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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

You’re Not Alone: Top Challenges Media Sales Departments Face

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If your media sales department is facing difficulties, you’re not alone. Despite recent innovations, media sales departments are still missing budgets, not developing new business, and not retaining key accounts.

Many media sales managers are stuck in a vicious circle of recognizing challenges that hinder growth, but they tend to ignore them for various reasons. Failing to tackle these challenges continue to result in lost revenue and lost opportunities.

Below are five of the top challenges media sales departments face and a solution that addresses them all.

Top Challenges Media Sales Departments Face

1. Using Sales Structures from a Different Era

When is the last time you said, "We've always done it this way,” or "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Often, media sales departments rely on a tried-and-true sales structure because they’re comfortable with the level of sales and percentage of revenue they’re getting. While their current tactics and sales structure is, in fact, “working,” simply relying on past success is no guarantee for the future, especially when the only constant is change.

Sales leadership and general management come from an era much different than today. “Sales structures have not evolved with the assets we ask salespeople to sell,” explains Craig Jones, Senior Consultant. “We want a jack of all trades and we always have. Ten years ago, we wanted salespeople that could prospect, sell, and collect. Now, we’re adding even more tasks like digital prospecting and gathering digital assets to the mix. It’s more complicated with less resources.”

Senior Consultant Trey Morris adds, “The current challenge with sales structure, specifically in the media industry, is that it’s outdated. It’s based on a system from the 1920s and hasn’t been significantly updated in years. Because of this, sales managers and salespeople are doing the same activities as they were 100 years ago.”

An outdated sales structure has been an unaddressed challenge for many years. It’s also a challenge that ignites other obstacles such as overall lack of performance, unmet revenue goals, a commission-based approach, and the frustration that comes with all of these dilemmas.

2. Roles and Responsibilities Are Not Defined

Unclear roles and responsibilities impact communication and organization within any department. Unfortunately, this is a challenge that often arises when you least expect it, and you may not even notice it’s there until sales performance is suffering. There is also a correlation between unclear definitions of responsibilities and not taking accountability.

“A problem we often see in sales departments is too much gray area when it comes to roles and responsibilities, and it creates inefficiencies,” explains Stephanie Downs, VP/Senior Consultant. “When roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, people don’t know what to do.”

When salespeople are not given a defined role, they are easily overwhelmed with what they must accomplish within a week. Additionally, management puts too much pressure on their salespeople and expects them to excel in all steps of the sales process.

“Based on the lone wolf sales model, you expect salespeople to do all parts of the selling — generate leads, sell solutions and grow clients, and none of them are good at all of these things,” Jim Hopes, Managing Partner at The Center for Sales Strategy (CSS) points out.

Kurt Sima, VP/Senior Consultant adds, “Very few salespeople are good with all steps of the sales process. Even 20 years ago, a small percentage of people could generate leads effectively while selling solutions and growing business. Still, organizations require all three.”

3. Placing the Right Salespeople in the Wrong Sales Role

Sales managers are looking for unicorn salespeople — individuals that can do everything. They can find leads and get appointments, uncover needs, put together brilliant presentations, get results, present great, and close. On top of that, they can also execute, fulfill, and collect money.

While those people exist; truly talented salespeople, the ones who will rapidly push your business to the next level, are few and far between. “Sales departments don’t have the positions right,” Stephanie claims. “For example, if they need someone dedicated to order entry and they don’t have one person for that role, they place someone there who doesn’t want to be there.”

At CSS, we’re big believers in talent, and nothing confirms our trust in talent more than when we witness a direct connection between the talent level of a given salesperson and the success they achieve. However, sales talent does NOT translate into all situations.

4. Lead Generation Expectations

Lead generation is the first step in the sales process, where salespeople obtain inquiries from potential customers. Before the evolution of the internet, lead generation occurred when visitors came to a trade show booth, filled out a card with their contact information, and eventually received a call back from the sales team. Today, there are many methods of lead generation, but when managers embark on a lead generation strategy, the expectations are all wrong.

 “When it comes to sales structures, almost always the lead generation piece is really missing,” Emily Etsy, VP/ Senior Consultant explains. “Lead generation is an area that really suffers because it’s difficult to get in front of people. You must be persistent and determined and it takes more time away from selling. It’s a role that someone has to love and excel in.”

Media sales departments are just now prioritizing lead generation. However, it doesn’t matter which method they implement whether it’s running email campaigns or hiring a sales rep focused on appointment setting, if their lead generation expectations are wrong, the entire process will be wrong.

Lead generation means that prospects are interested in hearing from you they are not ready to buy. The goal is conversions that will lead to future opportunities when the prospect is ready. “When a media sales department faces challenges in its sales structure, the first thing to go away is prospecting and identifying qualified leads,” Craig adds. “They’ll make time for everything else, but ignoring lead generation affects more than you realize.”

5. Afraid of Change

From the fear of failure to the fear of rejection, fear is a challenge all salespeople and sales departments face. One of the top five reasons people resist change is because they fear the unknown.

As a pragmatic leader, it’s difficult to make changes at an organizational level. You’re not just persuading a few salespeople - you’re altering the course of your organization. “Managers and executives know the sales structure is not right and has been outdated for years,” Kurt conveys. “They’re concerned, but no one wants to risk changing because it’s going to cause disruption.”

What many sales managers don’t realize is restructuring is most effective when the process is proactive instead of reactive. You never feel the pain now or see the lost opportunities occurring by not changing when things are going well — or even “okay.”

Overcome Challenges in Media Sales Departments

From identifying qualified prospects to effectively discovering desired business results, every sales department faces challenges. What sets successful companies apart is their ability to strategically overcome these challenges.  

The good news is that changing your sales structure addresses all of these challenges. Your current structure should be designed to help you get consistently strong performance in the revenue areas that are most important to you. Sales structure is one component of our Process Pyramid from the Impact Leadership System that is designed to help you determine if you have a sales structure problem, and if so, what process can you use to help determine a new structure.

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Topics: IMPACT media sales