NEWS ANALYSIS: Switch to cross-format sales set to benefit outdoor outfits - But companies must train sales staff to keep up with changes

Poster formats have captured the headlines in the outdoor sector recently, with the death of the 64-sheet coming only weeks before the rebirth of the 16-sheet. But formats no longer dominate the sales structures of major contractors.

Poster formats have captured the headlines in the outdoor sector

recently, with the death of the 64-sheet coming only weeks before the

rebirth of the 16-sheet. But formats no longer dominate the sales

structures of major contractors.



JC Decaux was first to change its structure following its absorption of

Mills & Allen last autumn. Rather than having one sales team for its 48-

and 96-sheet portfolio and another for its six-sheets, Decaux created

four sales groups defined by their clients. A single sales person

provides one point of contact for each client, its agency and its

specialist.



More recently, More Group has also shifted to a cross-portfolio

structure, whereby one salesperson can talk to a client about all the

More products, from ambient offerings to 96-, 48- and the Adshel

six-sheets. And last week, Media Business revealed that More’s parent

Clear Channel International is on the hunt for an international sales

director to provide a single point of contact for the company’s huge

European product portfolio.



Maiden too has restructured recently, merging its out-of-car and

roadside divisions.



But as with the eggs and omelette adage, it is tough to make changes

without receiving criticism.



Malcolm Thomas, board director of outdoor buying outfit Blade, comments:

’There is a worry that some sales people might not know all the trading

issues for each format. Staff retention and training need to be

boosted.’



David Tallis, joint managing director at Poster Publicity, adds: ’It can

cause confusion if one person goes to see the client and another goes to

see the specialist.’



But both Thomas and Tallis acknowledge the change in tactics is largely

positive. ’I was having to speak to seven or eight people at one

contractor not that long ago,’ says Thomas, ’now there’s one point of

contact - and that’s a huge improvement.’



And Tallis says it is good for the industry as a whole: ’These changes

are encouraging clients to see outdoor as a whole media solution - and

that is resulting in increased business for everyone.’



As for sales people being short of knowledge, that is a problem the

contractors are addressing. When Decaux first switched to cross-format

sales, the staff spent a month learning from each other about the

different portfolio components. The company then initiated a series of

training sessions at which staff learned the sales aspects of all the

formats. Maiden has started a similar exercise.



Maiden sales director Alex Ward comments: ’There will always be people

who need to learn the ropes, but we have lots of experienced staff too.

Frankly, we’ve all done this for the agencies, specialists and their

clients. They no longer just want the cake - the 6-, 48- and 96-sheets -

they want the icing too, in the form of a special idea that will capture

the imagination. This way our sales people are equipped to deliver a

plan that incorporates the whole picture.’



Provided the sales people in question get the training they need, it

looks as if this shift in sales tactics will help the sector break the 7

per cent barrier.



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