More Sales Calls Add up to More Sales

More Sales Calls Add up to More Sales

By Dave Baragrey


It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when your sales staff contacts more businesses they are likely to improve their sales volume. You become a genius when you figure out how to get your sales staff to contact more customers.


In 1978, when I began selling display advertising on the street, I set a target each day of contacting a minimum of 30 businesses. Almost 25 years ago, I didn’t know much about creating great advertising but I did realize that the more businesses I saw each day the more likely I would be to sell additional advertising. I was a rookie salesman and didn’t know any better but within a year I had quadrupled sales revenues generated from my territory. Looking back, I have to say that I didn’t have a clue of how to sell advertising but I had the drive and enthusiasm to make it happen.


Following are some things I learned:

· Time Management is critical  - The plan called for me to make 30 calls a day. In most sales territories that is a very busy day. My sales territory required me to drive 60 miles to make my first call 2 days a week and 90 miles one day a week just to get to my starting point. I was driving more than 550 miles a week to cover my territory. I spent a lot of time behind the steering wheel of my car. Managing my time was critical.

o Plan for Tomorrow – I always used a daily planning guide to identify the customers I planned to call on the next day. I completed the planning guide the evening before so I was ready to start on my calls first thing in the morning. This also gave me some time to think about what I was going to say when I walked through the door. I noted things that I must talk to them about including special sections, past due payments, new ideas for advertising, etc.

o Sequence the Sales Calls – You can’t make sales behind the steering wheel of your car. Since my territory was so large I planned my calls in sequence of where the businesses were located. I seldom worked by appointment. If I stopped at a business in a shopping center or downtown district I called on everyone in that within walking distance then moved on to the next area down the street. When I had to work from an appointed time to see a customer, I would plan my calls to work toward that area to meet with the customer at the appointed time and call on other businesses in the area at the same time. I never drove to the other side of town to see one customer. Unproductive drive time will kill your sales volume.

o Don’t do the Paperwork during Prime Time – Basic prime time is 9 AM to 4 PM. Use that time to sell. Be at your first call by 9 AM or before. Don’t stop selling until after 4 PM. I always wrote up the insertion orders after I got back to the office after 5 or that evening at home. Never spend the morning in the office writing up the paperwork. Get out on the road and sell! On those days I had to travel 60 miles or more I left from home never stopping and getting trapped at the office. I was at the doorstep of my first customer by 9 AM or before. I would plan who I could call on early, who I could call on late and who I could call on during the noon lunch hour. I ate in the car between calls to save time. Nothing interferes with making sales calls during prime time.


· What do I say first - The opening statement will set the tone for the remainder of the sales call. This is a critical piece of taking the customer through the sales process. Too often salespeople walk in and say something like “I was just in the area and thought I would stop in,” or “I stopped by to see if you wanted to advertise this week.”  These types of statements just tell the business owner you are there to waste his time. Start with an opening statement that grabs their attention and gets them started in the sales process. Following is one I use selling Fall Home Improvement special section: “How would you like to walk into a room filled with 900 people planning to spend money on what you sell?”  - Effectively, this is exactly what you will do with your Fall Home Improvement section. According to research of home remodeling data, 9% of all households will undertake a significant remodeling project this year. Half of those people will do two or more projects. The advertiser can send his advertising message directly to that 9% that are planning a project. Keep in mind, this does not include simple minor projects like painting, wallpaper, furniture or repair projects. They would add another 9 - 10%. Using this opening statement helps the client to visualize the number and type of people he will reach. You can adjust the number of people to visualize in the room to fit your circulation. The number is 900 if your circulation is 10,000 (10,000 X 9% planning a project).

o Do I have to have a great opening statement on every call? – Of course not. In the process of developing relationships with your customers you will get to the point of simply stopping in and picking up an ad. This happens after you have developed the account into a regular advertiser. He/she becomes confident in your publication and in your ability to put together effective advertising. But even with these customers there are times to use great opening statements. This is when you are introducing something new (special section, new promotion, new product, etc.) or are trying to move them into more advertising.


· So Many Customers, So Little Time – One of the most important things to do is to set a target number for daily calls. Every day, you set out to make that number of calls. Don’t stop until the number is reached. That target provides the motivation to find the best use of your selling time. I am not advocating your sales staff works 12 hours a day and 7 days a week. But in order to reach their target, there may be some 12 hour days. Their golf outings may be limited to weekends. They may have to eat lunch in the car some days. Selling advertising to as many people as they can becomes the focus of each day. This may not be popular with your sales staff, until they start seeing the results in their paycheck.


· Contacting the Customer – Meet with them face-to face as often as you can, but you don’t have to limit yourself to contacting the customer in person. Use all the tools you have available.


o E-Mail – DO NOT overuse this tool! Your customers may learn to hate you if you send them too may e-mail messages. I suggest that you design some sort of informative message or newsletter you send out once every two months to your client list. Keep it informative. Your purpose is not to sell them an ad, it is just to keep your name in front of them in a positive light.

o Telephone – Check in by phone with your smaller customers if you don’t have time to stop by this week. Do not make this an every week occurance. You have to see them face-to-face on a regular basis. Fill in with the telephone on the weeks you can’t stop in.

o Direct Mail – We used postcards very effectively to announce new special sections. Process color on one side with a selling message on the other.

o Advertise – Of course, use your own publications, but also use business related publications to reach your customer. Chamber of Commerce newsletters and business magazines are good sources.

o Business Expo – If there is one in your area this is a good place to connect with potential advertisers. If there is not one in your area, maybe you could host one.


Selling advertising is not as simple as whoever makes the most calls wins. You have to be able to create effective advertising, get the message seen by consumers and develop a good relationship with your clients. But sometimes selling advertising is just being lucky. You are at the right place at the right time. You happen to walk into a business when they are thinking about a new advertising campaign, their competitor just stole a customer away from them or their ad just came out on TV and was all screwed up. The more customers you see, the luckier you seem to get.



Here is a quote to remember:

" Forget about the business outlook. Be on the outlook for business."
Paul J. Meyer, Success Motivation Institute



Dave Baragrey is a business consultant and sales trainer for Publishers-Edge, a Special Section syndicate for print and on-line special sections, and Consulting business specifically designed to help newspapers and shopping guides.

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