Archived Webinar

Pandemic 2020 and Beyond: 5 Ways We Must Change Our Sales Approach


Presented by Al Getler, vice president, Advantage Newspaper Consultants

Not our first rodeo: Al Getler recalls the “semi-disastrous” effects of past crises, including 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. The response at The Boston Globe was to adopt an attitude of being nimble, resulting in new products, including iPhone-based products and magazines — all of which continue to this day.

 Wally’s world. A good example of being nimble in the pandemic is Al Getler’s local bakery — Wally’s Place in Vermont’s Lake Champlain area. The family’s source of bagels and deli sandwiches, it had to close completely for a while. It returned as a takeout place with an online ordering portal — a changed business model with new, to them, technology. A nimble win!

Al Getler said it: “We’ve been nimble for a long time, but we have to remind ourselves that we can still be nimble.”

 What does the marketplace need now? First, it needs information — right in newspaper’s wheelhouse. Our job is to bring our customers information right away. Simply selling things for advertisers to buy is not enough anymore.

Change #1: Our customer approach must change. We now have to form partnerships with people, going from seller to adviser. The advantage: Our salespeople already talk to a huge number of businesses. What to drop now: Needs analysis. They want something that will work. There’s needs analysis fatigue out there.

Stop cold calls cold. Business owners have more to do so don’t just stop in and expect people to drop everything and talk to you. Make appointments. That means improving phone skills and email writing.

You asked: Really, stop cold calls completely? Yes, sort of. Don’t stop by customers to try to sell them. This is not the time. If you’re going to make a cold call, make it a drop-by to essentially say hello.

Some quick video advice. Want to see great examples of cold calling? Mike Brooks is not a newspaper guy, but view his Mr. Inside Sales on cold calling. It’s a great video on best practices for cold calling.

Change #2: We sell audience. And the audience we have is a really good one of mostly homeowners, of people with disposable income and who spend locally. We have unique audiences in our local marketplaces.

Change #3: We will package. Go to the effort to understand who your advertiser is trying to reach — and often that just means Googling information about them and designing a package from your digital and print toolbox. It isn’t selling the special of the day. It is selling what they need ... plus content ... plus audience.

No problem with commitment. In this pandemic era, we should be a little more flexible about insisting on long-term commitments from our customers. Sure, there are some campaigns that need to be a year-long, but we should be sensitive to the advertisers' understandable hesitance to commit to long-term campaigns.

Change #4: We will become a center for ideas. Think about it: Nobody gets around the community like your salesperson. Now it’s time to do a lot more listening — which will generate ideas about what your customers need, and what you can do for them. One avenue is webinars. What about presenting webinars to tell customers how to start up e-commerce, which you can then turn into content guides to local businesses with e-commerce capabilities.

Change #5: We will be technology-based sales professionals. If you can’t do something digitally, go hire a 16-year-old to figure it out for you. Some specifics: Get to know Zoom, start scheduling with Google Calendar, adopt email templates. In other words, geek out and adopt technology early.

You asked: Okay, what the heck is “geo-fencing.” It’s a way of digitally guiding a geographically targeted audience to an advertiser. A little more expensive and complicated, but great targeting.

You also asked: Got any tips for getting a good camera for webinars? There are plenty available on Amazon (warning: They are getting expensive as a bit of price-gouging goes on now) and, surprisingly, Walmart.

And you asked: What do you do when you give an expiration date on a deal, and the advertiser comes back and says I want the deal to continue. Al Getler: I gave you that special deal for a reason. I’m a business just like you’re a business. Let’s talk about what we can do for each other, but I don’t necessarily like you putting a gun to my head. At some point, the rubber must meet the road.

Crowdsourced tips. Check out Al Getler’s PowerPoint presentation (the link is below) for bonus tips suggested by salespeople and publishers from across the industry.

Want to follow up with Al Getler? Contact him at or (910) 323-0349.


Al Getler