Recently, a national media organization experienced declining sales across core offerings and new digital solutions. The company increased focus on high-margin custom solutions to supplement this decline. Traditional product lines expanded to include SEO, listing support, presence, events, audience extension and XaaS offerings. They hired and trained pre- and post-sales advertising operations personnel with the required skill sets to create appropriate content, increase traffic, optimize campaigns and produce custom reports. Despite hard-fought efforts to optimize the pre- and post-sales processes, a sub-optimal sales model approach left uncaptured returns.

Advertising sales organizations spend time, effort and money optimizing pre- and post-sales processes to support revenue streams. To create demand across new strategic products, companies consider one of the following approaches to drive seller behavior:

  1. Management: communicate new product goals—forecast, track and manage performance
  2. Sales compensation: tie incentive payments to strategic product results

The correct choice varies. It hinges on organizational readiness considerations including strategic priority, operational capability and seller accountability.

Strategic priority: Is the offering critical to the success of the organization? Does latent demand exist? Can our sellers realize this demand?
Operational capability: Does the organization have capacity to fulfill against demand? What proportion of capacity is delivering this offering?
Seller accountability: Will sellers need to spend significant time on this offering? What degree of capability do sellers have to deliver the value proposition?

  1. Management
    Driving seller behavior by managing and communicating new product goals mandates that sales leaders forecast goals and track results. Organizational readiness for the offerings is less urgent as publishers are looking to fully determine their ability to meet demands and determine whether sellers are capable of delivering the value proposition. Seller performance is then managed through training and measurement.
  2. Sales Compensation
    Sales compensation is not a required tool to drive seller behaviors; it is a choice. Offerings with high levels of organizational readiness warrant consideration of sales compensation solutions. Sales compensation is a tool to drive seller focus on a strategic offering. Multiple options exist for sales compensation solutions ranging from a simple add-on bonus to a separate performance measure, with myriad options of varying complexity in between.

Generating Sales Productivity
Publishers’ product catalogs are growing in size and complexity; technology and marketing ad innovations fuel supply; publishers drive and respond to demand. Many publishers question both their pre- and post-sales organization’s ability to manage the shifting workloads as well as how their sales models fit within these new strategies. Investing in pre- and post- sales processes does not necessarily generate seller productivity which can result in little to no ROI. To avoid this issue, advertising sales organizations can focus on organizational readiness to respond to new customer demands and better align all sales activities. Continuous communication and performance measurement–and if the publisher is ready, balanced with the right sales compensation solution–will help ad sales organizations achieve a true understanding of seller time, capabilities and motivation to effectively deliver their value proposition.

Co-author: Matt Bartels is a principal in Alexander Group’s Chicago office and a leader in the firm’s Media Sales practice.
Read the series:
Part 2
Part 3

Has your media organization invested in pre- and post-sales efforts yet not recognized expected ROI? Contact an Alexander Group media specialist to help your company better align all sales activities.

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