Saturday, April 18, 2009

Want more ads?
Stick to the basics, pick your spots
By John C. Peterson
Principal, The Peterson Group

While the industry rightfully laments the erosion of advertising revenue, how would you like to be an ad rep these days?

One sales rep I met recently tells of taking a 10 percent commission cut as part of a companywide compensation reduction, and this is after experiencing a 20 percent revenue loss the year before. Sales were still free falling as we spoke, and the rep was understandably concerned for his livelihood and family. He's not alone.
The rep was one of a few dozen who attended a daylong seminar I conducted for Community Papers of New England, "Outperforming Your Conditions."
Did I have any magic or secrets for them? I wish.

My advice is to pick your spot, stick to basics and make the very best use of your time. That's publisher talk for you need to work harder. And yes, that probably means working harder for less in some cases. Welcome to 2009.

No one is likely to argue it's ever been more difficult to sell advertising. It's not just about whether your paper is a better buy than the competition. These days a growing number of merchants say they just can't afford to advertise. Sure the textbook response is they can't afford not to advertise but that comment doesn't work any better than it used to, which isn't very often. Then we have those who say print is dead.

Sales, we know, is a numbers game. If you want to sell more ads you need to make more calls. But, there are only so many hours in the day, right? So use them smart. Don't go chasing inserts from big box stores; go where you have the greatest chance of success.
My advice is this, and in this order:

1. Hold on to what you have, first and foremost. Retained revenue is a major accomplishment these days. As they say in sports, it's yours to lose.

2. Try to grow existing accounts before you prospect for new business. They're doing business with you, it makes the most sense.

3. Look at former customers. They liked you once. Revisit what went wrong and see if something new can happen. Start with the most recently departed first.

4. Prospect for new business. Check out the competition and let your fingers do the walking. Literally, because the Yellow Pages is still the closest thing to a helicopter ride over your market. Plus, studies indicate that 86 percent of the money is local businesses.

5. Use common sense when prospecting. I always advise reps to call on people who advertise before non-advertisers. People that have bought advertising whether it's broadcast or a billboard are predisposed to accept advertising as part of business. Non-advertisers might need to be educated before you can even try to sell them, so it could be more time-consuming.

Time is money and it's a precious commodity.

I read somewhere that most salespeople waste 25 percent of their work week doing non-sales things. This could range from gabbing with workmates to poor planning or just goofing-off. Those reps who feel tired at the end of the day might disagree, but for discussion purposes, let's take a fraction of that time and see what we can do.

If a rep came up with five new hours a week we can assume they have a good chance of increasing their compensation, perhaps even proportionately. Here's the math. A rep who earns $50,000 a year has an hourly rate of $25.00 working roughly 2,000 hours per year (Everyone needs at least two weeks off.). Producing at the same rate, five more hours per week should create an additional $125.00 in compensation. That's $6,500 per year--a raise in excess of 12 percent. If you're making $65,000., your number is north of $8,000 more compensation. Cut the increase in half and it's still a great result for a few more hours.

Okay, maybe it's not that easy, you say. Let's concede you might have to work that extra time just to hold on to what you have. So be it. It's 2009 in the publishing world.

If you're the publisher, the possibilities of a few extra hours could help you sleep a little better. If you're a million dollar company you generate revenue at the rate of $481. per hour . If you pick up just two sales hours per week, that's $50,000 in annual revenue. If it was five hours the number would be $125,000. And yes, that's a 12.5 percent increase.

Think about how can you make it happen, maybe even discuss it in your next abbreviated coffee break.