Commentary

Salespeople You Can Stand Behind

We have a quality-control issue on our side of the fence, folks. Not a lot of great salespeople out there right now. There are far more bodies on the street selling media now, then there were before 1998, let's call it, so it's natural for the quality of media sales representation to decrease. But there is something more going on here.

There are two distinct subsegments of media sales reps in the market right now: the old guard from traditional media who are learning new tricks, and the new guard, backpacked with skills but lacking the sales DNA the old guard possesses. Both groups are struggling because each has what the other needs.

The new guard is so technologically advanced it's dizzying, and far more creative. The old guard is more refined and properly polished. The new guard is careless with audience figures while the old one presents numbers audited only by third parties. The old guard never met a problem it didn't try to solve; the new guard has never been taught the adage of not bringing a problem forward without a potential solution.

These differences are not intelligence-based. Rather, they are culturally based -- which is a nicer way of saying age-based. As of late, I sense the old guard awakening further and the new one feeling slightly less secure. Professional growth by both groups would be good for business.

I am sure there are managers out there who wish to wave a magic wand and create the ideal salesperson with the skill sets of each group. Instead, their confidence wavers in the team they currently have in place.

If I were you reading this, and you were selling media today, I would take honest stock of your own skill set and figure out what you need to strengthen so you become a perfect blend of both groups' strengths. Here are three areas to focus on (I am sure there are others):

1. Know where the bodies are buried. Just because you have a fancy CRM program doesn't mean it's working as well as a pen and a pad. The old guard can teach the newer one about the value of an updated account contact sheet. Not being great at this is a lack of properly directed attention.

2. Finding things is a skill. A recent hire I was involved with made a big impression when he said he excels at quickly finding things that help him appear more prepared on a sales call. The old guard used to pride itself on acquiring annual company reports for key information to help them sell well. Today, they need to acquire the skills of the search set to stay competitive.

3. Drawing big pictures. Can you create something on your site that delivers simultaneous benefits to the user and the advertiser? That question is asked with almost every RFP. The new guard crosses this line easily, the older one with trepidation. There lies between, a middle ground great salespeople can identify. A place that makes sense and money without depleting internal resources or your readers' confidence. Creating this kind of integration and selling it inside and out, is a skill that makes quotas disappear and keeps you in great demand.

Great managers know how to stand behind their salespeople, not in front of them. The salesperson, however, owns 50% of the responsibility for making that happen.

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