Welcome to the media sales crucible. The pressure is mounting in the media industry to adapt or die. Traditional methods of monetization (print, television) are under attack. The myriad of new methods can be confusing and unpredictable. While advertisers continuously look for new ways to engage potential buyers, they must increasingly adapt to delivering content that drives not just awareness, but also purchasing behavior in a seamless fashion across multiple platforms (display, interactive, print, video, etc.).

The time is now. Media executives are faced with figuring out how to best go to market and monetize their product portfolio amidst these rapid changes in technology platforms.  Advertisers want to “buy” access to their specific target audience and desired results regardless of the platform. Media sales leaders must determine how to create agile sales organizations able to keep up with frequent changes, more products, increased complexity, and buyers with increasing sophistication and expectations. That’s a tall order! And, more and more traditional media executives are getting pressure to solve for this sooner than they expected. As a case in point, consider the recent moves by major media companies (e.g., Time Warner, Gannett,  E.W. Scripps, Tribune) to spin off their broadcast business from their digital and publishing businesses to create stand-alone organizations. These moves were made to “allow for enhanced flexibility to accelerate growth and to provide better alignment of resources with strategic priorities to drive innovation.” Translation: No more excuses, the spotlight is on you!

With intense pressure to perform, media executives must weigh the impact and risk of introducing new or different sales strategies, including:

  • How to best position multi-product sales?
  • How to drive digital or new product sales, without hurting the core?
  • How fast do I need to move so I don’t miss the boat and fall behind?

The agile media sales organization. How can media executives adapt? The challenge is particularly acute for hybrid media companies. How might they best determine the sales model of the future for their business? Change is hard and risks abound. But there is some good news. Other industries have gone through similar disruptive change and transformation. Success in times of change requires a winning combination of strong leadership, an effective blueprint or road map for charting the future, and the courage to take calculated risks. This article, the first of four, intends to outline how media executives can effectively transform their go-to-market model and deploy an agile sales organization – one that will carry them through these times of rapid change and toward a promising future. In this series we will explore four key elements to building this road map, as follows:

  1. Sales investment – Do I have the right investment in my sales force?
  2. Sales strategy – Who are we selling to and why?
  3. Sales structure – What does an agile sales organization look like? How do we build it?
  4. Sales management – How do we optimally manage, enable and execute our strategy?

Sales Investment. Let’s begin by examining the first element of sales strategy, the element of sales investment. Your company’s sales investment profile is a key indicator of the organizational support behind the sales force. It should go without saying that a sales force is only as good as the organization behind it and the support the sales force receives from that organization. When evaluating sales investment, you should examine it on a dollars per rep basis across four key areas:

  • Rep Total Compensation
  • Management Total Compensation
  • Productivity Levers
    a. Demand Stimulation (Lead Gen)
    b. Presales Support
    c. Deal Support Team
    d. Product Specialists
    e. Admin / Ad Ops
    f. Training
    g. Sales Ops / Planning
  • Infrastructure Levers
    h. Travel
    i. Recruitment
    j. Telephony

The illustration below shows the investment profile for Company A, the benchmark profile¹ for pure play digital and the benchmark profile¹ for integrated media organizations.

From a benchmark standpoint, both pure play digital and integrated media organizations allocate approximately 25 percent of their sales investment on sales productivity (also referred to as sales enablement). This includes things like:

  • Demand Stimulation = high quality leads that keep the top of the funnel full
  • Presales and Deal Support = more impactful proposals, enhanced client insights
  • Product Specialist = better positioning of the product portfolio
  • Admin / Ad Ops = More time for high quality sales time, less on low value activities
  • Training = continuous development, growth of sales

Just add more sales heads?  Consider Company A in the above graph. Compared to benchmark, it was woefully under-invested in productivity as a percent of their total per/rep investment (only 6 percent, or one-fourth of benchmark). Company A’s investment profile was geared toward rep sales compensation – which means growth is dependent on reps, reps, and more reps. This is generally a very short term answer to growth. Before long, just adding more heads brings diminishing returns. This lack of sales enablement was a major contributing factor to the second-rate performance at Company A. When the focus is on adding heads, the ideas for improvement are limited to the “usual suspects,” ways to source new talent, compensation plan changes or SPIFFS, and maybe better first-line manager coaching to address comfort zone selling. But achieving higher levels of productivity requires sales organizations to make calculated investments in sales enablement.

What is your sales investment profile? Understanding your baseline of investment in sales is a core aspect of developing the road map for the media sales force of the future. Are you prepared to consider a higher level of investment in sales to realize the desired level of organic revenue growth?

Up Next. In our next article we will examine the element of sales strategy – Who are we selling to and why? We will address best practice methods for segmentation, targeting, value propositions and sales coverage. In addition, we will draw upon insights from our custom study of ten of the world’s leading digital sales organizations and look at how they define the clients and agencies and create unique messaging for each, and how they cover them using a blend of sales channels including field, inside, resellers, ad exchanges and self-serve.

Read part 2 and part 3 of this blog series.

Read more about Media Sales.

¹Source:  Alexander Group Sales Benchmark Database