Prioritize Your Sales Calls

In today's busy work schedule salespeople find it difficult to see all of their clients. Advertisers are demanding more time from their sales representatives looking for the magic that brings results from their advertising. That additional time spent with the advertiser steals time away from seeing new businesses and potential advertisers. This demanding advertising client requires top salespeople to become great managers of their time.


I have found a simple but useful way to manage sales calls that brings good results. I call it the ABC…123 plan. This plan can be implemented in all types of time planning but I find it most productive in planning sales calls and preparation.


First, I make a list of my entire account list. I assign a letter to each account.

A – IMPORTANT ACCOUNTS – These accounts are going to make the biggest difference in your paycheck. They are high value accounts that spend the most on advertising. They are large volume advertisers in either your paper or with other media. They are the 20% of the accounts that make up 80% of the business (Pareto’s Rule). Pareto’s Rule separates the vital few from the trivial many.

B – GROWTH ACCOUNTS – These accounts are fairly regular in their approach to advertising. They generally run something once a month or so. You can depend on them to advertise their anniversary sale, seasonal clearance, and special event sales (Christmas, Independence Day, Groundhog Day, etc.). They will also be good targets for your special sections and page-in-paper promotions. They don’t usually run huge ads but are medium sized accounts that make up 30% to 40% of your account list. As their business prospers they have the potential to become an “A” account. These accounts take up much of your time. They want you to view them as “A” accounts. These are the businesses that want to see a proof on everything and take their ads at deadline (or after). If you treat them right they can turn into “A” accounts. They may not have an enormous ad budget but they will give most of it to you if you provide results.

C- FRINGE ACCOUNTS – These accounts make up the bottom 40% to 50% of your call list. These are the accounts that generally would be nice to call on when you have time. That does not mean to ignore them completely, but they are not to be a priority when properly managing your call time. They are not going to make a huge difference in your commissions or your company revenues even when you do sell them an ad. However, you cannot ignore them. Try to use the telephone, fax or e-mail to contact them on a regular basis. Occasionally, you should call on them face to face. These accounts are small advertisers who do not boast a large advertising budget. They are good prospects for a TFN advertising program. They are also good prospects for a signature ad but they can take up lots of your time that can be spent developing advertising programs for your large clients. You can put these accounts on a rotating call list that requires you to visit them once every 4 to 8 weeks.


Next, I prioritize my calls for a sense of urgency.

1 – Urgent & Important – See these accounts today! There is a time value to making this call. Urgent time values may be that their contract is expiring this week, they are going to be out of town tomorrow, deadline is approaching, or you may be trying to beat your competitor in the door this week (you want to get the ad before they place it with someone else). These time values may apply to “A”, “B”, or “C” accounts. If your “C” account’s 26 week business card ad is due to expire you better get in there soon.

2- Important but not Urgent – This should not be put off but does not need immediate attention. If delayed however, it may move quickly to a #1 urgency and you may have to do a lot of work in a short time. That is when you make mistakes. This may be an account that has an upcoming anniversary sale that you should begin looking for appropriate artwork or layout ideas now. You may be working on a new account and want to design a thumbnail spec ad that you can present next time you meet with them. This type of work should be done before you begin making calls in the morning (prior to 9am) or after you get back to the office (after 4:30 pm). Don’t spend your “prime selling time” in the office doing office stuff. Get out on the road and sell something. Prime selling time will vary with different accounts but generally between 9am and 4:30 pm you should contacting customers…period.

3 – Not Important and Not Urgent – You probably will never do this task. If it is neither important nor urgent then you probably shouldn’t waste your time doing it. The exception may be if it is an “A-3”. If it is for an “A” account then it will move up the list to “A-2” quickly. Almost everything for your “A” accounts becomes important eventually.


I think it was the great philosopher, Michael Jackson, that said thirty years ago “It’s easy as A, B, C…1, 2, 3…Baby, you and me girl.” Put this plan in place with a little music and you may become famous.


Here is a quote: “The only thing that separates successful people from the ones who aren’t is the willingness to work very, very hard” Helen Gurley Brown


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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