The advertising sales cycle

The advertising sales cycle

By John Foust

Let’s take a look at the sales cycle. For our purposes, the focus is on advertising media sales, but this concept can apply to any business. Although the cycle has a beginning and an end, the end leads to a new beginning.

We’ll limit our 30,000-foot view to four steps, each of which could feature multiple sub-categories. Start by imagining a circle which is divided into four quadrants. Quadrant 1 is located in the top right, and we move clockwise to Quadrants 2, 3 and 4.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sale. For simplicity’s sake, Quadrant 1 represents everything in the sales process, including: identifying prospects, pre-meeting research, appointments, presentation techniques, discovery questions, initial and follow-up contact, answering objections, and closing or advancing the sale.
  1. Delivery. After the sale is made, it’s time to deliver what has been sold. Quadrant 2 contains everything in the ad creation and production process: creative strategy, ad tactics, target audiences, copywriting, and ad design.
  1. Outcome. Results are in Quadrant 3. Are the ads working? Or more to the point, are the ads meeting or exceeding the advertiser’s expectations? If the answer is “yes,” you’re on solid ground. If the answer is “no,” there is some work to be done to change the outcome.

It’s all about expectations. If the client is running image ads, it’s difficult to measure results, because that would require relying on public perceptions, and perhaps market research or focus groups.

Response ads are easier to measure. A specific promotion either works or it doesn’t. A clearance sale either generates revenue or it doesn’t.

  1. Judgment. Quadrant 4 represents the verdict, the conclusion that resides in the client’s mind. Just think of the old movies that show a Roman emperor giving a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down sign at a gladiator contest.

If the outcome of the advertising is perceived as positive or promising, the judgment will be thumbs-up. But if the outcome is seen as negative, they’ll give it a thumbs down.

We see this process as a cycle, because the judgment step leads back to the sales quadrant. A thumbs-up judgment means the next sale will be easier, because the advertiser is pleased with the outcome. Thumbs-down means the next sale will be much more difficult – with big resistance to overcome. He or she thinks, “The ads didn’t work, so why in the world should I spend my hard-earned money to run more ads in that paper?”

You see, when it comes to judging the effectiveness of an advertising campaign, clients usually base their decisions on what happens when the ads run, not on what they were told in the beginning of the process. Results speak louder than words.

The bottom line is that making a sale is just the first step. When the ads start running, it’s all about delivering positive outcomes, which lead to positive judgments. Those positive judgments can easily lead to more sales – and loyal, long term advertisers.


(c) Copyright 2021 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: