IIt’s easy to talk about changing the sales strategy, implementing new regimes of multimedia sales tactics and the great opportunities we have with the growth of digital. The hard part is putting these strategies into place and effecting real change into the daily routines of our sales staffs.
A pet peeve of mine in this industry is that many of us still refer to the internet (and digital media in general) as the “wave of the future” and “where it’s all going.” The future is now, if not yesterday, in terms of where the consumers are going and where our mindsets need to be focused if we’re going to translate our great news empires into true digital dynasties that can profit from our tremendous reach and credibility.
So, creating true integrated sales staffs within groups of people who have largely sold (and been primarily incented on) print advertising for many years is a challenge, but not an incalculable one. There are many ways to push your company’s sales assets in the right direction, towards embracing and enthusiastically supporting a multimedia sales effort. None of us seem to have determined the perfect formula for how to achieve this state of Nirvana – but there are some pitfalls to avoid and some best practice tips that this blog group can certainly provide.
At the Review Journal, we’ve embedded digital sales specialists within the retail and classified teams that work collaboratively with the territory and traditional reps. Not all reps or accounts are the same, of course, so depending on the situation, the collaboration is greater or smaller. But in all cases each rep is aware and involved in the sales process with the account. The traditional rep is the primary contact in most cases and utilizes their specialist when needed. This is our biggest challenge – ensuring that our specialists are involved at the level we need and that we have the opportunity to make the best pitch possible with active and prospective accounts. Ongoing digital training with all reps helps to ensure that everyone knows enough to be dangerous.
We have taken a highly collaborative, non-competitive approach to integrated ad sales with traditional reps and digital specialists both getting paid and incented on online ad sales. We’ve had contests and spiffs and have created new comp plans around ensuring the traditional reps fill their “online goal bucket” along with their other priority sales efforts (namely ROP advertising, direct mail and niche). We also constantly review and tweak sales comp plans to ensure maximum return on investment is balanced with fairness to quality sales reps handling challenging territories, economies and other factors.
Our approach has been a firm but nurturing in attempts to stoke excitement around digital opportunities as opposed to fear. Our stance with our sales reps has been the same as with our advertisers – we’re in this partnership for the long haul and want to make sure that all the reps that we have on board are selling digital willingly and with enthusiasm – not purely for the self-serving fear of losing their jobs if they don’t.
That said – if sales reps on our staff are consistently not selling digital or making efforts to improve their digital sales skills – we’re not afraid to bring out the stick.