How media companies can get their swagger back

On the backs of Mike Blinder’s business cards, it says: “Prognosis without diagnosis is malpractice.” For Blinder, President and Founder of the Florida-based Blinder Group, this means “sales reps have to go into this solutions-based sales process to learn the needs of the advertiser and then use all their media like arrows in their quiver.”

by WAN-IFRA Staff | July 28, 2017

“If you make the packaging of the digital products easier to understand to the advertiser and the sales reps, and if you infuse them better, you can get more print sold and more digital sold and higher market share. And that’s what we’ve proven to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. It’s a question of positioning,” says Blinder, whose Group works with small and medium-sized media companies to help improve their sales teams.

He also will be a speaker during our upcoming IFRA World Publishing Expo, which takes place from 10-12 October in Berlin.

In this interview, Blinder tells us about his method of examining clients and working with them to find solutions to meet their needs. “Let’s get our swagger back,” he says.

WAN-IFRA: When you begin working with a news publisher, what are some of the main things you assess – and do you start with their sales teams or their products?

Mike Blinder: Firstly, I want a look at the total revenue trending and then how that breaks down: Digital vs. Legacy print then Local vs. National. From there I can get a feel for where there biggest challenges lie.

I then want to learn what digital products they offer. Just about all newspaper clients I work with sell ads on their websites. But, I need to know how they augment those offerings. Are they offering Programmatic Audience Extension to local advertisers? And, what digital services beyond they offer (if any), like: website development, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, social media management, video production, database management, etc.

Following that, I what to learn: “Who sells what?” As you likely know, there are a number of theories on how you staff your legacy and digital sales forces. I want to know: Is there a separate digital sales force, and who do they report to? And, do these sellers work with or compete (or both) with the local, legacy sales force? And finally, what digital products do you allow the legacy sales force to offer on their own?

I also want to know what compensation and accountability systems they have in place. Are the legacy sellers required to sell digital, and how are they compensated on those sales? Is there a customer relationship management system (CRM) in place, and how is it being used to manage the sales force?

What are a couple of the most common problems that newspaper sales teams have?

Blinder: A lack of skilled coaching and management is the usual challenge I encounter. Their direct manager may not have the skills to educate and motivate them to prospect new business. Meet objections and close.

Many media companies place the wrong person in this crucial role of the direct manager for the outside salesperson. This is a very important position, which is usually given to someone who excelled in direct sales and was promoted up from the team.

The problem is that the skills that make someone a GREAT salesperson are usually the traits that make them a BAD manager! They tend to not be able to coach properly by allowing the salesperson to take the lead on their appointments. And, sometimes they tend to not want to ride along with their reps to help train during the sales process.

Also, most newspaper sales people have a fear of selling digital products and services believing that the sale of these products will “cannibalize” their print income. And, a lack of understanding how to present these products properly.

You have said “the process of adding digital components to our existing legacy products has to be simplified.” What are a few of your suggestions for doing this?

Blinder: A print salesperson does not have to know how the press works to sell a print ad. I think sometimes we overtrain on the wrong things when it comes to selling digital products. Certain digital products can blend well with print as they simply help augment the “reach & frequency” of a media campaign (such as Social Media Streaming and Programmatic Audience Extension). Other products (like SEO & SEM) require the legacy rep to uncover the need for the product and then possibly seek the help of a digital specialist to assist in the servicing of those products.

Two types of advertising have grown massively in the past couple of years: programmatic and native. What are your views on how most news publishers are using these?

Blinder: Programmatic is growing because it compliments what newspapers do very very well: Offer effective, targeted reach & frequency in order to achieve results for our advertisers.

It is the #1 profit item we assist our local client newspapers in selling (beyond their core print and digital products). It is easy to explain. Simple to blend into any media campaign. And HUGELY profitable (as opposed to SEM, SEO or Website development).

Native Advertising is also an easy offering for a legacy newspaper sales rep to add to their solution offerings. Not only does it provide great results for local advertisers, but it also has many elements to it that assist in closing the deal, especially if the native program being offered has product exclusivity.

We also have made millions of dollars in PRINT revenue from native advertising that most media companies we encounter ignore! Native advertising can go beyond just the digital world and can be VERY profitable when combined with a print campaign.

In terms of sales teams, do you believe in mainly having specialists for print and others for digital, or should almost everyone be able to sell everything with a small number of specialists?

Blinder: I believe in BOTH! I think all legacy sales people have to understand all media! Not just digital, but competing media like: TV, Radio, Directories, Direct Mail, etc. It makes them more valuable to the local advertiser as a marketing resource.

The same applies to digital. The local rep needs to understand all digital services. However, they should not be expected to have to sell and service all the products, since some are too technical and take too long to close and maintain.

A good sales department has a blended model of having digital specialists support the legacy sales force. This will require a modified compensation model where both make a commission from the sale.

Since you are going to be at Expo in Berlin: If you had an unlimited budget, what single technology/product/service/trend would you investigate while you are there – and why?

Blinder: I would look for the world’s best means to make sure I understand and “granule-ly” deliver the most targeted audience I can from my owned and operated print, database and digitally delivered editorial products; As well as, how I can “marry” those eyeballs that I own, to the word’s best delivered, hyper-local, supply side chain of programatic inventory, that provides me with amazingly targeted, reach extension campaigns. After all, when you think about it, our real “unique selling proposition” is all about audience and how we become the best at “renting those eyeballs” to our advertisers!

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