Undoing Structural Damage

In this emerging cross-platform world, how should your publishing organization be structured to efficiently maximize your revenue potential, regardless of the platform chosen by the audience your brand engages?

There is a simple answer to this complex question. But first let's identify the platform causing this organizational conundrum. It's online. No other ancillary platforms in your brand's stable create the same angst and confusion as online does. The question then becomes even clearer: Should you have a separate sales team selling your online inventory? No, and here's why.

Great sales are byproducts of great meetings. If your sales efforts are orchestrated by account lists, which many are, then a single salesperson owns the account -- and the accountability of acquiring the relevant information and relationships great meetings require.

When you separate your sales efforts by platform you handcuff the salesperson assigned to the account, which diminishes the chances of a great meeting occurring, while causing channel conflict inside your own organization. And yet so many publishers have made this mistake in an effort to mimic the silos advertisers created by employing offline and online agencies. The irony is that advertisers have stunted their own ability to purchase cross-platform communication packages with this approach. By assigning separate sales teams to each budget allocation, publishers are compounding the problem, not solving it. There are certainly short-term gains to having online salespeople work directly with online agency buyers -- but at the expense of the long-term value created by a single salesperson owning an account and having unobstructed access to any brand inventory to create the cross-platform communication packages advertisers crave. Having two sales teams (online and offline), you create platform-centric salespeople focused on their own revenue goals -- versus brand ambassadors focused on growing the business regardless of which platform fuels this growth.



The marching orders inside publishing companies structured by silos are to work cohesively with your online counterpart, but this is where it all breaks down. The great meetings that lead to great sales are exponentially harder to schedule with three or sometimes four people then they are with just two. So instead, the print salesperson will meet with the print buyer, the online seller with the online buyer, and now you have to rely on further internal communication for proper collaboration to construct a cross-platform opportunity. You can't change the fact that there are two buyers in the equation, but bringing a second seller into the process creates more chaos and confusion. And even when you are able to match up schedules and get everyone dialed in, you now lack a clear owner of the account and a clear consensus of what you as a publisher have to offer. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

So what can you do now if you have already gone down the path of two sales teams? If you have a dedicated online sales team, then you have created a team of experts -- so deploy their expertise in your sales structure to create one cohesive organization reporting to one chief. Then rename your salespeople "account directors" and make sure their account assignments are clear. Don't shy away from promoting any of your current online salespeople into this role if deserved. Next, assign online agency responsibilities to your remaining online sales managers so those shops have experts to guide and properly implement their online expenditures on behalf of the "accounts" you call on.

Now, every time an account director has an advertiser that uses an online agency, they bring in their online sales manager assigned to that agency to ride shotgun on that opportunity and at the same time, bring that online sales manager into offline conversations for that account so everyone in your sales organization continues to become more comfortable with multiple platforms. This will strengthen your entire company over the long term and better aligns with where the market is heading. Finally, build a commission plan based on revenue, not on revenue by platform.

Now you have one sales team working towards a common goal, supported by a team of experts, creating cross-platform communication packages free of biases or internal friction.

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