Pilot Media Top 10 for Editor and Publisher

The Virginian-Pilot
Norfolk, Va.
Circulation: 168,308 Sunday; 132,590 daily

Although there are plenty of newspapers experimenting with new content and new ways to deliver it, very few are following up that strategy with a targeted, strategic methodology on the sales side. The Virginian-Pilot is one of the few.

“In 2012, we completed our conversion from print-only sales reps to multimedia sales professionals who now offer the full suite of products and services across print and digital,” said advertising research manager Michael Lambert. “This marked the move from a ‘compete’ sales model to a ‘collaborate’ model.”

This transition occurred in measurable, attainable steps and included several key initiatives. First, all managers, reps, and sales support participated in a yearlong training curriculum that included terminology, products, pricing, building action plans, and analytics. Next, the staff revised the entire sales and fulfillment process from top to bottom, producing new collateral and marketing pieces to support sales efforts. All sales goals and commissions were revised in order to drive behaviors that support the new model. Finally, personnel were tested for their competency in the new system (both written and demonstration tests). Those who couldn’t pass on the second try were shown the door (don’t worry, pass rate was 98 percent).

The result? Digital sales are up 25 percent year-over-year from 2011. The sales process itself is running smoothly and efficiently since fulfillment efforts for print and digital have been centralized and aligned. The Pilot also invested in improved sales materials (both electronic and printed) to help the newly educated sales reps continue to drive revenue growth.

The decision to redefine the entire sales process was, thankfully, not taken lightly. The objectives were put in place only after the Pilot had exhausted the market analytics available.

“We embarked upon a program to systematically analyze the universe of businesses in our market in order to determine market penetration and to determine if we had the right products, pricing, and sales channels to serve the various businesses,” Lambert said. “This initiative was undertaken on the premise that national business and major accounts will be spending less, and that local small-to medium-size businesses are where the opportunity lies.”

Read the full article from Editory & Publisher: 10 Newspapers That Do It Right 2013