3 KPIs will help ad sales managers help their teams increase revenue

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Welcome to the latest INMA Advertising Initiative newsletter and, as usual, greetings from London UK.

In this newsletter, I will be covering three important areas: 

  1. Senior managers/leaders responsible for sales teams should identity the three top focuses/KPIs to get the most from their teams’ selling efforts. I offer a guide, if you will, for senior media executives to take back to their news media organisations and at least ask some questions as to whether your company is thinking this way. 
  2. I will give a view following on from our recent Webinar on attention metrics/engagement with London-based communications agency Six Sells on the matter of reach vs. engagement in the future and which particular platform you should be at least considering for your own media company’s (and your ad clients’) future engagement and revenue. Cryptic spoiler alert: You need to listen up!
  3. Finally, I have included the latest update on Google’s elimination of third-party cookies and what I think it means for media.

Sell more via these three focuses for sales managers

Sales managers are always looking for new ways to improve their sales processes, motivating their sales teams, providing efficiencies, and, of course, closing more/better deals. 

Being at the top of the tree — re: providing clients with all they need to be successful— is one of the key qualities of any sales manager. With new technologies constantly changing the landscape, it’s becoming more complex by the day. 

Determining which KPIs are the most important to a sales team is key to efficiency and increased revenue.
Determining which KPIs are the most important to a sales team is key to efficiency and increased revenue.

But how top we measure all this? There are many ways to measure achievement of sales goals. There must the ability to track a range of KPIs, but how do we know which KPIs are the most important? 

To help those sales managers enable their teams to generate more revenue, I have concentrated on what I believe are the top three areas they should lead with. These can be measured as a KPI and should be used to assess efficiency and effectiveness.

All three have single goal: generating more ad revenue to drive future sales success.

1. Reduce the sales process 

The sales process (cycle) is the time it takes for any deal to close and usually is portrayed as an average number (per sales team, per salesperson, or per whole company or a set period, e.g a quarter or full year). Shorter sales processes mean salespeople are able to move onto newer quests quicker, which, of course, increases revenue quicker, too. 

Managers should help salespeople identify the biggest “wastes of time” in their daily calendars by tracking time spent in differing channels (e-mails, CRM, specific tools for prospecting, content management platforms). Managers can also undertake individual salesperson’s interviews to highlight those time-wasting prospects. 

Look at behaviours/activities via first-party data. Once this data has been identified, it should be viewed as a percentage of the salespersons’ day to determine how much time is actually being spent in client-facing situations. Then, those sales managers can streamline sales focusses and enable salespeople with better more relevant access to any resources needed. 

Measuring time spent selling allows sales managers quickly identify any roadblocks in a salesperson’s day. Eliminating them gives sales teams more time to simply do what they do best: sell, sell, sell.  

2. Bring down acquisition costs 

The customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the overall charges amassed through the closing a deal or onboarding a new customer and might include market research, marketing determination, and general sales costs. Experience shows the CAC usually rises as a matter of course, equating to reducing returns to any acquisition activities. 

Many media sales operations have seen the CAC increase as their growth rates slow down, so it’s really important to tackle any costs associated with acquiring each customer and “trim any fat” accordingly.

3. Consider the lifetime value of the advertiser 

Customer lifetime value (LTV) is an estimated overall value a company will derive from future transactions with a customer during their entire relationship.

This KPI nudges companies to change their focus from, say, quarterly profits to a more longer-term relationship of their customers and essentially shows how to optimise any acquisition costs for maximum value rather than a minimum cost. A subtle but crucial difference.


There is no doubt that any modern, successful media sales operation needs strategic sales guidance to succeed. Sales efficiency and effectiveness are both vital to the end game/sales goals of increasing revenue. 

An efficiently run sales team get deals done without wasting their time and efforts — with better success rates than those at other companies without such a focus. 

The above focuses will ultimately help achieve the strategic implications of reducing sales process, lowering the cost of customer acquisition and increasing lifetime values. These thoughts, I believe, are the most overlooked but basic metrics to better enable sales teams to sell better more, sell more intelligently, and, ultimately, generate more revenue.

Reach vs. engagement in advertising — and the winner is …

Media and their advertising clients have, in the past, always pursued “big numbers.” Advertisers love big numbers so they can report success back to their clients. Same goes for many other areas of life, e.g. for me this initiative perhaps. In the digital world, chasing big numbers (reach) can be deceptive as at the end of the day, it’s not about how many visit your Web site that matters. It’s what the reader does when he or she lands there. 

It’s not hard to pick a relevant subject matter and, by using SEO, optimise key phrases to maximise the potential reach. It is essentially then writing for an algorithm chiefly and only writing for the person second. 

Reach can translate into nothing more than a large number. The overall engagement metrics of the bounce rate, session time, and pages per visit are all negatively impacted. And, of course, it’s these metrics that give the real value of a specific audience to our advertisers. 

Attracting new readers could be judged as engagement, but what matters most is not just engagement but instead meaningful engagement. Are they leaving you observations/comments? Are they venturing into other content. Are they taking out a subscription? And are they clicking on ads? 

Podcasts are an example of how the reach vs. engagement metric can be misleading at the surface.
Podcasts are an example of how the reach vs. engagement metric can be misleading at the surface.

A good example is the area of podcasts. 

My radio show/podcast in the UK is listened to by up to 2.5k SMEs each month in London and the southeast of England, which when compared with the 30k+ listeners who visit the Web site of the channel on which we were born out of seems small at first glance. But that’s only if you look at this in terms of reach. Is that the best metric? The average engagement time is more like the 37 minutes per visit. 

Visiting a Web site is, in theory, an engagement. It’s a conscious decision by the listener to click on a link that diverts them to our Web site. The average engagement time of those 3k+ channel users is far less (20 minutes), according to our measurement analytics. 

The average listen-through rate of our radio podcasts is 75% with our podcasts lasting up to one hour. That equates to a listener being engaged with our radio content for a maximum of 45 minutes. This represents business people who are invested enough in our radio content to give us 45 minutes per week.

That’s a huge amount of time in today’s attention economy landscape, as we discussed in our recent INMA Webinar on the topic.

That figure is, of course, an maximum average (depending on a given week’s length) per episode, and we can broadcast up to four or even five per month. 

As an advertiser, what is better? A 30k audience with an average session of under 20 minutes or a highly engaged and focused audience of 2,500 people who spend literally hours of their own time per month engaged with us? In the comparative of this newsletter, we have approximately 1,300 readers (INMA members) who have voluntarily signed up for this newsletter every fortnight. When you add the engagement of things like master classes, Webinars, etc., the numbers might appear to one limited, but, importantly, the engagement is huge. 

Something I am sure gives us a great conversation to be had with our advertisers and agencies. 

Very often the most difficult part of any salesperson tasked with selling advertising space or sponsorship is convincing the possible buyer that reach is not always the metric they should be concentrated on, even though it’s very often the first thing they ask for because of the perception of the importance of a big number. 

Creating big numbers to woo media buyers has been a factor in the past, but it’s time we stopped just talking about reach so much and begin to focus on robust metrics that actually work for us as well as our ad clients. 

INMA members are telling me CTRs are up across the ad categories — direct ad sales campaign results in particular are seeing the highest increases in those CTRs. I guess this is not a shock as they are campaigns targeting the most engaged audience, and we embrace creativity more as a way of “upping the ante.”

But chasing big numbers alone is for things like ad agency industry awards dinners, for proclaiming to agency clients as a mark of achievement and an old and (to be fair, in many modern, forward-looking agencies for instance) dying, false perception measure.

The new dawn is all about attention and engagement. Get onboard. Start the conversation. Lead the charge. 

P.S. I mentioned podcasts above. Are you in the space yet? Just saying …

Stop the presses: third-party cookies announcement

Finally, phase one of Google’s drawn out plan to stop third-party cookies in their Chrome browser is nearly upon us. 

After Chrome 115’s general release in July, Google says it will slowly begin enabling its Privacy Sandbox toolkit (made for Chrome developers geared to replace third-party cookies with privacy API alternatives). 

The slow roll of Google ending its third-party cookies in its Chrome browser begins in early 2024.
The slow roll of Google ending its third-party cookies in its Chrome browser begins in early 2024.

There are still a number of hurdles to go until Google completes the Privacy Sandbox rollout, but the above API situation is a major marker in the sand (box?) towards the goal of phasing out third-party cookies.

Google is still planning to enable opt-in test modes that give advertisers a trial phase with the Sandbox (without cookies) by later this year and then actually turn off third-party cookies for an initial 1% of Chrome users sometime during the first quarter of 2024. Google aims to turn off third-party cookies totally by quarter three next year.

Google initially said it would phase out third-party cookies later this year, however they say various “onboarding” matters as well as particular “regulatory investigations” have delayed the overall deadlines somewhat.

I believe the latest news on the impact of all this is this: It is still being hotly debated. Some industry experts believe it will have a major impact on the digital advertising industry, while others believe it will be less significant. 

Those who believe the impact will be major argue third-party cookies are a critical tool for advertisers to track users across the Web and serve them targeted ads. Without third-party cookies, advertisers will have to find other ways to track users, which could be less effective and more expensive. This could lead to a decrease in the amount of money advertisers spend on digital advertising, which could have a ripple effect on the entire industry.

Those who believe the impact will be less significant argue there are other ways to track users, such as first-party cookies and digital fingerprinting. First-party cookies are, of course, the cookies set by the Website a user is visiting.

Digital fingerprinting, however, is a technique that uses a combination of different data points — such as a user’s IP address, a browser “fingerprint,” and other device information — to create a unique identifier for that user.

It is still too early to say what the long-term impact of Google’s elimination of third-party cookies will be. However, it’s clear it will have a significant impact on the digital ad industry, and we as media companies need to have our eyes and ears open.

For sure, advertisers will need to find new ways to track users and serve them targeted ads. This could lead to changes in the way digital advertising is constructed, and it could also have an impact on the way users interact with the Web. Hence the need for us in media ad sales to develop and exploit a robust first-party data strategy which can aid the advertiser with unique insights and secure us a bigger slice of the overall revenue pie. 

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at Inma.mark@gmail.com with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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