Objection! Objection!

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Technologies and publishing models change.  But sales objections are forever.  And this post from December 2014 is evergreen.

Objection ObjectionA couple of years ago in this space, I wrote about objections that we hear from buyers. More accurately, the post was about the statements that sound sort of like objections that we hear from non-buyers – those who have no intention of doing business with us, and who frankly just don’t want to face another option or have another conversation. I call these Scarecrow Objections.

This morning I want to add another bit of language to the canon: Objection of Interest. I’ve just started using this term in sales workshops and it’s proving valuable. An Objection of Interest is a (1) legitimate question or issue that’s (2) raised by a customer genuinely interested in a commercial relationship with you and (3) has the authority and means to advance the deal.   An Objection of Interest is like the bridge to a sale: if you can cross this, we can continue down the path together.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. With AppNexus Mobile Solutions, you can access more demand partners than ever, gain precision insight into your inventory’s pricing and attract the ad spend of the world’s largest advertisers.

The Scarecrow Objection, on the other hand, is not a bridge at all. It’s a parachute that allows a disinterested or non-qualified buyer to eject from the conversation. They’re not going to volunteer the fact that they’re not really interested: why would they? So they ask us rote questions about minute differences in technology or policy. Or they tell us they need a case study to prove a point. And sometimes they simply put us off with vague promises of later consideration – an RFP which leads nowhere, a buying cycle that never materializes.

My advice is to measure any objection or issue you hear from a potential customer against the 1-2-3 test outlined above. If you think it fails to meet two of the three standards (or if it does not meet the second one alone) then you’re looking at a Scarecrow Objection.   Do not waste time and energy uncovering facts or chasing down details and case studies: those are hours of your life you’ll never get back. Instead, simply qualify the objection: “If we could successfully solve that issue, would you then make the recommendation to fully invest with us?” On rare occasions, you’ll transform a Scarecrow into a legitimate Objection of Interest and create a new opportunity to sell. More often your “buyer” will show her true colors and the conversation will melt into a puddle of non-commitment.  I hope these ideas help you avoid the costly, pointless exercise of debating with a Scarecrow.

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No Going Back.

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No Going BackI just ordered my copy of “Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing and the Covert World of the Digital Sell” by former media exec Mara Einstein.  If you’re not going to do the same, then at very least read Tim Wu’s excellent review of the book from last Sunday’s New York Times.  The basic premise of “Black Ops” is that content marketing – as practiced online – represents a fairly evil and cynical blurring of the line between content and advertising – the old “Church and State” argument dusted off for a new generation.  According to Einstein, we are being sold stuff all the time…even when we think we’re just being entertained or informed.

While I plan to read the book with an open mind, I have a couple of thoughts – OK, ‘biases’ – going in.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. With AppNexus Mobile Solutions, you can access more demand partners than ever, gain precision insight into your inventory’s pricing and attract the ad spend of the world’s largest advertisers.

First, we must all recognize that the creation of all that “content” that is so prized by authors and journalists can no longer be supported by the standard spots and dots and pre-roll videos that sit off in the side rail begging to be ignored or blocked.  The old advertising models simply don’t work outside of very narrow circumstances:  media proliferation, ad blocking and unlimited supply have killed that economic golden goose, and she’s not coming back to life.  Any hankering for a better, simpler time is just naïve.

So is asking consumers to pay for content.  They won’t do it.  At least not in any numbers that matter.  And no, Netflix and HBO GO don’t count here.  Those are movies and TV shows, not news articles and feature stories.  And truth be told, the money consumers have plunked down for content in the past – The $2 for a printed New York Times or your discounted subscription to Vogue or Vanity Fair have never put a dent in the costs associated with writing and editing what we read.

My argument in favor of content marketing isn’t just that it’s economically necessary:  it’s that it’s not at all a new thing.   Content and story selection in the vast majority of magazines and newspapers is driven by a cottage industry of publicists and PR mavens.  When you watched Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert last night, their guests were made available and booked because they had movies and books of their own to hawk.  A million years ago I got my college degree in public relations and using the media’s own tools and conventions to help my clients sell stuff was the job I was trained for.  Today the brand studios at media companies like The New York Times and Conde Nast and Refinery 29 and many others are getting paid to help marketers tell better stories to consumers they know in a medium they understand.  Facebook and BuzzFeed and Snapchat are just doing their own version of the same thing.  And as our media and communication lives continue to morph and meld, so will thousands of other companies.

When it’s done well, it will be an art form.  But make no mistake:  content marketing is here to stay.  It always has been.

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Say Thanks.

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Thanks...If you’re reading this post you probably have a job that’s connected to digital marketing and advertising.  And whether your company had a wonderful year or a terrible one, whether you’re the right or wrong side of the best new technology, statistically you are very lucky.  You’re in an industry that’s still growing and your skills will be in demand for a long time to come.  Relatively speaking, we are all lottery winners.

Thanksgiving week is as good a time as any for a reality check….to take stock of what we have and perhaps to make a deposit in the Karma bank.  You don’t have to act on what I’m proposing below, but I respectfully ask that you read and carefully consider it.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. With AppNexus Mobile Solutions, you can access more demand partners than ever, gain precision insight into your inventory’s pricing and attract the ad spend of the world’s largest advertisers.

Over the past 15 years our country has minted a lot of veterans, and a great many struggle physically, psychologically or both.  Thousands more have made the ultimate sacrifice.  Connected to almost all of these stories are a families with day-to-day needs…families that fall through the safety net every day.

When the safety net breaks, the TD Foundation helps these families.  No bureaucracy, no delay, just help.  Fast.  Whether it’s a car payment or rent situation that now seems hopeless; money to keep a child playing soccer or basketball for another season;  funds to acquire a handicap-accessible van; or just about anything else.  It’s not always dramatic, but it’s always crucial.  It’s life.

So if you feel lucky – as I do – here are three things you can do.

  • If you’re in the New York area – or can be – next Thursday night December 1st, buy a ticket for $150 to the annual TD Foundation fundraiser in Manhattan. Besides helping the families of wounded warriors and fallen heroes, you’ll spend the evening with scores of great digital industry people.
  • Make a donation – of any size – to the Foundation. tdfoundation.org/donate
  • Forward this post on to a friend.

I’m grateful to have all of you as readers, customers and friends.  You are the blessings I count.  And thank you for considering this great cause.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Attention Transaction.

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The Attention TransactionAttention is the currency of our time. But maybe not in the way you may be thinking about it.

I’m reading Tim Wu’s new book “The Attention Merchants,” in which he pushes back on the monetization of consumer attention that’s driven the growth of online advertising and marketing. Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, it’s a smart, critical read for anyone in our business. But it’s got me thinking about attention in a much different, much more personal way.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. With AppNexus Mobile Solutions, you can access more demand partners than ever, gain precision insight into your inventory’s pricing and attract the ad spend of the world’s largest advertisers.

Consider all the day to day interactions you have – with potential customers, with co-workers, with employees, bosses, and family members. Think of them as transactions:  there is an exchange happening in each one.  So what is it you want – what do you need most – from that other person? An agreement to buy? Their cooperation? Their forgiveness? Perhaps. But what you need before you can get any of those things is their full attention…an undistracted moment of true focus and comprehension. The irony is that most of us go into each of these transactions unprepared or unwilling to pay the very currency we hope to receive.

I’m not the first person to decry the global epidemic of distraction. We’ve conned ourselves into thinking that we’ve become a species of multi-taskers who can effectively shuttle back and forth from a blue screen to a human face and miss nothing. In many companies, this lie is celebrated as a virtue. Showing up late for a meeting and then immediately checking one’s phone isn’t a bad thing, it’s our cultureWe send distracted, five-word replies to our co-workers’ emails and wonder why no one understands us or does what we need them to do.

You “pay” attention because it has value. If customers are distractedly shuffling through your sales calls, put your own phone away and shut your computer and pay complete attention to them – eye contact, open “how and what questions,” head-nodding…the whole deal. Think that account manager or product person on your team hates you? Could be that he just feels ignored and misunderstood. So go sit by his desk and look him in the eye with real interest. See what happens.

Before anyone can feel interested, they need to feel interesting. We all carry around the powerful currency of our attention with us every day, and most of us never really spend any of it. When we do, we simply get more of everything we want out of life and work.

So regardless of the situation, regardless of the need, regardless of who you’re dealing with, put away your phone, shut your laptop, look up and pay full attention. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing…and what you’ll get back.

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The Day After the Day After.

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The Morning After the Morning AfterThose who read this blog regularly know that I don’t use it for personal expression very often: you open and read The Drift because it offers perspective on sales and our digital marketing world. The last time I broke that protocol was on September 12, 2001. And those of you who know me personally and politically know that I’m a proud Democrat who loves to talk issues. But if you’re expecting this post to be angry or bitter, please read on with an open mind.

I have very strong feelings about the election and – like many of you – questions and fears about what lies ahead of us. But for now I’d like to offer some perspective that I hope will be both helpful and unifying. If you feel so moved, comment and/or pass this post along to others.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. With AppNexus Mobile Solutions, you can access more demand partners than ever, gain precision insight into your inventory’s pricing and attract the ad spend of the world’s largest advertisers.

Our divisions are not new.  Jefferson and Hamilton acolytes had their own newspapers with their own facts and truths. But our ability to use technology to hermetically seal ourselves inside a thought-bubble with those who think like we do… now that’s fairly new. Like many of you, my apps, social media, radio and cable choices walled me off from the eventual outcome of this election. Our higher calling in digital media and tech will be to find the center and connect rather than segregate.

We must stop profiling each other.  I’m as horrified by nationalism, sexism, racism and xenophobia as anyone. But to tar everyone on the other side with those colors is to ignore an important fact: that fear and frustration and a sense of economic hopelessness also drove a lot of good people to make what many of us consider an unconscionable choice. A lot of those people may soon start to see things differently – indeed they may already – but every act of condescension and caricature only stokes the alienation and division.

Believe in our system.  Secretary Clinton and President Obama set aside their anger and sadness yesterday and made gracious and generous commitments to the Constitution, the electoral process and the peaceful transfer of power. In the past 229 years our country has endured a lot of elections, movements, bad politicians and bad behavior. We are still here because our system of government self-corrects and renews. It will again.

Anger and fear are natural, but you can’t build with them.  I believe in my heart — even now — that there’s an opportunity for new coalitions and connections to take root in our country. Yes, there will be demonstrations in the streets and there will be tone-deaf partisanship in Congress; those are natural parts of the political process. But I believe also that this moment and the months ahead of us may also push many of us away from the edges and back toward one another.

Now is the time for generosity.  The divisive and controversial acts and worst behavior will garner the most coverage in the days ahead. But don’t get sucked in. If you want to feel better – about yourself and about your neighbors – take this time out to give something of yourself.  Commit to caring for your employees or co-workers; give some of your time to a cause; stay in the moment and listen for true understanding, especially to someone you may not agree with.

I’m not a Pollyanna. But I do aim for the big picture and take the long view. We can’t hate our way out of this moment and we shouldn’t try.  Instead, take inventory of your own character, actions and intent. If we do, we’ll all very soon reconnect with the energetic forward progress that we crave. I wish blessings and good things for you all. I value you as readers and friends. And I’m here for anyone who wants to communicate and get back on track. As they always said on Friday Night Lights, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

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