By Jeff Ulrich
Senior Manager of Digital Transformation and Enablement, Marketron

The recent 2020 RAB-Borrell Digital Benchmark report found that training existing sales reps is the number one factor in positively impacting digital sales. Intuitively, this makes sense. To sell any product, salespeople need to thoroughly understand the features and benefits of what they’re selling.

In today’s digital landscape, however, training is particularly critical. Digital advertising evolves quickly. It’s technically complex and strategically nuanced. And perhaps most importantly, it’s measurable. After years of struggling to put ROI against their advertising dollars, businesses can now clearly see the impact of digital tactics on the bottom line. Combined, these factors mean that media sales reps must provide the right tool for the right job at the right time — or risk losing advertisers’ business.

How do you know if you have effective training procedures in place? As a media sales veteran, I’ve seen what works and what flops. Let’s take a closer look at the components of a successful training program for broadcast sales teams.

Only the strong survive: the importance of an educated sales team

As advertising tactics have become more sophisticated, so have advertisers. Today’s business owners recognize which of their media sales reps are true marketers and which are simply package pushers.

Package pushers sell the product du jour. Whether it’s a new offering or the priority of the month, their focus is hitting their quota, regardless of their advertisers’ objectives. This approach is particularly dangerous in today’s digital, measurable environment, because if it’s not the right product, the writing will soon be on the wall.

True marketers, on the other hand, operate with a high level of business acumen. They know how to recommend and align solutions with stages in the customer journey. They have studied the marketing funnel and can help business owners identify their goals, from creating awareness to shifting consideration to activating conversion. Then, they can reach over their shoulder and pull the right arrow out of the quiver.

To succeed in media sales, salespeople must be true marketers — especially because ad buyers are reducing their number of local media partners. As a result, only the strong will survive, and strength requires training.

Two key components to successful training: consistency and variety

Large broadcast groups often enjoy robust internal training programs. I spent most of the 2010s developing and executing training initiatives at one of the largest integrated print and broadcast media companies in the US, so I know what big budgets and corporate incentives can achieve. For smaller operations, however, training can be a challenge. There is only so much time and money, and sales enablement is just one line item on a long list of must-dos.

In addition, training must be both consistent and varied. Digital advertising constantly evolves with technology opportunities and new product releases and sales reps need to keep up. Our macro-environment can change on a dime too, as we witnessed last year, forcing dramatic changes to how organizations do business. Further, different people learn different things in different ways. One methodology will never educate an entire team effectively.

How can small to medium-sized media organizations navigate these waters? By relying on trusted vendors who have the resources to create training content at scale and the processes in place to share them.

Training at Marketron: e-learning, virtual training, sales manager resources and more

At Marketron, we believe strongly in serving as that trusted resource for our customers. That’s why we offer a number of training options to help media sales teams stay on top of the rapidly changing digital landscape.

  • Online e-learning. Our NXT training academy includes more than seven hours of self-paced educational content that spans product-specific information and industry insights from our partner, P1 Learning. Content is deliberately “bite-sized,” with modules built to take five, ten, or fifteen minutes. We know that everyone is busy, so our e-learning resources let sales professionals complete the whole course in about two months with just 15 minutes per day.
  • Virtual training. Interactivity plays a key role in training success. We use a webinar format for our virtual training sessions, but unlike traditional webinars, we ensure that they are truly interactive. We offer a series of six 45-60 minute live sessions, each scheduled multiple times per month. They allow participants to find a time slot that works for them, then engage in an ongoing (not just at the end) Q&A format with a real subject matter expert. “Classrooms” typically hold 5-20 people for maximum engagement and we make sure that it’s always a conversation, not an oration.
  • Targeted sales enablement sessions. Quarterly, we offer bonus sales enablement sessions based on specific topics requested by our clients. Our “Research Rocks: How to use cool tools to sell smarter in 2021” webinar, for instance, came out of a customer’s request for help with a proposal. These sessions are open to anyone in media advertising sales, not just Marketron customers, and include a workbook that takes the theory of the training topic into execution.
  • Sales manager resources. Media sales staff have been working remotely for almost a year now, which is no easy task. Recognizing this challenge, we put together digital sales meeting packages. Designed for the time-starved sales manager who understands the importance of training, but perhaps struggles to make it happen consistently, the sales meeting in a box provides role-play scenarios, follow up emails, and more to help sales teams run meaningful training, more often and more effectively.

Today’s homework: call your service providers to ask about training opportunities

Continuous training empowers staff to offer the latest digital products and the best solutions for advertisers and agencies. It steers sales managers and salespeople forward for digital revenue growth. It keeps sales reps engaged, educated, and motivated and ensures that their customers get the right solutions for their needs.

Happily, training is also readily accessible. Far too often, fantastic resources sit in a literal or virtual drawer, forgotten and without a champion. I encourage sales managers to dig around. Tap into the resources that are already available and make it easy for people to take advantage of them. It’s always a good time to call your service providers and ask what they offer, what’s new, and how they can help your team achieve their goals and advertisers’ objectives. If they are anything like Marketron, they will have plenty to offer.

In digital advertising, as in life, readers are leaders. Prioritizing training for your media sales team can enable your reps to offer advertisers the best products backed by the most effective strategy. It keeps your team up-to-date, always relevant, and ahead of the pack. With strong training, your salespeople will walk into every meeting armed with the latest information and ready to win more deals.

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