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Vivid: Sales heads can no longer be just relationship mavericks

11-March-2013
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Vivid: Sales heads can no longer be just relationship mavericks

Indian media industry thrives on revenues from advertising sales. The chief revenue officers or chief sales officers or ad sales heads of media companies have been the drivers of media companies traditionally and many of them have advanced to become CEOs of their companies.

Has the role of the revenue head of a media company changed substantially in last ten years? Has the sales head been following this change or is leading the change? Who is leading this change? What is this change? What are the implications this change has for the larger ecosystem?

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them,” said Napoleon Bonaparte.

Traditionally, with lesser options available and media environment being simple, it was easy for media sales heads or chief revenue officers to use relationships to be the be all and end all of everything. Today relationships at best get you a foot in the door, it may get you an open and patient hearing, maybe your credibility will carry you through for an innovation trial; relationship is a passport, but you still need a visa.

Visa is the knowledge of the brand and creating a story that connects.

Solution sales is all about being honest and thinking like a brand manager or sales head of a brand.

Relationship-based sales, at best, can be used to induce trial. Today's sales heads have to think like the agency and clients.

Their challenges have multiplied as more and more sales people these days specialise in telling their sales heads how sales can happen but mostly don’t deliver numbers. Sales professionals these days tend to behave like consultants.

Sales heads have to retain their teams and their stars and balancing these stars takes its toll.

Is a sales head better off having an ex sales head as a boss as he or she may be more understanding and compassionate boss, having faced all challenges themselves.

Are women sales heads better than male sales heads? I know women’s day has just passed and we live in a gender equal industry. Women rule our industry. Still the sales heads of top four TV companies, top two newspaper companies are males. In fact, there are even less women CEOs of media companies.

Sales heads have to deal with bosses (read CEOs) who are trying to impress their boards and bosses, sometimes unaware or oblivious to the ground realities because what matters is their own ambition.

Sales heads, in most cases, have no control or influence over content and programming and are handed over a product to sell.

TRPs will never be trade relationship points and deliver. We need TRPs to be a really transparent process, which in most media sales set-ups is missing.

“At the age of six, I wanted to be a cook. At seven, I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since,” said Salvador Dali, a prominent Spanish surrealist painter.

I can say from my firsthand experience that most sales heads and chief revenue officers wish to become CEOs. This brings me to the question – do smart CEOs actually hire smart / competent sales heads? Do sales professionals, the money bags of media companies have strategic capabilities to be CEO? When do the ambition of the CEO and the sales head collide and create confusion for others in top management?

At this stage, let me remind all sales heads, as they aspire to become CEOs, of what Oscar Wilde said, “Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”

The author is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group

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