In today’s dynamic media industry, sales organizations search for the best way to deploy sales resources. How can media companies effectively acquire new business (hunters), manage and develop acquired business (farmers) and support the sale before and after acquisition (sales support)? Newly developed offerings and delivery solutions can blur the lines of responsibilities among these roles. To manage accountability and enhance the customer experience, sales organizations can employ an effective tool: the media Sales Pod.

What is a media Sales Pod?

A typical media Sales Pod (or simply Pod), is a sales team that consists of dedicated hunters, farmers and support team members who work together exclusively, sharing a set of accounts as well as a common goal. Media Pods usually include three to eight team members, including the sales manager and often a vertical (industry) focus.

How Pods operate

In a typical media Pod, the hunter, often termed account executive (AE) works with the pre-sales support team to identify and qualify leads that ultimately become new customers. As the AE finalizes the details of the first campaign that will initiate the relationship between the customer and the media company, the AE will introduce the farmer, often termed account manager (AM) to the customer. The AM will establish the farmer’s role as the person who will primarily own the relationship moving forward in order to deliver the return and results the customer desires. Throughout this process, pre- as well as post-sales support resources assist in closing the initial deal and delivering on the customer’s expectations by launching the campaign, providing real-time performance reporting and optimizing results by ensuring the campaign reaches the targeted audience.

Pros of Pods:

Pods, by their nature, foster frequent communication and a healthy working relationship between specific hunters, farmers and assigned support roles. In theory, this structure creates a bonded and effective team. Valuable benefits of operating in a Pod structure include the following:

  1. From the birth of an opportunity, dedicated team members acquire and manage the relationship–more seamlessly than the traditional hand-offs in non-Pod structures.
  2. Hunters and farmers are able to focus on what they do best, hunt and farm.
  3. Team members experience better sharing of knowledge and collaboration, particularly when they are physically co-located and managers can call team meetings easily.
  4. Individual efforts align around common goals, preventing lone-wolf behavior (e.g., a hunter is not likely to sell a deal that cannot be fulfilled if he/she has to work with individuals responsible for fulfilling it on a permanent basis).
  5. The level of engaged selling increases–time spent developing accounts/relationships and persuading the customer rather than time spent on coordination between team members.

When are Pods most effective?

Pods are most effective for accounts that require high-touch; for example, imagine an account that is a large multi-national retailer where the media company is currently doing business with only a handful of the divisions. There is still a lot of green space—thus farming and hunting activities are occurring simultaneously. The farmers would be actively managing the current relationship while identifying new opportunities to transition to the hunter.

Managing and compensating Pods

Pod structures also feature a different sales compensation scheme, one that emphasizes team goals (revenue and campaign delivery). Modern Pods often have a single team revenue goal, while media sales organizations transitioning to Pods for the first time may retain legacy individual revenue goals and sales compensation structures. The key is to manage individual performance so that team members contribute fairly to achieve a team revenue goal.

Pods are most successful when a team can work together against a unified goal; however, when team results do not easily tie back to individual contributions, pronounced problems may arise. Consider the following critical points when managing the Pod and designing and executing an incentive structure that appropriately balances a shared destiny with individual accountability:

  1. Managers should track and manage individual performance to ensure minimum performance levels and individual accountability from each team member, minimizing “free-riding.”
  2. For sales compensation in Pods, managers may focus on team revenue, but should also recognize individual performance. Manage balanced contribution from all direct reports. Measures like balanced performance, which mandates 70-80 percent of direct reports, achieve quota and help reinforce proper execution of the team goals.
  3. Transitioning to Pods is not always the same journey for every seller. Some sellers may operate as individual contributors. Policies like guarantees, assuring a portion of the seller’s target incentive for a brief time (one quarter or less), help ease the transition to Pods.

Conclusion

Moving to a Pod sales structure can reinvigorate your team’s customer-centric focus, enabling your team to deliver an encompassing sales experience from the initial acquisition through on-going account management–all by an exclusive team with deep expertise. Pod structures evolved from a dynamic media environment where firms were constantly looking for the best way to deploy limited resources to meet customer demands.

Modern media ad sales organizations manage transformation in a more iterative approach. Progressive companies consistently re-evaluate their offerings and how they deliver value in order to differentiate themselves. As sales strategies shift, sales leaders must consider how deployment and coverage need to evolve to keep pace. Moving to Pods ultimately depends on understanding your customers’ needs, the change appetite of your sales culture and how to deliver key value messages to your customers. Pods can help increase focus, enhance team work and ultimately lead to profitable revenue growth opportunities. Is the Pod structure right for your organization?

Co-author: Quang Do is a director in Alexander Group’s San Francisco office.

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