The Front of the Jersey.

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Welcome to the world of the free agent.

While the talent pool from which we draw is rich and talented, it is also ephemeral.  Even though she’s genuinely serious and committed about your opportunity, the new seller or account manager you’re interviewing today already has a foot out the door.  It’s not that she’s shallow or underhanded; she’s just always thought differently about her career than you have about yours. She expects short term assignments with many, many teams over the arc of her career.

And who can blame her?  The speed at which companies and strategies are launched today is eclipsed only by the pace at which they are abandoned.  Your rep is not thinking about ten years with your company because she can’t imagine your company thinking of ten years of anything.  Which leaves you, her manager, with the coach’s dilemma.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

A well-worn slogan in sports is “getting them to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.”  But can this even be done in a world where everybody keeps their resume polished and their LinkedIn profile up to date?  It can, but it takes dedication to a strategy.

Call Out the Elephant in the Room.  “We both know that you won’t necessarily always work here…” can be the phrase that really opens up your dialogue with your employees and shows that you’re treating them as adults, not assets.  It puts their time with you in the context of their careers and their lives.  And that’s a great place to be.

How Does Today’s Action Create Long Term Value?  Want your team members to get better at something?  Frame the discussion around their long term value in the marketplace.  Every rep has a stock price and that stock price is either going up or down.

Commit to Them.  Tell them that you want this to be the best place they’ll ever work, and that you’d like to be remembered as the boss who made them better at their craft.  Then do what you say.

Put the Relationships in Long Term Context.  Put their relationships with others on your team in the context of their “career network.”  Will there be a network of people out there who speak well of them in the future, or a network that’s felt slighted, overlooked or abused?  In the context of career growth, this matters.  And they’ll get it.

Foster a Culture of Presence.   Great managers are like parents. We don’t always like or do what they say, but we feel their absence.  Be present for your team, individually and collectively, and focus on what’s happening right now.  Be the boss who celebrates the outstanding proposal and the great example of customer service.  This makes the name on the front of the jersey mean something today, and makes those wearing it – even if for a little while – play all that much harder for it.

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Rep-splaining.

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The opposite of selling is describing.

Selling means changing the outcome. It means turning a no to a maybe and a maybe to a yes. It means earning more favorable terms and protocols on a technology deal and overcoming the competition to have your content marketing program win the recommendation. Selling is persuasion. It’s leaving the world a slightly different place then it was a few minutes ago.

This all sounds obvious, but – sadly – it’s not. A great many sales executives in our industry (and I’d suspect many others) are not actually selling at all. They are part of the culture of description. They describe your products to the customers and then describe the customers’ reactions to the boss. They describe the market conditions or feature shortcomings that prevent the customer from buying. They describe technology and process in excruciating detail, and they describe their own backgrounds and track records on their ever-growing resumes. They’re just not selling.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

It would be natural for those of us who run companies and sales teams to lament this creeping cultural affliction. But first we’ve got to stop causing it.

Stop Loading Your Team Down with Stuff to Describe.  Between marketing, product – sometimes even your company’s founders or top brass – your would-be sellers are bombarded with a crushing volume of slides, concepts, diagrams, videos, demos and more. The message is unmistakable: Just better describe more of our stuff and everything will be OK! This happens for a reason. So…

Stop Worshiping Your Own Product.  The “Product-as-Hero” myth is a prevailing one, and companies in our world buy into it with enthusiastic myopia. When they buy, it’s because the product is great. When they don’t, it’s a sales failure. Yes, work to make your product and features great. But immediately recognize that great products don’t always win and you immediately recognize and elevate the importance of a strong sales culture.

Root Out Cultural Ambivalence about Sales.  If the language of sales – closing, pipeline, incremental commitments and more – seems somehow beneath the brilliant engineering and master-of-the-universe business planning of your company, then you’ve got a problem. If within your sales team itself there are no titles that include the word “sales” you might have an even bigger one. We need to be as great – and as proud of – sales as we are of our engineering and business plans. If we are not, they will never have a chance of succeeding. There’s your new mantra.

Don’t just describe the difference between sales and description. Sell it inside your own company.

This is a re-post of one of the most widely-shared posts in the 16 years of The Drift. We hope it strikes a nerve with you and your team as well.

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Selling is Like Shaving.

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The headline over today’s post references an old saying in direct marketing.  “Selling is like shaving,” the accountable direct response ad seller would say.  “If you don’t do some of it every day, you’re a bum.”  It was a handy way for DR sellers to contrast their work with that of the ad sellers out there peddling branding – which they dismissed as no more than a con.

But today the slogan takes on a deeper meaning for all ad sellers, publishers, tech and marketing service providers.  The jig is up, the news is out, the fatted calf has been picked clean.  For generations, we’ve organized our businesses and revenue models around the premise that our jobs are to help the advertisers and their legion of agencies spend their money… perhaps a little more accountably, responsibly, efficiently or viewably than the next guy.  We’ve all been citizens of the ad business, and we spoke its language and observed its customs.  But no more.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

Fundamental change doesn’t always break down the door.  Often it creeps in on tiny cat feet.  And while we were busy arguing and negotiating over how much of that big pile of ad money would go to digital or TV or something else, marketers have been undergoing their own fundamental change.  They’ve been under siege from direct-to-consumer competitors, a collapsing retail channel, online shopping and more.  In the face of this existential crisis, they’ve fallen out of love with advertising.

Well….to put a finer point on it, they’ve fallen out of love with advertising for the sake of advertising.

Which leads me back to the new premise.  Today we must all help the marketer sell – we must attach ourselves to business outcomes, become co-marketers…lest we be dismissed as bums.  To survive and thrive in what used to be called the ad sales business we must all go back to school and become fluent in the language and customs of marketing.  Someday soon our talk of rating points, viewability and attribution will sound as anachronistic as the Latin mass.

The 21st century ad seller is a business problem solver.  She doesn’t wait for budgets, she helps create them.  She avoids the watering hole where the herd gathers for RFPs and planning cycles.  She hunts alone.  She knows more about how the client’s business works – how he sells his products, who he sells them through and what gets them bought – than anyone but the client.

She sells.  Every day.  But she doesn’t sell ads.  She helps the customer sell product.

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Local Food.

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Leave it to Mike Shields of Business Insider for taking a position and calling out marketers and agencies for the faux shock they are expressing on issues of fraud and supply chain corruption.  Not since Tom Phillips of Dstillery famously evoked HBO’s “The Wire” has culpability been served in such substantial portions.

I’m sure that many in our industry will have nits to pick with Mike – honest people can disagree.  But come on people!  At very least, the optics are terrible.  Marketers publicly crying foul, agencies and tech companies pointing fingers at one another… it’s enough to give one the vapors!

As my small contribution to the debate, I’m offering a new way to look at the issues of quality, transparency, viewabilty, etc.  Set aside all the tech speak and financial-bubble metaphors:  the discussion is really about the quality of the internet food supply.  Welcome to the concept of local food!

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

Rather than continually backpedaling on issues like the percentage of viewable impressions and acceptable fraud levels, might we instead start to compete on the basis of quality – on how much we do know about the inventory we serve?  Might we now start talking about the exact source of inventory – where it was born – and exactly what hands its passed through on its way to market?  No shady rail depots or slaughterhouses.  No grain silos tainted by GMOs or banned pesticides.  I know the where all of my impressions came from and you are getting the cleanest shipment imaginable – USDA prime!

Think this is all a bit much?  Or perhaps that I’ve gotten soft in the head from living in a farm state – Vermont – all these years?  Maybe you’re right.  But consider for a minute the plight of the small publisher who’s struggling to get fair compensation for high quality inventory?  Is she really all that different from the organic farmer who’s now able to charge a premium for a purer, cleaner product?  Or think about the volume publisher or platform operating in a bottomless pool of inventory:  Isn’t he a bit like the big packaged goods company trying to drive up the price of commodity staples by appending organic, gluten-free or non-GMO to every possible product?

Maybe it’s not as simple as asking the advertiser do you know exactly how that got on your plate?  But maybe it’s not such a bad way to start the conversation.

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The End of Cynicism.

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Along with experience in the digital marketing world comes a certain knowingness – a sense that one’s eyes are clearer, his sense of judgment more acute.  There’s an assuredness that we’ve seen all this before and that we can instantly recognize winners and losers and easily sort the wheat from the chaff.

You not only know this guy:  you’ve hired him.  Or maybe you are him.  You understandably value the digital experience he’s had at a half-dozen companies over the past 12 or 15 years.  This dude can make it rain.  Maybe he can.  But his experience and sense of self often come with a heavy tax.  The cancer that too often grows with experience is cynicism.  And it’s a killer.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

The smart CEO and the enlightened manager are acutely aware of how this disease presents itself and how quickly it metastasizes.  Mr. Experience holds the informal meeting-after-the-meeting to let the younger sellers know that this plan looks an awful like what he saw when he was at XYZ.com.  He airs his reservations about company direction in an email reply to the whole team.  Sometimes his physical presence at a meeting – body language, expression – are enough to spread the pathogens of doubt and fear.  At a time like this — of industry consolidation and massive change – he is patient zero in an epidemic of cynicism in your company.

The tricky part is, he may not even know what effect he’s having.  And he likely believes that his approach coming from a place of generosity and helpfulness.  I really love this company!  If he works for you, you must act.

Call it Out.  Have a closed-door meeting with your cynic and make it clear that he’s entitled to his opinions and thoughts, but that the overt behavior he’s exhibiting must stop.

Inside Words/Outside Words.  Let Mr. E. know that you want to hear his ideas personally and create a secure channel to listen to him.  But make it clear that once the door opens, you need him to support or stay quiet about direction and initiatives.

Consider the Alternative.  Too many CEOs and CROs operate out of fear – fear that saying goodbye to experience means kissing off your potential revenue.  But look carefully:  does the revenue this guy is actually producing compensate your company for the sense of despair and doubt that’s immobilizing your other team members?

You’d never tolerate an employee who came in and crashed your network every day, keeping a huge number of your employees from getting anything done.  But we do it every day.  Your company and your sales team have life-forces that thrive on possibility, hope and good intention.  Know the difference between honesty and cynicism and do what you have to in order to give your team the environment they deserve.

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