To say that I’ve learned a lot since my first day at the Times-Union would be an understatement.
I was hired as a new business sales representative shortly after graduating from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in media communications. Even though I completed several valuable internships in college, none of them could have prepared me for the world of media sales.
Coming into this position without any actual sales experience — or a thorough knowledge of the newspaper industry — I was scared, yet excited, to start my career. Here are some valuable things I've discovered:
Get out of your comfort zone
One of the first (and most important) things I learned was getting out of my comfort zone. When you are on the new business team, you are responsible for building a client base from scratch; no one hands you clients. You have to cultivate leads from mailers and competitor magazines, as well as by daily cold-calling.
Cold-calling or “door-pulling,” can be the most intimidating experience when you first start out in media sales. You walk into a business, introduce yourself, gather as much information as you can and hopefully set up a meeting with a decision-maker. Door-knocking is much better than the phone because you get to see the business, survey their products and size up their customers.
My mother, who mastered the art of media sales in various major markets across the country, gave me some good advice: “When you are starting out without a list, see as many businesses as you can each day, have good follow-up and never give up.”
As I persevered through my cold-calling and talking to strangers on a daily basis, I started to gain confidence and the magic started happening. People listened to what I had to say and ultimately trusted my recommendations or strategies for their business.
The day I made my first sale was one of the best days of my life. I built a wonderful relationship with the owner of an upscale jewelry/home decor boutique. I repeatedly dropped in to remind her that I cared about helping her business and wanted to get to know her better.
She said I reminded her of her daughter, who is around my age, and that she couldn’t imagine being in my shoes. So she took a chance on me and we’ve been good friends ever since.
Trust yourself and your products
Secondly, you must have confidence in yourself and the products you are selling. Think about it — if you don’t fully understand the product, its value or your own ability to make it work, why make the recommendation to someone else?
Having confidence in your products means you staying educated in your industry, especially in this ever-changing digital landscape. The Times-Union has such a robust portfolio and valuable resources which gives me the credibility to recommend products to my customers. We have weekly training sessions on the latest digital trends and how we can become better sales consultants overall.
Also, connect with clients and colleagues on LinkedIn, read informative articles and try to incorporate what you’ve learned into your daily routine. There are so many great resources out there to help you succeed. Take advantage!
Always look for leads
In media sales, you are constantly looking for new leads, whether you’re driving and see a sign for an upcoming new restaurant, you hear a radio ad for a new business or you’re at a party and learn about a new store opening.
Always be open to new ideas and meeting new people. Go to after-work events with the Chamber of Commerce or industry receptions. Mixing and mingling can lead to all kinds of opportunities.
Keep a positive attitude
As cliché as this sounds, it is such an important factor. If you are constantly negative, you won’t get anywhere in life. Remaining positive in the up-and-down world of sales is an integral part of this business.
In sales, you can’t get discouraged by rejection or take it personally. If someone says “no,” figure out how you can turn that into a “yes.” There is nothing more rewarding than winning a hard-earned sale and having your clients come back for more!
As I’ve recently moved into a real estate role after 18 months in new business, I try to remind myself each day of these key points and how far I’ve come. I am excited to continue my sales journey at the Times-Union and build more valuable relationships.
Savannah Scherff is a media and advertising consultant at Times-Union Media and was recently named 2017 Rookie of the Year. For more information, call (904) 359-4064.