Panelists say in order to survive, stations need their sales personnel to reinvent their approaches, strategies and skills — either through retraining or rehiring — to understand how to identify changing client needs and match them with one of many platforms that will best serve them.
With businesses wanting to reach consumers across platforms — making relying exclusively on spot sales a thing of the past — TV station sales reps are going to have to reinvent their approaches, strategies and skills if they plan to stay in the job for the long haul.
Or so said two industry pros — Neal Polachek, The Kelsey Group CEO, and Rob Weisbord, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s regional group manager/director of digital interactive — who spoke Thursday at the BIA’s Winning Media Strategies conference in Washington.
“What part of the sales process needs to change?” Polachek raised, then provided his own answer: “Probably the entire sales process.”
What that means, Polacheck and Weisbord said, is that stations are going to have to either invest in serious retraining of their sales forces to meet clients’ changing needs or hire new personnel that get it.
And though veteran sales reps may reproach such drastic measures, broadcasters have no choice but to employ a sales force well versed in the potential of multiple platforms — primarily TV, the Internet and mobile — if they want to survive, they said.
“Changes always cause an explosion within an organization, but without changes and innovation you will die,” said Weisbord of Sinclair, which has started retraining and reorienting its sales teams toward cross-platform approaches.”You have to be able to adopt and to adapt to survive,” he emphasized, explaining how Sinclair is retooling its sales teams from being spot sellers to “customer solution sellers” who emphasize the potential of different platforms. “Over time, the people who want to sell the 30-second spot will find themselves like Willy Loman — death of a salesperson.”
About 20 percent of the approximately 600 sales people who work at Sinclair stations have been retrained and are using a cross-platform sales approach since the company started transitioning 18 months ago, Weisbord said.
In that time, Weisbord said he’s learned that individuals with marketing or athletic experience make the transition best, primarily because individuals in those groups think strategically and often have the “fire in the belly” that drives competition.
With TV as its core business, Sinclair’s approach is not to lose the spot advertising that has long kept television stations afloat.
Nonetheless, it’s essential to access previously untapped clients and digital resources to compete in new times, Weisbord said.
Polachek agreed, saying that while old sales habits may die hard, there is no choice but to make changes in today’s media marketplace.
“We would argue that today sales reps have no clue what’s going on in media space except in respect to their own media,” he said. “They really don’t understand how consumers are being influenced by other media.”
That, however, needs to change by training sales teams not only in the money-making opportunities offered by new media but also by knowing how to take a more far-reaching approach to understanding client needs and potential solutions.
“It’s really a critical process to go through,” Polachek concluded.