Selling multiple products across multiple platforms, working within a team setting with a variety of specialized pre- and post-sales roles and the mandates to bring actionable insights have all increased the complexity of the sales role. This revised role requires new technological skills that include a full understanding of and ability to interpret client data and to integrate creative.
Yet many young professionals joining the workplace do not fully appreciate the challenges and benefits of working in sales. The title “sales representative” can have a negative connotation. New titles exemplifying a higher, more prominent stature are preferred. Alexander Group’s media benchmark data show turnover rates increasing with up to 25% of sellers leaving each year. This generates a practice of constant recruitment within media sales to combat this high attrition rate.
Alexander Group recently held its quarterly Media Advisory Council (“MAC”) session. Participants included top executives from integrated print, integrated broadcast and pure-play digital. As the group examined the challenge of recruiting and retaining media sales roles, one clear and distinct solution stood out–it’s time to think differently about culture-building and people-advancement.
The advertisers’ demand to sell solutions (versus product pushing) increases pressure on the organization to continue to develop their talent. Alexander Group’s MAC participants believe that their media sales firm’s ability to solution sell is grossly lacking. For media sales firms to recruit talent that can manage these new buying behaviors, they must create consultant-style sales roles that allow for growth and development. Participants agreed that much of their recruitment efforts stem from targeting recent undergraduates who exemplify the traits of being proactive rather than reactive. Media sales leaders are looking to raise the bar by requiring a specific set of behaviors to ensure they are hiring the right fit. With more career options and an expectation of continuous development, however, the competition for acquiring and retaining talent is as fierce as ever. As expected, to generate interest from these young professionals who demonstrate these abilities, media sales firms are developing a purpose-driven, teamwork environment coupled with an innovative sales incentive program.
Media executives agree. Offering only sales compensation doesn’t cut it. A participant from an integrated print organization stated that to understand what their sales team required to view their position as one of value, they implemented an employee engagement survey along with follow-up focus groups. They learned that more rewards and recognition are essential to retaining a less experienced salesforce. A President’s Club featuring exotic trips as incentives along with more public recognition has led the media firm to lower sales turnover. One media executive implemented a month-long onboarding process where each new salesperson is assigned a “buddy” to answer questions, a daily meeting with their manager, new hire meetings that feature a set of diverse speakers–all to instill a coaching culture.
To emphasize career progression, a leading integrated broadcast company implemented a rotational program where “micro-roles” are available to those who have shown passion in the function and have demonstrated additional capacity. Micro-roles are posted quarterly and last six months; the goal is to develop cross-functional teams.
MAC participants concluded that sales role rebranding is a must. Creating a purpose-filled sales environment focused on coaching, recognition, unique incentives and opportunities for advancement has led to higher recruitment, greater job satisfaction and lower attrition.
Pretty convincing evidence that sales is not a dying profession. It’s just one that needs a fresh new look.
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