On Leadership.

On LeadershipAmong the dozen books I consistently recommend, there’s one that I consider a must-read for anyone tasked with leading a company, a sales force or any kind of team. I’m talking about Marcus Buckingham’s “The One Thing You Need to Know.” I’m thinking a lot about leadership just now, as it’s the central topic for the fall Seller Forum. And as inspiration, Buckingham doesn’t disappoint.

The trick about “The One Thing” is that it’s actually three things. After playing a little intellectual cat-and-mouse, the author tells you “The One Thing” about “Great Managing, Great Leading and Sustained Individual Success.” I’ll focus here on what he tells us about leadership and what it can mean to you.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by The Media Trust. The Media Trust provides critical insight into the digital advertising ecosystem through continuous monitoring of websites and ad tags to verify ad campaign rendering, ensure creative quality, and protect against malware, data leakage and site performance issues, which lead to lost revenue, privacy violations and brand damage. Visit www.TheMediaTrust.com

On my first reading, the revelation was that leading and managing were two completely different functions. “Managers play chess” (in which every piece – every individual in your company – has different qualities) and “leaders play checkers” (in which every piece moves the same) is another way of saying “management is individual and leadership is universal.” When you are leading, you are speaking to and for the entire organization – you are saying what’s true for all of us, not just some of us.

Which leads me to “The One Thing” about effective leaders: they are clear.

Clarity, according to Buckingham, is the single quality that all effective leaders share. He tells us that it’s more important for a leader to be clear than it is for him or her to be right: if you’re clear enough about what you believe, those who follow you will help “make you right” in the end. The leader is the one who clearly communicates what the company or group believes, its values and its destination.   But is there “One Thing” that it’s most important to be clear about? Yes. A leader clearly answers the question “Who do we serve?” Take a minute with this one: it only seems clear on the surface, and you may be surprised by how much ambiguity there is on this question in your own organization.

If you have a favorite book, quotation or TED Talk on leadership, I’d love for you to share it.

And if you are a digital media sales leader and would like to attend the Fall Seller Forum on Wednesday October 21st in New York, let us know right away. The event may be two months away, but more than a third of the available seats are already gone.

Persistence… one more time.

never_give_upThis piece about persistence first ran a couple of years ago.  I’m re-posting it.  Kind of fitting, don’t you think? 

I recently asked an advertiser how he decided whether to take a call with an unknown, untested vendor.  “First,” he said matter-of-factly, “I ignore the first couple of calls and then see if they’ll call a third time.  That way I weed out those who don’t care enough to persist.”

I hope this simple idea becomes a talking point in the weekly sales meeting of everyone who’s reading this post.  Because sales people in our business, by and large, do not persist.   As a breed, we’re a lot of things – smart, well-spoken, charming, polite; but persistent we are not.  In pursuing a reluctant or reclusive customer we push right up to the point we might be thought of as pushy;  we risk everything but the inherent comfort of the situation.  “But I’ve sent them three emails and called them twice,” a seller might lament.  “I don’t just want to be annoying.”  And there it is, in a nutshell.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by The Media Trust. The Media Trust provides critical insight into the digital advertising ecosystem through continuous monitoring of websites and ad tags to verify ad campaign rendering, ensure creative quality, and protect against malware, data leakage and site performance issues, which lead to lost revenue, privacy violations and brand damage. Visit www.TheMediaTrust.com

In his well-known sales and leadership volume, “212: The Extra Degree,” Sam Parker rightly points out that absolutely nothing happens at 211 degrees.  But add just one more degree of heat and water boils.  It’s a handy metaphor for persistence.  How many of us stop pursuing customers or answers just before we would have been successful?   I’m sure this is a universal sales issue but I think it’s a particular problem in our industry because we start with a base of general ambivalence about the sales process.  (Ask ten digital media or technology sellers what they do for a living and eight will come up with answers that studiously avoid the words ‘sales’ or ‘selling.’)  But I digress.  If you’re a manager and want to help your sellers toward greater persistence, here’s a cheat-sheet:

  • Track the calls.  Most sellers don’t actually even know how many times they’ve called or emailed a customer because they don’t keep a count.  Because they’ve worried about it, they think they’ve done it.  Awareness of actual numbers helps.
  • Set a benchmark.  There’s no science to this, but the median number of calls to successful contact seems to be seven.  Setting that expectation up front establishes a process in the mind of seller.
  • Plan a campaign.  Look at the channels and content of the pursuit.  Is your seller saying the same thing through the same channel every time?  Probably.  What’s the appropriate mix of email, planned voice mails, LinkedIn in-mail messages and non-traditional approaches?   It’s worth some discussion.
  • Start at Respect.   If your seller has done, or is prepared to do, good work for this customer, then persistence is the ultimate sign of respect.  And if you’re respecting the customer by persisting, then you can rightly expect the respect of a reply and engagement in return.

Try being persistent.  And then try it again.

We’ve opened registration for the Fall Seller Forum on October 21st.  If you’re a digital sales leader and want to know more, contact Tamara Clarke and she can get it sorted with you.

The Myth of the Sales Hero.

The Myth of the Sales HeroCustomers ask me all the time whether Upstream Group offers presentation training: can we help their average seller be more effective in front of a large group and really “own the room?”   The answers are no and yes.

No, we don’t do presentation training as a service – though I’ll happily share five helpful free tips and then recommend other firms who specialize in “stand and deliver” work. I’ll just as quickly tell you that the apparent lack of presentation skills is a red herring. Your people aren’t missing their numbers because they can’t present. They’re losing sales because they’re not present.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by The Media Trust. The Media Trust provides critical insight into the digital advertising ecosystem through continuous monitoring of websites and ad tags to verify ad campaign rendering, ensure creative quality, and protect against malware, data leakage and site performance issues, which lead to lost revenue, privacy violations and brand damage. Visit www.TheMediaTrust.com

The story of the seller who strides into a roomful of strangers, tells an awesome story beautifully and then walks out with an order is part of what I call The Myth of the Sales Hero. One awesome performance…one killer presentation….a blow-away moment is all it takes! It’s an entertaining story, but it’s just not true.

The truth is that sales is not performance art. It’s a ruthlessly disciplined process laced with intelligence and empathy. It’s not about “telling your story:” it’s about telling the customer his own story and then writing your company into the narrative during the second reel. What’s called for is a high level of presence: focusing not on your next line or slide, but on the critical conversation that’s happening – or not happening — in the room.

So let’s talk about that room you want your people to own. It’s not the one filled with a dozen half-conscious buyers languidly checking their phones: you could probably drop Tony Robbins into that room and it wouldn’t make a difference. No, the room you want to own is quite small: just the seller and one or two senior customers – those connected to important business and marketing problems who also have the authority to help solve them. Small, intimate, collaborative….real. That’s the room we focus on.

Being a great public speaker certainly isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that very few of us ever get there. And a misguided focus on “presenting better” or “telling our story more effectively” can keep you from addressing the behaviors that could actually change your sales future.

Your Wind-Up Toy.

Your Wind Up ToyI’m devoting today’s Drift to reforming a dysfunctional relationship that plagues a great many companies and sales teams. I’m speaking of the dynamic between your sales team, your customers and your wind-up CEO and senior execs.

Here’s how it currently goes. Through no fault of his/her own, your CEO (and frequently your CMO, CRO and other key execs) is used to delivering a monologue of data and insights on your company; months or years of investor pitches, board meetings and conference keynotes will do that to you. The CEO tells the sales team to bring him on calls — he’s more than happy to help and ‘just loves to spend time with customers!’ – but once in front of clients he becomes a wind-up toy, a virtual lawn sprinkler of company facts, figures, updates and catch phrases. And once the call ends and everyone flies home, the worst thing happens: nothing.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by The Media Trust. The Media Trust provides critical insight into the digital advertising ecosystem through continuous monitoring of websites and ad tags to verify ad campaign rendering, ensure creative quality, and protect against malware, data leakage and site performance issues, which lead to lost revenue, privacy violations and brand damage. Visit www.TheMediaTrust.com

Because the CEO so often ends up delivering the digital executive’s version of the campaign stump speech, he neither truly hears the client nor helps advance the sales goal. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s rewind, see where things went wrong, and how they can get better.

You Were Too Deferential: Sales people are either too afraid of the CEO or just too darned grateful for his presence to dare offering any guidance on what should or shouldn’t happen on the call.   But this deference serves no one. Most CEOs are pretty self-aware and actually want to do what helps. They go into default ‘sprinkler’ mode because nobody gives them an alternative.

There Was No Plan at All: Too often, it’s even worse. There’s no strategy or rationale for the meeting other than “let’s bring in the CEO and make them feel important.” At very least the CEO should get a full briefing on who he’s meeting with, what you are asking them to buy, what issues need to be addressed, and what kind of political agendas are in play. Even better, lay out the roles that the rep and CEO need to play on the call.

The Levels Didn’t Match: If your sales people are bringing the CEO in to see the media supervisor and planner, you’ve got a problem and you need to do some level-setting. Your CEO will wonder why you’re wasting her time, and the account will think your company is pretty desperate if the CEO is out on the hustings fighting for your spot on the media plan. Big accounts, big decision makers and strategic deals. Period.

Sure, your CEO may be used to being “the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral” but when she’s in the field in front of advertisers, she works for sales. And if you choose not to manage that resource effectively, you’ll get what you deserve.

Death of a Sales Meeting.

Death of a Sales MeetingBad sales conferences are like bad sitcoms. And for the exact same reason.

Sitcoms often suck because sitcom writers have no source of inspiration beyond other sitcoms. Something that seems reasonably amusing or comfortingly familiar is then endlessly repeated, from series to series and season to season. So it is with the annual sales conference. The rooms, the slides, the cocktail parties – what they lack in inspiration they make up for in consistency.

Having attended, planned, hosted or spoken at a few dozen sales meetings over the years, let me offer a few dos and don’ts to help you program and execute the Seinfeld of conferences.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by The Media Trust. The Media Trust provides critical insight into the digital advertising ecosystem through continuous monitoring of websites and ad tags to verify ad campaign rendering, ensure creative quality, and protect against malware, data leakage and site performance issues, which lead to lost revenue, privacy violations and brand damage. Visit www.TheMediaTrust.com

Start with Why. Ask your senior leaders why you need to be doing this meeting at this time. What behavior are you trying to change? Which team members are you trying to elevate or retain? Be specific. Let all your decisions flow from the answers you generate.

Guard the Main Stage. An endless parade of execs and department heads armed with “updates” is just bad programming. This is not T-Ball and they don’t all get a chance to bat. Only what’s universally new and universally critical gets shared in the big room.

It’s the Small Rooms that Matter Anyway. Create a lot of small, planned spaces and breakout groups so that your team can really interact with your execs and with one another.

Tell People Where to Sit. They only get to feel like a full team once a year. If they all sit with their normal packs, you squander that opportunity.

“Imagine There’s No Cell Phones…” It’s easy if you just do it. Have everyone drop their little cellular children in the day care box. It’s transformative.

Spawn Lots of Small, Busy Groups. Assign people to discussion pods. Send designated groups on a digital scavenger hunt. Have them solve a problem.

Plan the Transitions, Skip the Breaks. 200 people can’t leave and re-enter a room in 15 minutes. So skip the breaks: they’re grownups and can see to their own biological needs. And the space/time continuum dictates that you can’t end one session and start another the very next minute, especially if they’re in different places.

Don’t Over-Program. Nobody’s ever said “I just wish there’d been more PowerPoint!” In trying to say enough, you will invariably say too much. Great connections and relationships happen in the white space. So stop filling it all in.

Stop Obsessing About the Answers. Focus on the Questions. I’d love to see a CRO or CEO get up on stage and say “We don’t have all the answers…but THESE are the questions we’d like your help answering over the next two days…”   Uniting your organization around a common quest like this reframes the entire meeting. Again, transformative.

It’s All in the Doing. Nobody ever comes home from a sales meeting raving about what they heard or saw. It’s always about what they got to do. So challenge yourself and your senior team to create memorable experiences for your team. They deserve them, and so do you.

The Mother’s Milk of Digital.

The Mothers Milk of DigitalThe 2012 national election was a watershed moment for political marketing. Republicans and Democrats didn’t agree on much prior to that election, but the very next day they agreed on one big thing: the Obama team’s sophisticated use of data enhanced digital and social marketing made all the difference in the world. In the words of one Republican operative at an industry conference, “we were like a very good high school team playing the New England Patriots. We won’t let that happen again.”

No doubt there will be record amounts spent on the 2016 national, state and local elections, not to mention the lengthy primary season. However you feel about the role of money in politics, both parties – plus an overwhelming number of PACs – are going to double down on digital. There’s no question it’s going to rain money; it’s just not clear how many of us are going to get wet. As I’ve trained digital sales teams over the years the topic of digital political advertising often comes up, but the depth of that conversation is not where it should be. Many sellers still believe that the primary role of the political ad is to convince someone to vote for a given candidate, ignoring how digital factors into fundraising, list development, voter mobilization, turnout and so much more.

Two close friends of mine – who both also happen to be legends in our business – are doing something about this gap. On Thursday August 6th at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, John Durham and Rick Parkhill will be hosting the Political Advertising Summit. They’re assembling some terrific speakers for the purpose of informing and training digital sellers about the opportunity ahead and what it will take to realize it. I have no stake in the outcome, except as an attendee and fellow traveler; I plan to go myself to learn more about this important set of topics. If you’re a seller who’s been tasked with going after 2015-16 campaign and initiative dollars, or if you have one on your team, here’s a link to help you sign up for this important event. I hope to share the day with you or someone from your organization.

An old maxim tells us that money is the mother’s milk of politics. While that is certainly (and perhaps unfortunately) still true, we owe it to ourselves and our companies to pursue those dollars as smartly and effectively as we can. Doing less that that is to ignore the lesson of 2012 and leave your company wondering what happened on the Wednesday after Election Day.

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.

Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit
Share with your friends










Submit