Some time ago – not too long ago, I’m sure – news media sales representatives used to be able to pick up the phone or stop by a business and secure an advertising sale. All with a few simple questions related to what size, what run date, and what advertising message the client wanted to run.

We had the product that reached the local masses and could provide the results that advertisers wanted. There was little need for elaborate presentations, market research, or persuasive case studies.

These days, of course, business owners are bombarded with salespeople from all kinds of media pitching them on the next best solution. Often, they present varying sets of data to show why their solution is the best.

If our news media salespeople are armed with nothing more than a smile and a notepad, asking “When would you like to run next?” we’re not likely to hold up well against an aggressive salesperson from another media. They present data backing up their arguments and sample work showcasing the potential creative direction for their prospects.

This might seem like basic sales – that’s because it is – but that doesn’t mean we should take for granted what our salespeople are equipped with and using in the field.

If you’re part of a chain of media companies, it’s likely you have some corporate support in this effort, such as research materials, pools of spec ad samples, or pitch deck templates. But even if this is the case, take the time to make sure what your salespeople have in the field is up to date and worthy of comparison to other media.

We have been discussing our sales presentation tools quite a bit here at The Register-Guard. We’re not in a position to spend a lot of money on research tools or fancy presentation programmes. So we adjusted our priorities and placed a renewed focus on sales training.

Consistent training for all sales reps should be essential. There’s a reason that even professional sports teams practice on a regular basis; everyone needs practice – everyone.

So we are working on a systematic solution for creating and providing sales reps with impressive, simple presentation packets for almost every sales call – certainly every one that involves proposing new and additional advertising investment.

Even the simplest PowerPoint slide deck can provide helpful visualisation tools for potential advertisers who may not have the deepest understanding of online advertising, particularly when getting into something as complex as behavioural targeting.

We use screenshots with arrows pointing to online display ads and charts showing the research we have that backs up our arguments. We also use summary pages that outline monthly reach and cost numbers, as well as expectation guidelines to ensure effectiveness measurement is on equal footing with what we agree to deliver.

We equip our reps with iPads and we’re working on how to best use them in conjunction with these presentation documents. In many cases, an old-fashioned print-out of these slides works most reliably and offers a good leave-behind for the client.

If your reps are just going out into the field armed with a rate card and a smile, maybe it’s time for your team to re-think the tool kit, too. Conversely, if you’ve got a great presentation tool kit or pitch deck template, I’d love to see it. Send me yours and I’ll send you mine.