foolproof marketing solution at a time when advertising staffs across the country have to trim their budgets and make it work with fewer resources at their disposal. This is valuable information for your sales reps to pass on to the newspaper’s advertisers, who probably are already working with smaller budgets than the major corporations Arnell works with. Ensure your advertisers are constantly innovating their image and offering small changes for their customers. Instead of putting all their eggs in one basket — a large-scale, expensive ad campaign, which customers may not like — they can make small incremental changes. This way, marketing teams can monitor customers’ reactions to these changes, and if they’re not working, it’s easier to return to the drawing board than if they had spent precious time and money on one campaign that failed.

Some years ago, I met with a foreign car dealer to learn about his advertising. In the showroom, there was a beautiful red sports car — a new model that had just arrived that week. When I commented on the car, the dealer said, “Yeah, and we didn’t even find a Black Widow spider in this one.”

When selling anything, the best advice you’ll ever get is from the person you’re selling to. Your customers can tell you where you’re going wrong, what you’re doing right and how you can improve service while still maintaining both your and their bottom lines. Although we can’t talk directly to your customers to give you pointers, we have found some general advice from some big name companies about how to best market and sell to them. In “Sales Tips From The World’s Toughest Customers,” by Kasey Wehrum for Inc. Magazine, some of the world’s largest and most successful companies — like Coca-Cola, UPS, Northrop Grumman and Dell — were asked why they use the suppliers they do and what not to do when trying to sell them something.

Like any skill, certain aspects are innate. While most would argue vociferously that their skills are developed through nothing but hard work and dedication, some others might beg to differ. We found an article in Inc. Magazine, called “The Secret to Their Success,” that suggests that the very psychology of successful sales people may not only enable them with persuasive abilities but also a set of personality traits that forces them to bite at the heels of every sales opportunity. These personality traits include not only greed and competition, as many believe are necessary qualities of successful sales people, but also masochism and the prospect of rejection, says the article’s author, G. Clotaire Rapaille.

Newspaper ad departments know that conversational skills and social prowess are crucial to closing a sale. Positive social interactions are the foundation of any company, as they build good rapport between sales reps and clients, relationships between co-workers, as well as positive manager-employee relationships. Behind any good working relationship is an open flow of communication. If clients, employees and managers feel comfortable enough to air their grievances or discuss when things are going well, companies will begin to see it reflected in their public image. Although you may know the importance of social interactions, the next step is managing the conversations between staff and clients and within the office as well in order to play a more involved role in your brand image. Below we break down the communication between these three relationships and how you should be managing and maintaining them.

On June 19, we attended an informative webinar hosted by Brainworks on how to revitalize your classified ads. Janet DeGeorge, the President of Classified Executive Training and Consulting, made the presentation, entitled “Getting Back Your Classifieds: Creating new revenues with print and online combos.” With over 20 years in the industry, DeGeorge is well versed in classifieds and revenue generation. She broke down six qualities that would make the most successful classifieds possible, including great design, an abundance of ads, revenue generation, results for your advertisers, accessible to readers and great customer service. DeGeorge pointed out that this seems like a large feat for most ad departments, but that it’s attainable if you commit to making significant changes within your department by taking her advice and running with it. 

School’s out, and kids everywhere are thanking their lucky stars that they won’t have homework for another couple of months. While school-aged kids may not see the value in doing their homework, you most certainly understand that doing the necessary research and organization can help you make that clutch sale. Now is the time to do a little extra work and show your clients not only how much they mean to you, but also how much you can help them.