I thought it was just me. As a call center sales rep at the San Jose Mercury News many years ago (ok, many, MANY years ago), I can still recall my procrastination in "doing my callbacks" or as some newspapers refer to them "renewals". In many ways it was a labor of both boredom and fear. Boredom for the many unanswered phones or answering machines to deal with, while knowing that I could be racking up a lot more revenue taking incoming calls. But there was also fear of those customers who did not get results and might be angry. Basically, I just didn't know what to say.

After training reps throughout the US I find little has changed in this respect. Inside reps just do not like this task. Adding to the fear is the dreaded "DO NOT CALL LIST" and the national attention on how the public does not like getting business calls in their private home. (I suggest that after taking each ad the sales rep ask the customer if they would like a reminder call when the ad expired). However, it is very much a task worth performing as it is part customer service, part promotion and part revenue generator. How then do we make sure this "service we love to hate" gets done?


At many newspapers, your call center reps will talk to more people in the community than anyone else at your newspaper! So it is likely that your community partly judges your newspaper by the service and attitude they receive from your call center reps! From selling ads, to answering questions, to transferring calls, your call center is the "voice" of your newspaper. Inasmuch, monitoring reps as they perform their callback duties is just as important as monitoring their incoming calls!

It is important therefore that your call center reps are well trained in calling back customers and that means practice, roll play and having scripts so that consistent information is given to the public.


At the Santa Fe New Mexican, callbacks are just about guaranteed! Their final commission dollars are weighted against the percent of callbacks they made! Pretty much this is a self-supervised program! When I train at this newspaper, I can hear their hearty and happy group of call center reps making those calls during the slower hours.

So in some way, Accountability has to work into the system. How do other newspapers do it? Some give a percentage of revenue for renewals. And that works great, but reps quickly learn to spend that time just calling those likely to renew; Employment, Rentals, Business Opportunities and Real Estate in that order. But the private party ads? They were way down on the list of priority calls since the revenue was small and it was most likely customers would be angry if they did not get results.

Other newspapers pay for each call made regardless of renewal. This is not for everyone's budget, so if you do this, it must be very well organized. The reps should be given a "script" in order to also promote other classified specials as well as asking about the current ad. In this way, it is not only payment for making a "service" call, but also a promotional tool to tell customers about an upcoming special.

And still other newspapers just cross their fingers and use the nagging method whenever they see a rep sitting idle. I have heard it several times by many different classified managers across the country "did you get your callbacks done" shouted across the room at any time they see a rep taking a breathe of air. That's not the way to make sure it gets done!


What kind of scripts work best? Just about any as long as the reps practice them and use them consistently. The script needs to sound professional but 'unscripted". One thing is for sure; we are NOT calling customers just to get a renewal. Our job is to be interested in their RESULTS and then react according to their answers.

There are several books you can find on Amazon.com to help you write your sales scripts. It is pretty easy to adapt them to newspaper callbacks. What you need are several scripts to reflect each scenario. When writing scripts always use words such as "HELP, FASTER RESULTS, LET ME SUGGEST, DID YOU KNOW THAT. Use descriptive terms that paint a clear "word picture" in the mind of your customer. Here is how I would use those above terns in scripts for UPSELLING:

Let me HELP you get faster results by putting a thicker border around your ad so it stands out on the page. That way your ad will attract more readers and you'll get faster results.

Let me suggest that you order your ad on our 14 day special. More readers will see your ad each day and that will help you get faster results.

Did you know that if we put your ad in BOLDER letters it will stand out more than the ads around it and that will HELP you get faster results.

Here are just some of the scripts I use in my training for callbacks in three scenarios; 1) when the advertiser got results, 2) when they didn't get results and 3) when leaving a message on voice mail.

Scenario 1) When the Advertiser Got Results

Sales Rep: Hello (advertiser name). This is Janet calling from the (newspaper name) regarding your classified ad for (what type of ad). How have the results been from your advertising?

Advertiser: (Got great results).

Sales Rep: I am so glad to hear that! Did you know that we have an upcoming special for (explain the special) that you might be interested in?

Advertiser: (Can you send me more information, or Thanks I'll keep that in mind).

Sales Rep: Is there anything else I can do for you?

Advertiser: Nothing today.

Sales Rep: Thank you for advertising with the (newspaper name).

Scenario 2: When the Advertiser didn't get results:

Sales Rep: Hello (advertiser name). This is Janet calling from the (newspaper name) regarding your classified ad for (what type of ad). How have the results been from your advertising?

Advertiser: (explains they didn't get results)

Sales Rep: I'm so sorry you didn't get results right away. Let me help you by suggesting that you take advantage of our renewal special and this time include a border around your ad which will help your ad stand out more and that should get you results faster.

Scenario 3: Voice Mail

When leaving voice mail have a script that is no more than 20-30 seconds long. Reps should speak enthusiastically but be very precise and say their name and phone number at the start and end of the message.

Hello (Customer Name). This is Janet from the (newspaper name) Classifieds at 555-5555. I'm sorry I missed you. I hope you received results from your ad for your (car, home etc) which expires today. If you need to keep the ad running, I will be here to help you renew your ad and suggest any changes that might help get faster results or I can help you place a new ad. Please call me, Janet, at the (newspaper name) Classifieds at 555-5555.

Bottom Line

Many classified departments complain that they have no promotion budget. But their staff's outbound calls for renewals can be the best promotion time and money could buy. By reflecting your newspapers desire to make certain each advertiser received results and if not, are ready to help them next time around is a promotion worth pursuing. Write your scripts, let staff practice it in their own personalities, and then monitor them while they make their callbacks giving them precise feedback as needed. Ad accountability and a reward for their performance and you can turn this dreaded task into a warm outreach to your community.