This season, we’re analyzing the findings from our latest Media Sales Report. With data collected from surveys conducted in Q4 of last year, the responses from sales managers and salespeople alike will help us chart a solid path forward through the media sales landscape.
In each episode, Matt will be joined by a rolling roster of outstanding experts from our team here at The Center for Sales Strategy.
Today, Matt is breaking down the Sales Department Section of the Media Sales Report with SVP/Senior Consultant, Stephanie Downs and Senior Consultant, Susan McCullin.
Together, Stephanie and Susan give their take on some top questions that arise from the report, like:
(02:37) Any stats or data that immediately jump out or are surprising?
(06:13) Theory on shrinking staff size
(08:02) Recruitment is still really tough
(10:50) How do you improve the difficulty of recruitment?
(15:03) The number of small teams is increasing
(20:54) 72% of sales managers believe that their sales staff should increase.
(25:23) Final thoughts on the Sales Department Section of the Media Sales Report
Matt Sunshine: (00:15)
Welcome to Improving Sales Performance, a podcast highlighting tips and insights aimed at helping sales organizations realize and maybe even exceed their goals. Here we chat with thought leaders, experts in gurus who have years of sales experience from a wide range of industries. This season, we're analyzing the findings from our latest media sales report. With data collected from surveys conducted in Q4 of last year, the responses from sales managers and salespeople alike will help us chart a solid path forward through the media sales landscape. In each episode, I'll be joined by a rolling roster of outstanding experts from our team here at the Center for Sales Strategy. Together we'll break it all down. I'm your host, Matt Sunshine, CEO at the Center for Sales Strategy, a sales performance consulting company. I am so excited to have this conversation today. I, I am. We have a great topic and we have some amazing guests. So, joining me today on the podcast are Stephanie Downs and Susan McCullin. Um, Stephanie is a senior Vice President at the Center for Sales Strategy. Susan is a senior consultant here. Um, I, I've had the, uh, privilege of working, uh, for a very long time with both of them. Mm-hmm. , I consider them to be experts on the conversation that we're gonna have. Uh, so welcome Stephanie and Susan to the podcast.
Stephanie Downs: (01:53)
Thanks. Good to be here.
Susan McCullin: (01:54)
Great to be here.
Matt Sunshine: (01:56)
Yeah. So, um, the media sales report just public. Yeah. And it is just absolutely loaded with great information. This entire season of the Improving Sales Performance, uh, podcast is focused on the media sales report. And what we're gonna do with each episode is really dive into a specific segment, um, in the report. And today, the segment that I want focus on with the both of you is the sales department. So, with that, and, and that's not a surprise to you. You guys both know that, right? You know that
Stephanie Downs: (02:34)
We knew that ahead of time,
Matt Sunshine: (02:37)
Like sales department, what? No. So sales department. So let's just throw the first question. And Susan, why don't you take this one first? Um, and then Stephanie, you chime in. Sure. Are there any, um, is there any data, any statistics, any stats that really jumped out at you or, or surprised you overall on sales departments
Susan McCullin: (03:02)
Now? I think the one that surprised me the most probably, or jumped out at me is that 52% of all salespeople say that it takes five attempts or more to reach a, to reach a prospector to get an appointment. And I think the reason it surprised me is just that I think that's been going on for a while. You know, we tell people they really need to reach out to people seven to nine times. We know that that's kind of the sweet spot. It takes a while, and it, they need to be doing it over a shorter period of time, too. It's not five times over five weeks. So, um, I think that stood out to me and just, it's good that half the people are realizing that. And I, um, love to hear what the other half of the people thought . Cause . I think getting appointments has always been, um, a challenge for people, but I think we've got some good, um, things that we've got in place that can really help them get ahold of people if they, if they do the don't give up plan.
Matt Sunshine: (04:08)
. Stephanie, what, what jumped out at you?
Stephanie Downs: (04:11)
Yeah, there was really two, um, there was really two things that jumped out to me, um, that I had aha moments with. Um, so one of those is the difference between what managers think about, um, hybrid. Hybrid versus work in office versus what salespeople think. So managers said 49% of managers prefer more of a 50 50 between the two, where salespeople want two thirds work from home versus in office, or they wanna be at home a hundred percent of the time. And my thinking on that was, um, if organizations, sales organizations, or any organizations for that matter are not thinking about that, that could be a really big disconnect between sales leaders and sales, you know, people. And it could also hinder culture. I mean, the, we could have a whole conversation around that alone. Um, but that one really resonated with me. And the other one was, uh, from last year's media sales report to this year's media sales report was the difference in the importance of commission versus salary.
Stephanie Downs: (05:20)
So last 60% wanted, um, more salary versus commission, and this year it was 52%. And the, the main thing that I was thinking with that is organizations can't just set and forget comp plans. Right. The way our, you know, the economy is involved, organizations have evolved. I mean, everything just keeps changing as we know it does. Right? That's not a surprise to any of us. But, um, organizations really need to keep their finger on the pulse of what's really important. And I think it really ties into the, some of the other conversations we're gonna have around recruiting today and the importance of understanding that.
Matt Sunshine: (05:59)
Well, tell me that again. What was it listed this year? What it was it last
Stephanie Downs: (06:02)
Year? Yeah. So this year, 52, and I'm gonna read straight from my notes here, 52% salary plus commission, which is down from 60% last year.
Matt Sunshine: (06:13)
So let me throw this out as a theory before we move on to the next question, but a theory on that, most sales departments that, that we interact with have gotten slightly smaller.
Stephanie Downs: (06:28)
Matt Sunshine: (06:29)
Right. Maybe one, maybe two people smaller. But revenue hasn't gotten smaller.
Stephanie Downs: (06:36)
Matt Sunshine: (06:37)
Revenue has grown.
Stephanie Downs: (06:38)
Matt Sunshine: (06:39)
Right. Maybe not at the pace that everyone wanted it to grow, but revenue is, is up. Mm-hmm. . Okay. So if revenue's up mm-hmm. , and there's less people, less salespeople, that means that each salesperson is doing more,
Stephanie Downs: (06:56)
Matt Sunshine: (06:58)
So they're making more. And for brand new salespeople, salary is important.
Stephanie Downs: (07:05)
Matt Sunshine: (07:06)
Right. But for existing,
Stephanie Downs: (07:09)
Matt Sunshine: (07:10)
People, they have a salary. Even if they're on straight commission, they have a salary because they know what they're gonna make.
Stephanie Downs: (07:16)
That's right. Yeah. But I think that's why, go ahead. Go ahead.
Matt Sunshine: (07:19)
So, so I think that's why the need for more salary is decreasing to 52% because they're making so much more. They see the upside, there's no worry.
Stephanie Downs: (07:34)
Um, of course that could lead to a whole nother issue. And we don't have time to discuss that today, , but I do think it's important to your point of new people to the organization. I think from a recruiting standpoint,
Matt Sunshine: (07:47)
Stephanie Downs: (07:48)
Matt Sunshine: (07:49)
Right. I wonder if we were to break it out and say, how important is salary to people that are new to the industry?
Stephanie Downs: (07:57)
Yeah. We should think about that next
Matt Sunshine: (07:58)
Time. That is higher than 52%. Yeah.
Stephanie Downs: (08:01)
Matt Sunshine: (08:02)
Next, next question. And you, you already teed up a little bit. Um, recruitment. So recruitment is, has been, and still is one of the absolute most challenging part of mm-hmm. , any sales organization. And what we know, uh, from the, from the data is that, um, 65% of sales managers say that recruitment is the hardest part of the job. So two-thirds, two-thirds of the managers say, you wanna know what the hardest thing is? The hardest thing is recruitment. So here's my questions to you, and there's three of them.
Stephanie Downs: (08:42)
Matt Sunshine: (08:43)
What do you make of that? I mean, why, why, why is it so hard? And two, what are you seeing and hearing from your clients in terms of these struggles and how do they fix it? What do you recommend? Mm-hmm. , who wants to go first?
Stephanie Downs: (08:58)
Susan, you wanna go or you want
Susan McCullin: (08:59)
Me to? Sure. I'll go. Um, so I think you said your first question was, what do I make of that? I think that, um, recruitment has changed over the years. Recruitment's always been key, right? It's always been, has been so important. Hiring the right talent is so important. Um, but I think it's changed over the years and people are needing to look outside of the industry. I think in the past, um, a lot of media managers have hired from their competitors, they've hired from other markets. Um, and I think that that's changing because as the teams have gotten smaller, um, and some people, I think loyalty is even stronger in some cases to where they already are. We're needing to look at other places. And what am I hearing from clients, um, in regards to those struggles? Um, and how are they working on that?
Susan McCullin: (09:56)
Is that they're, they're putting out job requests, right? Or they're putting out classified ads, , and they're getting back either tons of, depending upon the market, they're getting back tons of applications, but they're not, um, they're not responding. The people that they reach out to that think might be a good fit are not responding, or they are responding, but they're not a good fit for the talent. Mm-hmm. . And, um, and even people are no-showing more than ever. I think people are more dismissive about the positions. Um, and I think that one of the things that I see to fix that is doing more than ever is using your net. Um, I think that was your third question. Was it what do we do to Yeah.
Matt Sunshine: (10:50)
How do you improve it? Yeah. What, what would,
Susan McCullin: (10:52)
How do we improve it? Recommend what I, what I really encourage all of my clients to do, use their network of people and use their networks network. You know, we call it the nominator system and asking PE people questions. Who do they know who Yeah. You know, are engaging people. Who do they know, who are driven to beat their year over year success? Um, who do you know, who never gives up and always wants to win? And then you're getting people that, you know, even though you may not personally know them, they're a referral. Mm-hmm. . So, and the clients that I see that are doing that, and I have several clients that are doing that really successfully. Um, and they're not as cold of a lead for, for a hire. And they're getting people who we know not only look good on paper, but they're actually living that in their day to day life. And then they're using the talent as assessments that they have and making sure that the people have the right talents. Yeah. Um, and that helps really set them up for SA success and really broadens their recruitment net.
Matt Sunshine: (12:02)
Yeah, that's great. That's great advice. I mean, the nominator system is, is Yeah, that's a good idea. Awesome. And I, I for years have have said, if I could only have one system, that would be the system that I would have. It's just the nominator, everything else is great too. But nominator, yeah. Stephanie, how, what would you add to that?
Stephanie Downs: (12:19)
Yeah. Um, a couple of thoughts and some of what Susan already mentioned, so I won't repeat that. But, um, I don't think any of us were surprised by the percentage. Cuz all of us, I mean, we talk about it amongst our team regularly. We hear it all the time. So I don't think we were surprised by what we, you know, the percentage of the 65 that you shared. But I think about it, um, with a little bit of a different twist on it. It's real, it's a challenge. It, I mean it's real. We don't wanna make light of that, but it makes me think about what are sales leaders doing with their current team to keep them, what are they doing from a retention standpoint? So it's a little bit of a twist on how to get better at recruiting or what does that look like, but what are they doing to make sure their team is, you know, an engaged group of people and that they're retaining their talent?
Stephanie Downs: (13:09)
How are they growing and developing them? And if they're not being very intentional on doing that, they need to be, um, because the recruiting issue is a real issue. It's tough. Um, and the only other thing, um, that I would add to what Susan was saying was just having a more defined recruiting strategy. It can't be a wing and a prayer of we know we need to recruit. I dabble in it today. I don't pick back up on it until next week. Cuz let's be honest, that's what's happening in a lot of cases. There's not a defined strategy to support it. And they also should have a group of people in their organization helping with it. It doesn't have to fall on just the sales leader's shoulders. They should get other people in other departments and other people on the team and, you know, have a group that helps support the whole recruiting strategy.
Stephanie Downs: (14:04)
And they need to be really good at telling why somebody should wanna come work for them. Let's go back to the hybrid, the, you know, that we were sharing at the top of the, you know, podcast about the, the hybrid numbers and work from home. If you're an organization that still has a heavy work from home and you know, 80% based off our, um, survey wants that, be sure you're messaging that loud and clear and conveying the why your organization, we have to sell ourselves more than we've ever had to sell ourselves before in our organizations.
Matt Sunshine: (14:36)
Yeah. I am writing, it's funny that you bring that up. I am writing an article for the Talent our talent magazine that'll come out this summer. Um, and I think the title, the working title is, uh, retention is the New Recruitment.
Stephanie Downs: (14:49)
Ah, yeah. I like that.
Matt Sunshine: (14:51)
Yeah. And you know, it's like you need to have a recruitment strategy to recruit your current people. Yeah,
Stephanie Downs: (14:57)
Matt Sunshine: (14:58)
So true. And just, and how you gonna keep 'em Yeah.
Stephanie Downs: (15:01)
Um, our employees are our key accounts.
Matt Sunshine: (15:03)
Yeah. You don't wanna lose them. Yeah. Um, alright. So we kind of touched on this already, but we'll dive a little bit back into it on with this question. The size of sales teams seems to be shrinking as mentioned mm-hmm. , but here's the data. 30% of , so the size of small teams is increasing. That's, that's a good way of saying the size of small teams is increasing 30% of sales, uh, managers, 30% of sales are leading teams of one to five people compared to last year. 18%. Mm-hmm. , 18%. Last 18% of managers last year said that they had small teams less than thought one to five this year, 30% say one to five. So mm-hmm. , two questions. Are you guys seeing that? I know I am, but are you guys seeing that? Yeah. And why do you think teams are getting smaller? What gives,
Stephanie Downs: (16:07)
Matt Sunshine: (16:08)
Uh, Steph, you go first.
Stephanie Downs: (16:09)
Okay. Um, so to answer your first question yes. def seeing it. No doubt. So, yes. Um, so a few things that come to mind on this. Um, one economic uncertainty, you know, it, I mean, it is what it is for right now, the economic uncertainty. And I think some organizations are putting hiring pauses. You know, maybe there's hard freezes. Maybe it's just a pause in hiring or maybe a we'll hire only if we absolutely have to. So I think some of that's striving it. Yes. The, the difficulties in recruiting for sure. We've already been talking about that. But I do think it's also that some organizations are getting better at thinking about the structure of the organization. I think they are thinking more about how can they have more account management teams to help support the, the salespeople. They're getting better at how they fulfill, you know, fulfillment. They have better processes, better workflow and those things. And it is the natural consequence of that as we may not always need as many salespeople as we've had before when we're really taking non-selling activities off of sales teams. I think that's one component. There's still more work that can be done in that area. Yeah. But I do think that's one piece of it.
Matt Sunshine: (17:26)
Yeah. I, and I I think it's a smart piece.
Stephanie Downs: (17:29)
Matt Sunshine: (17:30)
I I think I I would fully endorse that. Susan, are you seeing it? And, and, and why, why do you think that's happening?
Susan McCullin: (17:38)
So, I mean, I totally, everything Stephanie said Yes. . Yeah. But I also see the other side of that is because we know they also want to be larger. Some of the teams need to be larger. Yeah. Um, I think that during covid, people kind of reevaluated their priorities. And I think some salespeople, um, some PE salespeople wanted to be closer to family and they moved. So they're, they're, they're leaving jobs. Um, they're also, I think some people decided to retire earlier than they planned. I think Covid people came out of 20 year careers of, and they said, I I like this, this new life of being at home and, and slowing down. So I think some people retired a little bit earlier. I think having the right purpose in your position and hiring people that, that really buy into the company's purpose and vision and, um, is important.
Susan McCullin: (18:41)
Mm-hmm. . So because people are reevaluating and they wanna work for people that also consider them humans, not just sellers. And I really see that, I, I heard somebody say the other day, you know, we used to say, well, it's business, business is business. And really today, um, business is personal people, people want to work for people that they buy into the vision and that they wanna do a great job for. So I think going back to why some of them have gotten smaller is truly because they, they've had a couple of salespeople leave. Some of it's for no fault of the company, it's just where somebody is in their life side.
Matt Sunshine: (19:27)
Yeah. Yeah. Susan, I think that you're right. I, I do know of a few salespeople, um, three or four that, well, let me put it this way. There are more jobs available today where someone can be a virtual salesperson than there used to be. Right. That didn't used to exist. Yeah. Three or four years ago, or if it did exist, it hardly existed. But I know of several people that decided, you know what, I wanna live closer to family. And so they are now able to do that and they can still get a good job selling virtually mm-hmm. . Um, yeah. And if you're a company that doesn't allow that, that puts you at a little disadvantage. That's okay. And by the way, I think that there's a lot of good reason to have people nearby and having to come in Sure. And all of that.
Matt Sunshine: (20:24)
But the reality is that if, if you're a salesperson, you don't want that those jobs are now available, that's, you have more competition for that talent. Yeah. Yeah. All right. La last question, and this is still on the same sort of subject. So it makes sense that we're going here. Um, 73% of sales managers believe mm-hmm. that they don't have the right number of salespeople. Okay. So almost three outta four, three outta four sales managers when asked said, we don't have the right number of salespeople. And 72% of sales managers believe that their sales staff should increase. So about 70, about a quarter, three quarters of the people don't feel they have enough. And three quarters of people feel that they need more. Yeah. So with recruitment being an ongoing problem, um, for all sales organizations mm-hmm. , what, what would you tell sales managers who are, who are currently in that battle of they want bigger staff and let's assume that they're allowed to hire. What would you tell them?
Stephanie Downs: (21:27)
Ah, okay. You put a twist on that. Yeah. Um, so I'm gonna stick to my original list and I may rethink cuz you added that to the end and it changes a little bit. Um, so for those, um, I would say they absolutely have to have a really strong sales enablement process to help their team sell smarter and sell faster. They have to have that in play. Um, cuz that helps expedite the sales process, right.
Matt Sunshine: (21:52)
Yeah. In a big way.
Stephanie Downs: (21:53)
Yeah. For a big way. The other thing I would tell, uh, a leader in this case would also be to make sure they have a sales calendar. That they know exactly what their sales initiatives are, what they're focused on, because it keeps the focus in the right place, it keeps the attention in the right place. Doesn't ring too many bells. It does. Cuz they're already dealing with some of that anyway. Um, so to have a sales calendar, it also makes them better, make better decisions throughout the year if they need to add initiatives or not, is another, and I would be as intentional as possible about removing all non-selling activities off of salespeople that they possibly can.
Matt Sunshine: (22:31)
Stephanie Downs: (22:31)
Is more. I have one last thing, , but Susan, you wanna chime in before I Yeah. Add your thoughts.
Susan McCullin: (22:38)
I was gonna say make sure that you have clear and mutually agreed upon expectations. Yeah. That the team that you have really understands and is all moving in the same direction. Um, I was gonna say, you know, having a list of your to-dos and then making sure that you're prioritizing that list as a leader doing that. Yeah. But teaching and showing your salespeople how to do that. Mm-hmm. , I think everybody thinks that they do that, but I think a lot of people could do it better. Yeah. Agreed. and, and then really time blocking that time. Kind of like the sales calendar you do for the year. This is what you're doing for your week or for your day and making sure that you're really maximizing
Stephanie Downs: (23:21)
Susan McCullin: (23:21)
Yeah. Your time. Yeah.
Stephanie Downs: (23:24)
And the one thing, um, I completely agree with that, Susan. Uh, the, you know, prioritizing the list to make sure it's the highest, most important priorities. Right? Yeah. And I would add target accounts to that. Yeah. That making sure that their team is always focused on the most qualified targeted ta uh, target accounts , so they're not wasting their time on a, um, you know, secondary list just to maximize performance. Yeah, yeah. And develop their own talent. .
Matt Sunshine: (23:54)
Yeah. I I think that, I think that this is gonna become a bigger and bigger conversation. Yeah. Specifically on the managing smaller teams. Mm-hmm. , I don't think that's gonna go away. Mm-hmm. , right? I, I don't think that we're going, if I'm looking into a crystal ball and I make a really, I, I don't like looking into a crystal ball cuz, cuz I'm not a fortune teller. Um, but if, if I were to look ahead and imagine the future, I think what we'll see is smaller teams with more, um, sales enablement agree and, and more division of labor strategy with, um, front-end resources of, of lead generation and, uh, sales playbooks and tools like that. Artificial intelligence mm-hmm. and, and uh, uh, companies like ZoomInfo or Seamless AI and all of that. And on the backend more customer service people allowing you to have smaller crew that really just focuses on discovery meetings and setting those appointments and mm-hmm. and, um, following up and closing and negotiating and, and wrapping your head around that as a sales manager. Not easy because it's different than what Yeah. A lot of, a lot of us grew up doing. Mm-hmm. .
Stephanie Downs: (25:22)
Matt Sunshine: (25:23)
Any final thoughts on the, on the overall sales department or things that you're, that you pulled out of this report that you like, I'm glad we talked about all this, but I really wanna make sure that I put an exclamation point on maybe something that we've already talked about today, but as, but as we leave everybody, what would that be?
Stephanie Downs: (25:44)
Mine would be, and we've talked about it a couple of times, but mine would be really being very intentional about retaining your, your current team. Um, now I do not mean settle for non-performers.
Matt Sunshine: (26:00)
No, no, no. Right.
Stephanie Downs: (26:02)
That is not what I'm saying. Um, but to be very intentional about growing, developing, building a culture that people wanna be there, having an engaged team. It, I think that solves for, it doesn't a hundred percent solve for all of the recruiting issues cuz that is, you know, outbound, that's different. It helps, it minimizes it if we don't have additional open positions. And the importance of still having a talent bank, even if you're in a hiring pause or a hiring freeze, or you still need a talent bank to help prevent when these types of situations come up.
Matt Sunshine: (26:38)
Stephanie Downs: (26:39)
Yeah. I, I mean, and I
Susan McCullin: (26:42)
Would also say, I think it's pretty amazing. Another thing that came out, 87% of sales managers believe the fu future looks bright. And 41% of sales people are not optimistic and they are unsure about the future. Um, I would really encourage sales leaders to, their optimism needs to be trickled down to the sales team. Yeah. And, and I think that's through transparency and I think that's through, um, having personal relationships with your sellers so that you can find out what's important to them and make sure that you're communicating. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Um,
Matt Sunshine: (27:20)
That's excellent. So let me, let me recap, uh, uh, what you guys just said and add something, uh, as we, as, as, as we wrap this up. I think the highlights are retain your very best people. Make that a priority to retain your very best people. Also stay committed to a talent bank. That's a, that's a weekly, that's a weekly job. Not a, not a just when you have an opening job. Yeah. Um, uh, share the vision. If you're a sales leader and you're listening to this, share your vision, your vision of the future is much, is much more optimistic than perhaps the people that report to you share that vision. And the last thing I'll add, and Stephanie, you made a big point of this, um, is the importance of the sales calendar. And, and Susan you said time blocking. Yeah. And I think both of those things play well together and are super important. Thank you so much, Stephanie. Thank you so much, Susan, for joining the podcast. Your expertise and your insight and your wisdom on this subject is so valuable to, to um, um, to everybody that gets the opportunity to listen to this. Can't thank you enough. Enjoy the rest of your day. Thanks everyone.
Matt Sunshine: (28:35)
This has been improving sales performance. Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, join us every week by clicking the subscribe button. For more on the topics covered in the show, visit our website, the center for sales strategy.com. There you can find helpful resources and content aimed at improving your sales performance. And if you'd like to connect with any of us, including today's guest, please do. You can find our contact information in the show notes. Until next time, get out there and sell.