Removing Hurdles and Empowering a Digital Sales Organization

By: Gary Tubridy Chief Sales Executive Events, Media Sales, Revenue Growth Strategy, Sales Leadership, Technology Sales

Digital Sales is having an explosive impact on how companies engage with customers, especially within the media industry. Lee Brown, chief revenue officer, and Dan Walsh, vice president of sales & business strategy from BuzzFeed, panelists at the 2017 Chief Sales Executive Forum, shared how they were able to remove embedded hurdles in their own organization and empower a new digital sales organization.

When Lee entered the advertising business over 20 years ago, the talent profiles had not changed in decades. Yes, salespeople received annual retraining, but job roles were essentially stable based on relationships. The talent profiles and expectations from 1997 are now obsolete. Even more recent areas of expertise, such as SEO and content distribution, are now automated. Sellers that don’t adapt or evolve are being pushed aside. Thousands of traditionally trained people in the digital sales marketplace lack skills compatible with today’s sales environment; in other words, they are no longer qualified.

Dan and Lee restructured the sales organization at BuzzFeed because the team was insufficiently diverse in terms of capabilities and too narrowly focused. They had to define the right sales profile for a company whose product changes every month. While Lee focused on the talent, Dan focused on whether they had the right number of accounts in the right vertical in the right region. The result was a regionalized and verticalized global sales organization.

Along with this new sales team, the panelists discovered a unique philosophy on empowerment. Lee commented that “not answering every question” can be quite empowering. He tries to minimize the decisions he’s involved with, opting instead to encourage team members to go to one of BuzzFeed’s great line sales leaders, who are closer to the organization. It may slow processes at first but pays off in the long run. Lee noted that it’s hard to empower others but “awesome once they make those decisions.”

Attendee Takeaways

For companies looking to empower their own digital sales organization, the panelists offered some useful advice:

  1. Always be in front of your team–physically or virtually
  2. Encourage your team through visible recognition
  3. Create a culture that is fun, adaptable and flexible
  4. Position sales as the heart and soul of the company
  5. Celebrate failure—people will take risks from which you can learn the truth

For more insights on revenue growth, stories of transformation and this year’s theme Rise of the Revenue Leader, don’t miss the 2018 CSE Forum Series–registration is now open.
Reserve your spot today!

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Gary Tubridy

Gary Tubridy is a senior vice president of the Alexander Group and the general manager in charge of the firm’s management consulting business. Gary’s consulting work is focused on increasing marketing and sales effectiveness with particular emphasis in technology and medical products industries. Gary has deep expertise in diagnosing sales management issues and helping clients execute action plans to improve results. His research is focused on best practices of leading sales organizations in North America with particular emphasis on sales force transformation and the role of sales leadership. He leads the Alexander Group executive events series and hosts the Operations and Executive Forums. He is one of three founding stockholders of the Alexander Group.


Gary has been with the Alexander Group for over 35 years. Prior to that, Gary was in sales with the IBM Corporation. Gary holds a B.A. from Brown University and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University.


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