No industry has undergone more transformation in the last five years than Media. As one media executive put it, “For a long time, print media was prosperous, but now traditional print is dead and in the blink of an eye, new digital revenue is dominated by a whole new cast of companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google.” In many media companies, the job of finding and reaching new sources of digital revenue falls to the revenue leader, often titled “Chief Revenue Officer.” As part of the 2018 Chief Sales Executive Forum, Alexander Group recently convened a panel to explore how this more expansive responsibility has affected the leadership role of three media revenue executives:

  • Kalina Nikolova, EVP Ad Sales Strategy, Viacom
  • Brendan Ripp, EVP National Geographic, FOX Networks
  • Lisa Valentino, recently EVP of Revenue Innovation, Univision

The panelists specifically tackled three key questions.

How has the role of the sales leader changed?

As one panelist put it, “The title ‘sales leader’ can give the impression of just being the ’sales person.’” Altering the title to ‘revenue leader’ reframes the focus of the job to include “finding partnerships that enhance product or distribution.” Another panelist added that revenue responsibility is best activated by a commitment to finding new customers and “deep engagement in serving their business needs” (as only the CRO among all C-suite executives gets the chance to do).

Said another panelist, “Market pressures demand a new type of revenue leader who is more expansive in her thinking.” That includes “thinking about all the ways their ecosystem can be reshaped to deliver better results.” As an example, one panelist “created a global partnership team” to sharpen focus on accounts with “new buyers and new needs by adding partners with new capabilities.”

Another summed it up nicely, “Today’s revenue leader knows it is her responsibility to get sellers talking with customers about strategy. It is not just about pushing product.”

How has the transformation affected the sales culture?

Two characteristics stood out:

Closer to the customer. New customers have emerged. Formerly powerful agencies have ceded much authority to company in-house marketing departments. Building strategies to reach and serve these new and powerful customers is now crucial. That means “organizing the business around delivering what the customers need. They don’t care what your product does. You’ve got to bring them answers.” Sales resources must be in close contact with customer needs and be able to “speak their language of results.”

More focused on outcomes. Sellers have to be clear about their point of differentiation. They must know what makes their product and organization stand out. According to the panel, “The sales team looks to the revenue leader for the insights” needed to engage in “business dialog” with their customers. Enabling this means steeper investment in digital selling tools and training.

How can revenue leaders prepare their organization for frequent disruption?

Panelists had two observations:

  • Be conscious about what constitutes success. Leaders should change how they develop and grade talent. This may mean de-emphasizing point of contact “product selling” behavior in favor of managing customer relationships “over time” while offering relevant solution alternatives that deliver improved business outcomes. Selling process matters.
  • Recognize ‘good’ when you see it. Revenue leaders should review their organization from top to bottom, and recognize the top performers that measure up against the new selling process “yardstick.” It is healthy to weed out the less productive talent “if you want to shift to a new selling culture.”

Summary points

  • Always lead with customer needs in mind–the customer is in control.
  • Be a catalyst for change–and not a champion of the status quo.
  • Constantly question how and to what extent your growth strategy supports the business strategy. The role of the revenue leader is to keep both strategies aligned.

Discover more about the Alexander Group Leadership Events. Or contact our events team to secure your spot at the 2019 Leadership Series.


Insight type: Article

Industry: Cross-Industry, Media Sales

Role: C-Suite, Sales and Marketing Leadership

Topic: Digital, Events

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