Be prepared to approach your next sales conversation with concrete numbers, solid details and the necessary context.

By Elaina Hundley

The idea of cold-calling a prospective advertiser can seem pretty daunting. What if the conversation is awkward or stilted? What if they ask something I don’t have the answer to? While there’s no way to guarantee that every sales call you make will go 100% smoothly, a little bit of advance planning can go a long way. Over the years, weve found that there are a few core questions that nearly always come up in conversations about print and digital marketing opportunities. While your media kit should lay out all of the most pertinent details of your offerings, talking through them one-on-one gives you the chance to provide a prospective advertiser with valuable context and consultation. And by anticipating these frequently asked queries, you can be sure to have the answers handy before you even pick up the phone—keeping your sales conversations more relaxed and productive. These questions are also essential to keep in mind when developing new opportunities.

Question 1: What is your distribution or circulation? / How many subscribers, readers, site visits do you typically get?

I put these two together because at the heart of them is the exact same question—how many? Most advertisers really want to know how many eyeballs, how many views, clicks, conversions theyll get on their ad by marketing with your publication.

While these numbers most certainly tell a story, they normally dont tell the whole story. In order to truly meet the needs of a specific advertiser, it can be helpful to follow up this question with some of your own. This will give you a clearer understanding of their end goals, which can help you fill in the details around your circulation numbers.

Follow-Up Question: Think about your demographics. Who makes up those numbers? You may have several audiences for different parts of your website and social channels. Its up to you to decide how detailed you get when breaking down the demographics for advertisers. If you’re already carefully tracking the demographic data for your different platforms, it may be useful to share. If not, think about what kind of info will help you sell—and how much effort will be required for you to monitor it.

So, for example: one opportunity may reach a very large audience—but another one may connect with a smaller and more specific audience made up of the demographic the marketer is aiming for. Which one will ultimately be the better fit?

Question 2: How often does the publication go out? How often is the site updated?

This question is pretty straightforward: how often does the advertiser get a chance to reach your audience? Updating your site regularly gives readers a reason to visit more often and contributes to driving traffic. Is the publication based around an event? If so, you can talk about any engagement boost the publication receives as a result. Will the website get more traffic when conference registration opens? Does that month of advertising cost more? Does the magazine receive bonus distribution? All of this takes me to my next question…

Question 3: How is the product being marketed?

The core of this question is really: how are you gaining new viewers, subscribers, readers (etc.)? Are you making an effort to drive more traffic? Its a question that you and your content or marketing team should probably be thinking about all the time. How can you generate more excitement for and awareness of your product? Highlight the newsletter that goes out and spikes traffic every week or talk about increased social media posting and regular content updates. This can help show the advertiser that the content team is being proactive about promoting the media product and keeping the content fresh so members and other readers continue to engage with it.

Question 4: How do you measure?

There are many, many ways to measure the impact of your digital offerings—including Google analytics, built-in tracking from WordPress, as well as numerous plug-ins and techniques based on your website host. If you are not tracking clicks, site visits, open rates, etc., you need to start pronto!

While some digital advertisers prefer to use their own tracking links, many will look to you for key metrics. Setting up a standard report template will help you streamline your communication, so that you can easily share this valuable information with the advertiser following each insertion or the completion of the full campaign.

This question is obviously more relevant for digital opportunities, but if you do have some concrete information you can share about how you know people are reading your print publication—share it!

Question 5: How much does it cost?

Some advertisers will ask for pricing from the onset, but Ive found that many like to talk about what they are looking for and what you can offer first. If they dont ask for pricing up front, I would suggest asking about their budget as soon as you can. Knowing a budget number can help you avoid focusing on opportunities that they absolutely cannot afford. That said, once you have the budget number, I would discuss opportunities that fit exactly within it while also throwing in a few budget stretch” options to take them within $1,000 – $2,000 of their desired budget.

Regardless, talking about pricing is a good sign—it means they are seriously thinking through the logistical requirements of working with you. And, theres a final detail theyll ask about that to me indicates youre just about to close a deal:

Don’t forget about the Ad Specs!

Advertisers need to know what each opportunity will require from them. What size ad? If its sponsored content, how many words? What size hero image? These are the nuts and bolts of a marketing program. When providing these details, it may start to feel like the deal is in the bag—and they very well might be! But make sure you are knowledgeable about all of this. You dont want to fumble or provide them with the wrong info. When starting a sales conversation, include these details as part of your knowledge base or an informal sales sheet you keep so you can answer right away!

And rememberadvertisers dont want this information just for kicks. They will use it to weigh their options, share with their team and, ultimately, make their decision. Talking through any questions over the phone often makes for more productive conversations, but it’s nice to also have a document prepared so they can review and share with others after the call as well.

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