WWhether or not to integrate your sales teams is not a question left for you to answer. The marketplace has spoken and the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Unless we are resigned to becoming relics of yesteryears, the more apt question to ask ourselves is how to develop a truly integrated sales organization. The answer, in part, lies in empowerment and a total inter-departmental overhaul — a shift in mindset that reaches all corners of our news organizations.

We have debated for what seems like an eternity in this digital era whether to have dedicated digital sales teams or integrated sales people or “generalists.” I like to let our customers dictate how best we can serve them and have taken a hybrid approach to sales integration, with a digital-first focus.

As noted in my colleagues' earlier blogs on sales integration, let us not forget that we are in the business of growing other businesses. As our customers' needs evolve (and have those needs evolved!), so shall we.

Ideally, we should remain as fluid as possible and design a structure that is not set in stone but one that remains flexible. Keep in mind that our customers' needs evolve at lighting speed with a multitude of platforms available and where a plethora of new opportunities surface every day. Simplify their lives. Embrace change.

To achieve this adaptability we need to first empower our sales teams with ongoing training in an organizational structure that promotes excellence. Take down the barriers that stifle growth and do away with redundancies.

Just remember to keep a close eye on your customer. Your customers' needs are not “one size fits all” — a fact that your sales departments should reflect. We should have both sales specialists and generalists to suit the various needs of our customers. As the needs of our customers evolve, digital sales experts are an absolute necessity and an invaluable resource to have on your teams.

As part of the evolution process, we need to foster a better environment for our sales people to grow. I am confident that your teams will appreciate the challenge and be fired up to be part of the solution. Empower your teams with ongoing training within a structure that hones those skills so that we may keep aligned with today's marketplace for tomorrow's success.

Along with training, another key factor to remember is to make it worth their while. Incentives go a long way. Sales people are dynamic and competitive by nature (at least they should be!) and thrive to become “Number 1.” Make learning and adapting from platform to platform as fun and rewarding as possible because our success hinges on their performance.

Lastly, a bigger and more daunting challenge for some may be the internal cultural shift across departments that must first take place. If you don't have management's buy-in — whether it's your leaders of content, marketing or sales — you will not be successful.

You may be surprised to learn how collaborating across departments with a “digital first” mindset can grow your business. Gone are the days when editorial, advertising and circulation departments worked in silos, barely knowing a soul outside of their respective departments.

Leverage the resources available across departments, and you may be surprised at how successful you can become when everyone is working in tandem with a renewed vitality, enjoying each others' successes while growing the highly desirable audience that our customers seek.

Here at Postmedia Network Inc., we continue to deliver a premium audience with over 8.1 million monthly unique visitors online and over 5 million readers in print each week. Our Toronto sales offices represent all of the top markets in Canada, including the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and Vancouver Sun, as well as nearly 100 community newspapers across Canada.

Talk about exciting times!