In part one of this series on mapping the future of media ad sales, we described the incredible pressures facing the media industry – that the time for difficult decisions and rapid change is now. We introduced the concept of the agile sales organization and the factors needed for success: strong leadership, a road map for change, and the courage to take calculated risks. Finally we outlined the four components to build the road map for change and explained the first component, how to think about and evaluate your sales investment. As a quick reminder, here are the four media sales road map components:

  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?

In this article, the second of four, we dive into the second building block of the road map, sales strategy. We draw upon insights from our recent media research study of ten of the world’s leading digital sales organizations to share how they segment the market into groups for sales targeting and coverage.

Define Your Segmentation Framework: To begin, you must decide the inputs or variables you will use to segment your market. These variables enable you to target the most relevant accounts and de-emphasize less important accounts. Segmentation for sales strategy entails defining the current and prospective customer attributes that provide the most logical means of grouping for targeting purposes. Generally speaking there are three types of segmentation inputs:

  • Current state inputs help you target accounts based on where you’ve found success with similar customers – This includes demographics, current products/solutions purchases, as well as other buying behaviors of your existing customers.
  • Future opportunity inputs delineate the most attractive targets based upon market opportunity, growth potential, profitability and current penetration.
  • Implementation inputs allow you to “micro-target” accounts within a segment, for example based on the impact of value propositions

Our media study research indicates the following seven most common inputs are:

  • Current and historical spend ($)
  • Potential spend ($)
  • Alignment with strategic vertical
  • Alignment with strategic products
  • Share (%)
  • Access to client
  • Customer growth rate

It is important to note that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to opportunity targeting data; even the most sophisticated sales organizations use a mix of inputs to predict future potential and refine targeting strategy. Make sure not to complicate the framework. The key is to create simple, clearly defined segments that allow for actionable account targets. The right framework is critical and sets the table for improved sales execution and targeted messaging which leads to higher conversion rates and return on sales investment.

Define The Buyer Profile: Once you know your sales segments, you’re ready to define buyer profiles. In today’s media landscape, there are many different players in the purchasing cycle. Some are more relevant than others. In order to decide how to cover the market, create a relationship map of influencers and decision makers.


The above graphics illustrate the traditional players in the buying cycle. However, the advent of networks has added more influencers to the process. Third party Aggregators focus on unsold remnant or premium ad space. Third party Audience Networks help advertisers identify and target specific demographics or interest attributes based on content consumed. Finally there are agencies and networks helping with real time bidding and programmatic purchase. More cooks in the kitchen means your ad sales organization must be highly organized to provide the right messaging and customized value propositions to the right players in the process.

Determine Segment Coverage: Finally, develop your coverage model to capture target opportunities. Your coverage model reflects your sales investments, i.e., where you are placing bets to focus selling effort across different channels, accounts and influencers to maximize return. It can be a delicate balancing act between geographic, category/vertical, product type, agency, and direct sales.

Across the ten participant media companies in our research study, there were three predominant coverage strategies:

  • 50% have separate Agency and Direct coverage
  • 30% have joint Agency and Direct coverage
  • 20% have Agency-only coverage

Agencies are becoming more and more demanding, frequently asking for one point of contact. This puts even more pressure on ad sales organizations, as they continue to champion the goal of being customer-centric in their approach. Most of the sales organizations are in the process of ramping their agency coverage. However, a word of caution here, as not all agencies are created equal, and not all sales organizations are properly equipped to provide one point of contact that can effectively position a multi-product portfolio. Just because they are asking for a single point of contact doesn’t mean it is in your best interest when weighed against other sales investments.

The other major area of differentiation had to do with category-/vertical-specific coverage. As companies grow and become more mature, they tend to provide category-specific coverage.

  • 20% had no vertical coverage
  • 10% had vertical coverage by AE only
  • 50% had vertical coverage up to the Director level
  • 20% had vertical coverage up to the VP level

All of the sales organizations in the study provide field coverage. Most also include some type of hybrid field/inside sales channel as well. Below is the channel usage breakout:

Example segmentation and coverage combinations from the study:

Sales Segmentation, Buyer Profile and Coverage: Defining your customer targets and buying profile is essential to determining the optimal coverage model for your sales force. Unfortunately, many sales leaders err in one of two ways: Either they over complicate the framework, making it confusing to act on and stifling efforts; or they over simplify, and miss out on opportunities to focus on the changing decision makers and influencers. Not all bets will pay off. But standing still and sticking with your legacy model is sure to put you behind before the year even starts.

Up Next: In our next article we will examine Sales Structure – What does an agile sales organization look like? How do you build it? We will discuss mapping the sales process and determining rules of engagement to ensure job clarity. We will also look at how the types (and numbers) of jobs change as you expand your sales strategy and coverage model.

Need help? Have questions about developing an up-to-date segmentation model for your media sales force? To learn more, please visit our Media Sales Practice at The Alexander Group.

Read Part 1 and Part 3 of this blog series.


Insight type: Article

Industry: Cross-Industry

Role: C-Suite, Sales and Marketing Leadership

Topic: Events, Insight Led Selling

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