By Helen Berman
To see the future of publishing and ad sales, try this: Step aboard your average commuter train. Not so long ago, this was newspaper-and-magazine central. Today, practically all passengers are plugged in: It's a cell phone here, a laptop there, a Blackberry and iPod over there. Even sitting on a train, these consumers have become moving targets, shifting from magazines to Web sites to podcasting to get the information they want.
Smart media companies are creating as many touchpoints as possible, from Web sites and magazines to podcasts and virtual shows. And if the logistics are complex, the goal is simple: Create a branded, trusted source of information, wherever those users might be.
Advertisers Follow The Eyeballs
Tag along with a 24-year-old. As you watch this human input-output device at work;Tivoing, IM-ing, talking into his Bluetooth;realize two things. First, he's the demo target for consumer advertisers. Second, he's aging into decision-making and managerial positions. He'll be pushing advertisers into spending bigger chunks of ad budgets on non-print media.
Traditionally, publishing salespeople have been "productcentric." They had ad pages to sell, with maybe a show directory or card deck on the side.
Today there's so much more to the task. More than ever, salespeople must first learn precisely the client's needs and prospect behavior. Where are his customers? What media do they use? What messages do they respond to? The more products a publisher offers, the more the client's needs determine the right marketing mix.
Free Added-Value Is Dead
Today, the Web is still young, but not so young that most advertisers don't know its value as a rich, targeted medium. More importantly, it's become the glue in the marketing mix, offering powerful synergy with print, events, custom publishing and other marketing solutions.
The result: "Added value" has become "proven value." As salespeople move from selling pages to selling packages, each piece of the marketing mix becomes intrinsic to the whole, and you can't add or detract without affecting the advertising results.
The Lone Hunter Is Extinct
In the past, the best advertising salespeople were the ones who got the business, dropped it in the publisher's lap, and left to retrieve another client. Today, bagging the client isn't enough. For some sales calls, every member of the publishing team contributes ideas and service. They must develop and deliver marketing solutions with careful attention to detail. And they must thoroughly follow up and cross-check results.
With team efforts required both in the developing and servicing of ad sales, the lone-hunter salesperson must adjust his approach. It's a new game for today's new-media sales team, and that has far-reaching implications for hiring, training and compensating salespeople.
Personality Only Goes So Far
In the days of space peddling, salespeople could make it on personality and persistence. In the days of integrated media, that's not enough. Salespeople today need the intellectual acumen to deliver marketing solutions; to understand the world from the client's side of the desk. While they don't necessarily need marketing degrees, they do need strong knowledge of marketing basics, as well as the think-on-your-feet ability to deliver creative, client-centered ideas.
It's No Longer Straightforward
Today's salesperson is freed from the restrictions of the traditional magazine presentation: circulation, readership, advertising effectiveness. Instead of relying on categorical, linear thinking, salespeople are free to be associative thinkers; to bounce ideas around with managers, agencies and clients, and to move into problem-solution thinking. Today's media sales presentations are more complicated, yes. But they're also infinitely more rewarding intellectually, creatively, and in the end, monetarily.
Helen Berman specializes in print, online and exhibition sales training and consulting and is the author of the book, Ad Sales: Winning Secrets of the Magazine Pros. She can be reached at 310-230-3899 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.