Engineering sales

Under this GateHouse model, selling and putting proposals together are separate

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A new advertising support position at the Northwest Florida Daily News is paying off, according to Ethan Aden, digital sales manager for the paper based in Fort Walton Beach.

The job title is sales engineer, and the goal is to put together multimedia proposals for the sales reps to present to clients – complete proposals backed by research into markets, demographics and other factors.

Information about this new position was shared during a recent video conference call among participants in SNPA's NEX-GEN mentor program.

"I think it is beneficial for many reasons, but I think the biggest reason is that we've seen our number of proposals for six months and higher going much higher than before, and also our closes. It dramatically increased the length of our contracts as well as the average closing value," Aden said.

The position is being added at the majority of GateHouse Media properties, he said. It began with New England area GateHouse papers, and Aden said the Daily News, which filled its job five months ago, is one of the first among offices in the Southeast to have one.

Accounts, existing or new, that bring in $1,000 or more each month on multimedia contracts that run for six months or a year are eligible for support from the sales engineer. The job entails putting together the proposal that the sales rep takes back to the client rather than the sales rep doing that work in addition to selling the client and closing the deal, Aden said.

"We've been expecting them to follow a sales process that calls for a needs analysis step for us, and come back and do a proposal after that," he said. "Within this we realized that they were either too busy or don't have the capabilities to do this job. So we're providing one more layer of support."

Although the job title drew applications from mechanical engineers during the hiring process, the title "has everything to do with engineering a process," Aden said. The process involves not just bringing in an advertising contract, but showing the client what platforms are most likely to be successful for that particular business and presenting a plan.

The sales rep asks initial basic questions about what the advertiser hopes to accomplish, and returns to meet with the sales manager and the engineer, Aden said. From there, the engineer does market research that may involve internet searches, SEO, local geography, demographics and the type of business, depending on what is needed.

Aden said the engineer's job is to tell the sales rep, "I will help you on the back end. I will do all of the research for you. I will build a beautiful proposal for you, with all of the pieces of research, information, perhaps even a spec ad, everything ready to go. All you do is you go back and approach them. You can pitch it."

The position acknowledges that advertising salespeople are being asked to do much more than they once did as newspapers become media companies and branch out in search of new revenue. They need support to present complete packages in a more complicated industry, Aden said.

"We're trying to alleviate some of the pressure on the salespeople who are multimedia sellers but used to be print sellers."

The sales staff and the engineer in Fort Walton Beach are responsible for the Daily News and five weekly newspapers published out of that office. Aden said the engineer can cover more than one paper in a group depending on size, number and location.

Engineering the process also includes keeping track of and measuring the results: what products are selling, what types of advertising work for particular types of businesses, in specific locations or among a specific customer base, for example. The sales engineer position is paid both a base salary and quarterly bonuses based on meeting revenue targets and on activity such as number of proposals generated, Aden said.

Aden recommends the concept to other newspaper organizations. Sales staff can spend more time generating new opportunities if they have resources and support back at the office.

"You will get your money back. Your people will be able to go back – your salespeople – and solicit more business."

For more information, reach Ethan Aden at eaden@nwdailynews.com.


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at jbnicholes@att.net.

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