Know your peaks; Play your valleys

Richard E. Brown | for editor and editor

A senior leader once said to me, “I’ll never tell you what to do, but it better be the right answer!” This gesture was my basic introduction to the benefits of understanding all aspects of an organization regarding organizing sales efforts and mastering financial sales projections.

Despite so many tumultuous years and scrutiny, the beauty of news media is that it is still relatively predictable, especially when it comes to sales planning and forecasting.

I’ve always understood that TV ad sellers are great at sale value, and radio ad sellers are great at sale frequency. But news media ad sellers were the best at selling moments. This may not seem like a small thing, but I have always considered this point when projecting sales results and planning for the next six to 12 months. Understanding the times has become a core skill throughout my tenure as I have come to understand how certain seasons and times generate higher sales and revenue opportunities. These were the peaks.

That said, I simultaneously discovered that effective leaders surpassed their quarterly and annual goals by devoting as much energy and effort to their valleys as to their peaks.

This concept is old as time and as obvious as green grass for media sales, but it is not always implemented.

It can be easy to assume that you are already committed to increasing valley performance because news media sales have a constant goal or objective. There’s always a perennial edition, one-time product, or limited-time section that requires immediate sales focus in that month or quarter. These initiatives generally generate the necessary revenue throughout the year, but the dilemma of these perennial sales projects lies in the over-extension of advertisers and the inevitable attrition over time.

Ok, do you offer a sales contest in mid June?

Yes. And no. Before you do anything, there are two things you need to do as a sales manager. The first thing I always encourage everyone to look at is their yearly forecast by month and week to identify peaks. At first glance, this may seem simple, especially if you work in periods of 5-4-4 weeks and months. If so, January, April, July and October will all project higher than the other months because they have five weeks in their rules. But dig deeper, pay attention to holiday dates, and superimpose new perennial events, special features or a calendar of initiatives. All things remaining somewhat consistent with the previous year, it should be relatively simple to identify your sales peaks and valleys for the coming year.

That was the easy part.

The second thing you want to do as a sales leader is understand how you can help bring high volumes of sales opportunities to your team. The idea behind the marriage of these two concepts is to fully understand your forecasting trends so that you can then amplify sales results during critical peaks and troughs throughout the year.

As a sales leader, your priorities will shift to perfecting sales projections to effectively communicate ongoing initiatives to your team. At the same time, you should start developing new sales opportunities to maximize revenue results throughout the year, especially during your valleys.

For additional perspective, spend your morning working with finance and communicating projections, initiatives and results for periods one through three.

Then, spend your afternoons collaborating with marketing, partnering with senior vendors, meeting local businesses, and planning contests and promotions for the four to six months.

Suppose you already understand your forecast and know that the fifth month will be a bottom month. As a sales manager, what sales opportunities, incentives, and strategies can you incorporate ahead of time to increase this period or quarter now?

A word of warning: There is a dangerous slippery slope of introducing yet another singular concept or focus that can build up and distract from the already jam-packed production for the quarter or year. Be sure to elevate your strategic initiative to be broader and more grounded in your department’s overall performance and output.

Here are some suggestions to start your year by developing initiatives around your valleys.

  • Drive retention and year-over-year growth in sales dollars and retention percentages at the manager and salesperson levels.
  • Contract with a lead generation company for your industry.
  • Host a contract contest by volume and dollar amount.
  • Build a small internal advertiser retention or business winback team to recoup lost dollars from the past.

As always, good luck and a happy new year!

Richard E. Brown is a News Media Alliance Rising Star recipient, former director of renewals and digital sales strategy at LPi, and former director of digital sales and operations for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is currently Senior Director of Digital Unsubscribe for Gannett | USA TODAY Network. You can reach him on Linkedin®.

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