How to sell subscriptions

selling magazine, digital and newspaper subscriptionsSelling subscriptions isn’t hard. However, you still have to apply the same sales and marketing rules if you want to be successful. And these days, subscriptions just don’t apply to magazines or newspapers. Thanks to the internet, we have seen an explosion of subscriptions other markets, including entertainment, technology, communication, and healthcare.

I’ve sold subscriptions to software and niche publications.

You would think that selling software subscriptions would be easy. You just do a demo, set up a trial, and the customer is impressed with what you have to offer, and then pays for your product.  However, like any sale, you still run into objections. And the higher the price point, the more objections you need to overcome and the longer the sales cycle you need to manage.

When I sold password security software, my sales cycle would run from one month to two years. This was because I was usually dealing with a lot of decision-makers in different divisions within the company that I had to convince.

With niche publications, the biggest challenge you face is all the free content available online. So it’s important to offer unique information that your average customer would have difficulty finding online or doesn’t have time to find through Google searches.

This is why I always laugh when telemarketers try to sell me print subscriptions to the Washington Post. I mean, really?!? With all the free news information online, I have no problem keeping up with international, national and local news. Sure, I may occasionally buy the print Sunday edition to read the comics, or get coupons, but beyond that, I just don’t need a print newspaper anymore.

Niche it down. The more unique your publication, software or service, the better chance you have of increasing and retaining your paid subscriptions.

When selling subscriptions, here are some good rules to follow –

1). Offer good marketing content on your website that attracts prospects. That would include blogs, white papers, case studies and interesting articles.

2). Create a good prospect list to contact by cold calling, emails and direct marketing. Obviously, target those that you feel will have the greatest interest in what you are selling. Also, it goes without saying, start with your potentially highest paid prospects and work your way down the list to the lowest ones.

3). Contact expired subscribers and try to bring them back on board. Maybe you could offer them a free trial, a special one-time discount or some other incentive.

4). Offer free trials for x-number of days.

5). Provide testimonials on your website. Or better yet, have a video collection of testimonials to send to your prospects.

6). Ask for referrals. Maybe offer a discount per referral.

7). If you are offering an online subscription with network licenses, make sure everyone subscribing to the license is using your service. Also, if someone leaves, immediately contact the key decision maker to find a replacement. Nothing hurts more than having a 20 user license and seeing it reduced in half because employees left, and you never bothered to quickly find their replacements.

8). Keep track of subscribers moving from one company to another. If an old subscriber lands a new job with a company that’s not currently subscribing to your publication or software, contact them and bring them onboard. Use LinkedIn to keep, Google Alerts and industry newsletters to keep track of your current subscribers.

9). Engagement. Create a discussion board to allow your subscribers to offer ideas and exchange information. This is also a good way to moderator what your subscribers are thinking that could help you make improvements. It also helps you to build a community. Customers today are not just interested in buying and using your products or services – they want to feel like they are part of your company, and they want to interact not just with you, but other clients too.

As mentioned in Zuora, Inc’s SlideShare presentation “Driving Success in the Subscription Economy”, there are 6 steps for a successful subscription campaign – Acquire, Nurture, Collect & Automate, Measure, Iterate, and Scale.

By Acquire, use the personal touch, offer value, and make it easy to access your information or services.

By Nurture, keep clients engaged and make it easy for them to renew and move through different subscription plans. In short, reduce the friction.

By Collect & Automate, make it easy for clients to pay and provide them with accurate billing information.

By Measure, use tools like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to gain insights from your subscribers, and help you make smarter decisions about cross-selling and up-selling.

By Iterate, test to find out which pricing and feature strategies work best to enhance customer relationships.

By Scale, ensure your system is secure and scalable as you expand your client base and offerings.

And finally, below, I have compiled a series of articles I found on how to sell subscriptions. Please let me know what you think.

Alix Stuart, in her article “How to Sell Subscriptions – for Everything”, makes a good point of making sure your clients are committed to paid subscription model before you pursue that option.

Offering good content is obviously a key to your success, as pointed out by 3dcart in “How to Sell Magazine Subscriptions Online”.

Steve Burge from OSTraining, offers good advice in his article “Lessons Learned from 5 years of Selling Subscriptions.”  For example, he warns against using most payment processors and not to use PayPal directly.

Is there still a market for print magazine subscriptions? Rebecca Sterner in her article “How to sell Magazine Subscriptions” seems to think so. She outlines a series of strategies for selling both print and digital subscriptions.

MarketingSherpa makes a strong point in its article “Five Rules for Selling Subscriptions to Web Sites and Email Newsletters” about the need to survey your clients. How else are you going to sell and increase subscriptions unless you know what your readers want from you?

Please let me know if you have any comments.

Three (3) ways to distribute leads to your Sales Teams

If you have been in sales for a while, you know that sales leads are usually distributed to sales teams in three ways. Each way has its advantages and disadvantages.

1). Geographic territory: States and/or countries are assigned to salespeople. You are responsible for prospecting any leads in your assigned area. In addition, any incoming leads from your location are handed over to you. Sometimes lead transfer can be a little sticky, especially if you are dealing with large corporations with several global locations. In most cases, where the corporation is headquartered is usually the determining factor in whether that lead is assigned to you or another salesperson. In addition, I once worked for a small publishing company that actually assigned “fenced off” accounts, i.e., large national accounts would be assigned to other salespeople even if some of those accounts fell into your territory.

2). Market segmentation territory: Rather than assigned leads based on geography, you are assigned leads based on specific market segmentation. This type of distribution is common if you work for a large corporation. Examples would include law firms, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, federal and state governmental agencies, etc. Sometimes market segmentations may be broken down further by employee size or estimated revenue. For example, one group of salespeople may be responsible for Fortune 500 companies, while others may be responsible for Fortune 100 companies, and so on.

3). Round Robin: This process appears to be most common in start-ups or small companies. Under Round Robin, leads are assigned to the sales team on a first come, first serve basis regardless of size or geographic territory. Usually the sales manager oversees the process to ensure fairness. Sometimes the sales manager may use his discretion to fall out of the Round Robin process and assign specific leads to salespeople he feels will have a better chance of closing the sale. For example, you may have someone who has experience working with financial institutions, or someone else who has experience working with automobile companies.round robin leads

During the Round Robin process, if your lead bucket is too full, a sales manager may temporarily suspend you receiving more leads until you close more sales, or put leads on a back burner to contact them later.

Lead distribution is always a touchy subject. While there is never a full proof way of handing out leads, salespeople need to be reassured that leads are being distributed fairly.

Please let me know if you have any comments or know of other ways leads are distributed.

Asking for the Sale

You have devoted a lot of time working with your prospect. You went through the entire sales process – asking qualifying questions, determining needs, establishing rapport, making sure you are speaking to the key decision maker, and knowing they have a budget. You also properly handled all of the objections.

Check. Check and check.

But wait a minute. Didn’t you forget something? Oh yeah, that’s right. You forgot to ask for the sale!

It happens more often than you think. Some salespeople are shy. They assume the prospect is going to buy. After all, haven’t both of you spent so much time together – talking about your vacations, your kids, your hobbies, etc. You assume that the prospect is your friend. Your buddy. Of course, he’s going to buy from you.

But he’s not going to buy unless you ask for the sale. Why? Because no matter how great your product or service is, people hate to part with their money. Even if you are solving their problems, you still have to ask for the sale. Without that one question, all your time and efforts are for naught.

Below is a great video from YouTube that illustrates my point –

5 mistakes to avoid when making Cold Calls

avoid cold calling mistakesCold calling is a fact of life in sales. Despite all the books and blogs announcing that cold calling is dead, the reality is that you will be making cold calls throughout your career. That being the case, here are 5 mistakes you should avoid when making cold calls –

Mistake 1 – Not having a goal in mind:

It’s not enough just to pick up the phone and start dialing. While “dialing for dollars” is a catchy phrase, the fact remains you must have a goal in mind.

Are you trying to set an appointment?

Are you trying to get the prospect to trial you service?

Are you inviting the prospect to watch a webinar?

Know why you are calling before jumping on the phone.

Mistake 2 – Not using the direct phone number:

Vorsight, a sales consulting firm, has an excellent blog post on the importance of using direct lines. See ““Direct lines: the often overlooked element of sales prospects”.

(Full disclosure: I took sales training from Vorsight).

In a nutshell, Vorsight argues that you can dramatically increase your effectiveness by using direct lines as opposed to going through the nightmare of calling the prospect’s main phone number. As we all know from experience, when you dial a main company phone number, you could literally spend several minutes going through options before you reach the decision maker. That’s time you simply don’t have when working on commission.

There are several lead generation tools on the market that you can use. For example, I’ve used (formerly Jigsaw from While not 100 percent accurate, it’s still very helpful. If you work in the IT industry, consider using RainKing. is also good if you are working in both the financial and IT industry. Sometimes I’ve been successful in finding a prospect’s direct phone number by using Google.

Mistake 3– Not doing some research in advance:

You are not a telemarketer. You are not using sales scripts. You have to put a little thought into making each call. You should try to be a little unique in order to stand out from the rest of the sales people making calls to your prospects. How can you do that? By doing a little research before making each call. You don’t have to spend hours researching a prospect or his business. Just go to LinkedIn – read his profile. Maybe check out the company’s website. Find some nugget of information that could help you. Example – if your prospect worked at one of your current clients, mention that. If you know for a fact that your prospect is having a problem that your product or service can help, mention that to. Being a little original can go a long way to helping you increase your sales.

Mistake  4 – Phone calls are not enough: 

With all the noise and business in the world, you can’t rely on your phone anymore to generate sales. Cold calling isn’t just picking up phone and making zillions of calls everyday. You have to use a combination of tools to get through, including email, voice mail and direct marketing pieces. Sometimes sending out unique swag like a magnet or mouse pad with your company’s logo and contact information may be the trick.

In advertising there is any old saying when trying to reach an audience – “you have to advertise on different days in multiple ways.” In cold calling, you have to contact your prospects on different days in multiple ways.

Mistake 5 – It’s not about you:

The focus should be on the prospect – not you. Doing a product or benefit dump doesn’t make sense until you learn if what you are offering has any value for your prospect. Your prospect isn’t buying products and services – he’s trying to find a solution to his problem.

Cold calling can be hard work. But it can get easier if you have a plan, get to the point, and focus on your prospect.


What would you do with 10,000 sales leads? Part 3

social media for sales peopleIn parts 1 and 2 of this post, I discussed what I would do if someone gave me 10,000 sales leads to call.

In this post, I will discuss the social media strategies that I would deploy to help our young salesperson.

Background: The firm in question has a great website. Nice pictures of friendly employees and plenty of information about the company. However, I notice some immediate problems.

1). No marketing content. There was no marketing content for prospects to download. No e-books, no newsletter to subscribe to, no white papers or case studies could be found. This is a big mistake. While I’m a big fan of cold calling, you are leaving money on the table by not providing prospects the ability to download content. Why? Because you are hurting yourself by not obtaining contact information, email addresses and phone numbers that you can use to follow-up later.

2). No social media. The firm was not on Facebook or Twitter – two major social media sites that companies must be on these days to enhance their brand and drive more traffic (and leads) to their website.

A website with no marketing content or social media is like a retail store with no free samples or follow-up cards.

What are the two key takeaways from this post?

1). Have a plan in place. Don’t make cold calls until you know why are you calling, who you should be calling, and what value you have to offer. I would rather make 30 good cold calls a day than 100 bad ones. Don’t be a busy fool – be a professional salesperson.

2). Get your social media house in order.  It’s a lot easier to obtain and contact inbound leads through social media than by cold calling a long list of prospects. Cold calling is just one tool in your arsenal to obtain orders. And while there is a debate within the sales community on whether cold calling is effective or not, you should at least have a good social media presence and plan in place. To twist an old saying, you can catch more flies with honey than chasing after them with a net.

Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions that you would add.




What would you do with 10,000 sales leads? Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I asked the question “What would you do with 10,000 sales leads?” In part 2, I will provide you with more of my suggestions.

6). Do some research. Prior to making a cold call, do some quick research on your prospect. You don’t have to be a professional research associate. Just take a few minutes to read the prospect’s profile on LinkedIn or some other site. What is his title? What are his responsibilities? Can you find a hook, e.g., did he work for a company that is now your client? Or, did you find an article that his company is having a problem that your service can solve?

7). Develop a cold calling script. As a rule, I’m not a big fan of using scripts. However, when you are new to an industry, it’s always helpful to have a script handy when making first-time calls. Eventually, you will develop your own natural voice, and throw the script away.

Below is a list where you can find sample cold calling scripts –

8). Develop a voice mail script. What type of message are you going to leave if you don’t reach the prospect? The last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself by leaving a fumbling or long message that screams out “please delete me.” You need to know in advance what you are going to say. Everyone has their own variations. Just use your natural voice, but sound confident and strong at the same time.

Below is a list where you can find sample voice mail scripts –

9). What is your goal? Why are you calling prospects? In the case of our young salesperson, his goal was to set appointments for his company’s consultants. Once the appointment was set, the consultants would do the heavy lifting. You may have a different goal. Maybe you want the prospect to trial your service for 30 days. Maybe you want the prospect to watch a demo. Maybe you want to qualify the prospect to determine if he needs your service. Regardless of the reason, have a goal in mind. You don’t want to fall into what’s known in the industry as the “busy fool syndrome,”  i.e., doing a lot of make work and activities that don’t lead to any concrete results.

For example, I once worked for a company that had a very strict outbound call policy – you were required to make at least 50 calls a day. However, there was one sales person who almost consistently didn’t meet his call quota, but he always generated more sales than the rest of the sales team. His secret? He did some research before making calls and he had a set goal in mind for each call he made. (Despite his success, he has still fired anyway for not meeting his daily call quota).

Do you want to be a busy fool or a successful salesperson? Have a goal in mind.

making sales calls10) Start making phone calls. OK, you have a client profile in place. You have reviewed your prospect list and will begin targeting who you consider being the best prospects that meet your client profile. You have cold call and voice mail scripts in place. You know what your goal is. You also know that you need to do some quick research before making each call.

Now comes the fun part – making phone calls.

I can write several posts on how to make cold calls (which I will later). But for this post, let me give you a quick and dirty approach.

First, the best time to reach prospects is early in the morning and after work. This way you will bypass the gatekeeper. Sure, you can leave voice mail messages, but your ultimate goal is to talk to a live person.

Second, there is a big debate in the sales community on how many attempts you make, but depending on the industry you are in, and the types of services you are selling, I would make at least 6 attempts – but spread those attempts out over a period of time. Don’t be a pest and call every day. That’s rude and unprofessional. And when I mention attempts, I’m also including sending emails and sending direct marketing material.

Third, don’t just rely on phone calls. Send emails too. Keep the emails short and to the point. Offer some value. Maybe attach a case study, white paper or an interesting article that is related to your prospect.

Fourth, in some cases, send some printed material, and include swag – may be a magnet, a pen, a mouse pad or something with your company’s name and contact information.

Fifth, after making several attempts, if you are not getting anywhere, put them on your back burner call back list, and circle back in a month or six months (depending on the size of your prospect).

It would also be a good idea to have your employer or someone senior listen in to some of your calls and voicemails. They can offer you some valuable advice and pointers to help you.

In part 3 of this post, I will make suggestions on social media strategies.