HIRING NEW TALENT: With an increasing portfolio of products and services, newspapers should learn to think outside the box when recruiting salespeople.

Author:Knolle, Sharon

What's harder than landing an advertising client? These days, it's likely more challenging to find a salesperson with the right skill set and the necessary dedication. And once you do find them, how do you keep them in such a competitive market?

As newspapers branch out into new revenue streams, E&P talked to sales experts who mapped out the biggest challenges in recruiting talented sales staff and what they're looking for in today's media landscape.

Beyond asking "What makes a great salesperson?" Jed Williams, chief innovation officer at Local Media Association (LMA), said publishers should be asking, "Why is securing elite sales talent so difficult?"

"Interestingly, what's not necessarily near the top of the list is a deep understanding of media," he said, "which is why hiring from outside the newspaper industry isn't necessarily an obstacle.

"Instead, in a fragmented and constantly-changing environment, traits like adaptability, empathy and ability to learn quickly are more important," Williams continued. "Can salespeople consistently, and willingly, expand their capacity to master new products and services? And in doing so, can they keep the customer at the center of the conversation to ensure that solutions are tailored to customer needs? Can they utilize modern sales tools (CRM, prospecting, and more) to operate with discipline and efficiency? These are essential questions that sales managers are looking to answer to find high performers."

Tom Black is the founder of The Tom Black Center for Excellence and recently presented "Foundations of Success in Sales and Sales Management" at the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association (SNPA) News Industry Summit in Nashville. Based in Brentwood, Tenn., the center offers sales training, sales management training and executive coaching.

Speaking to EisP, Black provided a daunting list of what makes a great salesperson: "They're committed to hard work, at least 60-80 hours per week. He or she also has a positive attitude and thinks of the possibilities. They believe that constant improvement is possible, they embrace changing conditions and they are good listeners."

Dan Fritts, director of sales at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., also looks for "traditional" qualities in candidates, such as hard work. "We also look for individuals with a helpful and curious spirit and drive. These aid in having better conversations and understanding of clients which we feel results in more successful business relationships."

Biggest Hiring Challenges

According to Williams, "Finding salespeople who fit the criteria noted above is extremely difficult. It's the challenge that keeps media executives up at night. Then factor in competition and the headwinds grow stronger."

He added, "Media companies aren't just competing with each other for sales talent--they're competing with a wide array of agency, vertical, SaaS technology players and more. Many of these offer attractive cultural benefits and...

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