Editor’s Letter: Modern Sales Takes a Community-Oriented Approach

Understanding customers’ experiences is an all-hands effort

The penultimate Digital Transformation Playbook in partnership with Accenture Interactive is about how the sales function, organization and talent are evolving. Sources: Getty Images, TicToc
Headshot of James Cooper

In the year that we’ve co-created the Digital Transformation Playbook with Accenture Interactive, we’ve touched on a wide host of topics and themes that are shaping the modern—and future—art and science of marketing. It has been an expanding year and I can safely say that both partners learned a great deal about the shifting industry at large and different approaches to our own marketing, creative and editorial.

However, the one discipline that we have yet to cover is revenue, monetization, sales.

In this, the penultimate Digital Transformation Playbook in partnership with Accenture Interactive, we deep dive into how the sales function, organization and talent are evolving along with companies’ creative and brand efforts.

Here at Adweek—especially since our digital-first mentality springs from traditional publishing roots—we’re seeing, feeling and executing a shift away from a more transactional stance (buy this page, buy that banner) to a far more consultative and community-oriented approach to working with clients. Just like consumer brand marketers, we have to understand our customers’ experiences and create programs, rather than just buys, to help them, in turn, better understand their client journeys (yes, very meta, but it’s at the heart of future-proofing the b-to-b business model).

This is an all-hands effort and involves the entire company, including editorial. The wall that has been traditionally thrown up between sales and edit is now an anathema construct—walls in general, for that matter—that has no place in the brand marketing ecosystem which calls for flow, collaboration and relentless communication. I see it more as a screen door that both sides can see and, when appropriate, walk through when a problem needs to be solved. With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, sometimes that screen door does slam out of frustration or fear of change. But it allows for a fuller collaborative culture, and that’s never a bad thing in a highly disrupted arena.

In this edition of the playbook, Adweek technology editor Josh Sternberg caught up with Keith Grossman, Bloomberg Media’s global chief revenue officer (given his near-constant travel schedule, that was a feat in itself). Grossman, who leads a team of 250 reps across 15 offices and is charged with selling all of Bloomberg’s media assets ranging from print to OTT, is not only a media practitioner but an ardent student of the converged business model and the people who make it tick.

“For many years, the industry was not set up to strategize and buy media like the consumer experiences it in real life,” Grossman tells Sternberg. “Agencies thought in terms of platform silos—such as linear TV and digital video—as opposed to experiences—such as viewing (regardless of what screen). A lot of individuals love to lament that agencies are dead. Personally, I find this to be marketing extremism at its best. The reality is that agencies are evolving to deliver upon the new needs of their clients, partners and consumer behaviors.”

And in his feature assignment for this issue, regular contributor Dan Tynan points out that this breaking down of silos needs to happen between media companies and brands as well.

“There’s a wholesale evolution of the talent involved,” Tynan quotes Sebastian Tomich, global head of advertising and marketing solutions for The New York Times, which has consistently layered on new offerings and capabilities for its community of readers and brand partners, including, as Tynan reports, a strategic consultant for the brands that appear in its pages.

Says Tomich, “Now we have a creative team, a strategy team, tech and product teams, and a sales team, and they work hand in hand as peers to service each client.”

Seeing clients as members of our respective communities of readers, viewers, listeners, contributors, followers, fans and attendees is crucial for the survival of brands and media alike.

Their experience is ours, and ours must become theirs.

This story first appeared in the November 12, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@jcoopernyc james.cooper@adweek.com James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.