The ecosystem for media sales people is shifting, but core skills remain more important than ever writes Chris Freel, national agency sales director, Fairfax Media…
It’s reassuring in the disrupted world of media that a sales team still needs a human touch to be successful.
That’s not to suggest we should keep doing things the way we always have. In just a few years the role of media sales teams has become vastly different – from ‘order-taking’ to helping clients navigate the converged landscape where paid, owned and earned media strategies are the norm. This means changing the way we develop our people and how we sell.
I believe five key approaches will distinguish the best performing media sales teams of the future.
1. Employ specialists from diverse backgrounds
The back office is now much larger than the front line as data, insights and intelligence drive marketing decisions and sales solutions. Specialists are in demand, whether they are data scientists, analysts or strategists. As the required skill sets change, so has the dynamic of media sales teams. Media organisations now need to look beyond their industry and invest in people with deep specialist knowledge from a diverse variety of backgrounds.
2. Know your clients’ business
Great salespeople know the client’s challenges inside and out. They focus relentlessly on finding solutions to these challenges rather than forcing products down the client’s throat. This sounds obvious but the CMO of one of Australia’s largest advertisers recently told me he ‘could count on one hand’ the number of media salespeople/organisations who had put his company’s business objectives at the heart of their conversation in the past 12 months.
Selling solutions is getting harder as they become more complex, but finding solutions is far easier as technology has opened up so many more options for salespeople to explore. Those who use this insight and plug it back into tackling client challenges will reap rewards.
3. Have an audience rather than a platform focus
Audiences connect with brands. As we’re seeing with the global expansion of media brands, those with a strong cultural currency, which lead conversations and create experiences, are the ones that connect with audiences. The Sydney Morning Herald for example is woven into Australia’s cultural DNA. It has more than 180 years of cultural currency bursting from its veins and it carries that currency across devices and platforms. It is the power of the brand, not the platform, which drives trust, credibility and value. As an industry we need to stop our obsession with platforms and give more thought to the brands that attract and define the quality of audiences.
4. Embrace automation and focus on inspiration
Media is moving to a stock exchange-style, automated and optimised arena where every dollar will be spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. Embracing insights from technology and data to inform trading decisions will free sales teams to focus on creativity, inspiration and delivering great ideas to match clients’ needs.
5. Deliver a great customer experience
Machines are important but people are essential. I have yet to see a spreadsheet connect with my emotions or have an algorithm make me laugh. Media surveys since 2012 consistently show relationships are still a top priority for agencies. We work in a communication economy and the ability to communicate well is the essential ingredient for great sales people. All the tech in the world won’t change the fact that great customer service and delivering brilliant ideas are key to success.