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An Optimistic Future

Media sales firms are optimistic about 2021, and many are increasing their original sales forecasts by an average of 15% or more. Alexander Group research indicates that this anticipated growth will come from digital, making up 71% of total U.S. 2021 media budgets.

This optimism stems primarily from more certainty about the business environment. However, aligning the right sales roles and compensation programs is crucial to meet these optimistic forecasts. According to a recent Alexander Group survey of media sales leaders, three major challenges are impacting their ability to develop a successful sales compensation plan:

  • 68% are facing changes in jobs and roles
  • 60% are facing changes in buyer population
  • 43% are facing changes in their sales strategy

To combat these challenges, gaining a better understanding of the differences in role responsibilities (including when and where to integrate specialists), sales coverage and quotas can lead to a well-structured sales compensation plan.

Solution Selling and Specialists

Solution selling recognizes that not every customer needs a full-court press. While some customers prefer transactional models that put them in control of the sale, others require pre-packaged or customized solutions. The breadth of solutions required by the buyer and offered by the seller determines the types of resources required to make the sale.

Article - Media Sales - Revenue Motions - The Alexander Group, Inc.

While all revenue motions require the basics of relationships, choice awareness and availability, sellers grow these offerings through value-added selling. Pre-configured packages offer guidance and justification to the buyer, while custom solutions help clients move their business forward. Understanding the revenue motions required for each selling motion lays the groundwork for the types of sales resources required.

Most media firms require specialists as their product portfolios widen. Continually monitoring coverage needs and seller bandwidth can determine where and when to add a product specialist role. The type of specialist needed will vary depending upon core seller knowledge, product complexity and buyer knowledge.

There are three overarching types of specialists, all of which can make or break a sale. For complex or custom solutions, a separate specialist seller may own the entire process of identifying, landing and implementing the solution. An overlay specialist works more closely with a core seller to identify and close sales in other sales motions. The third type, a technical specialist, fulfills a service or support role, ensuring that the client readily adopts the product or service offering. Depending upon the bandwidth of the core seller, specialists fill a crucial role and are cost-effective.

AE vs. AM vs. CSM―What’s the Difference?

The solution selling approach encourages sellers to create organizational efficiencies by assigning the right role to the appropriate customer/solution mix. While core sellers are critical for establishing relationships, a combination of account executives (AE), customer success managers (CSM), and account managers (AM) are assigned to manage the majority of sales activities.

Alexander Group’s latest Media Sales Industry Trends Research indicates that the following mix of persuasive, educational and service roles are used in media sales firms, each with its purpose.

Article - Media Sales - AE vs AM vs CSM - The Alexander Group, Inc.

Determining the advertiser type and their required campaign cadence throughout the sales and fulfillment process can identify the coverage model and roles needed.

How do leading media sales firms ensure this mix of roles effectively meets their sales goals? Keeping teams client-centered is priority number one, often including all positions in the initial client onboarding process to ensure they are clear about their needs. Transparent communications are also critical to ensure everyone from the core seller to the CSM understands the client’s recent actions.

Quotas, Quotas, Quotas

With new business optimism comes a new focus on quotas. Over half (57%) of media sales firms in Alexander Group’s recent research noted assigning quotas to individual sellers as a top quota challenge, followed closely by program governance and accountability and timely quota distribution.

Whether stated explicitly or implied, every media sales organization determines the degree of difficulty of their sales objectives. The distribution of performance against quota is predictable with a consistent percentage of people over and underachieving each year.

Article - Quota Setting - Media Sales - The Alexander Group, Inc.

Determining the firm’s situation to develop the right reward priorities and sales comp/quota levers is essential for a sound quota program―including governance―in an unpredictable market.

The Future of Sales Compensation Plans

Over 80% of media sales firms noted that their sales compensation plans need reviewing. The industry incurred massive shifts over the last year, and sales compensation plans must reflect emerging buyer needs, revenue motions and new players involved in the sales process.

As new seller roles emerge, sales compensation plans will undergo a fundamental shift. Alexander Group recommends asking your teams these questions to determine the best course of action:

  • What are the guiding principles and reward philosophies of the organization?
  • When was the last sales compensation review?
  • What mix of team goals and individual quotas are needed?
  • Who and what is driving sales – core sellers or programmatic digital approaches?

Your sales compensation plan should be tailored to your overarching strategic goals and revenue targets. The top mandate is to tailor coverage to the customer’s needs while creating programs that increase customer lifetime value (CLV). Media sales firms are aggressively following this mandate by developing new programs and aligning resources that serve the evolving needs of their customer.

Stay Up-to-Date On All Things Sales Compensation

If you’re looking to make changes to your sales compensation plans, or if you have questions about what other leading media sales firms are doing, contact a Media Sales Practice Leader today.

To stay in the know, participate in Alexander Group’s Media Sales Industry Trends Research to receive the latest industry insights, benchmarks and best practices as they relate to leading-edge trends, commercial roles, growth drivers, investment profiles and sales compensation. Participation is complimentary. For additional information or to participate, contact Media Sales Program Manager, Caroline Johnson.

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