Outsourcing Your Sales Activities

“If somebody had told me that I would one day outsource a main source of revenue, I would have questioned that person’s sanity. But I outsourced the advertising sales of our web site with no regrets. It’s mostly a question of trust in the organization representing us. And it’s also acknowledging that handling sales in-house would require industry expertise and substantial investments in people, training and technology — areas where we’re already spread thin.” — A web publisher

A Question of Trust

Outsourcing your sales activities, like any other aspect of your business, is primarily about entering into a partnership with a company you can trust. It’s about trusting the people who will be working for you in the marketplace and feeling that the sales team will be like an extension of your own staff. Ongoing communication is crucial to the success of the relationship, together with the guarantee of dedicated, focused efforts on your behalf.

Whomever you select to represent your company should provide extensive expertise, unbeatable market coverage and industry intelligence. The right partner will open new doors and opportunities, while leveraging your brand.

The Challenge of Building a Sales Team

Building your own sales team can end up being an incredible investment — a hole you keep throwing money into in the hope that you will ultimately see a substantial long-term return on the investment. For starters, establishing a sales force that can cover key markets and influence key decision makers in the media planning and buying process is expensive. It can also be extremely challenging, particularly in an industry where the decision-making process is decentralized. A media plan may be coordinated between San Francisco, Chicago and New York — not to mention London, Frankfurt or Tokyo if the business is international.

An additional challenge in the online advertising industry is that sometimes one brand is not enough to open doors. Many media planners and buyers prefer to meet with larger associations — advertising networks with an extended portfolio of web sites that can meet diverse needs and propose tailored solutions.

The Brand Portfolio Versus the Network Approach

Choosing between an individual versus a network sales approach is a dilemma that is particular to advertising on the Internet. Although the market seems to have evolved toward a network-buying system, with a preference for pre-packaged solutions, there is still space for strong, distinguished brands. The ideal outsourcing solution should take both approaches: protecting and growing your brand through individual sales efforts as well as through revenue generated by “web packages.” And these package deals should not affect your brand.

In deals where various web sites are packaged for an advertiser, your brand should be leveraged alongside others. In some cases when you are sold as part of a network, the demographics of your audience are sold. The advertiser is buying, for example, men aged 35+ who live in a specific region. They are not buying a particular brand. On the other hand, with what we call “the portfolio,” brands are a priority. They are sold through dedicated sales efforts, or they are combined with other brands in order to meet advertisers’ needs. But brands do not lose their identity.

To summarize, building a long-term partnership with your network sales team and taking a brand-focused approach will maximize the web publisher revenue for mutual success.

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