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(SALES) Are You Competitive?


With more than 20 million small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the U.S. alone, SMBs have become by far the largest, most lucrative target for advertising salespeople. But selling advertising to SMBs has never been more competitive.

In addition to increased competition from traditional media, countless new media are hiring local inside and outside sales reps every day: Google, Bing, Yahoo, Merchant Circle, Angies List, YP, Super Media, Yellow Book 360, ValPak, online newspapers,Groupon, Living Social, Yelp, SEO Consultants, Web Developers, videos, listings...the list goes on and has new players added every day.

In a recent BIA/Kelsey study, titled "Thriving or Not: A Revealing Look Into the World of Local Media Sales Consultants," 79 percent of SMBs said they were confused or didnt understand all of the new media, and nearly 60 percent questioned the relevance of traditional media.

In an increasingly fragmented and fiercely competitive media environment, being "number one" or the best media is no longer a surefire route to success. In fact, the difference between number one and number two in this crowded universe is often behind a decimal point...too small to be a claim to fame.

The strongest competitive advantage any media can have today is their sales force. But the toughest competitive factor any media company faces today is capturing and retaining those superior sellers. The real competition today is on the recruiting and retention front.

Here are some of the facts revealed by the BIA/Kelsey study, along with our conclusions:

1. There are too many media sales people selling too many products.
ENS Media conclusion: Only the best sales people can stand out in that crowd and win.

2. The majority of local media sales reps have received solutions or consultative selling training.
ENS Media conclusion: Everyone needs to have solutions/consultative training, but thats only the industry bench mark, not a competitive edge. To have a competitive advantage local media sales rep must be trained beyond traditional solutions or consultative selling.

3. 79 percent of SMBs were confused or didnt understand all of the digital choices
ENS Media conclusion: Only the best salespeople with in-depth knowledge of cutting-edge products and strategies can win the SMB business.

4. 57 percent of SMBs see traditional media as "obsolete."
ENS Media conclusion: Traditional media needs the best and most knowledgeable marketing professionals to compete against the glamour and glitz of "new" one is lining up to buy "old" or "traditional."

Executive Summary: Youll notice that each and every one of our conclusions to the study findings is that your only competitive edge is to have the best possible sales force. But heres the problem I identified in a recent ENS on Sales. 
I think I must be getting dumber every day because I see large companies in our industry do things I don't understand. I see them cutting commission rates, attracting  sub-standard talent and not investing in promotions, training, or creative to produce better results for their clients. They default to "selling" via discounting rates up to 50 percent or more to "get the order."

I know I didn't learn the "new math" some of these CEOs studied, but by my "old math," investing more in startups and training, creative, salaries and/or commission to get people who can sell at 100 percent of rate, is the only route to clear competitive advantage. Professionals who can convert non-advertisers to advertisers inevitably capture more revenue than inadequate "salespeople" taking orders with huge discounts or bonuses.

My Old Math
A $100 rate with a 10% commission = $90 net.
A $100 rate at a 50% discount and a reduced 5% commission rate, = $47.50 net.
(a loss of 47%)

The Apparent New Math
Cutting commission from 10% to 5% = 50% saving on "cost of sale" + less incentive for sales people + higher sales turnover + less attractive compensation to capture the best recruits = less revenue.

I think it's time to look at the "cost of NO sale" or "cost of low sale" instead of the "cost of sale.

All across North America I see weak radio account executives grovelling for a share of existing, and perhaps even dwindling, radio budgets. It seems to me, if there was a bigger reward at the end of the process, we could attract the kind of professional salespeople who could sell radio to new non-radio advertisers at great rates, rather than grovelling for existing scraps.

You can see the BIA/Kelsey study HERE. The study makes it very clear that those with the best compensation package and retention programs will win the fierce competition for the best sales force.

Wayne Ens is president of ENS Media Inc. ENS Medias Selling in the New Media Economy sales training program trains radio salespeople how to position and sell radio as a relevant key player in the new media mix.

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In addition to Wayne's stellar comments... and more sobering conclusions, one can also add the Creative Departments across the country to the discussion. Doing so reveals similar results. Or, rather, lack of desired results.

I won't have to recite any examples either as this group of readers already knows full well what has become of these departments and the resultant drop in quality that has ensued.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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