How Bloomberg Media Is Rethinking Its Entire Sales Strategy and Seeing Results

By retraining its employees on multiplatform selling

When Justin Smith arrived at Bloomberg Media as chief executive in 2013, he took control of a massive global brand encompassing a television network, a magazine, radio stations, digital properties and an events business—each with its own particular pitch to advertisers. Think lots and lots of silos, by platform, and then by region.

Today, Smith will announce that ad revenue for the first five months of 2016 is up 11 percent and driving revenue growth across the company. It's validation, he said, of his strategy of rethinking not just what the company produces, but how its sales force operates. "We've done something very unique in how we've tied together all of our platforms into a very distinct multiplatform advertising proposition with custom content at the core," Smith told Adweek. "In a time of disruption, realizing across-the-board revenue growth across multiple platforms and multiple geographies is a really outstanding result."

Making that shift meant retraining the company's entire sales force, replacing single-platform selling with multiplatform. Two years ago, a client would have to navigate a confusing, cumbersome network of sales people—working with a different rep for each platform.

Fixing that was "not an easy thing to do," said COO Jacki Kelley. "You're really teaching a lot of new skills to a lot of people." That involved an extensive period of cross-training—and exams. "Yes, there were tests," Kelley said. "To reinforce to a print executive that yes, you really are an expert now on digital."

"When you can surround a target audience from television through digital through live events, through (the) magazine, you can go very far," Smith said. "We're working with our clients to give them that type of access."

Smith, who was poached from The Atlantic, came with a success story: turning a 154-year-old magazine into a modern digital player, and in the process, reversing the company's losses. At Bloomberg, Smith again emphasized digital, redesigning the company's website and launching regional homepages in Europe and Asia. "We pivoted our company really aggressively towards the digital future … it's by far our largest channel in terms of size of audience and revenue," he said.

And it's at the core of what Bloomberg's sales force presents to brands—often bypassing agencies entirely. "Our sales team, nine times out of ten is going straight to the client," Kelley said. "What's the problem the client is trying to solve?" In many cases, she said, "we know the customer better than the brands do."

Agencies, often still structured around the silos that Bloomberg has spent the past few years replacing, don't always join the conversation. Kelley said Bloomberg's expertise in crafting multiplatform content packages requires a managing director or global managing director, rather than "being pushed over to the buying team … we command a different audience."

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