Will 50% of AE jobs be gone in 5 years? That was the basis of an article last month on Mediapost.com. And, as you can imagine, more than a few AE’s and leaders asked my opinion of that article!!
While the article makes some good points, I’m convinced that, for the most part, it’s totally wrong, with the possible exception of the Top 10 markets.
The TV sales world is absolutely changing. But, my guess is that whoever wrote that article has never made a sales call in anything but a Top 5 market.
Here’s the crumb of truth in the article. We know that programmatic buying will impact the buy/sell process, especially in larger, highly transactional markets. One major NYC ad agency has publicly stated that they believe programmatic would allow them to reduce the number of buyers by 75%. That’s 3 out of 4 buyers gone in that shop. Clearly, that impacts anyone who sells to that agency. It will also impact the selling process, and it’s highly unlikely those few buyers will ever be able to take a call after the buying process begins. So, there’s no opportunity to adjust pricing to grab a little more share. Negotiations will be handled by the computer and be pretty much a “one and done” process. As the head of one network’s O and O station’s sales told me this year, “We won’t need as many sellers in the scenario.”
But, one the of single biggest sales issues we face is a reduction of demand for our inventory, and one of the ways we can increase demand is to increase the number of people calling on clients. So, if I had to guess, I’m thinking it’s likely that our new TV business will have more people calling on clients in 10 years than we do today. That’s not just because we can increase demand that way. It’s also because the digital solutions we now offer have reduced the budget levels clients need to be spending in order to be a viable prospect. We’re seeing more and more digital-only new-business sales, especially in large markets, many of which are to clients who probably could never afford to be on a large market TV station. That may be why one of the fastest growing market segments for our company is large markets. There’s an increasing realization that they need to teach their people how to create business in order to protect their share and help their AE’s be ready for a very different future.
What would be a better headline for an article about the future of TV AE’s? How about this one?
100% of TV Sales Jobs Will Be Gone For People Who Can’t Sell
That’s right. If you can’t create demand… create new business… and successfully help businesses grow… I think your future won’t be especially rosy. Almost every TV station has a couple of sellers who have survived, maybe even thrived, because they either had the right account list or were really, really good at transactional. Those were great skills for the last 20 years of our business. But not nearly good enough for the next decade. We need sellers who have great basic selling skills. Sellers who are effective at prospecting and know how to understand today’s client needs. Doing CNA calls the way they were done even 5 years ago isn’t enough. We need sellers who know how to have business conversations with clients, not just advertising ones. We need sellers who know how to close. That’s right. Asking for the order, a skill largely de-emphasized over the last 20 years, will become a skill we’re ALL talking about (and measuring) again.
So, what should leaders be doing? Here’s what I suggest:
- Look at the selling skills of every AE on your team based on the list above and other things you might add. For example, many would add being digitally savvy to my list.
- Based on your formal evaluation, are there any AE’s who need to go? It’s hard to bring below-average people up to average. That’s usually not good for the AE or the manager.
- Prioritize the skills at which your team needs to be better and build that into your 2019 training program. You MUST be working now to get your teams better for the future.
- Create standards for new business activity that measures the top of the funnel not just the business you write. Great managers know how many diagnosis calls and presentations each AE is doing, as well as the closing percentage and average first order of each new business sale by AE. (Note: look at the average opening order size as a way to reduce churn. Selling new biz is great, but selling new biz that renews… that’s the real win.)
- Make sure your culture is that everyone must play. No free passes for people with bigger lists. EVERYONE does new business.
- What is your accountability? Here’s a line that became a management cliché because it’s so accurate. “We don’t get what we expect… we get what we inspect.”
- Don’t make this a 90-day project and then get distracted by other priorities. That’s a mistake a lot of leaders make—a mistake I’ve made too many times in my career. Improvement in this area is so critical to our success that we can’t let up on getting our people better and more effective. Which brings me to my last point:
As leaders, we have a responsibility to our people and our companies. We must help them prepare for the future. Wayne Gretzky famously told us to “skate to where the puck is going to be…” I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist at this point to have a very clear picture of where our sales “puck” is heading. So, we have an obligation to have our teams ready for the new reality.
Jobs going away for AE’s? Not for the ones who know how to sell.
Have a GSM or GM meeting in your future? Why not have Jim Doyle or John Hannon speak to your meeting about how to turn your sales staff into a Sales FORCE? We promise powerful, thought-provoking content customized to your company’s needs. Contact Jim Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-926-SELL.