Return of the Dead (RFPs!)

Return of the DeadI’m reposting this item from a couple of years back.  Because Zombies never really get old, do they now?

Whether your company’s future is tied to programmatic selling or the development of native advertising concepts, it’s impossible not to feel the diminishing relevance of the legacy request-for-proposal (RFP) process.  But even though more of the digital ad dollar is flowing to automated buys or non-standard opportunities every day, a great many sellers and agencies apparently missed the memo.  They continue to party like it’s 1999:  drafting, over-distributing, responding, defending and evaluating cattle-call RFPs long after the practice spiraled into irrelevance.

Welcome to the age of Zombie RFPs.  Not realizing they’re dead, they continue to walk among us.  And they are eating the brain of your sales and marketing teams.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Lotame, whose data management platform enables you to make smarter advertising, product and business decisions. Through Lotame, you can learn more about your most valuable customers, find prospects that look and act exactly like them, and then execute campaigns that target them across any digital device. For more information, visit lotame.com

For the uninitiated, some quick background:  In the earliest days of digital publishing and advertising, we co-opted the RFP process common to the magazine industry.  When it came time to spend, ad buyers would prepare a document asking for availability of certain features, adjacencies, capabilities;  pricing; and of course that extra “big idea” that – if good enough — would  certainly clinch the deal.  But what was moderately effective when there were dozens or scores of competing sites quickly became a grotesque charade in an age of hundreds of networks and thousands of sites.

Yet still today – whether fueled by ignorance, inertia, cynicism or all three – the RFP staggers on at the center of buyer/seller interaction.  To foster the “illusion of inclusion,” buyers routinely include 8-10 vendors in the process for every one that will ultimately prevail.  Feeding off false hope, seller organizations burn money, time and creative energy each time an RFP hits the inbox.  And collectively the industry chases its tail in service of a buying practice that’s already dead.

Sanity must be restored.  The zombies must be dispatched.  And sales leadership holds the stake in its hand.

As I’ve suggested in a previous Drift, impose a triage evaluation process on the RFPs your team receives. Politely decline to participate on those where you had little to no advance notice and whose pricing or appropriateness to your company are spurious.  Respond fully and creatively to big dollar plans that seem clearly written with your property in mind.  And for group three – those in the middle – qualify, qualify, qualify.

Seller organizations can’t change the way in which agencies choose to field opportunity.  But we can control the way in which we respond.  And in doing so, perhaps we free ourselves to pursue a path of real innovation and value creation.   Free of zombies, life just gets better.

White Space.

White Space“Real quiet is presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise.” ~Gordon Hempton.

It’s quite possible that this post won’t receive the kind of attention and social action that might be afforded to something on programmatic media or native advertising. I hope I’m wrong about that, because this might be one of the more important ideas I’ve posted in the 14 years I’ve written The Drift.

Into our crowded, noisy, attention-deprived industry and business world, I’d like to reintroduce the concept of white space. It’s the hour you don’t fill by slogging through your in-box at the beginning of your day; the at-first-awkward pause you refuse to fill with chatter in a client meeting; it’s the opportunity for real human connection where 25 PowerPoint slides used to be. White space is where great ideas, true engagement and actual persuasion and growth can happen. There’s too little of it in our world, and we have only ourselves to blame.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Lotame, whose data management platform enables you to make smarter advertising, product and business decisions. Through Lotame, you can learn more about your most valuable customers, find prospects that look and act exactly like them, and then execute campaigns that target them across any digital device. For more information, visit lotame.com

I am as guilty as anyone. I fill others’ in-boxes with emails – including this one – even as I use up valuable white space trying to clear my own. At my worst, I over-program meetings and pack too much information into messages or presentations. But I’m doing my best to bring white space back into my life and into my work with people like you and companies like yours. Because I know it’s only in white space that I create real, lasting value for those around me. Here’s a start:

  • Your first 90 seated minutes are the most valuable of your day. Most of us burn it all by reverse-navigating our inboxes. Instead, intentionally schedule thinking and creative time; write something that’s not email; schedule a face-to-face meeting or phone call during which you will be truly present.
  • Force-feed some white space into each conversation – whether with a customer, an employee or a family member – by asking them how they feel or what they think about a topic or an idea. Don’t interrupt – instead take notes and then see if you can paraphrase what you heard to the speaker’s satisfaction.
  • Run your next business meeting with just one slide. On that slide, in no more than 30 words, pose a collaborative question. For instance, “How might we put our company’s technology to work in new ways that would help your company start new relationships with your customers?” Tell those present that this is the one and only topic of your meeting and the only visual you’ve prepared. Let everything else happen on whiteboards and paper.
  • Run your next internal meeting in a “no-phone-zone.” Fight through the paranoia and sense of short term loss. It’s worth it.

Fresh air is what allows us to breathe. Quiet is what allows us to think. Real attention – giving it and getting it – is what allows us to grow anything worth having.  I used this morning’s white space to write this post.  Was it worth it?

Six Questions for Adam Shlachter.

Adam Shlachter_headshotAdam Shlachter, Chief Investment Officer for Digitas LBi, will be our keynote interview at the Seller Forum on Tuesday June 30th in New York.   

1. Digital consumption seems to have completely flipped and is now mobile-dominant. Is the digital ad business fully prepared?  Where are the gaps?

I don’t think we’re nearly there yet. Many publishers and brands have created apps and mobile optimized sites, and Google has tweaked their algorithms to reward that behavior. But there are still as many, if not more, poor mobile user experiences that exist for consumers, including some of the mobile advertising that often accompanies it. We have to make better use of the signals we have – of intent, of location, of behavior- and use that to create better experiences that people can rely on, and brands can see a bigger benefit from.

2. You were a very active negotiator in this year’s NewFronts.  How are the NewFronts evolving?  What’s changed?

The Newfronts continue to evolve and mature, and through them new ideas, marketplaces, and currencies have been born. And each year it all gets bigger. While I’m not sure we need two weeks of presentations, I think we need more focus on what to expect to get out of them, and ultimately one bigger conversation that brings together omni-channel opportunities from across the entire marketplace, not just a lot of disparate talks.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Lotame, whose data management platform enables you to make smarter advertising, product and business decisions. Through Lotame, you can learn more about your most valuable customers, find prospects that look and act exactly like them, and then execute campaigns that target them across any digital device. For more information, visit lotame.com

3. If Don Draper was in the ad business today, would he be a media investment guy?  Is that where creativity lives now? 

If you watched “Mad Men” closely, for a while it was Harry Crane who was leading the way. He brought them new platforms, new ways to target, new sources of data and measurement, new technology to derive insights from and plan against. But all of that added up to new outlets for creativity, new ways and places for Don to dream up stories to be told. Media investment is one way in, but it really comes down to media relationships to unlock or develop new opportunities, not just to trade them cheaply.

4. What would surprise media sellers most about the reality of your shop?

That we’re a full-service shop. Not a digital one. Not a media one, and not a creative one. We’re a shop that brings together creative, technology and media to tell great brand stories. If we do that right, we not only can change people’s perceptions, we can get them to change their behavior and take action. And if that happens successfully, we build brands and their business. But it all needs to work together, regardless of the assignment.

5. Mad-Lib:  “We’re talking too much about ____________ and not enough about ______________.”

Viewability and fraud; Results and quality experiences.

6. As you look at the next five years of your career, where do you want to build more expertise?

Personally, I would like to work with more clients, brands and organizations as they go through their digital and media transformation. So much is changing so fast, it’s almost impossible to keep up. There’s no textbook on how to do things right; it’s all about new ways of looking at solving problems and planning ahead.

Less than 15 Seller Forum seats remain unspoken for. If you’re a digital sales leader and would like us to save one for you, let us know.

Mobile Therapy Anyone?

Mobile Therapy Anyone (2)I go into each Seller Forum gathering with at least one big open question in mind. As we head into our mid-year meeting on June 30th, I’m obsessing about this one: Who’s really ready for a mobile-dominant ad business?

Once upon a time – last year perhaps? – we joked that ‘mobile is the future of the online ad business – and always will be.’ We’d listened to the same endless loop of stories about how big mobile was in Northern Europe and Asia and cringed as yet another panelist trotted out the lame “Starbucks can send you an ad when you’re walking near one of their stores!” example. But now the day of mobile reckoning is here, and ad businesses will be evaluated simply and without emotion: Is yours built for the mobile consumer or not?

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Lotame, whose data management platform enables you to make smarter advertising, product and business decisions. Through Lotame, you can learn more about your most valuable customers, find prospects that look and act exactly like them, and then execute campaigns that target them across any digital device. For more information, visit lotame.com

The dirty secret is that while we’ve been busily obsessing over the latest programmatic press release, consumers just ran ahead of us. Usage of the internet and consumption of video has flipped and the phone quickly became the dominant screen. As a result, the legacy desktop-oriented businesses will start to look bloated and out of date: PCs are the new newspapers.

So are publishers and ad sellers truly prepared? I don’t know for sure. But within the context of our next Forum, I’d sure like to talk about it. We’re convening a panel of mobile stakeholders for a rolling discussion of the five dimensions that – I believe – are the keys to mobile readiness: Video, Monetization, Creative, Measurement and Infrastructure.  I’m sure the results will be illuminating.

As I wrote two weeks ago (“You’ve Got Phone!”) the acquisition of AOL by Verizon is a wake-up call. To date we’ve been executing mobile advertising with the tools of the desktop, and the results overall have been less than spectacular. If we’re late getting out of bed on this issue, the agencies sharing our beds have also been hitting the snooze button. Who can blame us? After 20 years of hard work building the desktop advertising infrastructure, can’t we be forgiven for wanting to let the machine run for a while?

But the consumer won’t wait. They have voted with their thumbs, and marketers are close behind. The next wave of business reinvention in digital marketing is happening today and full participation is not optional. Is your business ready?

If you’re CRO, EVP, SVP or VP of national sales for a company that sells media and would like to attend this important discussion at The Seller Forum on Tuesday June 30th, reach out to me right away. Seating is limited and most of our spots are already spoken for.

Open. Close. Repeat.

Open Close RepeatI’m writing today’s post from Row 2 at the LUMA Digital Media Summit in New York. For those unfamiliar, LUMA is the investment banking firm that produces the “LUMAscape” charts that aim to make sense of the confusing nature ad technology and distribution (and has run many of the significant M&A deals in our world.) The first topic called out for the day by CEO/emcee Terry Kawaja was “The Digital Duopoly: Open vs. Closed.” There are lots of implications here for anyone selling ad services, technology, data or services in digital marketing.

The details are horrendously complicated, but the core concept is surprisingly simple: Will the data-driven, multi-touch marketing funnel be an open ecosystem or will it be controlled by a couple of parties – Facebook and Google – who are constructing closed technology and service stacks? Will marketing look like the Euro-zone or will it be dominated by a couple of large, highly controlled economies?

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by comScore. Are you getting skewed? If you aren’t taking NHT out of your measurement – including viewability and in-target numbers – you may be. comScore can help you keep it real. Learn more about the difference that sophisticated NHT, audience and viewability measurement can make to your bottom line: www.comscore.com/Why-NHT-Matters

Tim Armstrong appeared this morning via video hook-up talking about how the AOL/Verizon deal was about creating the world’s largest open platform, while Brian O’Kelley of AppNexus claims that AppNexus will be the wide open platform that allows all the players to play well together. Dave Jakubowski, head of ad tech at Facebook, gamely assured the audience that Facebook was all about giving publishers choices about how to monetize their content. Ay yi yi!

This may seem like one of those “Clash of the Titans” moments when we little people accept that we have no control. . I make no moral or value judgments about open and closed, but every day there are lots of little decisions that get made every day that matter a lot. Do we use Facebook, YouTube or neither for distribution and monetization of our video assets? Do we double down on DoubleClick, Atlas or neither as our display serving solution?   What active decisions do we make about who gets access to our first party data and what business rules do we put in place to govern those relationships.

Since the days of Netscape vs. Microsoft, we’ve been predicting that two big players would ultimately own everything. Today those players look like Facebook and Google. But we’ve also seen a continuous cycle of consolidation leading into the next cycle of openness and on and on. Open. Close. Repeat.

I always like to say that great companies all have one thing in common. They make active choices. And you and your company have active choices to make in the weeks and months ahead. Open? Closed? Good luck with that.

You’ve Got Phone!

You've Got PhoneVerizon buying AOL for $4.4 billion is…. Well, it’s the biggest thing to happen since America Online acquired Time Warner for $182 billion in stock and debt 15 years ago!   Sure, I know these ancient history lessons are only so instructive, but this one is rich with irony.   In 2000, Time Warner was the company with the content and America Online (which is what AOL was still commonly called then) had the digital distribution. At the time, CNN Money (no impartial observer) breathlessly said that the “largest deal in history” combined “…the nation’s top internet service provider with the world’s top media conglomerate.” Now AOL is the company with the content, and Verizon is the acquiring party with the distribution. Distribution always seems to win, doesn’t it?

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by comScore. Are you getting skewed? If you aren’t taking NHT out of your measurement – including viewability and in-target numbers – you may be. comScore can help you keep it real. Learn more about the difference that sophisticated NHT, audience and viewability measurement can make to your bottom line: www.comscore.com/Why-NHT-Matters

While $4.4 billion may not seem as cool as $182 billion, it appears the money may actually be real this time. And the deal validates a point that can no longer be disputed: Mobile IS the game now. And the shift to mobile-first thinking will be as jarring and disorienting to first generation digital execs as the shift to digital thinking was for magazine publishers and broadcasters.

The initial strategy at times like this is always to re-purpose what you already know how to do for the medium you don’t yet understand. The first TV shows were radio shows in front of a camera. The first MTV videos were claustrophobic, single set performances by rock stars. The first websites were magazine pages with hyperlinks. And our first pass at mobile has been to throw banners and interstitials and short form videos at the smaller screen. And soon we’ll look back at this era like a long-forgotten photo from our youth. (“I can’t believe I ever thought THAT haircut was cool!”)

So Verizon’s here. They don’t think like we do. But they get the needs of a mobile consumer better than we do. AT&T’s here as well. Remember last year when they bought DirecTV? Keep that little deal in mind alongside this one. The world of media and advertising lives inside a snow globe and it’s just starting to get a good shake. Anyone who thinks the Verizon-AOL deal was just about Verizon and AOL needs to think again. It’s about all of us and the future we must confront sooner than we know.

Can you hear me now?

Panel Moderators: Suck No More!

Panel Moderators Suck No MoreIt’s perpetually conference season in our world.  And the panels are perpetually underwhelming.  So here’s a repeat of my post from 2011.  Audiences, you’re welcome!

Industry conference season now seems to stretch roughly from Martin Luther King’s Birthday to Winter Solstice, and there seems to be a new entrant (or four) vying for our time and attention every month.  And the attendees who move from summit to summit like migrant farm workers trooping from field to field all share one central opinion:  Boy, there are an awful lot of crappy panel discussions!

Indeed there are.  Some conference organizers have gone so far as to impose an outright ban on panels.  But blaming the panel is like blaming the chicken and carrots and rice for being a bad meal.  Somebody was in charge (or, too often, not in charge) of its preparation.  Having moderated scores of them over the years, I’ll take a stand:  there are no bad panels, only bad moderators. As a service to the industry, I’m offering free advice to both conference producers and would be moderators.  Please accept it.  Then go forward and suck no more.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by comScore. Are you getting skewed? If you aren’t taking NHT out of your measurement – including viewability and in-target numbers – you may be. comScore can help you keep it real. Learn more about the difference that sophisticated NHT, audience and viewability measurement can make to your bottom line: www.comscore.com/Why-NHT-Matters

Rule #1:  Being on Stage is a Privilege. If you’re running a conference, you are doing the moderator a favor by allowing him or her to run the panel.   Establish clear expectations and hold the moderator responsible along the way.  (Side note: If you’re choosing moderators or panelists based on who’s sponsoring your conference, you’ve painted yourself into a corner.)  Talk to your moderators about the level of preparation and scripting you expect.

Rule #2:  The Moderator Works for the Audience. You’re not up there to make the panelists feel good.  (See Rule #1: it’s a privilege for them to be on stage too.)  Be an advocate for audience rights:  the right not to be bored, not to have their time wasted.  If you think a panelist is opaque, confusing or off topic, fix it.  As the follow up question; challenge; redirect.

Rule #3:  The Opening Always Sucks.  Skip it. Those brief two-minute self introductions you let the panelists do are the beginning of a bad panel.  Either introduce them and their companies yourself in 20 seconds or less (and of course NEVER read anybody’s bio!) or just put their names and companies up on a slide.  The audience you work for (Rule #2) only cares if the panelists are insightful, useful or entertaining.  Get on with it.

Rule #4:  Do the Work. Individual pre-conference conversations – or at very least an email exchange – with the panelists should be mandatory.  These exchanges are followed by an email to the group outlining the themes and questions you’ll be including.  The best panels are the continuation of a conversation, not the initiation of one.

Rule #5:  Have a Point of View. Who says the moderator has to be moderate?  Be a flash point instead.  Bring your own views to the panel.  Lay them out and ask the panelists for reactions.  You’re not a potted plant.

Rule #6: Don’t be fair.  Be good. Too many moderators go “down the line” and give every panelist a say in every question. Nobody wants to hear hair-splitting nuance and incremental improvements on points.  Direct questions to specific panelists then move on.

Rule #7:  Look, Listen, Interrupt. Good moderators don’t look at their panelists all the time; they’re constantly looking out into the audience.  This forces their panelists to do the same and keeps eye contact between the panel and the crowd.  Also truly listen to the answers – then probe, challenge and expand on them.  When a comment is sharp, reinforce it.  When it’s lame or meandering, interrupt and redirect.  (See rules 2 & 6)

With all the scary smart people in our business, it’s a tragedy that our primary vehicle for learning from them is so terribly broken.  Next time you’re seeking refuge on your iPhone or Droid during some panel that’s going nowhere, use the time to forward this post….to the moderator.

Binge-Watching Programmatic.

Binge Watching ProgrammaticI don’t know how we’d mark the beginning of the programmatic age in our business – I’m sure someone must have a record of the first time the word was uttered. But whenever it was – six, seven, eight years ago? – it marked the beginning of us all watching the story play out episodically; in weekly installments over many seasons. We saw story lines rise and fall; characters come and go. And if any of us went back and watched season one today we’d barely recognize the cast and would be a little jarred by the production design.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the whole programmatic saga – multiple seasons – were available for download on Hulu Plus or Netflix and we got to pull up the covers and binge-watch the whole thing over a long weekend. I wonder how differently we’d see the story.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by comScore. Are you getting skewed? If you aren’t taking NHT out of your measurement – including viewability and in-target numbers – you may be. comScore can help you keep it real. Learn more about the difference that sophisticated NHT, audience and viewability measurement can make to your bottom line: www.comscore.com/Why-NHT-Matters

A loosely connected and lightly organized network of quants emerges from the backrooms of the soon-to-be-doomed ad networks with a radical plan for stripping away the romance and illusion from advertising and selling in a purely mathematical, algorithm-driven approach to buying, selling, informing, distributing and attributing value to ads on the web. A fever-dream of wild financial speculation follows in which venture capital flows in to irrigate a world driven by real time bidding. Agencies organize experimental business units that draw a lot of interest and attention. Incremental programmatic companies spring out of the ground like mushrooms after a soaking rain.

Then we wait as not that much really happens for a few episodes.

Real time bidding on open exchanges suddenly loses all the steam it ever seemed to have. Everyone who’s ever run a trading desk ends up walking away from the model, and the big agency holding companies explain that it never really was about having a trading desk anyway. We decide we never really liked that whole relationship with big open exchanges anyway – it gave us all sorts of icky infections like non-human traffic and non-viewable impressions that we still can’t shake. Private exchanges (or was it private marketplaces? Oh who remembers?) Now that’s what we’ve really been talking about all this time. We’ll just buy and sell the good shit and use lots of data to help us make it even better!

Then we wait a little more over a few episodes that seem to lag and get a little confusing.

We get a little nostalgic about the early episodes and so we start to re-introduce some old story lines. If you liked the early days of programmatic display, wait till you get a load of programmatic video….programmatic mobile….programmatic native (really.) And you know, while we’re grooving on the oldies, let’s go way, way back: Turns out that content is really pretty cool after all. No, no…not the garden variety come-to-my-website and see what I wrote kind. Custom content and branded content and viral content and socially-optimizable content… can you give me a scoop of programmatic with that?

All caught up now. We can’t wait for next season, but we just know we’re going to hate watching just one episode a week!

Blame It on Culture.

Blame it on CultureWe tend to think of business and sales cultures for how they enable, elevate and extend our work. A strong culture gives our people clarity on the mission, helps them make appropriate decisions and level sets the expectations around behavior and tone. Good culture provides a platform on which a lot good things can be built.

But culture can – and our fast-growing digital marketing world, often does – fulfill a darker purpose. If left undeveloped, company culture can be the low ceiling that shackles your people, stymies your growth and assures that the potential of your people and technology will remain unfulfilled.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic, who provides a Marketing Automation Platform for Publishers (MAPP).  It empowers publishers with a single view into their advertiser relationships, across every screen, channel and format.  Through workflow automation, real-time analytics and yield management, PubMatic enables publishers to make smarter, faster decisions that drive revenue and streamline operations. To learn more, please click here.

Over the past two decades I’ve had the chance to work with hundreds of digital media and technology companies, big and small, and have been exposed to hundreds more. Patterns repeat and familiar scenarios play out in a continuous loop. Well-meaning CEOs and compliant leadership teams fail to recognize the warning signs that their “culture” has become little more than a license to perpetuate bad behavior and poor decisions. Here are a few of the more toxic cultural models and how they could be holding your business or sales team down.

Flat and Leaky. Having started the company with an idea, three other guys and a dog, the CEO wants to stay accessible to everyone – despite the fact that the company may now have scores or hundreds of employees. The illusion of an “open culture” obscures the fact that he’s undermining all of his managers and department heads and sowing confusion and generally gumming up the works.

“Watch How Cool and Busy We Are!” You just think you’re a culture of multitaskers equipped with all the latest digital tools. You are actually a culture of clueless tools incapable of providing full attention and respect to people and ideas. Perpetually late for meetings, constantly doing email at the expense of those in the room. If you don’t start calling out and ostracizing this boorish behavior it will kill your company.

“Bro!” A closet full of hoodies and Adidas shower shoes does not make you Mark Zuckerberg. But beyond the stunted sartorial choices, “Bro-Culture” can cause some serious problems. Ask the women in your organization how welcome and empowered they feel in the office every day? And when you invariably hire the inevitable second wave of experienced sales and tech pros, watch how the bros close ranks.

“We Got This!” The one quality most likely to cripple a company culture? Self-congratulation. It’s great to have confidence in your technology, but craving the certainty that we have “the right answer” can easily bleed into “we’re right about everything.” To succeed, you need a company of seekers; an openness to well-meaning dissent. Hire the curious and weed out the absolutists.

Peter Drucker famously said that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”   Ask what your culture is swallowing that might better be used to nourish your team.

Why They Sell. Why They Don’t.

Why they sell why they dontMy friend Joe Pych of Bionic Ad Systems sent me this thoughtful, evocative Harvard Business Review article on sales compensation, and I think it’s a must-read for anyone running a business who needs great sales people doing great work for you. (OK, so that’s pretty much everyone.)

What I love most about Doug Chung’s take on “How to Really Motivate Salespeople” is contained right in the title: it’s a truly curious take on motivation.   I don’t consult directly on compensation with my clients, but I end up in a dozen conversations a month about motivation and all the ways current compensation plans aren’t achieving it. So to my ear, Chung’s ‘advice’ at the end of the article is sweet music.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic, who provides a Marketing Automation Platform for Publishers (MAPP).  It empowers publishers with a single view into their advertiser relationships, across every screen, channel and format.  Through workflow automation, real-time analytics and yield management, PubMatic enables publishers to make smarter, faster decisions that drive revenue and streamline operations. To learn more, please click here.

  • Don’t set caps on what truly high-performing sellers can make – or if you must set them for political reasons, set them as high as possible.
  • Keep it simple – you can have multiple motivating triggers within a plan while also still keeping it easy and logical. Take the plan away from your CFO and have a liberal arts major read it.
  • Stop all the knee-jerk resetting of quotas – just because someone crushed it and got a big paycheck doesn’t mean their quota was set too low.

One other bit of wisdom that comes out in the article centers on the competitive nature of the seller: “Sales reps work harder for the chance to earn a reward than they do after receiving one.” The sellers who I’ve met – the ones worth keeping and investing in, at least – genuinely want to perform well in the eyes of their managers and their peers.   So if you accept this premise, better to look for what might disincent them from pursing that level of performance. Here’s my take:

  • Too many reps go well into the first quarter – or even the second quarter – without clarity around the comp plan. My guess is that this happens because the company wanted to work out all of its other priorities first and compensation was a trailing issue. Not good.
  • Compensation ends up completely divorced from the behaviors that ladder up to performance. Good comp plans reward the outcome, but they also focus on engineering and reinforcing positive “interim outcomes.” Understand what will get you there, define it, measure it, then reward it.
  • In life, in business, in sales, and in designing your comp plan, complexity is the enemy. If you couldn’t explain it in a few sentences at the local Chamber of Commerce Meeting, it’s probably going to quickly feel irrelevant to your team.

What’s the answer? Chung has some good ones. But I’d rather focus for now on the right question: Why? Ask why your sellers make the decisions they do and why they might become disaffected or unmotivated. Now you’re dealing in motivation: now your path becomes clearer.

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