Training your ad sales rep

Okay, so you’ve hired an awesome advertising sales rep.  To ensure that he or she stays awesome, the next step is training.

To start, Eleanor Cippel, managing director of sales (publishing and interactive sales divisions) at E.W. Scripps, recommends a 90 day probationary period to test the waters with a new ad sales rep.

“It takes about 90 days to build up a pipeline of customers that they’ve called on,” Cippel says.

During the 90 days, Cippel recommends an independent publisher should manage a new ad sales rep through, what she calls, activity metrics.

Cippel’s activity metrics include:
# of cold calls per week
# of sales calls per week
# of current client calls per week
# of appointments per week
# of sales proposals per week

For 90 days, a new sales rep should complete a certain number of each to start building their pipeline.

“Manage those very, very rigidly.  Otherwise, what you have is a publisher that is waiting 90-120 days and not seeing the sales results they need to see,” Cippel says.

Managing the activities of a new ad sales rep so closely allows the independent publisher to give feedback and ask questions about what might not be working.

Questions that this process could bring to the surface:

  • Is the ad sales rep doing the legwork, but having problems closing the sale?
  • Are they asking a business directly to become an advertiser?
  • Did they put together a presentation that provides a good solution for the customer?

Seeing the big picture like this will help an independent publisher determine if a new ad sales rep just needs more specific training in a particular area or if the independent publisher and the ad sales rep need to part ways after the 90 day period.

But even before introducing all of the sales activity, make sure the new ad sales rep knows the product (your site) they will be selling.

“Go over your product. You have to start with the product. What makes it sing? What’s great about it? It’s like you’re a realtor right now showing me that house. ‘This is what is so great about this…’  That’s where the training starts,” Rusty Coats of Coats 2 Coats says.

In training, Andrew Huff of Gapers Block encourages his new ad sales reps to be tenacious.

“Don’t be afraid to hear no.  Keep moving. Try, try again. I think that’s the biggest thing. There are going to be a lot of no’s before you hear a yes. That yes is going to make it worthwhile,” Huff says.

In addition to being tenacious, Cippel identifies three big lessons new ad sales reps need to learn:

1. Understanding what meaningful sales activity looks like (activity metrics).

“One of the pitfalls that new sales people get trapped in really quickly is they start doing things that has nothing to do with actual selling. They are pushing paperwork.  They are being busy for the sake of being busy, but not with anything productive,” Cippel says.

2. Learn to ask for the business.

“New ad sales people go out and have these great conversations and these great meetings.  They become emotionally invested with everybody they talk to because they are making friends. Then they don’t ask for the business and they leave. They have this notion that this person is going to call them back. They are not going to call them back,” Cippel says.

 3. Listen.

“New sales people don’t see buying signals. They are very busy talking. These sales people talk a lot. Sales is really about listening and formulating solutions. They talk themselves out of sales,” Cippel says.

Activity. Ask. Attention. Repeat..

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