Hire sales help as soon as possible, experts say

When should a local news publisher hire a full-time sales person? Three LION panelists with hard-earned experience agree, it’s best

October 3, 2015 by Chris Krewson


LION Summit coverage by Joni Hubred-Golden, Farmington Voice

When should a local news publisher hire a full-time sales person?

Three panelists with hard-earned experience agree, it’s best to get someone on the street as soon as possible.

Eleanor Cippel, Chief Marketing Officer for Coats 2 Coats, likened the decision to having a baby. If you wait until you think you’re ready, you'll likely miss your window. And, as she pointed out, “a business without revenue doesn’t really operate.”

Kelly Gilfillan, publisher of Brentwood Home Page and Franklin Home Page, and John T. Ward, founder and publisher of Red Bank Green, have different ways of compensating their sales people. Ward said he pays a straight 30 percent commission; Gilfillan pays a graduated commission, and rewards sales people who meet quarterly goals. She also sets a lower commission for renewals than for new sales.

Cippel said business owners should be able to “map out the potential” for sales people.

"You have to create a path for them to understand how much they will earn,” she said. "They want to know the pathway to make money."

Gilfillan has established territories that come with a book of business, so that new sales people can begin earning commission almost immediately. She sticks with new hires for 30 days, to get them off to a good start.  

Cippel and Gilfillan promote the “consultive” sales approach, developing relationships with business owners, discovering the issues they face, then offering solutions. Selling more than banner advertising expands the tool kit, and gives sales people more opportunities to make a livable income.

If you expect to "hire a great hot shot and they’re going to take over for you…that is just not even remotely possible," Cippel said. "As a business owner, you really have to be engaged."

She shared her “10-3-2” formula, a daily goal of 10 in-person connections, three appointments that include a sales proposal or “ask,” and two current customer calls. If sales people are doing the work and not getting results, she said, you can go through the process and find out where they’re “going off the rails.”

For business owners ramping up from zero revenue, hiring an independent contractor at full commission can be a good option, Gilfillan said. While it’s the safest way to start, it’s also important to know the legal requirements and limitations of hiring contractors.

And while you’re helping others market their businesses, don’t forget about your own, Cippel said. The best way to become the first choice for local advertisers is to raise your visibility, with window clings, placing copies of an ad inside the client’s shop – in short, getting local businesses to invest in your mission.


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