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To Sell Your Advertiser, Look To Your Editor
By Helen Berman

To sell the value of their product, every salesperson needs to convey what's special, unique and different about that product.

To sell the value of their product, every salesperson needs to convey what's special, unique and different about that product. That means every salesperson has to get acquainted with the people who make it that way. If you're selling a time-share, you'd better get to know the hotel manager before you sell. And if you're selling magazine space, you'd better get to know the editors.

Blasphemy? Maybe. Traditionally, historically and rightfully, editorial and sales have operated separately, like church and state. No editor wants ad sales breathing down her neck, pressuring her to write about Mr. Bigshot Account just this once. And no editor should endure that kind of pressure. Once editors cave, advertisers begin to sense that editorial is up for bids. The magazine becomes compromised and loses its authority in the marketplace. A magazine's reputation is like its chastity: You can only lose it once.

At the same time, though, the walls built between editorial and advertising don't always accomplish what they're supposed to. By isolating from the sales department, the editorial department can lose a valuable promotional ally. And by isolating from the editorial department, the sales department can lose a valuable promotional resource, one that can even prevent them from rate-cutting.

It's arguable, of course, that sales reps already have plenty of resources for selling their magazines to advertisers. They have access to reader statistics from the circulation department, which detail the critical income and age demographics that advertisers require. They can access surveys from the research department that document how much time readers spend looking at each issue. They can even call on syndicated studies that show reader recall of ads and, most important, they can glean response information from bingo cards (reader service card) and Web site hits. Sales reps also, of course, have access to the magazine itself.

All that is great sales material-but it's not enough. Selling magazine space without editorial input is like selling a time-share without stepping in the building. No vacationer's heart beats faster when hearing things like, "80% of our clients come back every year," or "We have six lifeguards on the beach at all times." In the same way, no advertiser stays awake during a laundry list recital, such as "Our readers spend 13% more time with our magazine than with Competitor X," or "Our special fashion issue now comes out twice a year."

The truth is, salespeople simply cannot sell the value of their magazines to advertisers, nor defend it against other marketing choices (like the Internet) without knowing what makes their magazines special, unique and different. Advertisers need the magazine to come alive for them; they need to get as excited about it as the readers who plunk down their money for it every month. The only people who can give salespeople that insight, that excitement, are the magazine's editors.

Editors, after all, do much more than decide what's news and who's a good writer. More than anyone else on a magazine, editors size up the extent and content of the magazine's market, whether that market is waste-water treatment or regional golf. They have access to all data and information on the market, whether it's the per-gallon daily output of Treatment Plant X to the lay of the course over at Country Club Y. Editors filter this information, determine what's significant and what's not, and decide what readers need to know about the latest filtration systems or titanium heads. Because editors give this information context and meaning, their readers come to the magazine with anticipation and leave with satisfaction.

Editors, in other words, know how to address the interest and needs of the right people, get them thinking about the right issues, heighten their interest and attention, and get them turned around at the right moment to the advertiser.

Let's go back to the time-share / magazine analogy. Like condominium owners, editors have gone to the effort and time of building and maintaining a comfortable, functioning environment in an enticing market. They've attracted the readers (that is, customers) who are interested and involved in that market. Advertisers can enter that wonderful environment in one of two ways: by going into the magazine business themselves (a pretty expensive option), or by leasing out the amount of magazine space at a frequency that accomplishes their goals

We, as magazine salespeople, are responsible for the selling the "property" that editors have so carefully put together. Moreover, unless we effectively convince advertisers of the quality of that "property" -with the help of editors- we actually risk destroying the very property we're trying to sell.

Think of the vacationing couple above looking for a discount. By giving the couple a special deal, the condominium owner risks eroding his profit margin. If he does that often enough, eventually he may not be able to make needed investments in keeping up the property. After a while, the wallpaper peels, the rugs fall apart, the longtime guests start to look elsewhere, and the very things that made that building desirable fall apart.

Magazines, too, must amortize their costs across their "customers"-their advertisers. Advertisers who ask for deals, unwarranted discounts or to go off the rate card, destroy the cost / value equation. Eventually these "deals" may contribute to the decline of the very property that enables those advertisers to reach their customers.

Magazines, like time-shares, aren't commodities, sold like so many gallons of paint. The only way to combat commodity selling is to recognize and sell the value of the property. That means emphasizing to advertisers the quality of the magazine's editorial, which is what makes the property special, unique and different.

I can't advise you on how to start connecting with your magazine's editorial department. The ground rules are up to each individual editor-in-chief and publisher, and it's critical that all editors and sales reps respect their decisions. The more you know how to sell your editorial, hopefully one of the key reasons someone buys your publication, the less likely you will feel like you need to cave into the clients request to discount your ad price to get the sale.

I can, however, tell you with confidence that the more we, as salespeople, understand the value of editorial, the better we can communicate that value to our advertisers. And the better we communicate that value, the better our magazines can hold their ground in justifying their rates.

An exciting speaker and inspiring sales mentor, Helen Berman has appeared at dozens of media conferences and seminars worldwide, in addition to writing popular sales columns for Folio and Expo magazines. She's also written the two-volume book, Ad Sales: Winning Secrets of the Magazine Pros and is working on a new book, Integrated Media Sales: Beyond the Page, Beyond the Banner. To contact Helen directly, call 310-230-3899 or learn more online

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