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One of the often asked questions we receive regarding sales from all local media sectors is whether multiproduct selling by a single sales force is really possible. The natural follow-on question invariably is, what would be the benefit of a single sales force as opposed to specialized sales teams for each product area — traditional media products and online/digital products?

I will go on record as saying I am a strong believer in the ability of a core sales team selling multiple products that combine both traditional media and online media. Solution selling is what is being demanded by the local business owner. Our Local Commerce Monitor survey has indicated over the past several waves that small and medium-sized businesses are trying desperately to figure out how all of their media choices fit together. Subdividing media choices into separate sales channels invariably confuses the customer and empowers individual sales forces to sell against each other. recently reported on this very scenario in a story about Hulu, the online partner of NBC Universal, Fox and ABC. “For Hulu, which is under increasing pressure to prove its value as a business in its own right, the battle over ad revenues [with its TV broadcast sales channel] has become more acute as [it] competes for ad revenue.”

Channel conflict is often the case when competing sales channels within the same organization compete for ad budgets. It is rare that an online rep will rein in his or her recommendation so the next internal sales force has the opportunity for budget. Every sales channel has an objective and every salesperson is paid on maximizing every selling situation. revealed a recent IAB Bain & Co. study providing further support for an integrated sales approach saying, “Marketers want integrated campaigns instead of platform-specific media programs.”

While IAB/Bain focused primarily on brand advertisers, the same thinking certainly applies to the SMB marketplace. One of the key findings was, “Ultimately, marketers are looking for media companies to offer a true triple-play service model from direct response to awareness to high impact brand engagement.”

Advertisers are already multimedia buyers; it’s just that the sales process hasn’t caught up to where the advertiser is at the moment. Our ongoing survey of SMBs, Local Commerce Monitor, indicates that SMBs use on average three or more local media to market their business with much higher numbers in categories such as retail, restaurants and professional services.

Yes, it is easier to segment the sales force from a management standpoint, and it is more challenging to train a sales force in a new method of selling. But ultimately it comes down to what the advertiser wants and needs. Multiproduct selling is about providing a solution to support the advertiser’s business objectives, shows how media offerings support and relate to one another, and it demonstrates the value of the sales force to the advertiser by educating and demonstrating how the solution meets or exceeds their goals at a price that makes sense. For the organization it maximizes the investment in the core sales force, eliminates channel conflict and focuses on increasing the overall customer value. Let’s make peace with our advertisers and our sales operation. 

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