Randall Rothenberg's book, "Where the Suckers Moon" invites you to ride along with the marketing executives of Subaru during their high-profile agency review back in the early 90ss (ultimately won and subsequently lost by Weiden & Kennedy). One of the book's revelations is that car advertising does not actually target consumers. The primary target audience is car dealers. Makes sense, as they are the ones who actually purchase the cars from the manufacturer, and then resell them to consumers.
Publishers can rip a page out of this approach when they determine their own target audience. Let me explain. The goal of any publishing company should not be to sell advertising, but rather, to make it easier for their sales staff to sell advertising. In essence, the sales staff acts as the "car dealer." Sales people are not required to purchase ad space to resell, but they are required to accept a quota for doing so which is almost the same thing.
Therefore, instead of targeting advertisers with their efforts, publishing sales management should treat their own salespeople like clients. This is a difficult paradigm shift for most sales managers because many are guilty of making it more difficult for their sales team to sell. They join in on too many sales calls without enough preparation to make a positive impact and their job function prevents them from following up well with the clients they do meet. Additionally, sales managers often take their teams attention away from advertisers by requiring cumbersome call reports and holding too many internal meetings.
If selling media were like boxing, which is not that much of a stretch, sales managers should assume the role of a promoter ensuring their fighter is well prepared to win a fight worth fighting. Instead, many sales managers mistakenly step inside the ring along side, or worse in front of their own sales people and this creates confusion that often gets them both knocked out.
Once publishing sales managers see their own sales staff as clients, rather than channels to clients, they can do a better job of helping them help themselves. Here are some baby steps in that direction:
1. Media Kits
Are they developed with the needs of the sales team in mind, or do these kits try to meet the needs of advertisers? Most are guilty of the latter, but look what happens when publishers create a media kit for their "new client." The perfect media kit in the eyes of sales people would be a collection of interchangeable parts. Their should be a "one sheeter" designed to grab the attention of any advertiser within any category. A salesperson handling technology and finance accounts needs something different from their media kit than the seller handling packaged goods. For that matter, some sellers lead with numbers, others lead with edit. Both should have access to versions of the media kit that complement their strengths.
This may sound like a lot of customization, but what advertiser doesn't want to feel special? Creating a truly dynamic media kit will allow your sales people to make all of their clients feel like the only one in the room.
2. Sales Support
Demanding to attend sales calls is not exactly perceived as "support." However, setting up an editor's round table or a night out to the ballpark for your sales people to plug clients into is. Sales managers could provide greater support by creating "sales events" for "their clients" to take advantage of.
As for attending sales calls, here is an approach to consider. A sales manager should first make the acquaintance of a client informally (at a lunch or another entertainment event) prior to inserting themselves into a sales call. This will give the sales manager an opportunity to make a greater impact on the call.
3. Internal Reporting
Abandon call reports. Just track the sheer number of sales calls instead so you quantitatively chart activity levels. By doing so, you can learn when sales call volume decreases and create events to help stimulate activity during those times. The time salespeople spend writing call reports should be time spent writing letters to advertisers. Forecasting revenue is another important exercise often misplaced on the shoulders of salespeople. Sales managers should own this exercise with just verbal input from "their clients." Finally, nothing keeps a salesperson up at night more than an overdue expense report. Publishing sales management should find a way to alleviate this burden, even if it means hiring an administrator whose only function is to handle this task for the entire staff.
To meet the needs of their advertisers, publishers first have to meet the needs of their own sales staff. Some publishers pay this mantra lip service, while others live by it. Which category does your company fall in to?