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Thoughts On Selling the WWW.

Selling Audience: 3 Steps For Sales Executives.

Posted by Dan Vigil on November 22, 2011

Attend any local publisher sales meeting this year and you’ll likely hear the following statements: “We need more traffic.”, “We’re running out of inventory.”, “Our home page is sold out.” These are all indications that sales teams have become great at selling their sites but are still learning to sell audience.

Local publishers pulled out their calculators years ago and figured out that they wouldn’t have enough inventory or revenue opportunity to make the jump to 100% digital. This is why they formed partnerships with companies like Yahoo!, Monster, and AutoTrader. In fact, by virtue of being “local” they shouldn’t expect to generate as much traffic as the National players.

It’s taken some time but it’s clear that legacy sales teams are finally getting good at selling online display. The challenge is that many are still selling their sites rather than their audience. As audience metrics continue to mature and credible content becomes more valuable, publishers will benefit from a transition to  higher premiums for site-specific, targeted display advertising. For this transition to take place, however, sales teams need to become better at audience selling.

Here’s three steps for sales executives can take to ensure that they selling audience in their sales presentations:

1. Represent the “network” not the site. Sales execs should speak to advertisers in terms of their audience network, not their site. They’re not selling the dailynewspaper.com site, but rather the dailynewspaper.com network of sites which includes the audience that and advertiser is looking for. Executives need to take the time in their presentations to explain how targeting works and the fact that the advertiser is not really looking to buy a web site, but an online “audience”.  An explanation of how the publisher has partnered with a network of sites will make sense to an advertiser. In the case of Yahoo! a newspaper executive might ask his client to search for local news on Yahoo! to demonstrate how Yahoo! is simply another venue for local newspaper readers. In essence, Yahoo! is the newspaper. Account executives need to think of these partner sites as their sites.

2. Determine your “Total” inventory.  Regardless of the arguments made by this blog and others, many legacy sales teams are caught up in a “territory” mentality. Sales managers can use this to their advantage by challenging sales execs to determine and sell out their “total” audience inventory. If there’s an account executive that’s responsible for a region designated by zip codes, that executive should know how much inventory and what type of online audiences are present in his region, regardless of which partner site the inventory is on. This should become a target for Account Executives. Who can be the first to sell out 10% of their “total” available inventory? etc.

3. Blend the CPM.  As the demand for site-specific inventory drives those CPM’s higher, sales execs need to become comfortable with blending site-specific CPM’s with CPM’s from partner sites reaching a target audience. When done properly the advertiser will benefit from increased exposure on extended networks and valuable branding on publisher sites, without breaking the bank.

Online display advertising will be turning the corner very quickly from the lower CPM’s of remnant to the higher CPM’s of real-time-bidding, but direct sales channels will always turn in higher revenue per impression for publishers. The extent to which publishers can train their sales teams to become total audience sellers will determine their success moving forward.

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