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Many traditional media companies struggle with how to build their digital sales organizations. Should they recruit a digital only sales force — and if so, what are the pitfalls and best practices? If an organization chooses an integrated model — how do they beat the trap where 80 percent of existing reps retreat to the comfort zone of selling only legacy products?

In February, BIA/Kelsey will release an Insight Paper that addresses the difficult questions surround building digital sales organizations. “Old House vs. New House — Building Optimal Digital Sales Teams,” is co-authored by BIA/Kelsey analysts Charles Laughlin and Stacey Sedbrook. The title refers to the tension between selling digital products via legacy sales teams (the “Old House”) and moving toward selling digital solely through digital-only sales teams (the “New House”).

Laughlin is author of the BIA/Kelsey Insight Paper, “Sales Transformation: Building a Sustainable Model.” Sedbrook is a veteran sales leader who has built digital teams at a host of marquee media brands, including Gannett, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle and the Denver Newspaper Agency.

One of the paper’s key messages is that a binary view of the sales structure challenge — pure digital vs. multimedia sellers — oversimplifies the issue.

Yellow Pages publishers, newspapers and radio broadcasters may each find a different right answer to the channel structure questions. And while most legacy sales reps should be able to sell a simple digital package to their customers, it may be unrealistic to ask them to sell complex integrated digital marketing solutions to larger or more sophisticated advertisers.

“Old House vs.New House — Building Optimal Digital Sales Teams” will include interviews with sales leaders representing a variety of viewpoints.

At one end of the opinion spectrum is the case for a rigid division between old and new, where traditional sellers keep the legacy media house standing while a new team of pure digital reps builds the new digital-only house. Deseret Digital Media CEO Clark Gilbert is an articulate evangelist for this point of view. The other end of the sales structures continuum involves using using existing sales assets and relationships to make the transition from legacy to digital. This is where most traditional media organizations at least begin the transformation process.

The report will offer a BIA/Kelsey viewpoint on which models make the most sense for different kinds of organizations.

“Packaging is a big part of success with traditional media reps,” Sedbrook said. “One approach that has been successful is having the legacy team focus on the owned and operated assets – website, email, streaming. These are closely aligned with the brand and easy to bundle.”

Sedbrook says reporting structure is another, perhaps overlooked, critical success factor. “It doesn’t matter if the sales reps are cross media or digital only if they report up to a traditional revenue person,” Sedbrook said. “Digital sellers need to report to somebody with digital expertise.”

Check out this video for an excerpt from a conversation with Sedbrook about some of the paper’s key findings.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Looking forward to the paper, authored by folks I respect. Should provide some great perspective towards taking action and/or refining approach.

    One interesting note that I’ve had the incredible opportunity to produce in large media companies is that the Legacy reps WANT to sell digital WHILE maintaining their traditional product clients. I’ve seen that sparkle or glint in a Legacy rep’s eye when they get to offer a compelling digital product and deliver something their client’s have been asking them for. The digital products of the past, sold one time, without ongoing support are gone. Now are the times where digital products are sold as services. The Reps are key in maintaining the relationships/budgets by selling the ongoing ROI and pushing their product folks to amp performance of the product. Key in bringing back the feedback from the clients so that product evolves as their business evolves.

    All sales people ……especially sales people …..want to go home and tell their other halves that they are selling something kool and progressive. The onus is on us to truly deliver compelling products/services with transparency and clear benefit to our channels …..and clients.

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