Why everyone in your media company is in sales

By Geoff Tan

SPH Magazines

Singapore, Singapore


Having recently taken over the running of SPH’s magazine business, and with our new fiscal year kicking off this month, I decided to bring my entire team into focus by staging a town hall meeting. In this meeting, I wanted to share with them my deepest thoughts on what we should be embarking on in the new year to hit our KPIs.

Among the vast number of items presented, the one that stood out for most of my colleagues was the slide that stated: “Every one of us is in sales.”

Every team member is an important part in business development.
Every team member is an important part in business development.

When this was flashed on the screen, I deliberately glanced at the multi-disciplinary audience comprised of practitioners from every part of our publishing business to determine their initial reactions.

It seemed like a mix bag of sorts. Some nodded in acceptance of the statement, although many were not specifically in a selling role. Others had that questioning look as if to indicate clarification about what was shown on the board was required.

I went on to explain that putting the entire revenue target on the shoulders of a small team of designated sales people is not kosher and, actually, is in contradiction to how successful businesses are run in the 21st century.

I discussed why I have never been a great supporter of having a business development department in our organisational architecture. The last time I had such a unit in my team, I felt the rest of the staff members were dependent and reliant on them to come up with all the bright ideas to drive our revenues forward.

My definitive take is that everyone in the team is a business developer. Everyone in the team is in sales! Regardless of whether you are on the frontline or in a support role, you are in sales. There need to be more conscious efforts made to drive full alignment across these structures in line with the objectives set out for the team.

Gone are the days when the editorial department merely produces content, the circulation folks drive up subscriptions, the research team looks at metrics, and the advertising sales people sell ads.

Although these roles are still specifically performed to date, they should never be done in isolation across selfishly focused objectives that merely validate specific outputs based on the staff’s immediate job scope such as number of stories produced, copies sold, white papers churned out, and advertisements booked.

These are important. However, the ultimate measurement of success is how all elements and actions come together to fuel a product that delivers an enjoyable read to the right mix of audience, and, at the same time, is able to attract a quality stable of aligned and relevant brands happy to be postured seamlessly amidst the product mix.

This all has to happen while connecting effectively with their target audiences of choice.

To ensure this is achieved, we should constantly share performance metrics and indicators with our teammates so everyone is kept well-informed. Information disseminated in the right way promotes transparency and deepens staff commitment to the strategies set out to build the business.

The age-old way of operating vertically and in silos must be permanently eradicated. Everyone should feel that he or she has “skin in the game.” They should all have a sense of corporate ownership in the business and the innate responsibility to diligently contribute their areas of expertise to ensure we succeed across all fronts.

There is a saying: “No one can keep us from success except ourselves!” To a great extent, each and every one of us in the team contributes to determining our own destiny. The ability to leverage on the full suite of creative talents across every stratum of our human resources is crucial to how our business performs.

Never underestimate the power of ideas. Teamwork is key to actualisation. With a T.E.A.M., Together Everyone Achieves More.

About Geoff Tan

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