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5 best practices from Gannett playbook drive advertising sales excellence

By Brooke Christofferson

USA Today Network

McClean, Virginia, USA


Every media organisation is trying to understand what drives sales performance. At Gannett, we have developed our world-class sales playbook as our guide on this journey.

Our playbook lays out the expectations, responsibilities, and tools that guide our sales organisation forward. A couple key tools we live and die by are our sales standards and business KPIs.

Gannett's most successful teams utilise resources throughout the organisation.
Gannett's most successful teams utilise resources throughout the organisation.

Our standards set the expectations for our account executives, sales managers, vice presidents, and presidents. The standards include sales activity and pipeline management on the account executive level. They include performance management, one-on-one meetings, and goal setting for our leaders.

The standards are our roadmap for our sales staff to understand what guides our activity to results.

Our business KPIs are the six key measurements of success we know will drive our business forward. By measuring things like percentage of accounts doing digital, sales rep activity, and number of products that are part of a media solution, we can benchmark on the account executive and individual property level to understand what drives revenue growth.

At Gannett, we have been spending a lot of time understanding how all of these tools are impacting our business. Through this process, it has become apparent there are clear best practices from sales organisations that are seeing success. Some of the standout practices of winning teams include:

  1. They plan for world-class performance and not “just hitting the goal.” They talk, plan, and strategise to over deliver. They run our playbook. They apply their creativity to coaching and clients — not to the “system.”

  2. They start the quarter strong and work the pipeline. At the start of the quarter, they have 60% sold/booked and 30% of their needed pipeline of deals in the proposal stage in They know every day how they pace for the quarter and have high activity levels. The best teams have 70% of their accounts growing YOY.

  3. These leaders leverage all their resources. They are close partners with human resources, finance, and client strategy, and they lean on them heavily. They only do what only they can do and count on others for the rest.

  4. The best teams are digital experts, and they know how to build integrated campaigns. They are in it for the customer, and they don’t sell things that don’t work!

  5. Recruiting top talent is a priority. So is coaching and development. They manage performance aggressively — not just results but, more importantly, behaviours. You can see it when you visit and hear it when you talk with managers. Staffs are engaged and having fun, but there is a high degree of accountability.

A clear road map, accountability, and measurement of KPIs will all help drive sales excellence. The playbook is a start — the rest is the journey.

About Brooke Christofferson

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