New careers beckon as changes create an industry of opportunity
THE transformation by newspaper publishers to a mix of digital and print products is offering new opportunities in our industry. Digital looks scary for sales colleagues embedded in print. It has buzzwords and buying options that are a world away from selling column centimetres. The domain seems to be ruled by the whizz-kids of Google, Yahoo! and Facebook.
Is this really the domain of newspaper people? You bet.
Newspapers across the PANPA membership and merging sales forces that were once split in to digital and print products. This separation of skills is ending. Digital alone is not a new frontier anymore. Success will belong to those sales people who can sell cross-platform solutions. Publishers have the audiences. . . and now their sales teams must show advertisers how they can profitably reach them on any platform, at any time of the day.
For those who have spent a career selling column centimetres, the capacity to grow their client base and commissions with new digital products has arrived.
“No matter what you’re selling, the same rules apply,” says Tony Prentice, the chief commercial officer for News Limited’s new integrated sales force, News Australia – Sales. “The briefs from the agencies on behalf of the clients are the same, ‘I want to reach a type of person who is interested in a type of product’. You do need to know the key differences but there is no mystery to selling digital,” says Mr Prentice.
Sales effectiveness leader for APN Regional Media, Kristy Harwood, has a 12-step outline for her teams that can be tailored to digital sales. These steps are split into two parts: process and administration.
The process side begins with prospecting – researching every prospect and then calling them. Research includes determining whether they use a website, what products they offer, their buyers and market, current strategy and how digital might fit into it.
“The better you know the client, the better you know their business,” says Ms Harwood. “The more that you’re a part of their business, the better you can service their needs.”
Even with digital, it’s all about asking questions. Top sales trainer Lisa Mah-Chut says: “Stop trying to sell your products.
“The clients don’t care about your products. They care about their own goals.”
Ms Mah-Chut, who works with US-based Value Selling Associates, says sales colleagues must understand the client’s answers to four questions:
• What is the business trying to achieve?
• What challenges does it face in achieving those outcomes?
• What solutions can solve these problems?
• What would be the impact on their business of you providing a solution?
“Most clients have an idea of what they want already,” says Ms Mah-Chut. “What the salesperson is doing is helping the client reach a conclusion that they’ve probably come up with themselves.”
Salespeople must focus on the outcomes of what they sell.
“It is not about the package that we’re trying to sell, because that is where advertising sales is at across the board,” says Ms Mah-Chut. “If that happens, then there’s no differentiation and you end up talking about price, and then it is about how low you’re prepared to go.”
Pricing for digital is more complex but more transparent in terms of results when compared with print. Understanding the new business models, and the power and brand value of digital properties is critical. Three common structures exist:
• Cost per impressions – advertisers pay for a certain number of page impressions of their advertisement
• Cost per click – advertisers only pay for the traffic that goes to their website; and
• Cost per acquisition – the advertiser only pays for every sale or acquired client.
Unlike print, the sale is not complete when the contract is signed but when the ads have been delivered to the audience. This is where APN’s focus on sales administration kicks in. In Ms Harwood’s 12-step plan, a client’s sales report has to be monitored. When the campaign ends, the account executive needs to conduct an analysis and discuss it with the advertiser.
“If the client is achieving their goals, then you can start to build up some stories to use when prospecting for new clients,” explains Ms Mah-Chut. “If it’s not going well, we can make adjustments. It’s easier to fix a problem than to win a new client and replace an unhappy one.”
Ms Harwood says colleagues immersed in print take a short time to embrace this new discipline and sell with confidence.
“[My trainees] thought it was a lot more complex than it was,” she says. “They thought our offers were too complicated, but that’s because it was new to them. Over time, they become more experienced and confident.”
Ms Mah-Chut off ers this suggestion: “Executives who haven’t sold digital before should start asking questions and buddy up with a colleague who understands why clients buy digital. Then they will learn some concept that they can talk about with their own clients.”
News Ltd’s Tony Prentice says colleagues who do well at digital display certain characteristics that are not always seen among print colleagues. “They know the competitive landscape – not just the rival newspaper. They follow innovation, know about the next big thing and can relate it to the goals of clients and prospects,” he says.
Lastly, they know how digital can enhance the advertising mix. Mr Prentice concedes: “Complexity is a real problem. So the way to make it easier is to talk about audiences, not platforms like web and smartphone.
“You still have to be a subject-matter expert about your product, plus the complex world of mobile, tablet, digital and print.”
READ MORE: Q&A with sales trainer Rohan Johnson
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