Conference summary: Multi-platform Sales

The International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) offered a one-day seminar on multi-platform sales. Sixteen different speakers from newspapers in Canada and the United States shared their hard-earned perspectives and experiences. What became obvious is that all organizations have tried different alignments of their sales forces – and, interestingly, there does seem to be some general consensus on how to proceed. Here are the highlights.

Pros and cons on separate sales forces vs. one

Two well-known experts argued each side of this issue.

First Mike Blinder, President, The Blinder Group, rallied for one sales force selling multiple products. He indicated that this was more efficient and allowed for more customer contact by one rep. He did acknowledge that this may lead to the ignoring of smaller accounts and that it requires an investment in training. He felt that the issue was less about multi-media vs. print reps but more about types of sales reps – hunters (or prospectors), farmers and closers. Hunters, he argued, fit with online sales (although they should be allowed to sell both) and should focus on new business. Farmers, he feels, make better traditional print reps (but again know enough to sell all and can draw on experts as needed). Closers, he posed, can have meetings with new potential advertisers which are set up for them via a call centre at which point, they are sent in.

Peter Conti, Senior Vice President, Borrell, references their research which shows on av. 25% of sales come from online. Those performing above this, have 3 things in common: a dedicated, separate online sales force; the ability to work with non-traditional customers; and a thirst for data. These reps. use a consultative sales strategy and get much higher rates for online than their peers. Blinder countered that the success of this group was due to the fact that they were “prospectors” not that they were a dedicated sales force.

What most are doing

Most organizations have recognized that retail and national need to be treated differently.

The national advertisers and their agencies are more sophisticated when it comes to the online. The online buyer wants to talk to an online specialist – someone who is as knowledgeable or more than themselves. In this case, many have specific online reps. for this purpose. In some cases “national solution groups” were set up to cater to this and target competitive media.

The retail advertisers, particularly those in smaller communities, don’t want multiple reps calling on them. They want advertising solutions which may or may not include multi-media. It was noted that many retailers have bought into the idea that online communication is going to save them. Whether this is true or not, it argues for online to be in their plan to satisfy their need for this element. Furthermore, to overcome the internal issue of stealing newspaper revenue and putting it into online, managers indicated that they were training their staff to recognize retail’s desire for this media, and embrace the fact that if the newspaper doesn’t offer it, competitive media will.

In terms of set-up for retail, most had moved to “multi-platform sellers” with experts to be brought in on online, mobile, e-mail, video, etc. The consensus was that this expert would not be paid on commission but instead salary plus a small bonus for hitting an overall sales goal.

Solution providers

No matter how the reps were organized, it was clear that multi-media sales required providing a solution to an advertiser. To do this, research was repeated mentioned as a key tool to make the case and become a partner with an advertiser. Most research mentioned was customer data combined with lifestyle segment