Leading Discouraged Teams

Newspaper Ad Sales is Hard – But not Impossible

Newspapers are known for their glamorous exposés that shed light on atrocities, accomplishments, and everything in
between. The authors who spin these stories put their byline with their name to mark ownership of their work. But there is a group of people at every newspaper who are just as important but they you will never see their byline. This is the team of advertising sales representatives and account executives who bring in the advertising revenue to keep the lights lit and the printing press running.

As if the lack of recognition alone is not discouraging, it is a job where “No” is almost always the answer from potential clients and you have to fight to get every new client. It is very easy to become discouraged, and it is something I have seen all throughout my tenure as advertising manager at The Temple News. My reps are students and therefore have so many more obstacles that stand in their way. I respect every sales representative on my team; I know they don’t have an easy job.

How do you manage a team that has such a discouraging job? There are a number of initiatives this job has taught me to put together a system to support them. Still there are others I would like to look into putting together to better support the discouragement I know they’re going through because I know I went through the same struggles.

What I’ve Learned to Put Together:

Weekly ad rep meetings are the key structure that I use to keep the team motivated. I have learned that the discouragements from this job take more of a toll if you feel alone in the struggle. Therefore, these meetings (which are run in a loose “old business, new business” platform) give reps the chance to hear what others are doing, brainstorm for sales pitch ideas, vent and see that others are going through the same thing, and gain an overall team morale feeling. I feel these have been successful and we are much more unified than any other team from the past.


I have also learned the best way to get recognition for our team’s work is from other departments within the newspaper. Therefore, I made efforts to establish personal relationships with the members of our editorial staff (who comprise a majority of the newspaper). Ever since I’ve started to do this, the personal connection has gone beyond just a connection to me and spilled over to also include personal communication with my sales representatives.

I remember last year when I was a sales rep, I did not know anyone at the newspaper because I just went into the office. I just went into the office, did what I had to do, and left. There was a sale going in the middle of the shared area, but no one really responded when I would ring it after a sale. Now if I, or any of the reps, ring it anyone there claps out of genuine congratulations. To carry over those same sentiments I purchased a gong that writers can ring if they finish a good story, if their story gets “picked up” by a larger news outlet, or any work they’re proud of. There is a good relationship between the editorial and business office and it has helped the morale of my team.

What I want to Try:

Transportation is always a problem for sales reps. Because you’re only paid a commission and not a salary, transportation to a client is not guaranteed to be made up for by the profit. However, I believe if I have a system where I have access to a pool of SEPTA tokens I believe that I will be able to improve overall drive to go out to visit potential clients.

I also think the title of ad rep does not help those interested in resume building as much as “account executive”. Therefore, I think my representatives will be more motivated if their job was account executive because it will feel more tied to their field.

What I Still Don’t Know:

I am still trying to figure out how to keep a team motivated long-term past these short-term initiatives. This is definitely a humbling aspect of my job because I can always pull as many all-nighters to accomplish my own individual tasks. However, with the paper needing over $126,000 in revenue every year I need the help from my team. And try as I might, I cannot find the silver bullet when it comes to keep them encouraged in the long-term. It’s a great real-world experience that I know will not be my only experience with this. All of my jobs will have aspects from these struggles.

I look forward to learning more.

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