Media Ad Sales: Transitioning to Solution Selling (part 1 of 3)

By: Matt Bartels Media Sales, Sales Transformation

The Alexander Group’s (AGI) Media Ad Sales Survey included over 40 participating sales organizations.  Findings included key industry sales model trends, sales force capabilities assessments and a confidential benchmarking of each participant’s key sales metrics against a relevant sub-group of our sample.

Among the key study findings was the commonality of transitioning to solution selling, which included:

  • Setting ambitious goals for migrating to solution selling
  • Struggling with misaligned go-to-customer models and capabilities
  • Investing in significant new solution sales capacity and enablement

Setting ambitious goals for migrating to solution selling

From the survey data, AGI discovered that digital organizations face challenges to grow faster while also confronting margin erosion. Advertisers remain frustrated with traditional campaigns and the pursuit of higher, more measureable ROI. The average number of solution elements offered by publishers has increased since 2013.

In addition to a broader product portfolio, media solution sellers are also learning to configure the right intensity level for each solution component. Solution selling promises growth and higher margins. In order to achieve that, publishers can monetize Digitally Engaged Visitors (DEVs) as both impressions and first party data for sale.

Struggling with misaligned go-to-customer models and capabilities

Account executives are struggling to communicate new and complex value propositions, collaborate with more diverse internal and external partners, and engage advertisers more directly (displace agency relationships). Survey participants are worried their legacy digital sales teams lack the capabilities or appetite to make the transition.

Media companies are transitioning through four defined phases as they build out their solution selling capabilities:

  1. Dabble – “Talk the talk”
  2. Adapt – “Learn and validate”
  3. Scale – “Step on the gas”
  4. Engage – “Walk the walk”

Pure play, integrated print and integrated broadcast share experiences, roadblocks and best practices.

Investing in significant new solution sales capacity and enablement

Two components drive solution productivity: a) more time and b) more effective time through enablement and preparation. Companies are investing in solution enablement. However, truly scaling the media solution model requires a new sales time profile.

Solution selling uses more support roles enabling account executives to devote more time to selling. Solution selling also requires a broader allocation of sales investments which feeds a more proactive support model. In order to do right-brain style solution selling, sales roles need more capacity and a stronger focus across the product line.

Sales support execution is getting more complicated as roles take on more insight/research (e.g., category development), solution design and deal support responsibilities.

Learn more about the Alexander Group’s Media practice or contact us for a detailed briefing of these survey findings.

Read more of the Media Ad Sales Study.

Read part two of this series.

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Matt Bartels

Matt Bartels is a principal in the Alexander Group’s Chicago office. Matt is a leader in the manufacturing, healthcare and media verticals. He also has widespread experience in a variety of industries, including technology and business services. Matt has a proven record of working with clients to develop actionable growth oriented strategies around sales segmentation, go-to-market solutions and productivity enhancements. In addition, he is a frequent speaker on sales compensation topics and an expert in global and domestic compensation design.


Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Matt was a management consultant at Deloitte and IBM Business Consulting Services. He earned his BA in economics from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Indiana University Kelley School of Business.


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