Ad Sales Life

Know your peaks; play your valleys


A senior leader once told me, “I will never tell you what to do, but it better be the right answer!” This gesture was my basic introduction to the benefits of understanding all aspects of an organization pertaining to organizing sales efforts and mastering financial sales projections.

Despite so many tumultuous years and scrutiny, the great thing about news media is that it’s still relatively predictable, especially regarding sales planning and forecasting.

I’ve always understood that television ad sellers were great at selling value, and radio ad sellers were great at selling frequency.  But news media ad sellers were the best at selling moments. This may seem diminutive, but I always considered this point when I projected sales results and planned for the upcoming six to 12 months. Understanding moments became an essential skill set throughout my tenure as I understood how certain seasons and moments yielded higher sales and revenue opportunities. These were the peaks.

That said, I discovered concurrently that efficient leaders outperformed their quarters and annual objectives by dedicating as much energy and effort to their valleys as they did their peaks.

This concept is as old as time and as evident as green-on-grass for media sales, but it’s not always implemented.

It can be easy to assume that you’re already engaging in augmenting valley performance because news media sales have a constant goal or objective. There’s always a perennial edition, unique product or limited time section that requires immediate sales focus within that month or quarter. These initiatives typically yield needed revenue throughout the year, but the dilemma for these perennial sales projects lies within advertiser over-extension and inevitable attrition over time.

Okay, so are you proposing a sales contest in the middle of June?

Yes. And no. Before you do anything at all, there are two things that you need to do as a sales leader. The first thing that I always encourage everyone to look at is their annual forecast by month and week to identify the peaks. At first glance, it may seem straightforward, especially if you’re working on 5-4-4 week and month periods. If that’s the case, January, April, July and October will all project higher than other months because they have five weeks within their periods. But dig deeper, pay attention to holiday dates, and overlay them with new perennial events, special sections or an initiatives calendar. All things staying somewhat consistent with the prior year, it should be relatively simple to identify your sales peaks and valleys for the upcoming year. 

That was the easy part.

The second thing you want to do as a sales leader is understanding how you can help bring high volumes of sales opportunities to your team. The idea behind marrying these two concepts is to understand your forecast trends thoroughly so that you can then amplify sales results during critical peaks and valleys throughout the year. 

As a sales leader, your priorities will mature into perfecting sales projections to communicate current initiatives to your team effectively. At the same time, you should begin to develop new sales opportunities to optimize revenue results all year long, especially during your valleys.

For additional perspective, dedicate your morning to collaborating with finance and communicating projections, initiatives and results for periods one through three.

Then, commit your afternoons to collaborate with marketing, partner with sales lead vendors, meet with local companies and plan contests and promotions for months four to six.

Suppose you already understand your forecasts and know that month five will be a valley month. As a sales leader, what opportunities, incentives and sales strategies can you incorporate beforehand to augment that period or quarter now?

A word of caution: There is a dangerous slippery slope of introducing yet another singular concept or focus that may pile on and distract from the already jam-packed output for the quarter or year. Be sure to elevate your strategic initiative to be more extensive in scope and more engrained into your department's overall performance and output.

Below are a few suggestions for kickstarting your year by developing initiatives around your valleys.

  • Incentivize year-over-year retention and growth by sales dollars and retention percentages at the manager and seller level.
  • Contract with a sales lead generation firm for your industry.
  • Run a contract contest by dollar volume and quantity.
  • Build out a smaller inside advertiser retention or business win-back sales team to recapture lost dollars from the past.

As always, good luck and have a great year!

Richard E. Brown is a News Media Alliance Rising Star recipient, the former director of renewals and digital sales strategy at LPi and the former director of digital operations & sales of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He currently serves as the senior manager of digital churn for Gannett | USA TODAY Network. You can reach him on Linkedin®.


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