Your ad sales team should be top priority


By Pete Van Baalen
INAEA Board of Directors

Most advertising directors will tell you that their primary job focus is hitting revenue targets.

It’s hard to deny that is a very important element, but I might make a case that it is not the top priority.

Certainly, I’m not diminishing the importance of exceeding goals. The stress I have in my work life is largely centered on how my team and I are performing financially.

But you cannot obtain revenue goals without having the right people on your team – and having them do the right thing.

Consider these lines from business guru Peter Drucker: “Of all the decisions an executive makes, none are as important as the decisions about people because they determine the performance capacity of the organization.

“Such decisions reveal how competent management is, what its values are, and whether it takes its job seriously.”

While Drucker, a father of the modern business corporation, wasn’t talking about media companies when he said that, it is very applicable to the situation we find ourselves in as an industry.

As times have grown tougher, some people have lost their focus on trying to attract the best talent.

Finding the best talent has been replaced by finding a warm body in some instances.

That is why recruitment for sales people is such an important aspect of our job.

It used to be easy to find talented people who were looking for a career at the local newspaper.

Today, we have to make it a priority to be on the hunt. And we need to know exactly what it is we are searching for in a quality sales person.

Developing a pool of sales prospects should be a regular part of every advertising manager’s job.

Just like sales reps have a sales funnel, ad managers should have a prospect funnel for future ad reps.

And just like a sales funnel, not every prospect makes it to the end of the funnel to complete the process, so you must continue adding prospects into the process.

The Center for Sales Strategy offers in-depth training on finding the best media sales people.

I was fortunate enough to get to complete their “Talent Focused Management” training program to help me recognize necessary skills for high-performing media sales people.

The Center for Sales Strategy developed eight targeted themes based on interviews and business performance analysis after reviewing 15,000 cases.

The primary themes of successful media sales reps are:

• Work intensity

• Discipline

• Positivity

• Interpersonal skills

• Command of situations

• Problem solver

• Enterpriser

• Ambition

A part of the management process is interviewing candidates well to help you learn about these eight traits in your prospective employee.

This requires managers to plan insightful questions to learn the qualities of a potential sales rep.

Business magnate and investor Richard Branson wanted to be a magazine editor or a journalist. While he didn’t quite get that goal achieved, he’s achieved plenty via entrepreneurship.

His philosophy on who comes first in an organization is a constant reminder to me on how to manage the team I’ve assembled: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Spending the necessary time to find talent in your market is a vital part of your job every week.

While it is tougher than in the past, there are still talented individuals in your market that can be successful for your organization. It is just harder to find them.

Once you’ve found the prospects, determine which of the eight traits they have naturally and which ones you can nurture and teach. Don’t forget to match the prospective sales rep’s talents with the needs of the open position you have.

Finding the right people doing the right thing is the best way to put focus on a customer. The best employees know how to take care of your best customers.

Pete Van Baalen, general manager for Fort Wayne Newspapers, is a member of the HSPA board of directors and president of Indiana Newspaper Advertising Executives Association.