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Today as DMS ’11 wrapped up, Mike Centorani, VP of sales training at MatchCraft, and Paul Plant, founder and principal, Radicle Consulting, dissected the art of local advertiser acquisition.

Riffing on the title of the session, Plant said he prefers the title “new models for customer [advertiser] growth.” In other words it’s not just about acquiring advertisers in the traditional categories, but also broadening that base for growth in number of customers.

This includes smaller ARPAs but more of them. And they’re happening in new categories of growth, and are also a diversification play. He gives the example of home operators or online-only businesses that might only have an ad spend of $400 rather than $5,000.

“That is the growth opportunity as we move forward,” said Plant. “Chasing the broader tail and opportunities that spread us across the business spectrum — those that in the past we didn’t worry about because they were smaller.”

Centorani built on this argument with the notion that the sales process is rife with complications that lots of people don’t appreciate. And it’s getting harder as the local ad market continues to fragment and the average SMB gets called on by upwards of 40 sales reps per month.

To survive in this environment, Centorani argued that at the very least any sales rep needs to answer key questions to really know SMBs. These include what they sell who they sell to and what their customers care about.

“If your sales rep doesn’t know those things, I’d bet you have a shaky sale,” he said. “Train your sales reps to be mini ad agencies.”

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