Our recently published report, The Biggest Challenges of Media Salespeople and Sales Managers, reveals the findings of a study we completed late in 2013. The questionnaire offered sales managers a list of 14 current issues they may be wrestling with, and asked them to select their three biggest—the three problems that, if solved or even partially solved, would make the biggest difference in their operation. Too many products and services to sell popped up near the top of that list, as Management Challenge #3.
Not many years ago, the challenge related to having a multiplicity-of-products—too many for a sales force to give attention to—was largely restricted to newspapers seeking to create special environments to exploit opportunities in niche sectors. In recent years, this multiplicity of products problem started affecting all mass media properties and is driven by an ever-changing and ever-expanding range of digital offerings
Digital is less a new ad-space medium, per se, and more the enabler of a nearly unlimited number of new technology-driven marketing capabilities. Many of these are not advertising products in the traditional sense of the term, but alternatives to advertising… new methods designed to supplant the use of ad space or time to drive interest and inquiries.
Because these new marketing options compete with conventional advertising, every media property has been forced to offer these technology- and Web-based products and services in order to keep increasing their revenue, or merely to maintain it. As media properties redefine themselves as marketing services providers, they are eager to present a comprehensive offering to their clients; and with technology standing still for no one, the definition of what is a comprehensive offering keeps changing. Thus, the “digital” product portfolio is constantly evolving, creating ongoing training, selling, and implementation challenges.
Sales managers and the executives to whom they report look at performance versus potential for each of these new products and services and they’re not the least bit satisfied. A great many interventions may be considered to help alleviate this strategic challenge. Redeveloping the sales organization into teams of relationship managers and product or solution specialists is just one example.
The best response to this geometric increase in the complexity of a media property’s service offerings may be to add simplicity. Instead of presenting the prospect with a multitude of offerings in the hope that one or more will catch their fancy, the savviest salesperson will go the other way: He or she will focus on none of those specific offerings (whether of the legacy variety or the latest new new digital thing), but will instead zero in on the client’s marketing challenges.
Sales managers can ensure that their salespeople are following this strategy by setting appropriate expectations, asking the right questions, and reinforcing skill training focused on assessing a prospect’s full range of marketing needs and opportunities. Advertising and marketing services are dramatically easier to propose and sell when done in the context of a collaboratively defined need. The Center for Sales Strategy has been teaching the needs analysis process for 30 years, constantly refining it based on input from the field. We now offer Hourglass Needs Analysis training as one of our short-form online learning courses.