The Regular Season Begins on Monday

The Regular Season Begins on Monday


For the past 15 years I have taught a fundamental skills class and operated a recreational youth basketball league. I enjoy (watching) the sport, but the reason I have spent so many years with the program is because I love working with the kids. They approach each weekend with exuberance and work hard to improve their skills. It is refreshing to be around their enthusiasm.


Each week I introduce a new drill that seems near impossible. We practice it and keep repeating it until they master it. Through the week, some youngsters will continue to practice the drill and are proud to show me they have mastered it by the following weekend. They are so proud that they have developed a new skill that will help them become a better basketball player.


Is it possible for us to build this same type of enthusiasm in our sales staff? Probably not, unless we hire salespeople in 6th grade or younger, but we can use some of these same skill developing techniques to improve the skill development of our sales staff. Following are some ideas:


Warm up before the game begins

Most people work harder at developing their skills at a hobby or sport than they do developing their skills to earn their living. Bowlers always spend a few evenings at the bowling alley before league begins to sharpen up their control. They always bowl a practice frame to warm up. Golfers hit the driving range or the putting greens before they golf their first 18 holes. Softball players find a batting cage and take in some team practices before their first game. Basketball players shoot around and stretch before the game begins.


Salespeople hit the road Monday morning without warming up. They should spend Sunday nights going over the game plan for the upcoming week. They should warm up by role-playing for a few minutes every morning before the “game” begins.


Practice developing fundamental skills

In my youth basketball class we work every week on fundamental skill development. We do drills for passing, shooting, dribbling, defense and ball handling. We do these same drills every week. By the end of our 10-week training session these kids know the drills and the strong players (and wanna-be’s) will continue to practice them.


We should design some fundamental drills our salespeople can practice every week that the strong players can practice and help the “wanna-be’s” develop into strong players. In the next few weeks I will design some basic fundamental skills and put them on our web site,, that you can access. If you have developed some “fundamental drills” at your paper, send them to me and I will include them on the web site.


What is the score?

Every week, these young people ask if we can scrimmage. They love to play the game. When they play, they want to know the score and they want to score points. Most importantly, they want their team to win. Your salespeople want to play the game. They want to score and they want their team to win. Are you giving them a scorecard? Are you keeping track of the points they score? Which team is ahead?


I have listed some ideas below to bring a game atmosphere to your sales office.

· Post a list of targeted accounts that are using competitive media (include radio & TV). Track your sales activity and progress on these accounts.

· Post a list of new accounts your sales staff sells each week.

· Post a progress list of ads sold in upcoming special sections.

· Post a list of full-page ads sold for the week. Make a celebration of these. You LOVE full-page ads!

· Hang current copies of competitive publications. Who is calling on the competitor’s major accounts? What is the strategy to acquire this account?

· Hang same month, previous year copies of your paper and competitor’s papers. Have the sales staff report on contacts that need to be made.

· Post a list of major ads from last year for next month.


Get the team fired up

Sixth graders are fired up about everything. That is easy to keep their interest and enthusiasm level high. Adults, on the other hand, are not as easy to keep as enthused. It takes some motivational tools to keep your sales staff excited about developing new accounts and building existing accounts into major advertisers.


Create some ongoing motivational programs that provide recognition for a job that is well done. Extra incentive programs are popular with short programs (like Special Sections) that require some additional sales calls and provide immediate reward for short-term success.


I hear from sales managers that much of their sales staff is happy calling on the “yes” accounts and don’t try very hard to develop new business. They will drive by five businesses that don’t advertise to call on a consistent advertiser. They will service the daylights out of that account showing proofs, dropping tear sheets and stopping by to deliver donuts making three or four calls a week on the same account. They should spend their time stopping into a new business or non-advertiser to develop new accounts.


They need to be motivated to move them outside of their comfort zone and call on new businesses. Find the magic motivating factor for your sales staff. This doesn’t have to be extra pay or bonuses. Those are short-lived. It may just be recognition or showing appreciation. One of the top motivators is for the sales manager to take an interest in helping an individual salesperson develop an account.


Bringing a game-like atmosphere into your sales office can help develop more competitive salespeople. It helps create an atmosphere for practicing skill development, developing game plans, and creates enthusiasm for selling. Every sales day needs to be treated like a regular season game. Pre-season is over and every game counts. When they step on to the court they should be ready to play. They should be warmed up and ready to take the first shot. It could determine the outcome of the game.


Here is a quote to remember:

"A good ad which is not run never produces sales."

Leo Burnett




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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