12 revolutionary ideas for media sales professionals

For publishers, media sales is now a highly complex picture, with print, web, email and apps to manage. While subscribers are now largely adopting digital channels, many publishers still have to educate their advertisers on the benefits of digital media. And some sales teams are not yet comfortable with the digital pitch and are wary of cannibalising their print revenue.  Meanwhile clients are under pressure to deliver results and wary of taking new risks – so the status quo is your biggest competitor.

Lloyd’s List have taken a very radical approach, and moved digital from just 11% of sales in March 2012, to what will be 100% when they close the print edition on 20 Dec 2013.  This was a project for the whole publishing team, but the sales challenge in particular provides some great lessons for other publishers.

At the SIIA Issue Brief which I chaired in London on 6 Nov, Fergus Gregory, MD Advertising at Lloyd’s List Group, shared the journey his sales team have taken over the last 18 months, and Raoul Monks, Founder of Flume Training, who worked with the Lloyd’s List team, explained the research behind their approach.  Together they proposed some revolutionary ideas for publishers keen to make a similar digital transition.

1. Clients don’t make decisions

Your “decision maker” will have to involve the whole of their team on a marketing proposal, especially if it’s a new approach.  Any one of these people can block the proposal.

2. Results beat relationships

It’s far easier for your client contact to convince their colleagues of the value of a new campaign if they can demonstrate the results it will deliver – just liking the sales person is no longer enough.

3. Each client interaction must add value

Clients are time-poor, so don’t waste a meeting or call simply uncovering needs; instead provide them with value and new insight that they would happily pay for.

4. The best sales people challenge the client

The highest performing sales people are not the relationship builders, problem solvers or hard workers, but those that debate the options and make the client think differently.  Lloyd’s List didn’t have to replace their team to turn them into challengers, they just coached them to develop these new skills

5. Service beats price, product and brand

The client’s service experience has a far greater impact on their decision than price, product features or brand.

6. Incentivise on client results not ad revenues

To fully align sales teams and client objectives, consider basing incentives on the results the client achieves with the campaign, not the ad revenue generated.

7. Sales people must think like B2B marketers

Lloyd’s List advises their team to read up on B2B marketing best practice, and really understand how their client builds their brand, generates leads and converts to sales.

8. Stories and insights can uncover challenges

Sales teams must learn new skills in story telling and sharing insights with clients to identify client problems, then create tailored packages – and ways to measure their effectiveness.

9. Win over digital detractors with evidence & insights

Divide client teams into digital detractors, neutrals and digital supporters, and take a different approach to each group.  Detractors can be convinced using case studies and research insights showing that digital campaigns deliver better results.

10. Offer a high service level

For large campaigns, provide clients with regular updates on their performance vs objectives, best practice from other campaigns and options to enhance.  Lloyd’s List has weekly touch points with major clients and regularly upsells their campaign.

11. Analytics provide power

Knowing when readers consume content provides valuable intelligence for clients – eg Lloyd’s List subscribers are most likely to read long articles on tablets at 7am.  And being able to prove the value of a combined print and digital campaign will prevent budgets simply being moved from print to digital.

12. Unlock clients’ own content

B2B marketing objectives are often better met by content rather than traditional advertising.  Clients have a treasure trove of content that publishers can unlock to help them generate new leads from white papers or research.

Plenty of smart advice here for ambitious publishers who want to grow their digital revenues.

This article first appeared on the SIIA Europe blog.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan launched the annual Specialist Media Conference, building on twenty years of publishing & media experience.  Earlier this year SIIA acquired the Specialist Media Conference and Carolyn was engaged as Conference Chair for the SIIA Digital Content & Media Summit in London in September 2013.   You can keep up with my latest thoughts on twitter @carolynrmorgan

Carolyn works with niche publishers to develop a practical digital strategy through her consultancy business Penmaen Media.

If you’re grappling with your digital strategy, do get in touch for a no-obligation discussion.