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Digital Transformation Journey | Part 2

Adoption by your Sales Staff ... again?

If you have been in a sales or sales leadership role with local media for more than three years, especially newspapers, you may have experienced the launch and relaunch of the new digital offerings.

It's amazing to me the level of frustration we expect advertisers to endure while they are "trying" out the new concept their sales reps have sold them. In the recent past, reps had to return to their advertiser promising that the newspaper will "get it correct" or "get it done." No arguments that it is far better today and there have been great improvements. All that said it has been a bumpy ride. If you have ever been the digital partner on my team (corporate or vendor), you'll have heard me say ... "unless we can put it in the box and wrap a bow around it, we are not going to try to deliver it to our customers!"

Realize that the early success of digital adoption, especially for newspapers, started as the perfect assumptive sale! It was tagged, bolted or dove tailed into the sales process. And the best place to accomplish this was with the skilled classified sales rep that knew how to bold, box and up-sell most any ad. From puppies to prostitutes ... if there was something to add in, it was done with the best assumptive intentions.

Allocations were another method of early adoption of digital. Allocation and assumptive sales had little risk of backfiring, since there really were not big promises made. Classifieds were relisted on line, and vertical products like (obits), (auto), (employment), (employment) and (rentals) were the best in class solutions. Until the 92:1 ratio came into play! (see Minding The Curve)

One challenge you may be facing, if you are a sales leader, is the adoption by your sales staff to sell digital products. There have been many attempts how to successfully accomplish this … create a separate team … out with the old hire new … remote call centers … the list grows every day of “things to do.”

From my vantage point, the best way towards adoption that I have experienced is helping your sales team to clearly understand “what’s in it for them!” How will digital product, concept or offerings help them with immediate results for the advertiser. As important, there may be immediate needs, but what about the needs in the upcoming quarter or year. Remember leaders, you can't force a desire or time of year that your advertiser will make the buy.

Many sales organizations experience failed attempts because they were (and some still are) presenting the sales of digital products as ultimatums to the reps. That is one of the most dangerous methods to increase sales!

One tangible asset that your local media sales team enjoys is the benefit of trusted relationships with the advertiser. In some cases this goes back generations. These are relationships where your sales representative meets the advertiser eye-to-eye. This trusting relationship, when honored, becomes the important conduit that is so important in a transformation process

It’s important to remember that while advertisers do want the promised results of the latest and next best digital thing, most will back down because of the brutal “pain from change" experience they may have experienced. Your sales staff will also play a protective role. Most will take a “wait and see” stance when suddenly management rolls out a host of new digital opportunities. Why? In simple terms … a good sales rep will not sell something they don’t understand or that has a good chance of exploding.

True adoption will come once your seller knows 1) how to represent need of the advertiser and the matching offerings (all forms of media); 2) can clearly identify what will happen; 3) can predict when it will happen; 4) can make sense of pricing; 5) schedules the “results” meeting.

This may sound simple, but it is stressful to a sales rep trying to make quota, book 20 appointments, seek new business, process and traffic materials, and do it within a 40 hour work week. But it can be done!


And finally ... catch your sales team doing something good or correct. No matter how little. The simple "great job" or "I link how you think this through." A quick note, email or a walk to grab a coffee or coke and simply checking in will provide a hefty ROI to the sales rep, sales leader, advertiser and the company.

Coming up next … Understanding What The Market Expects


Bill Cummings is a Sales & Marketing executive with extensive experience catalyzing rapid revenue growth while controlling multimillion-dollar program budgets. Sharp advertising and marketing acumen across national publications, niche markets, classified verticals (autos, real estate & employment), legal and private party segments. Collaborative communicator continually focused on building relationships and positioning high-performance teams for unprecedented success. He is available to speak at workshops or meetings; lead off-sites; conduct rate analysis; forecast where your next sale will come from; coach your leadership team (advertising, management, content) and is available as an expert witness or M&A subject matter expert. or (949) 293-0280.



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