‘Comp-tologist’ Skills Can Pay Off For A Publisher

One in a series on Relevant Trends

Everyone looks for a secret sauce in building and coaching successful sales teams.

But time and effort are better spent learning to become a comp-tologist.
Getting right the compensation of sellers so it leads to increased revenue and motivated staffs is as important as having products that attract advertisers and sponsors.

Follow the money and data.

Today’s Relevant Point returns to an October presentation that revealed the results of the first newspaper sales compensation study produced jointly by America’s Newspapers, Editor and Publisher, and the Media Staffing Network.

In her crisp presentation, Laurie Kahn, the president and CEO of Media Staffing Network, translated the data into warning signs publishers should confront and actions steps newspapers should take.

Doing so could mean the difference between achieving 2021 revenue goals and having to deal with failure.

Among the warning signs:

  • Newspaper ad staffs are aging and what’s needed is a stronger strategy to recruit and retain the younger generations. The compensation study found approximately 3 out of 10 sellers are between the ages of 30 and 40. The rest are over 40. “The younger generation is where the work needs to be done,” Kahn said.

The advice: Stress the digital side of business. (A good sign: The study found more than 9 out of 10 respondents now have one sales team to sell all products. Digital is integrated.)

  • Newspapers are missing opportunities to retain new hires. Either they (35 percent) can make more money elsewhere or they (24 percent) didn’t understand “what they were getting into when they accepted the job.” Poor fit also was cited.

The advice: Do a much better job of telling your story to attract interest and top talent. Update your website, career page and social media “where you share reasons why you are a strong employer choice.” Explain how you improve careers. Boast, if you can.

*bPart-time selling roles are underused at a time when working parents prefer greater flexibility and “the younger generations are often holding multiple positions.” Only 2 in 10 respondents acknowledged having part-time sellers on staff.

The advice: Consider adding part-time or “flex” workers and celebrate it.

  • Developing new clients takes time, especially for a new hire without an established book of business to work. But according to the survey, approximately 7 out 10 respondents do not offer a different compensation plan for new hires. Slightly less than half offer only a 90-day guarantee which “can hurt in recruiting as most people are unable to build a list that bills enough to live on within that short of a time.”

The advice: Consider extended “security periods” when hiring new sellers. And, consider a different plan for new hires. Implement “non-revenue” incentives, such as completing training, conducting cold calls, mastering the advertising computer system, or meeting a goal of creating a certain number of sales proposals.

In her presentation during America’s Newspapers Pivot 2020 virtual conference, Kahn did a good job of loading up newspapers with actions aimed a creating stronger sales team.

Among the recommendations:

  • Know what the competition in your market pays to sharpen your comp-tologist decisions. Also, factor salaries at other sales organizations. (Check out Kahn’s comparison charts.) “Review perks, practices and gather feedback on suggested changes.”
  • Create a pipeline of prospects and spend each day building relationships. Go beyond just seeking media experience. Expand your search to other industries where selling is important.
  • Take the mystery out of the job. Put more details into job profiles. Be transparent. Update the newspaper’s policies and practice to reflect changes like working remotely.
  • Craft stronger messages on how you help clients and community. Share them on social media, your career page and during the interviews. Inspire.

The collaboration that powered what will be an annual study pays homage to the legacy of the surveys of newspaper salaries that the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and Inland Press Association used to produce. America’s Newspapers is the result of a merger of SNPA and Inland.

This year’s study, which was conducted during the summer, also dealt with the heart of talent when it asked for what motivates sellers to work at newspapers.

Two reasons tied for No. 1: helping clients succeed and earning potential. Company reputation was next, followed by “love of the industry.”

Is it any surprise that when it comes to a motivated seller, love is secondary to making money?

Sell, sell, sell.

—TAS

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