While most media have some form of digital sales training, once, or even twice, is not enough for sales representatives to "get it" and sell it. This article maps out a variety of simple training methods, which, when put together are transformative. These methods are used by top companies in a sample surveyed in conjunction with the American Press Institute and ItzBelden.
1. Create an inhouse Digital University
Several newspaper groups such as Gannet and Pioneer have invested in training their top tier managment in digital 2.0 onsite at the home office. These executives then create a local version of the course. Sound daunting? Here's an digital sales course outline created by Angela Sammons, after attending Pioneer Newspapers' Web 2.0 program for managers. Witthoeft created an eight week presentation for online with a sales presentation as the final "exam." Using specialists and heads of interactive to help fill out the seminars from a basic outline can reduce the work involved for one person. Once the course has been taught a few times, it's ready for webinar status.
2. Use Google and Yahoo online certification
Google AdWords not only has online training, but also short tests at the end of each chapter. Both Yahoo and Google training includes basic internet concepts and terminology, so it's a great start, even if the advocacy of search products superior to all else is a little heavy. Best of all, the courses provide tests and certification at the end which sales representatives can be included on business cards.
A common alteration to the Google presentation is to show how important print broadcast and other products in their places in the 'interest" phase, especially in generating demand from people who " don't know they don't know".
These terminologyies can be discussed a few at a time in sales meeting and tested out. Here is a master list, thanks to Brian Hellman, ad manager in Fort Myers. Glossaries are also one of the training tools used by Mike Blinder of Blinder Group sales consultants; your company should have one.
4. Structured training at sales meetings
Most successful companies surveyed devote at least 15 mintes to 30 minute of the sales meeting to go over practical topics in digital sales. Here's a list of 45 training topics also part of the training plan at Fort Myers News-Press.com. In FortMyers, specialists conduct digital training at weekly meetings. Other scheduled training methods include the Houston Chronicle 30 minute digital sales meeting every Monday. The meeting celebrate digital successes and covers a vignette or training topic. Michael Christensen, of Sun Media in Western Canada also holds an hour webinar every Friday afteroon when clients are less available. Meetings are companywide and voluntary, except, sales reps whose managers request them to attend.
5. Four-legged calls
Learning by osmosis is another critical training method, and four-legged team calling is part of best practices at top companies. Most groups have either assigned specialists or a "swat team" that migrates into the market for a few days or a week to go on field calls (Clients tend to open up more to the "expert"). Smaller newspapers like Petoskeynews.com requires at least 2 to 3 four-legged new sales calls with a manager per week. Product managers - especially those who report through the revenue chain as they do in Odessa's OAOA.com - can also be freed from other duties to make calls.
6. Separate Training on ad design and offers
Find a "how to article" on ad design with examples here. Employing guidelines shared with both sales and creative helps create shared mantras. Also , group training allows designers to share frustrations with lack of "client control" and get people talking to eachother and committing to the result. Nothing worse than a nodding smiling head that does not buy it! To show you are serious about creative, have quick (15 minute) monthly meetings that include the creative department, to share top performing ads by Power Point, and hand copies to sales people. Internal documents do not require client sign off!
7. Switch around teaching modes
Power-point is your friend but .... often what reps hear in the sales meeting is just more "wahh, wahh, wahh..." so keep it interactive and visual. Use video if you can! This is especially true for hunters, who are seldom readers by nature. The maximum human attention span for one subject today is 20 minutes even at school, so school teachers are now trained to change "modes" such as visual, passive or active excercises every 15 minutes. Chadi Irani of the Palm Beach Post invites specialists to weekly gap analysis meetings with individual reps, so they turn into strategy sessions to brainstorm accounts and ideas.
8. Use sales representatives to conduct Digital Advertising Workshops
Another idea from Irani's team is select a few sales representatives instead of managers and specialists to conduct Digital Advertising Seminars for local SMB's. Here's some ground rules on workshops in general. Allowing sales representatives to teach the seminars (even if designed by specialists) identifies your future evangelists and trainers; there is nothing like teaching a subject to create greater confidence.
In conclusion, once products have been launched, training needs to move to the number one position in the hierarchy of projects, ith its own project plan that incorporates a number of different mechanisms. "We train already" is never enough. If your organization utilizes particularily effective methods of training the team, please let us know.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.
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