How to sell print newspaper advertising space

Selling print newspaper advertising space is a somewhat complex task. Before even picking up the phone to pitch ad space to potential advertisers, you have to make sure your ad sales system is firmly in place. The design of the classified section needs to be easily navigable for readers. The rate structure must be crystal clear for your potential advertisers. You should have a promotional program ready for directing readers from other parts of your newspaper to the classifieds. Finally, you must be able to secure a steady stream of ad sales leads and pursue them to the ends of the earth. Read on to learn how to sell print newspaper advertising.

Design your print newspaper classified advertising section. It should be easy to read, simple to understand, and consistent. There is nothing worse than a classified ad section that is all jumbled with too many display ads. Stay true to the "classified" aspect of your classifieds. For example, list everything under headings like Auto, Real Estate, For Sale, and so on. Include subheadings when necessary. Also include advertising rate information and your contact information so that potential advertisers can contact your sales team.

Compose the rate sheet for classified ads in your print publication. The rates must be easy to understand. For example, be clear about whether you charge by the character, word or line. Offer clear discounts on classified ad packages bought in bulk. Specify whether you will help them to actually compose the ad, along with any other value-added services you offer when advertisers go through your print newspaper. Later, add testimonials to the rate sheet, as the rate sheet acts as a form of advertising for people to advertise with you.

Get a steady stream of sales leads. You can get potential advertisers' contact information from competing newspapers (known as "raiding the competition"), the Yellow Pages, or anywhere else. Be creative, and come up with at least a few hundred leads before starting your telesales program.

Telemarket your print classified advertising services. Use your sales leads and telephone all leads one at a time to pitch ad space. Keep it conversational.

Explain the benefits of advertising with you, and elucidate on the drawbacks of not advertising with you. Keep it short and simple.

If someone agrees to buy classified ad space in your print publication, up-sell them. To do this, you can offer discounts on bulk advertising. Sell ads in bundles over a period of time, or offer to place two or more differing ads in the same issue of the newspaper.

Have the advertiser pay by credit card, and do not run the ad until payment is received. You may have to stand your ground on this point. Remain polite.

Constantly prospect to regenerate your classified ad sales lead list. Make sure you have a bottomless pool of leads from which your sales team can draw.

Manage your sales team by tracking their progress. Use quotas as mile markers by which to measure performance. Make sure everyone is dialling at least a dozen times a day, talking with at least 20 prospects, and successfully closing at least five sales. On slow days, they must dial 120 times a day, talk to at least 10 prospects, and make at least three sales. Keep your sales team pumped up and happy. Don't be a jerk. Just be tough.

Help your advertisers by participating in the ad composition process. Make headlines extremely clear and place them under appropriate headings. The body of the classified ad should clearly explain what is being advertised, along with the contact information so that readers can actually take action and purchase the product or service.

Track the effectiveness of your print classified advertising section. To do this, tell your readers to tell your advertisers that they found them in your publication. Print this prominently throughout your classified section. That way, you will get repeat clients. Remember, it is far easier to keep a client than to get one.

Stay creative, and always strive to improve the sales and effectiveness of your classified advertising section.


If your print classified advertising sales are failing, do not necessarily blame your sales team right away. Always look to improve the system by which you are having them sell ads for you. Nine times out of ten, a small change in the system can make up for any sluggishness in sales. Be very self-critical as a manager.

If you are a classified ad salesperson, strive to improve on what you do, but also hold your bosses accountable by assertively suggesting changes to the system. Explain why your idea will make them more money.


Selling print classified advertising space is tough work. Many people burn out in this profession. Make sure you take time off for yourself, and try to retain a great attitude.

Online classified advertising is overtaking print advertising. Seek to expand into online classified advertising. But keep your print classifieds going, because it is still a great revenue source.

Things You'll Need

  • Existing print newspaper
  • Extensive planning skills
  • Accounting skills
  • Ad writing skills
  • Sales team
  • Management skills
  • Telephones
  • Computers
  • Competitors' newspapers
  • Yellow Pages
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About the Author

Will Conley's writing has appeared in print and online since 1999. Publication venues include,, National Journal, Art New England, Pulse of the Twin Cities, Minnesota Daily and Will studied journalism at the University of Minnesota. He is working on four fiction and nonfiction books.