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4 Sales and Pricing Strategies to Drive Media Revenue Right Now

In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis completely upended nearly every aspect of our lives. Business closings, record unemployment, and shelter in place orders dropped consumer demand off a cliff. Advertising budgets followed suit.

Today, we seem to be at a crossroads. Is the pandemic nearing its end, or are we in store for a long winter? While we certainly aren’t equipped with those answers, what we do know is there are still compelling reasons to advertise now.

That’s the good news.

And the bad news? In this environment, business as usual won’t produce your desired sales results.

What will it take, then, to drive media sales today and in the future? It all comes down to a laser-like focus on the customer and their needs. And while sales methodologies have long preached a customer-first approach, until now, we’ve never been in a sales environment that makes a true customer focus so imperative.

Here are four customer-focused strategies you can adopt right away to drive media sales in today’s landscape.

1.    Become Your Customers’ Trusted Advisor on Digital Media

Last year I attended the Borrell Local Online Advertising Conference and wrote a blog post about how, as broadcasters expand their digital media solutions, it’s critical for traditional media salespeople to become digital marketing experts.

Just think about how overwhelmed many media salespeople are by their own company’s digital solution sets. It stands to reason that clients don’t fully understand what’s available to them, either.

Now is the perfect time for AEs to sharpen their digital skills. With digital media consumption on the rise, the potential payoff for salespeople and their companies is huge.

This presents an opportunity for AEs to become their clients’ trusted advisor on strategic digital solutions, which can lead clients to place more value on the relationship.

At Borrell, Bill Caudill, former VP of Digital Sales at Nexstar, mused that gaining digital marketing expertise is no easy task, as this subject is offered today as a four-year college degree. And yet, through training and self-directed learning, salespeople can acquire the most essential digital marketing skills.

An ideal starting point is The Digital Marketing Institute’s (DMI) “Introduction to Digital Marketing” micro lessons, which covers the basic principles of digital marketing and speaks to how traditional and digital media work together to create watertight campaigns. DMI includes courses that cover the type of digital campaigns that are offered in the local broadcast space, like Display and Video Advertising, Social Media Marketing, and Email Marketing.

2. Tailor Your Solutions to Customer Needs by Studying Their Businesses

The Challenger Sale, perhaps the most widely read sales training book of the past decade, advocates an approach based on one of the largest research studies ever conducted on the sales process. Data included in the book reveals that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience—more so than the brand, product, service, and price combined.

A true “Challenger” sales rep has a deep understanding of the customer’s business, isn’t afraid to push their thinking, and tailors the sales approach according to value drivers and economic drivers.

With face-to-face meetings still lagging, AEs can use the time saved to work towards becoming Challengers—they can spend time researching and gaining a deeper understanding of their customers’ business challenges so that they are prepared to tailor their solutions to specific customer needs.

Media sales has a long history of being a relationship-based sale model, and while relationships are important in this line of business, the Challenger philosophy argues that reps who take control of a sale and teach their prospects how to solve their problems are more effective than those who are more focused on building relationships.

AEs can take control of the sale upfront by mapping their prospects’ priorities to their own product capabilities. Here are some ways to research prospects and identify their priorities:

  • Set up Google alerts to keep up on press releases, trade articles, and other mentions in the press. This ensures that reps stay on top of their prospects’ changing business initiatives and incorporate up-to-date customer information in conversations and pitches.
  • Follow prospects on LinkedIn to identify key messaging at the account level and at the prospect level. Work this messaging into the sales pitch.
  • Identify the prospect’s executive priorities. Executive priorities come down from the C-Suite and can be found in annual reports, by listening to shareholder calls, or by simply Googling the company name and then “executive priorities.”
  • Study your prospects’ industry language and use their terms to describe how your offerings would impact their business.
  • Local business journals are a good source for conducting research on smaller, local businesses. The American City Business Journals links to business news for over thirty markets.

By gaining a better understanding of how their customers’ businesses are likely to have changed because of the pandemic, AEs will be ready to impress as business meetings return. Clients will appreciate their AE having done the research and relieving them of the need to answer exasperating questions about their changing needs.

3. Prove Advertising’s Value to Your Customers

More than half of customer loyalty is driven by the sales process, so mastering today’s most fruitful sales strategies is a must. Given that some clients are still wary about social interactions, AEs should focus on conveying the value of their products and expected outcomes above waiting for a return to lunches and happy hours. Sales leaders tend to agree that leading with knowledge and providing value are key as we evolve from entertaining to a more data-driven sales strategy.

 The Harvard Business Review notes that the post-pandemic world will rely less on charm or expense accounts. “Trust will be built by and rewarded to those that listen to customer needs and then craft solutions to meet those needs.”

Michael Doyle, Founder at the Sales MD, agrees that a successful sales executive does the required homework to understand their prospects’ business model, and uses that knowledge to ask the right questions. “Figure out how they MIGHT be able to use your product or service before you visit, but DON’T pitch them your ideas. Use your understanding of their business, their possible problems, and your products to ask them better questions.” Then, he continues, get yourself a homework assignment and show them a solution that helps to solve their problems.

Salespeople can also prove themselves to be a valuable resource by keeping advertisers updated on ever-changing media consumption habits. This is especially important right now as a portion of the population continues to work remotely while others return to commuting.

In August, Nielsen reported that radio consumption was at its highest levels of the last 16 months, which is largely attributed to a return to in-car, drive-time listening. And while TV viewership is up since the start of the pandemic, the way TV is viewed is constantly changing. According to Nielsen’s June statistics, 64% of time spent on television was on network and cable TV while 26% of time was spent on streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. The streaming share is rapidly increasing though, with estimations that it will reach 33% by year’s end.

There’s never been a more important time for salespeople to provide value. Educating customers on changing viewing and listening habits, demonstrating how stations can help drive success based on client-specific needs, and sharing marketing tips from the experts will help establish salespeople as valuable resources.

4. Learn, Analyze, and Act on Your Data

A data-literate AE is a powerful resource in any climate – but especially when “normal” goes down the drain. Rather than lamenting the predictably unpredictable year behind us and months ahead, instead invest in your data. By discerning patterns and trends in your business, you will illuminate critical action items that will protect your revenue for years to come.

Studying the performance of individual segments will reveal where exactly the opportunities are, as well as how to tailor strategies for niche markets. In addition to more active rate card management, stations should strategically pull back on those no-charge spots they gave to loyal advertisers in the height of the pandemic. 

For national and multi-market advertisers that continue to require added value, heavy up in markets and on stations that have inventory to spare, while protecting properties that are more inventory constrained.  Utilizing different strategies by segment – market, station, daypart, and client – is crucial in shaping demand to best fit your needs.

But all of this begs the question as to how to forecast demand when last year’s data is an anomaly for most. While 2020 data on its own is not reliable for forecasting, stations that want to take a more sophisticated strategy with their proxy data can use a blended approach.  Utilizing a fusion of 2019 and 2020 data could provide valuable insights in forecasting demand in Q3 and Q4 of 2021.

By using analytics and AI, media companies can analyze thousands of microtrends in historic and current ad spend behaviors, providing insights on how to maximize revenue.

There is a lot of data to track and understand such as:

  • AEs that are consistently attaining high or low rates.
  • Which advertisers are getting your best inventory despite low rates/low spend level?
  • How rates compare across advertisers within the same category.
  • Ratios such as recommended rate versus sold rate.

To do this effectively and on a timely basis, sales managers will need revenue management software to drill into achieved rates by industry, advertiser, agency, market, and station to quickly identify trends.

Advertising Remains a Phenomenal Lever: Sell It!

While we saw the economy do things none of us expected to experience in our lifetimes over the past year and a half, the truth is there will be more ups and more downs – forever. That’s just the nature of our world.

Regardless of what the economy is doing at any given moment, every industry will continue to need business—whether they are bouncing back or trying to steal market share away from competitors—and advertising is a phenomenal lever to drive business. As Robert Cross said in his Revenue Managers: Rise Up! blog, “Selling the right product to the right customer at the right time has never been more important.”

Give your sales team the time it needs to become a valued resource for customers. RateOptics™, the next-gen pricing solution from Revenue Analytics, eliminates pricing busywork. Schedule a demo with a member of our team to learn how RateOptics™ can help your team sell more.


Emilee Bond

Emilee Bond knows ad sales. She spent 20+ years selling advertising and media research data to Fortune 500s at orgs like iHeartMedia and Nielsen. Today she helps ad sales teams transform their operations with next-gen software and writes popular blogs in her free time.

Emilee Bond knows ad sales. She spent 20+ years selling advertising and media research data to Fortune 500s at orgs like iHeartMedia and Nielsen. Today she helps ad sales teams transform their operations with next-gen software and writes popular blogs in her free time.

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