20/20 Vision: Leadership for the Media Ad Sales Force of 2020

By: Matt Bartels Media Sales, Revenue Growth Strategy, Sales Strategy

How can media sales leaders enable their sales force to be knowledgeable of all products, platforms and client needs while also preparing to execute a deep dive into any solution sales scenario?

Alexander Group recently held a Media Advisory Council (MAC) event in NYC. The exclusive executive think tank came together to discuss the significant challenges facing media sales organizations. More than 30 participants–including broadcast, ad tech, print and pure play digital–gathered to explore the future of media ad sales and identify the key mandates required to win in the face of changing client demands.

Of the directives presented, three were undeniably critical.

  1. Solution selling is a must! (but how does that relate to talent?)
    Customer demand for delivering solutions across multiple platforms–digital, linear, programmatic, self-service–is accelerating. A single budget is expected to hit a variety of directives. This results in the need for sellers to diagnose client issues, architect a plan to address each of them, and deliver across the right platforms. A true understanding and ability to articulate the meaning of multiple data points is key. Media ad sellers must have a minimum fluency in these solutions to speak intelligently about solutions. However, legacy sellers with a traditional media background are often overwhelmed or simply ill-equipped for this new reality. According to an executive from a leading integrated print company, this is a crucial dilemma: “I need somebody with a journalism degree, a marketing degree and a computer science background, and I can’t find it.” How can publishers adapt? The Alexander Group and the Media Advisory Council will be digging deeper into this topic at the next meeting.
  2. Additional support resources are needed to optimize solution sales
    The individual, direct sales model is no longer capable of meeting client requirements. The breadth of product knowledge has expanded exponentially while truly understanding client needs remains a crucial necessity. As a result, legacy-oriented sales forces should be transitioned to a sales team environment that includes additional pre- and post-sales support roles. While typical buyers still prefer a single point of contact, “behind the scenes” sales support roles are necessary to remain competitive. Additionally, aligning teams against the right opportunities and clients is critical. That’s where customer segmentation is of utmost importance. For instance, publishers need to define clients and deals that require a transactional sales motion vs. which ones that should use the full suite of resources. Alexander Group research will provide contemporary benchmarks on headcount investment and ratios for optimizing transactional and solution sales motions.
  3. Differentiation
    Many on the Media Advisory Council discussed what it is going to take to truly differentiate from the competition. Value propositions and direct to advertiser were at the core of the topic. To avoid over promising and underperforming, developing a value proposition that centers around audience, engagement and data is imperative. As the second mandate illustrated, there will continue to be many more functions and roles engaged throughout the process. Going direct to advertisers can be tricky. Ad sales organizations must figure out how to provide value if the sale is direct or through an agency. The Media Advisory Council will exam the prevalence of practices, what has worked and what hasn’t in an ongoing effort to differentiate.

The community also discussed additional mandates:

  • Bringing new products to market
  • The role of the agency
  • Managing solution selling when P&L structure is fragmented
  • Integrating programmatic into the organization
  • Attribution, ROI and data
  • Enablement, tools and management programs

The MAC discussion was invigorating. The mandates are real. The next step is to dig deeper and facilitate an action plan to deliver on the mandates. This will be discussed at the next MAC research event which will be held at the Chief Sales Executive Annual Forum in November. Contribute to the community and register today!

To learn more about Alexander Group’s media ad sales practice, please contact a media sales leader.

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Matt Bartels

Matt Bartels is a principal in the Chicago office. Matt is a leader for the firm’s Media and Implementation & Change Adoption practices. He also has widespread experience in a variety of industries, including technology, manufacturing and health care. Matt has a proven record of working with clients to develop actionable growth-oriented strategies, go-to-customer transformations and productivity enhancements. In addition, Matt is an expert in global and domestic sales compensation design. He is a leader in the revenue growth space, and a frequent speaker and author of thought leadership content.


Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Matt was a management consultant at Deloitte and IBM Business Consulting Services. He earned his B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Matt is also a Certified Sales Compensation Professional (CSCP), WorldatWork.


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