Online advertising

I’m finding it harder and harder to continue to feel like I am growing in my selling for my paper. I’m stuck. Do you have any tips or ideas that might help me?

Question:  In today’s tough economic environment, I'm finding it harder and harder to continue to feel like I am growing in my selling for my paper. I'm stuck. I recognize the importance of developing a strong skill set and fostering a positive can do attitude. But some days it's more like drudgery. Do you have any tips or ideas that might help me? Thank you.

Thanks for your question. As you go forward, consider the process of growth to be an adventure, a journey or an opportunity to learn and practice different techniques and strategies As you begin, let yourself enjoy the journey, have some FUN, allow yourself to stumble now and again, but, most of all, stick with it … the longer the better and the better you’ll get!

Here are some guideposts to help you along the way…

Relax. Challenge yourself and strive to be the best of the best, but recognize that anxiety is common and is brought on by fear of failure. Overcome this fear by taking action, moving forward a step at a time and remembering — when you are uncomfortable, you are growing!

Be Patient with Yourself. Don’t be too critical and don’t give up if your first efforts did not achieve what you had hoped for. Judge your skill acquisition in terms of its continuing improvement, looking for progress not perfection. Michelangelo, when asked about the source of his genius, replied, "Genius is patience."

One Step at a Time. Learn one new skill rather than tackling everything at once. It’s not how many steps.  It’s the direction you are headed that counts most. Tackle smaller revenue accounts first, then as you gain experience and confidence (which comes through doing), broaden your account development moving to regional, majors or larger revenue accounts. It’s better to approach smaller accounts and succeed, and be encouraged to continue, than to approach larger accounts, fail and be discouraged and tempted not to continue.

Start With Questions. It's ALL about questions. Don't tell to sell.  Ask potential accounts questions about themselves, their business, their customers, their goals. Questions help people open up, they demand answers – and they put YOU in control … in addition to giving you valuable information.

Remember: Nothing I say today will teach me anything; if I am going to learn

Something today I need to listen!

NO’s!  Understand them and use them to your advantage. When a potential account tells you no, be sure you understand, through questioning, what prompted the no. As for you, guard your time, today and tomorrow, by giving yourself permission to tell yourself and other no, so your valuable time is not carelessly given away.

Accept Your Mistakes. When things do not go the way you had hoped or planned, pause for a moment and ask yourself these two questions: “What did I do right?” and “If all things were the same, what would I do differently the next time?” To incorporate your mistakes and to learn from them, simply go back to the point where you first slipped up and start again. Focus on designing the future, not redesigning on the past.

Use The Correct Tools. Whether it’s your newspaper, showing and investigating your newspaper web site with one of your advertisers, reviewing or updating some key information about your market or community (its growth, new employers, soon-to-arrive major retailers), clarifying your newspaper’s audience changes (both online and in print) or special section opportunities, use them and use them correctly to enhance and maximize your selling efforts and success.                    

Don’t rely only on your tools at hand. Invest in yourself with different experiences, looking for the teaching moment (asking questions), in continuing education and volunteer opportunities outside of your newspaper. Practice your newly acquired skills with friends and acquaintances, so they will become natural to you day in and day out.

Lighten Up.  Fear of failure may cause you to subconsciously push too hard, to “white knuckle” sell. Anticipate minor setbacks, have FUN and laugh at yourself. You can do it! You know you can! Be patient …  Good luck? It’s simply where preparation meets opportunity!

Don’t Overlook the Obvious.  Don’t go too far away from your existing accounts in search of the next new bigger account over the horizon. You may just lose your perception of that existing account and not realize that had you asked they would have happily said yes to larger and larger ad dollar expenditure with your newspaper.

Step Back.  Much like an artist, develop your depth perception and judgment. In other words, the longer your view, the smaller things become. Teach yourself to regularly and frequently to step back and look at the big picture, your overall account list or sales territory rather than always intently focusing on each and every account. Where are you going? What are you trying to achieve? What are you attempting to manage?  Asking yourself similar questions and pausing to take an overview will ensure that you do not stray very far before you realize you’re making a mistake or focusing on the wrong accounts or the wrong areas of opportunity.

Don’t forget, like some of the best symphonies, some of the best newspaper careers are unfinished! Enhancing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses are a challenge. It is also hard work. But the rewards are usually hard- earned and well-deserved.

If you expect the best, you’ll get the best! Have fun … and good luck!

By Chuck Nau

Chuck Nau, of Murray & Nau, Inc., is a publishing consultant with more than 25 years of experience, having served the Seattle Times, Knight-Ridder Newspapers and the Chicago Tribune in a number of management, marketing, media and sales capacities.

Nau’s work as a publishing consultant includes clients who are newspapers, publishing associations and niche publications. His practice enables him to put his wide range of publishing experience to work for publishers, sales management teams and senior managers on both a day to day and special project basis. He has assisted clients as a management consultant, sales trainer, facilitator and coach/mentor in advertising, circulation and marketing areas.

In addition to his consulting practice, Nau has spoken to and conducted workshops for a number of national publishing groups, state press associations, and newspaper organizations throughout North America. He has written a series of columns covering topics in advertising, management, marketing, and sales which have appeared in various newspaper industry and press association publications.