More On Yahoo Sales Integration: Interview With Yahoo’s Sales Heads

Last week Yahoo’s new top management team of Jerry Yang and Sue Decker promised to address the slowdown in display advertising growth; Sunday, it started to deliver. The plan, which execs say began months ago and so started on then-CEO Terry Semel’s watch, calls for the merger of its U.S. display and search advertising sales teams. I spoke Sunday with David Karnstedt, the SVP-search sales being promoted to head North American sales, and his boss Gregory Coleman, EVP-Global Sales. Coleman reports to Decker.

Why combine?: Coleman: “In a nutshell, advertisers are screaming for more holistic solutions and it’s time we bring to bear all of the assets that we have from a sales standpoint to make sure that we deliver the right ad at the right time for the right customer and the right consumer. That is the uplift that we’re looking to create here. We want out sales team to be out there in a platform-agnostic way.” Karnstedt said the combination wouldn’t cause layoffs and that they have been accelerating hiring.

Why wait so long?: Coleman said he told the sales staffs in February that integration was coming. Coleman: “It has taken us a little bit of time to put our ducks in a row.” Karnstedt said a number of steps have been taken along the way: “I wouldn’t call it a long time.” (For timeline perspective, it’s been roughly four months since that sales meeting and a month since Wenda Harris Millard was told Karnstedt, not her, would lead the integrated sales force and was offered a different job.)

What changed today? Essentially leadership. Coleman stressed Karnstedt’s various qualities and mentioned how the announcement meets Yang’s promise of galvanizing leadership. Karnstedt said announcements about structure and other leadership changes would be coming over the next couple of quarters. Yahoo has replaced the emphasis on branded sales with one on performance advertising, hoping that the latter will provide a growth boost.