Publishers still seeking the “magic bullet…”

Selling is a science, not an art.

Many news and magazine publishers are facing the most difficult times of their professional careers in a business environment that seems to have no bottom and no easy answers. To survive, first, the expense “basics” must be addressed. These may include reduction of trim size, changing paper stock, bringing pre-press in house, cutting photo shoots, and reducing other production costs substantially. Distribution must be streamlined and costs reduced. The US postal service hasn’t helped one iota in this regard. Indeed, their cost increases have been significant to the publishing industry. Non industry specific cost reductions such as staffing levels, rent, vehicles and expense accounts must also be addressed. If after these “basics” have been evaluated and reductions made you still find your budget with a significant imbalance, look to your sales force and increasing the top line. In the previous years’ buoyant economy, even mediocre sales professionals did well. Perhaps you were giving more credit than was due them. A professional appearing, polite and easy-to-be-with sales person, who has been successful in the past, might turn out to be an “empty suit” when the going gets tough. The answer is to adopt the “Science of Selling”. In better times for business, many managers left sales teams and individual sales professionals to their own devices and personal organization provided they “brought home the bacon”. After all, why dictate to someone how to prospect for a new customer when they were achieving and perhaps surpassing their goals. Everyone was happy! Once the economy does an about face, marginal sales people with less than adequate sales habits often fail. They need to be taught the “Science of Selling”. It’s not rocket science, but it is a science. Here are some basic steps you can take to help increase ad sales.

Prospecting: Outline a specific manner of prospecting for new clients. Apply it universally to the sales staff. Sales individuals can still retain some flexibility, but only after they have followed the required guidelines for prospecting. Be certain to generate the necessary lists for the sales department and follow up to be certain 100% of the prospect list has been contacted. Set goals and hold people accountable for them. Be specific… do you want telephone calls, personal contact, etc. Hold everyone accountable. Do not accept partial answers. Prospecting is hard work. Discipline is a necessity, or the sales staff will fall back into old, more comfortable, but less effective selling habits. Prospecting is also the life blood of future sales. And, you must, I repeat must, develop new customers. Existing customers alone will not enable you to survive this environment.

Best Practices: Hold mandatory sales meetings to discuss personal prospecting and sales successes. Have everyone share his or her prospecting, organization and sales experiences to help develop best practices for the entire sales staff.

Invest in sales management software: This will assist the sales staff and allow management to monitor progress and take remedial action as necessary. There are many packages on the market. We personally like “ACT”, but check them all out. They can be purchased for as little as $200 to $300 and can pay for themselves very quickly. However, and this is a big one…you must train your staff to use the program. Do not let them flounder on their own. Have a tech person as the resident expert hold classes and be the “go to” person for individual questions and problems. Once the staff has some success, they will embrace the technology.

Micromanage: I know. This is a bad word. Well, if you’re like many managers who have enjoyed success in recent years, you may have left the sales department alone because it was “working”. It’s time to change! The sales department will blame the economy for lower sales, which is understandable, but that is likely not the entire problem. On an interim basis at least, you must return to micromanagement of the sales department and effect real change to meet the new challenges of a tougher market. Once you have it organized to your liking, you can always take a step back.OK, so no magic bullets…but there are answers. They include more hard work, cutting costs, working smarter and most of all adopting the “Science of Selling”