Selling newspaper advertising is much like any other sales job, but there are some significant differences. Understanding what makes newspaper ad sales different is key to being successful. Keep in mind, however, that selling newspapers is not easy. If you are not afraid of an often-frustrating ramp-up time and some good, old-fashion hard work, then selling ads for a newspaper might be a very rewarding career. Getting started properly is imperative. Keeping the following steps in mind will help you immensely.

Things You Will Need
  • A reliable vehicle

  • Adequate cell phone minutes if your paper does not provide you with a phone

  • Day planner or PDA

How to Sell Newspaper Advertising

Know your paper. As a newspaper ad representative, its important for you to know everything about your newspaper. If you are brand new and are making cold calls, you will be bombarded with questions about your publication. If you can answer them properly, you will build credibility with your prospects. If you fumble and can't provide solid information, you will struggle miserably. It is important to know the following: 1. The circulation numbers of your newspaper: How many people read it on a regular basis and to how many homes does it reach? 2. Who reads your newspaper? It's important for potential ad clients to know if the people in their markets will see their ad. Know your readership! 3. Where does your newspaper stand in relation to other publications in your market? Are you the first, second, third or fourth most-read paper in your area? Your editor or publisher will furnish you with these statistics. It is recommended that you spend at least on full week getting familiar with your newspaper before you attempt to represent it on the streets.

Know your ad rates and sizes. You must be familiar with your rates and the size of each ad you have for sale. Newspaper ads are sold either by the column-inch or by the pages, which are subdivided into specific sizes such as Full-page, Half-page, 1/4-page, etc. Your editor and publisher will provide you with how they size your paper's ads. It is crucial that you become fully-able to spot an ad and recognize its size. Commit this information to memory.

Make a list of the businesspeople you know. After you are thoroughly familiar with your paper, start making calls to set up sales. If you are new to the ad sales game, it is safe to assume that you will not have an existing book of business. That certainly does not mean that you won' t be able to start selling out of the gate. Almost everyone knows someone who's either in management or owns a business. This is your immediate market. Pick up the phone and contact these people. Note: Do not attempt to sell over the phone in the beginning. Your immediate goal is to set appointments to sit down with your prospects to make presentations.

Follow a schedule. Depending on what your hours are and what is required of you, creating a schedule is a must. A good way to start is to break your work day up into two blocks of time. Your morning should be used to make as many phone calls as possible. Your goal should be to fill up your afternoon with face-to-face appointments. Note: If you are calling on restaurant and bar owners, it is wise to only schedule appointments with them during times when they aren't terribly busy. A good rule of thumb is to set three face-to-face appointments per day. You must save time to make at least 2 or 3 cold call appointments and get back to the office to plan your next day.

Know when to close the sale. Because the newspaper industry is very fast-paced, it is important for you to create a sense of urgency for your prospects. If are able to sit down with a potential client and you do an effective presentation, ask for the sale and get their ad in your next available issue. Don't be pushy, however. Nobody likes to be forced into anything. However, keep in mind that you are not selling a physical product like an automobile or copy machine. Your job is to sell the "concept" of newspaper advertising. This is why, to be successful selling newspaper ads, you must not be afraid to ask questions such as "In what section of the paper do you want your ad to appear in our next issue?" If your customer balks, allow him or her to think about it for awhile. Don't rush them, especially in the beginning. Make another appointment or call them the next day.

Sell from the top down. This step is extremely important. Regardless of your prospect's budget, show them your largest and most expensive ad first. They may only be thinking about a small ad, however, they may not understand that by spending a bit more money, they will be using their advertising dollars more wisely. Your customers will often pick small ads.

There are three keys to selling larger ads. If you, the sales representative, understand these three keys, you will be able to sell them to your customers. The most effective ads have: 1. Size. Larger ads are going to be seen first. 2. Frequency. An ad that runs only once will be forgotten very quickly if ever seen at all. Running small ads only once or twice is truly a waste or money. 3. Color. Ads with color stand out and give your client's business credibility.

These three points are very important in getting your prospects thinking about larger ads. Again, you must sell from the top of your rate card down. Do not lead with a small ad then attempt to up-sell your client to a larger spot. Get them thinking big from the start. Upgrading them to larger ads can be done after you have built a relationship with your customers.

Become a master at follow-up. You will find, after your first couple of months, that the majority of your sales will happen as a result of follow up calls. Even seasoned pros don't walk in and make sales during first visits. You should make a follow-up call or visit no later than 3 to 5 days after your first presentation. After 8 or 10 unsuccessful attempts to close a prospect, move on to another customer. Your time is too valuable to waste on those who are not ready to buy.


Always follow the advice of the seasoned pros in your office. Ask as many questions as possible. Bring a manager or an experienced sales person with you on your first few appointments. Take constructive criticism well. Use sales training materials whenever you can. I, personally, recommend training aids by Tom Hopkins.


Always ask a new prospect if he or she is already working with an advertising representative from your paper. You don't want to step on your colleagues' toes.