Whenever I make a presentation, one of the biggest laughs comes when I show a cartoon of a man explaining a plunging line on a flip chart. The caption reads, “The dip in sales seems to coincide with the decision to eliminate the sales staff.” We just completed a survey of 382 local ad sales managers that shows something just as dramatic. Sites with online-only sales reps make substantially more than those who rely exclusively on their seasoned print or broadcast sales staffs.
This revelation should come as no surprise to online managers. They’ve been telling us all along that print and broadcast reps “just don’t get it.” It’s not meant to impugn their intelligence; it’s just that those reps have their hands full trying to maintain existing customers. Online managers tell us regularly that they can drive revenues faster with a sales staff whom they can actually fire for not meeting sales goals. Our vice president of sales training, Bill Caudill, tells us that, after a training session, 30% of the reps “get it” and actually go out and sell online advertising. After three months, he says, half of them forget it.
More on the research. We asked front-line sales managers across the U.S. and Canada to take a 12-question survey about sales compensation, number of reps, online revenues, and related issues. We’ll publish the full results in mid-August. Respondents were split among those representing radio, TV, yellow pages, newspapers and Internet pure-play companies. Overall, 41% said they relied exclusively on “legacy media” reps to sell online advertising. Wow, what a mistake. I don’t think anyone can cite a single example of a sales staff selling two competing products and getting a significant share in both. It doesn’t happen, and no amount of digital pixie dust sprinkled over a print or broadcast sales staff will change that truism.
This, by the way, doesn’t mean that print or broadcast reps should NOT be selling online advertising. They should be trained to sell as much as they can. You don’t want to leave that money on the table. But relying exclusively or too heavily on legacy media reps is a quest to achieve mediocrity.
The most startling bit of information from the research is this: Of those with reps dedicated exclusively to selling online products, 46% of the sites were making $1 million or more. Of those that relied solely on their print or broadcast reps, 14% of the sites were making $1 million or more.
One more result from the survey: Of those who rely exclusively on legacy-media reps to sell online advertising, 49.7% said those reps exhibited an “average” or “poor” understanding of how interactive media could serve advertisers.
I rest my case.