Peter Wagner: The Reality of Selling Advertising

By Peter W. Wagner

It’s time to get REAL if newspapers want to dominate the local market. The REALLY big dollars will be found in our community newspapers and not our one-of-many-in-the-community websites.

Anyone can create a website in your market. All they need is a computer and some midnight oil. But only a newspaper with its heavy metal printing press and some passionate people with ink in their blood can serve the citizens with a REAL newspaper.
Think about it. You can work for a couple of hours selling a banner ad on your website and end up with only a limited number of dollars.

Invest an equal amount of time selling a four-week campaign in the community newspaper and the total dollars booked increases greatly.

Look around. Websites aren’t what they use to be. They’re used mostly for watching a missed television show or playing an online game. That younger generation you’re craving has moved on to Facebook, Twitter and a montage of new relationship building sites.


There is nothing as unique, far reaching and wonderful as the hometown newspaper. It offers tradition, credibility and depth of detail, brilliant color and something to interest every age.

Newspapers are the ONLY media that create public consensus and enforces a true sense of community in your hometown. There can be any number of radio stations and dozens of websites in any size town, but there’s usually only one newspaper. That’s a strength that needs to be honored, nurtured and proudly sold.

Local businesses want to advertise. They just don’t know when to do so, what to feature, how to write and design an ad and who to turn to for help. That’s where the well trained and highly committed newspaper sales professional comes in. If the newspaper salesperson makes enough face-to-face calls, is prepared with creative ideas and correct market information, gives competent service and shows appreciation for the business he can excel owning the market.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Great selling requires continuous training, an up-before-dawn attitude, a personal desire to succeed and the ability to quickly and smartly respond to every opportunity to make more money for their publication and themselves. Here are five basic hints that can help be that salesperson.

1. Stay on top of your game.
Salespeople need to regularly practice previously learned skills – and learn a few new tricks – to keep themselves sharp. That means immersing themselves in company training, community and association training and personal study. In order to grow, sales professionals need to read any available sales books and magazines as well as articles and literature available on key clients and their industries.

2. Take something worthwhile with you.
If you go into a presentation empty handed you’ll most likely come out empty handed. Always be armed with something worthy to show the buyer: a unique special section or new multi-week sales promotion, a fresh copy idea or a unique spec layout. Having a reason to buy that day makes it easier for customers to make an immediate positive decision.

3. Build rapport.
The chances are anyone investing in a local business will have a strong connection to the community for years to come. Take time to build a personal relationship with every buyer. That means learning about his or her personal life as well as their business needs. More important, it means letting them know about you and your dreams, building a bridge between you that will last a lifetime. When difficult buying decisions have to be made, buyers tend to lean toward the one that also benefits a friend.

4. Ask more questions.
Knowledge is power. The more you know about the advertiser’s dreams, needs and future plans the more you’ll be part of that company’s advertising. People like to talk about themselves and their business. Ask lots of questions. Take lots of notes. Act like you’re really interested in the answers. You never know when an offhand comment can spark the idea for a full page ad.

5. Believe in your product.
I could never sell cars. I enjoy driving them, but I don’t much care about what makes them go. The same thing could be said about selling shoes. I am passionate about the role newspapers can (and should) play in every community. More importantly, I believe in my newspaper. I have an advantage over my customers I KNOW before I start the call that I can help that business succeed. My customers sense my excitement and that alone gets me on the way to a touchdown. Believe in your newspaper. Learn all you can about your market and competition. Look for new ways to improve your creative services. Believe!

Accept it. No other media can offer the educated audience, editorial credibility and consistent results delivered by the hometown newspaper. Put your newspaper first in your own mind and your advertisers will put it first in theirs.


GET REAL is a monthly training memo available exclusively through state and regional press associations. For Wagner’s uniquely different, free PAPER DOLLARS digital newsletter for editors, publishers and sales managers CLICK HERE.

Peter W. Wagner is founder and publisher of the award winning N’West Iowa REVIEW. He is a frequent sales trainer and presenter promoting the values of the printed paper at group and association meetings. Peter is also available for local consultations and can be reached at his cell phone, 7l2.348.3550 or by emailing him at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *