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What makes a great integrated-media salesperson? All of the above, plus more. Which brings up is probably one of the knottiest issues in advertising sales today. Now that publishers have spent years, even decades, training salespeople to sell the value of print, they're faced with having to sell something entirely different: multi-media advertising and marketing tools.
Suddenly both clients and salespeople are expected to shift their thinking, their knowledge base and even their relationships to accommodate the new media world. It's a big switch.
Instead of contracts, many salespeople are selling "packages." Instead of being print experts and advocates, many salespeople are becoming - or expected to become - experts at Web, event, and sponsorship selling as well. Instead of giving away ancillary products to nab the big magazine schedule, many salespeople are encouraged to sell directory listings, buyers guides, Web ads, and anything else that isn't nailed down.
Given the circumstances, it's a wonder ad managers and salespeople have any hair left. It's my belief, though, that there is a way to adjust to the new sales reality. Granted, the adjustment will have a cost: Because integrated media requires an integrated sell, not every "don't-touch-my-client" salesperson is going to want to stick around. Smart salespeople, however, will recognize that the rewards of selling media packages outweigh the difficulties. And smart publishers will recognize that integrated media is the best way to stay ahead of competitors - and they'll compensate salespeople accordingly.
With that in mind, here are suggestions on finessing the art of building the perfect integrated-media sales team.
1) Emphasize specifics, not generalities.
When it comes to integrated-media sales, some publishers have tried the everyone-should-know-everything approach. Some have tried making salespeople customer-oriented rather than product-oriented. In my experience, specific expertise makes a better salesperson than general knowledge. In other words, keep your print-sales experts, but make sure they've got a strong grounding in the company's product menu. Teach them how each type of medium works, and how to offer clients synergy through cross-media programs. Be realistic, however. A print salesperson shouldn't be bogged down with the technicalities and service required for Internet ads. Yes, salespeople should know how online integrates with print, but - more critically - they should also know to whom they'll flip the online sale. Every salesperson should be able to think "package," and to call in other "experts" when the opportunity arises.
2) Recognize that sales reps are not all the same species.
Traditionally, print sales reps are hunters: They like solo treks for bagging big game, they like instant gratification, and they don't like to share the spoils. Web salespeople, by contrast, thrive on detail and cooking up new products. Event salespeople like juggling dozens of clients at once.
In an integrated-media sale, ad managers must play to everyone's strengths. Magazine sales reps, for instance, can approach the clients for the initial package, and then throw the e-leads (generally the smaller, more service-oriented sale) over to the Web guys, and the event components over to the event sales staff. Compensation, moreoever, should reflect each rep's contribution. When everyone plays together, it's a win-win for the client and the company.
3) Clients aren't the same species, either.
Just as publishing companies are struggling to integrate media, so are advertisers. Many are eager to try an integrated media deal, but still have a silo approach to marketing, with the print department here and the direct marketing department there. Before introducing some complicated cross-platform proposal, salespeople should first find out how the client's company is structured. Is it experienced in different media platforms? Is there a point person who "gets" the idea - perhaps a marketing vice president? How might the company implement cross-media sales leads?
When creating an integrated-media sales strategy, one publisher we know says he considers three criteria: Market compatibility, the client's capacity to understand and execute the package; and the salesperson's capacity for presenting the idea. The answers, he notes, determine which salesperson or team of salespeople will work best with the account.
4) Use an empowering approach.
Smart publishers feel that all clients, big and small, should be able to buy whatever they want from the portfolio - and that sales staff should be empowered to deliver it. In other words, national account managers might sell the entire portfolio of products to the big clients, while regional sales managers sell targeted programs across the portfolio to small and midsized clients. Inside salespeople can then sell and generate leads among smaller companies.
Whoever knows the client best becomes the "point person" on the account, brainstorming various media solutions based on his or her client research. The point person then gathers expertise from different publishing departments - from Internet to circulation to research - in order to formulate the media buy. As one publisher puts it, it's a "360-degree marketing package" that delivers deep client relationships based on a team sales approach.
5) Make sure everyone links up.
More than ever, sales automation systems are needed to track who's doing what with a sale. Think over-communication - by phone, e-mail and in person - in order to keep on top of the integrated-media process.
In the end, integrated media is a big sales task, but it's worth it. In fact, it's survival. Publishers who don't offer multi-media - who keep going for the "easier" and still-lucrative print buy - are opening up a window of opportunity for those who do offer one-stop media shopping. If your salespeople don't go for the integrated sale, you can bet your competitors will!
An exciting speaker and inspiring sales mentor, Helen Berman has appeared at dozens of media conferences and seminars worldwide, in addition to writing popular sales columns for Folio and Expo magazines. She's also written the two-volume book, Ad Sales: Winning Secrets of the Magazine Pros and is working on a new book, Integrated Media Sales: Beyond the Page, Beyond the Banner. To contact Helen directly, call 310-230-3899 or learn more online www.helenberman.com
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