SPOTLIGHT ON: MEDIA SALES - What factors contribute to a successful sales operation? Some teams have it, while others don’t. Alasdair Reid reports on how to sell well

They do say that the best goalkeepers play for the worst teams - they get more practice. And something similar used to be said about media sales. People in television, for instance, were notoriously lukewarm sales talents. They didn’t really need to punt the ITV monopoly; all they had to do was make sure that the queue was orderly and suitably deferential.

They do say that the best goalkeepers play for the worst teams -

they get more practice. And something similar used to be said about

media sales. People in television, for instance, were notoriously

lukewarm sales talents. They didn’t really need to punt the ITV

monopoly; all they had to do was make sure that the queue was orderly

and suitably deferential.



Does number two try harder, and do numbers three and four care even

more?



A new survey (Campaign, last week) on the merits of media sales

operations would indicate that things are never that simple.

Commissioned by Capital Radio among buyers accounting for two thirds of

all media expenditure, the survey hands out two bouquets - to Associated

Newspapers and to Channel 4. In particular to Mike Ironside at the Daily

Mail and Simon Barnes at the Mail on Sunday; plus Simon’s brother, Andy,

at Channel 4.



Different products, very different market positions - in fact the only

thing in common is that they represent fashionable media products which

seem to have time on their side. But whether that’s a cause or an effect

of their sales success is anyone’s guess.



So what makes a good sales operation? Presumably, from the point of view

of a media planner or buyer, it’s gullibility and feeble-mindedness in

the face of negotiating firepower. No, not exactly, counters Robert Ray,

the joint managing director of MediaVest: ’They have to be able to sell

and they have to take initiatives. They need good people. And, of

course, they have to be efficient in looking after our business. But

more than anything else, the thing that marks out a good sales team is

an ability to listen to and understand the business needs of our

clients. It’s important to us that sales people are able to respond with

something that isn’t totally glib and meaningless.’



Simple enough but, apparently, extremely rare. Others in the market

agree - and it’s not always about lack of talent or training. Often it’s

down to what many planners regard as institutional short-termism and a

debilitating belief that opportunism - foraging for revenue on a daily

basis - will be more profitable than building strong long-term

relationships.



The survey indicates that the gap between best and worst in any sector

is huge. Some specialists say that hasn’t been their experience

recently, but they do agree that the mavericks exist. The horror stories

are still there. And it’s ironic that the survey comes from Capital,

which until recently owned the Fawlty Towers of media sales - Media

Sales and Marketing.



MSM gained a reputation for concluding delicate negotiations and then

forgetting to run the campaign. It came to the point where the MSM

managing director, Paul Davies, wrote and apologised to agencies, citing

understaffing and technological problems.



Then there’s the longest-running horror story of all - a newspaper group

which routinely walks away from negotiations with the ’I’ll tell your

clients on you’ old chestnut - and often goes through with it, writing

letters claiming the agency’s perverse intransigence will cost the

advertiser dear.



But one sector where buyers believe that the spectrum between good and

bad has closed is television - even ITV has learned how to sell. Paul

Parashar, the broadcast director of New PHD, says: ’Channel 4 has an

excellent business development team. But ITV has changed and is

continuing to change.



It is excellent at back-up.’



All agree on one conclusion of the report - that size doesn’t

matter.



Nor does the goalkeeper principle apply medium against medium. Small

does not mean perfectly formed. In fact, the only sensible conclusion to

draw is that if you want a tip-top sales team, hire one of the Barnes

family.



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