The Sales Debate at WMS ’09: Interactive Specialist or Sell-It-All?

As more and more digital products and partnerships are introduced, a real debate is emerging whether they can be sold by a traditional media sales type who may be more focused on core product, have limited time to make his or her case (and apparently, a “C student” as well).

WMS ’09 participants in Washington, D.C., this week got their fill of the debate. Gordon Borrell of Borrell Associates is clearly of the school that Internet specialists have to be hired. “If you are developing interactive, you can’t do it without salespeople,” he said, encouraging the broadcasters in the audience to budget for more feet in the street, even in these tough times. But, he adds, “I have not seen a single case where people are selling two products,” although “a lot of people are trying to do that.”

Kelsey Group CEO Neal Polachek, however, said the issue is really how we define the idea of a “salesperson.” In this day and age, “a salesperson is not just a salesperson; he is a solution solver,” said Polachek.

“He has to go in and figure out the best way to generate [the client’s] objectives. It might be one place on the wheel, or it might be two places. To go in and say: ‘I am going to sell Gross Ratings Points to you,’ or ‘I am going to sell Internet Yellow Pages to you’ is not going to fly.”

Rob Weisbord, regional group manager and director of digital interactive, Sinclair Broadcast Group, said much of the issue is simply whether the salesperson has the mental bandwidth to handle multiple products. “There are too many C students,” he said. The current environment requires “A students” because “knowledge is the paradigm,” especially as Sinclair tries to “close the loop” of the array of ad products for three screens: TV, PC and mobile.

“They are 360-degree customer solution sellers,” says Weisbord. Consequently, “the best rep comes from a marketing background. We’re looking for athletes. They’re the most competitive.”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Michael Taylor

    Multiproduct selling isn’t so much about the products in sales reps’ portfolios, but how they approach creating a solution of products that meets or exceeds the advertiser’s goals. Reps need to start with the end goal and work backward to create the right approach with their portfolio of products. As Neal pointed out, you can’t go in with one product in mind and pound away at the advertiser until they buy that single product.

    The art of discovery and understanding what makes a business successful has been lost with the overwhelming focus on product training or online platform certification. Advertisers want to know how all of the multitude of local media choices fit together to meet their goals and their budget. Splitting up the sale says to the advertiser that the reps do not understand the product and the company does not care to train them adequately so they can sell a full portfolio. Sure, two channels are better for the sales organization to manage, but additional sales calls are not convenient for the advertiser — as so many of our Kelsey clients have discovered. If sales organizations can refocus on customers and their needs, rather than on features and benefits, multiproduct selling would be an easier proposition.

  2. Dick Larkin

    The question really boils down to how sophisticated and how large the spend of interactive is relative to the traditional media sale.

    It’s relatively simple to tack on a low priced online product to a newspaper, Yellow Pages, radio, direct mail or television sale.

    “For X dollars more, we can extend the reach of your message with an online offering.”

    The trouble come up in a few circumstances:

    1. The sales cycle changes. Biggest example is the annual print yellow pages sales canvass vs. the constant tweaking and hand-holding necessary with a promotional, higher priced, lead generation online program.

    2. Cannibalization of traditional media with the lure of the online. It’s real, it’s devastating to traditional media revenues (ask AT&T, Idearc, Dex and Yellow Book).

    3. Not only is the problem with the sales force not understanding the online products, but the advertisers don’t understand them either. Try explaining to a locksmith why he’s not number one on Google for his primary key word phrase at all times. From first hand experience,it’s not pretty.

    All that being said, here’s today’s sales lesson . . .

    “Sell what people want to buy over and over.”

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