Online Sales Strategy

Scatter Market Forever.

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One of the media world’s most stubborn legacies is The Upfront.  It’s best known as a way for big advertisers and their agencies to commit “upfront” dollars to networks in exchange for price breaks on the shows and demos they most desire.

We like Upfronts.  We like them so much that we make up excuses to stage them all the time. By now we’ve all heard of the Digital Media “New-Fronts,” the fortnight in late spring where we show off cool “programming” and ideas and try for up front commitments.  I’m for anything that allows digital media providers to strut their stuff, but…

But can the Upfront concept – a fixed, date-centric marketplace – survive in a world of unlimited “inventory” and constant technological change? Or will Upfronts go the way of “The Fall TV Season,” an event that used to mean something but that is now manufactured to gin up attention from buyers?

Welcome to the age of abundance.  Welcome to the Forever Scatter Market.

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.

I’m not naïve and I understand completely why Upfronts exist.  But the vast majority of us would be better served by committing to the skills and strategies needed in a permanent scatter market…. A market in which we must create or own opportunity, find our decision makers and – often – identify the budgets that might fund the things we create.

Scatter is about acting, not waiting.  It’s about the broader business or marketing problem, not about the narrow focus of the media plan.  It’s not about big showy presentations and product demos, but rather about the intimate, collaborative meeting at the whiteboard.  Upfronts are about what will be bought and for how much.  Scatter is about how the marketing or storytelling problem gets solved.  The Upfront is about the advertising business.  Scatter is about business solutions.

Banking on the Upfront is about fighting the last war… a war of fixed battles and well positioned armies….a war that’s perhaps already been won by a handful of superpowers.  Scatter is asymmetrical, guerilla engagements….it’s house to house and hand to hand.  And we’d all better start honing the strategies and skills we need to compete.

Scatter selling is here.  And it’s forever.

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How the Idea Survives.

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Pushed out of the multiplex by Big Hollywood’s parade of CGI superhero vehicles and gross-out comedy sequels, Little Hollywood – the creators – responded with a creative programming renaissance in cable, OTT and streaming channels.

Pushed off the digital media plan by Big Platforms and the relentless growth and consolidation of Big Programmatic, Little Publishing – our creators – have responded with their own creative programming renaissance.  Custom events, podcasts, influencers, social optimization, content marketing – I’m sure the list of possibilities has grown just since I began this post.  Publishers new and old have become more creative than ever before in all aspects of their businesses.  Except one:  Sales.

Promotional Message:  Tired of the pessimism and helplessness born out of a consolidating digital ad market?  Ready for some actionable strategies and meaningful alternatives to help your team sell more and better?  Our final Seller Forum of 2017 is happening on Wednesday October 11th in New York, and if you lead a sales team and want more from and for them, request your invitation today.

In boardrooms and bullpens all around New York and Silicon Beach, execs at creative companies are scratching their heads, puzzled at why their amazing creative ideas are not fetching the attention and premiums they often deserve.  The answer is deceptively simple:  you are feeding those ideas directly into a transactional ad buying system that was built to manage cost against standardized ad units.   Dress that business up in the language of creativity and ideation – hire gurus, launch divisions – and it’s still the same buyer (with the same calculator) on the other side of the table.

As content and experience have become multidimensional, sales has doubled-down on transaction.  And the results have been predictably underwhelming.  The challenge for the next generation CRO – the “moonshot” of the next 2-3 years – is to reinvent digital and integrated media sales; to make the sales process as intricate and creative as the ideas it represents.  This is going to call for four big intellectual and behavioral shifts:

  1. Embrace enterprise selling. The standard call to “go see the client” is not enough. We need to break out of the advertising channel entirely and sell broader and deeper within the client organization.
  2. Find new budgets. Why do we always start with “the digital ad budget?”  What we do has as much in common with PR, sales promotion, shopper marketing, research, compliance…you get the picture.
  3. Learn to love Scatter. Planning cycles, campaigns and RFPs are looking more than a little tired.  They exist because media agencies need them to exist.  Those who will win are those who will set their own pace and not rely on inclusion in a process that’s getting less relevant by the week.
  4. Think like a producer. The old questions were “How am I going to win a spot in this campaign?” and “How can I sell them this product?”  The new question is “How can I get my project funded?”

Your ideas aren’t the problem.  They just need a new marketplace.

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Meet Your Competition.

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Working with scores of companies in the digital ecosystem, I end up being the go-to guy on a persistent question:  “How do we compare with the other guys?”

Individual sellers and whole sales organizations demonstrate a serious need to be benchmarked.  There are great companies out there who offer this as a service:  they’ll tell a given company whether they are number one, two or twenty-three in the eyes of agencies or marketers.  Or you can always fall back on whose is bigger (comparing revenues, page views, video streams….whatever.)

But nevertheless, they ask me the question, because I’ve spent close time with many of the companies they perceive to be competitors.  And they really, really want to know how they stack up.

Promotional Message:  Tired of the pessimism and helplessness born out of a consolidating digital ad market?  Ready for some actionable strategies and meaningful alternatives to help your team sell more and better?  Our final Seller Forum of 2017 is happening on Wednesday October 11th in New York, and if you lead a sales team and want more from and for them, request your invitation today.

The answer is simple, if also a bit frustrating:  If you’re measuring yourself against any competitor, you’re embracing ambivalence and courting failure.   Give power and currency to someone else and you immediately make it all about a company and a sales team and issues that you have no control over.

The right approach is to localize the questions:  Given our resources, skills, voice, capabilities, scale, etc., what is the best we can possibly be?  How might we become indispensable to this customer at this critical time in their business?

Tell your team (or tell yourself) to stop comparing your insides to other companies’ outsides.  The more you obsess about your ‘competitors’ the more you stop paying attention to the customers whose money you hope to earn.  Your competition is you….your benchmark is your potential value to the marketer.  All the rest is noise.

When a member of her staff would ask Oprah Winfrey about the latest guest that Jerry Springer or Arsenio Hall or Sally Jesse Raphael had booked, she always offered the same admonition:  “Let them do them.  We’ll do us.”

Priceless.

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It’s Not You, It’s Them.

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Often the most profoundly true things about sales are deceptively simple.  Yet they can seem maddeningly elusive.  Like this one:

The answer to why they should buy from you can’t be about you.  It has to be about them.

Sure, we all believe in customer-centricity and starting with the needs of the customer and all that.  We just don’t act on it.

Promotional Message:  If you could tell five thousand digital sales leaders and sellers about your product or service each week in a focused, exclusive environment, would you do it?  Digital sellers have been anticipating, reading and sharing The Drift for more than 15 years.  A provocative, POV-driven read, it’s also a great vehicle for our underwriting sponsors.  We’re taking reservations for the second half of 2017, so if you’re interested please contact Tamara Clarke to plan your campaign today.

When a customer won’t see us, or when they raise an objection or say that we’re not right for their needs, the first reaction of most sellers is to say something else about their own company.  If they’re not buying us it must be because they just don’t know enough about us!  We then tax our internal research and marketing teams for more stats and slides and research tables that amount to a collective “Are too!”

The answer to why they should buy from you can’t be about you.  It has to be about them.

This is a point in the sales process when we need to fight our own impulses to answer the objection or win the argument.  If it’s the late stage of a transactional sale, it’s too late for this to work anyway.  They’ve made up their minds and telling them they’re wrong or that they’re making a mistake will only piss them off and ruin your next chance.  Instead, it’s time to ask yourself a couple of important questions:

What is truly unique about this customer’s business or marketing situation that we can really help them with? How can we not just win some of the business but actually make their situation better?

Instead of telling yet another fragmented version of your own story, you’re telling theirs.  You’re offering them a meaningful, thoughtful exception to or extension of their own strategy.  It’s a better response to being told you’re not getting the business.  And it’s a better basis on which to pursue it in the first place.

The answer to why they should buy from you can’t be about you.  It has to be about them.

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Stop…Drop….Start Over!!

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You there!  Yes, you!  Drop the mouse and back slowly away from the keyboard…hands where I can see ‘em.

Sure, sure…I’ve heard it all before.  You were just going about your business getting ready for one of those “sales calls” that your boss likes so much.  You finally wore down that 29-year-old Media Sup to the point where she agreed to “get the team together” for a sit-down next week.  And now you’re making sure you’re armed to the teeth and ready for battle.  You’re pasting the customer’s logo onto the front of a hefty PowerPoint that has it all:   company intro….partner logos….all your products….case studies….even the obligatory Questions? slide at the end.  You’re even packing up a few gifts to make them all feel engaged and included:  a little swag to grease the skids.

Promotional Message:  If you could tell five thousand digital sales leaders and sellers about your product or service each week in a focused, exclusive environment, would you do it?  Digital sellers have been anticipating, reading and sharing The Drift for more than 15 years.  A provocative, POV-driven read, it’s also a great vehicle for our underwriting sponsors.  We’re taking reservations for the second half of 2017, so if you’re interested please contact Tamara Clarke to plan your campaign today.

But I just can’t let you go through with it.  I’ve seen this movie and I know how it ends.  It’s Fatal Attraction and you’re Glenn Close; it’s Thelma and Louise and you’re both of them.  In the name of all that’s holy, stop now and start over again!

Too many of our sales calls end up with both parties simply falling into their assigned roles.  Both the seller and buyer know they have to have a certain number of meetings, and they end up in the business equivalent of a bad blind date.  You share the same space, make polite but disinterested conversation, and part with some vague talk of keeping in touch or sending something.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

What is the meeting going to be about?  If you haven’t proactively identified a business or marketing problem and centered your entire meeting on it, then you’re simply another rep doing another “catch up” call who’s hoping for some of their money.

What exactly to you want to happen?  Write out the words of your closing “ask” before you walk in.  If you don’t know what you want to happen, you’re certainly not going to get it.  The right people might not even be in the room to give it to you.  Any answers that include words like updateeducation or evangelism are just too soft and meaningless.

What are you telling them that they don’t already know?  If you’re armed only with the information that the buyers themselves have given you, then you end up being another rep who’s describing their own product, rather than one who’s prepared to make something new happen.

Do you really need that PowerPoint?  People really looked forward to seeing PowerPoint decks….in 1995.  If you’re seeking a real, genuine conversation, then a piece of paper with some observations about the account is a better bet.

How will you use the first 90 seconds of your time together?  Sales calls have something in common with fistfights.  How they begin goes a long way in determining how they will end.  Hyper-awareness and presence right at the outset can change the entire character of a call.

If your sales calls are feeling less than fulfilling, look hard at your own approach.  You just may be sleepwalking into mediocrity.  You deserve better.

Before posting this week, I stopped myself.  I looked back to 2014 and decided this post deserved a second airing.  If it wasn’t new to you, I hope it was a good reminder.

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