How can an editor best work with the sales team?

A publication’s sales and editorial teams are critical to its success. Even though sometimes interests clash, it’s important that sales reps and editors find common ground.

“There has to be some understanding from both sides,” said Laura Barnes, editor of PCR out of the United Kingdom. “Editorial needs to really understand what the sales team does. It’s not always hard sells to people they don’t know on the phone. A lot of times it’s about fostering relationships and friendships.”

As sales teams are out there every day developing those relationships with vendors and buyers, they get a good sense of what’s going on in the industry, which can be helpful information for editors.

“They know what kinds of questions people are asking, and it’s important that, as an editor, you know what’s on the minds of your readers,” said Theresa Cramer, editor of EContent and Speech Technology in the United States. “You have to be careful not to cross a line, but also be open to hearing what your sales team has to say.”

The “line” between editorial and sales signifies each party’s separate function. The sales team’s role is to sell advertising and the editorial team controls the publication’s content. So while Cramer said she’s happy to brainstorm with her sales team on new products, it’s not her job, as an editor, to sell them. If a company is interested in advertising, she passes the off to sales.

Likewise, if sales have a client interested in contributing editorial, the sales team should direct them to speak with an editor.

“Editors should not be a part of ‘sales calls’ per se, but it’s acceptable (even encouraged) for an editor to meet with a client or potential client to discuss the editorial mission of the magazine and to explain how content is procured,” said Paul Tarricone, editor and publisher of LD+A magazine by the Illuminating Engineering Society in the United States. ​

For example, if an advertiser asks, “How do I get coverage?” Tarricone said the sales rep should introduce them to the editor who may suggest they submit something for a product section, or see where they may fit into other planned editorial. But it’s imperative that the sales team never promise editorial coverage, just consideration.

When sales and editorial teams know their roles and respect the other’s, they can develop trust that leads to the success of the publication as a whole.

“It can be easy for an editor to say no to things or want sales to be separate from content, but advertising has changed so much over the years and companies see real value in a mixed approach,” said Barnes. “That’s great, it means those advertisers really love the content you’re creating.”