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Media sales: Search for the ‘why’

Short termism is a perennial problem in ad sales. Someone senior dreams up a new thing to sell and directs their sales team to get straight on the phone to sell, sell, sell. This approach doesn’t always fail, but there is, says Spread the Word Media’s Martin Maynard, a better way…

By Martin Maynard

Media sales: Search for the ‘why’

Where does a new sale begin? When a member of the sales team picks up the telephone, right? Or is it when they click ‘send’ on that initial email to a prospect? That’s it. Oh, hang on, the first meaningful exchange on a social platform. That’s definitely it, right? Wrong. A sale starts much, much earlier…

A sale begins with research. It creates that moment when a previously anonymous entity comes into focus as a potential prospect (oh, and what a glorious moment that is!). Doing the research, engaging with and understanding the data, requires the rolling up of sleeves and sifting through websites, periodicals, social channels, podcasts, blog posts etc, to establish if there is a fit between your offering and their brand. This is also when a salesperson begins to understand the ‘why’*. Hold that thought…

It's not all about you!

Let’s roll forward. Let’s imagine, for a moment, that all-too-familiar scenario: your sales team have got a stack of stuff to sell, the deadline is looming, but nobody is biting. So, they (understandably) turn to their regulars; they’ve been dealing with them for years, they’ll understand, they will help them out. After all, they’re bound to want this package because your team have got to sell it by the deadline, right? Unlikely.

The problem with so many sales scenarios is that they are predicated on the wrong ‘why’. In this scenario, the ‘why’ is that of the salesperson: they have X to sell by Y, so prospects must be interested. You can see the mistake. The ‘why’ is purely driven by a sales target, it’s not driven by market or customer need. What is required here is a paradigm shift: a market-driven approach to product development and innovation, and ultimately, selling. After all, if the market doesn’t see the value in what your sales team are offering, they simply won’t buy it.

The ‘why’ then is both strategic and tactical. The question that should underpin any well thought through sales proposition from the get-go should be: why would the market be interested in purchasing this product / service / event? This is obvious though, isn’t it? Not necessarily. I have lost count of the number of examples where the products / services handed to the sales team are ill-conceived, outmoded or just plain dumb. The editor who believes that a new supplement / report should attract huge sponsorship revenue, when an established identikit market-leading product is published by a competitor. That new Q4 awards ceremony dreamed up by a desperate publisher when the vertical is already flooded with them. Or worse, the unceremonious eradication of an established ‘why’: the tech team who withdraw the highest grossing website banner advert spot because the new site doesn’t support the same ad position. Don’t get me started!

Product innovation

Shocker: not all new products sell – this is usually because nobody cared to follow the ‘why’ from the product’s inception. I like to talk a lot about the importance of continual review and innovation to ensure that what your sales team has to offer remains in step with what the market is willing to buy. At the heart of this must be a collaboration, a collaboration between stakeholders in core departments to establish and maintain the ‘why’ for all products / services. This critical interdisciplinary activity must include input from the sales team.

I am going to ask you to take a leap of faith and trust me when I tell you that what your sales team does each day is no walk in the park. The good news is that putting your customers’ ‘why’ at the centre of product review and innovation will not only positively impact your revenues, it will also motivate your salespeople. The fusion of products / services conceived in collaboration, underpinned by thorough market research, and given to an empowered sales team whose own local research skills can be used to identify numerous prime targets, will help to ensure you are best placed for sales success.

Shocker: not all new products sell – this is usually because nobody cared to follow the ‘why’ from the product’s inception.

Key takeaways:

  1. A sale begins with research
  2. Seek to put your customers’ ‘why’ at the heart of your sales strategy
  3. Not all new products sell. Fail underperforming products / services fast. Move on
  4. Collaboration is the key to successful product review and innovation. Include a stakeholder from the sales team in this important activity
  5. A successful sale is a team effort

*Pro tip: For a salesperson, the ‘why’ should form the basis of all communication with prospects and customers – why is the product / service relevant to their objectives, and why now? It remains important to build the value but always reiterate the ‘why’ even if using shorter forms of communication such as a WhatsApp message or a DM via social media.

"...extensive experience of working in the media and publishing sectors..."

About us

Spread the Word Media (StWM) is an independent sales and marketing agency based in Hampshire serving clients throughout the UK, Europe and US. StWM has extensive experience of working in the media and publishing sectors. We work with clients on an ad-hoc basis, or as an extension of their sales and marketing team to deliver fresh ideas, targeted strategies and measurable outcomes.

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