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Go to Their House.

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At the very beginning of my sales career I had to deliver a lot of bad news. My first ad sales job – back in the mid-80s – was at a small, specialty automotive magazine that was critical to many of its advertisers. I didn’t know when I took the job that the magazine was in financial trouble and that I’d have to tell many of our longtime advertisers that they’d face an immediate 60% rate increase.

As a 25-year-old ad sales newbie, I can say I was categorically unprepared for the shitstorm that ensued.  Heck, I don’t think I’d be prepared for it even now. Advertisers yelled, they threatened and more than a few pulled out of the magazine. We were snubbed at trade shows and our calls often went unanswered and unreturned.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bazaarvoice. Reach and influence 3 out of 4 true in-market shoppers with Bazaarvoice Advertising. Bazaarvoice’s fresh first-party data comes from shoppers interacting with consumer generated content across our network of 5,000 leading brands and retailers, allowing us to reach your shoppers with advertising to influence their purchase decisions.

Fast-forward 12 months. Virtually all of the advertisers on my list returned to the fold. Some even increased their spending with us. Over dinner at a barbecue joint in northern Mississippi near the factory-headquarters of one of these comeback advertisers, I asked him how we got “from there to here.” How exactly did we overcome all the bad feelings, disappointment and rancor to get to such a good place? His answer was immediate, simple, and one that I remember to this day.

“It’s really pretty simple,” he explained in his gruffly-distinguished Southern accent. “You came to our house. That matters a lot to us.”

He went on to explain that very few of the salespeople they spent money with had ever taken the time to visit their headquarters, to walk the factory floor and see how their stuff was made. “They’ll call me on the phone when it’s time to renew and they’ll shake my hand at the trade show, but they don’t come here.” During the dark period when they weren’t running ads with us, I’d made two trips to Northern Mississippi and was now making a third.

Despite all the technology and the instantaneous communication, people are still people.  They take pride in where they work, where they build things. And they know when they’re being respected and treated like a valued customer. Often, there is no next best thing to being there. You just have to go.

Carry this principle a little further… to the internal constituencies at your own company that you need so badly to execute and activate the programs you sell. Have you “gone to their house” lately? Most sellers don’t ever go and sit at the desks of the people they depend on every day. You send them email when you need something, you have a beer with them at the sales meeting, but you don’t go there.

Maybe you should. Maybe we all should. Be the one who came to their house. You’ll find, as I did 30 years ago, that it makes you exceptional.

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Steal This Post!

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It may be just me, but the wind seems to be changing and radical ideas are afloat.

We’re now two weeks removed from the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Florida where President/CEO Randall Rothenberg blistered the crowd with a Jeremiad that was both bracing and very, very clear.  I’ll paraphrase:

This thing of ours has gotten pretty fucked up.  And if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.

This thing of ours, of course, is digital advertising and marketing.  And he’s right.  The very fact that the head of your industry organization is giving a speech called “Repair the Trust” tells you a lot.  Sure, we’ve had areas of disagreement and mushy standards for much of the last two decades.  But when the subjects were arcane things like terms & conditions, viewability and margin transparency, most of us just kept our eyes down and pushed our food around the plate.  Avoidance and obfuscation was a perfectly reasonable strategy.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bazaarvoice.  Reach and influence 3 out of 4 true in-market shoppers with Bazaarvoice Advertising. Bazaarvoice’s fresh first-party data comes from shoppers interacting with consumer generated content across our network of 5,000 leading brands and retailers, allowing us to reach your shoppers with advertising to influence their purchase decisions.

But no longer.  Because now the issue is fake news.  Remember that kid sitting in his kitchen in Macedonia pumping out fake news stories about Obama’s love child or the Papal endorsement of the Trump campaign?  Turns out we were collectively paying him.  Ouch.

The rotten system that blindly rewards page views and ad calls and shares has become the intravenous feeding tube for parasitic monsters who may realistically render the concept of truth itself irrelevant.  Fake traffic and fraudulent video numbers were bad.  Fake truth and moral relativism are much, much worse.

Randall made it very clear when he said “It’s time to get out of the fake anything business.”   Yes.  We are only as good and as moral as who our system pays and what it pays for.  Without ethical clarity, the next $50 billion in digital advertising revenue will be just so much drug money.  And each one of us has a part to play in making sure it’s not.

You see, our business is really just an average of the behaviors of our best and worst players.  It’s time to bring back the concept of shame.  If you employ the highest standards as a publisher, talk about them.  If you demand the highest standards as an advertiser, pay for them.  And whoever you are, get off the line and pick a side.

The world is watching.

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Just Three Things.

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just-three-thingsOne of the real pleasures of my job – and what makes my job possible – is that I get to speak candidly and personally to a few hundred salespeople every year.  It’s in those conversations that I have come to understand the qualities that all the great ones seem to share.

As you might imagine there are dozens of behaviors, approaches and beliefs that one could point to.  But in the end it seems to come down to a very short list of just three things.  And if I were building a sales team today and could hire only three qualities, I’d pay for these:

If you’re a qualified digital sales leader or manager and would like to be supported in your own growth or that of your team, come to the Seller Forum on Thursday February 9th in New York. Seller Forum is the industry’s only peer-to-peer gathering of people just like you.  You’ll hear from clients and market experts, get insights on the shape of Q1 spending and share best practices and tips.  Request a spot for yourself and another key manager on your team. Seating will be strictly limited.

Curiosity.  To truly sell means to persuade another person – or group – to do something significant.  In this quest, curiosity is a superpower.  The curious are always looking to understand more about the work and life and issues of the customer.  Their curiosity helps them learn how the customer’s business works, and why it sometimes doesn’t.  And it makes the customer feel deeply interesting and attended to.  In this environment, change and commitment become truly possible.

Generosity.  The old stereotype of the slick seller busily counting his commission would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetically misguided.  Great sellers rarely wait for the cash register to ring and always leave something on the table.  They are also generous with their time and attention…and with credit when something goes well.  Because they give, others want to give to them….support, loyalty, commitment.

Paranoia.  Yes, this one sounds odd by comparison.  But the touch of paranoia afflicting the great seller makes her always do one more thing…check one more detail…meet one more person…make one more phone call.  When a deal is 95% certain, the great seller dwells in the 5% that’s not…turning every bolt, checking every circuit.  His curiosity and generosity are what bring business to the table; his paranoia is what finishes the sale and drives the success of his company.

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Six Questions for GSK’s Scott Grenz.

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scottepharmaAn agency veteran and now VP, Global Media Head for the pharma and consumer healthcare divisions of GSK, Scott Grenz will be our featured guest at the Seller Forum on Thursday February 9th in New York.  Here, he answers six questions about the new world order for clients, agencies and the sales community. 

DW: The nature of the brand/agency relationship has been evolving for years.  This past year seemed different though.  Was it?

SG:  Yes, I think the advertiser/media agency relationship is evolving.  At GSK, we push our media agencies to deliver more for us and bring us new approaches and strategies and in the US we partner strongly with PHD.  We also expect them to push us.  How do we, GSK, need to behave so we get the very best from our agencies and by extension the media sellers?  We strive to be client of choice with our agencies and advertiser of choice with the media sellers.

DW: What’s different about a meeting you’ll personally take with a media company versus one you’ll hand off internally or to one of your agencies?

SG:  GSK is a progressive place for Media.  We partner strongly with our media agencies and expect the media selling community to be part of the equation developing custom solutions for our brands.  Our intention is to remain open to innovative, bespoke programs.  You can be assured GSK will invest all the time we need to bring a good idea to life.  The blueprint for this is the work we did with Weather on the Flonase launch.

If you’re a qualified digital sales leader or manager and would like to be supported in your own growth or that of your team, come to the Seller Forum on Thursday February 9th in New York. Seller Forum is the industry’s only peer-to-peer gathering of people just like you.  You’ll hear from clients and market experts, get insights on the shape of Q1 spending and share best practices and tips.  Request a spot for yourself and another key manager on your team. Seating will be strictly limited.

DW: You believe that media companies and publishers should be prepared to assume some of the risk on new ideas. Have you developed a good model or formula for sharing risk?

SG:  Investing media dollars has inherent risk, which the advertiser takes on the brunt of, especially if sales don’t improve as a result.  That said, I would advise any media seller to come to us with new ideas on how we can share the risk.  Maybe it’s a cost model based on business impact, piloting new opportunities at no cost…I’m sure there are others.  It’s more being open to the approach in general as we feel it will deliver more scalable and lasting partnerships.

DW: Sellers want to call on clients, and within client companies they want to get close to brand teams.  Good idea or bad idea?

SG: My counsel in this regard is patience.  At some point in the process, if the media company brings something unique and integrated, the brand teams will need to get involved.  If the sellers are strategic, understand our business, act as partners, they will become part of the team.

DW: What’s the single most overhyped idea in media today?  And what are we not talking about nearly enough?

SG:  “Digital” as a unique element of the communications plan – as in, we need to “do more digitally.”  If we are really astute about consumer journey and hold true to that in how we invest our media spend, we should find ourselves spending in all the correct channels.  Something we are talking about but are just starting to do well is tying investment back to ROI.  We have made great progress working with our media agency partners, but the media sellers need to step up and help us in this regard.  It’s another opportunity to differentiate yourselves.    Also important is top talent.  We expect the media agencies to maintain the best talent on our business.  The same can be said for media sellers.  I think there’s an opportunity there for sellers to differentiate…we really don’t talk too much about talent on the sales side and we should.

DW: Our business is insular.  What do you do, read or experience outside our world that keeps you grounded?

SG: I try to focus on experiences that allow me to be creative in different ways.  I like to cook.  That really is a stress-release for me and I don’t get many complaints on the results.  I also enjoy reading biographies.  I like to understand what experiences and environments equip people to accomplish what they do in life, both the good guys and bad guys.

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January is Still Yours…Use It Well!

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Branden Harvey Stories // http://brandenharvey.com

Branden Harvey Stories // http://brandenharvey.com

Of all the Drift’s I’ve written in the past 16 years, this New Year’s Day post is the one that’s most often requested for a repost.  It’s helped many execs in our industry start the New Year off right since 2011.  I hope it does the same for you.

So you’re just getting back from the holidays and this first couple of weeks of 2017 may just set the tone for your quarter – or your whole year.  Here are some suggestions on putting your own personal house in order:

Segregate the Issues. The very best people in business (‘Doers’) are those who build strategies around things that they control.  Others tend to obsess about market conditions, the economy and a host of other uncontrollable phenomena.  (Call these folks ‘victims.’)  So make a list or an excel document with one column called ‘controllable’ and another called ‘uncontrollable.’  Economic conditions or the amount of money a given client choose to budget toward online are clearly uncontrollable.  Managing your time, reading business and strategy books that will make you more valuable to customers, writing better action plans for your accounts…all highly controllable.  Post the list you create in a visible spot and be accountable to it.  The hours you spend thinking and talking about stuff you can’t control are wasted.  Maniacally focus on the other column.

If you’re a qualified digital sales leader or manager and would like to be supported in your own growth or that of your team, come to the Seller Forum on Thursday February 9th in New York. Seller Forum is the industry’s only peer-to-peer gathering of people just like you.  You’ll hear from clients and market experts, get insights on the shape of Q1 spending and share best practices and tips.  Request a spot for yourself and another key manager on your team. Seating will be strictly limited.

Create a Learning Agenda for Yourself. What will make you smarter and more vital to your company and your customers if you learn it this year?  What area of expertise or insight will you ‘own’ in 2017?  Perhaps its vertical knowledge of an industry.  Or maybe expertise in a process or technology. If you’re just doing your job you’re doing yourself a disservice. Growth doesn’t just happen; you’ve got to have a plan… a plan with dates, deliverables and action verbs on it.

Start a Network. No, not that kind.  Plan an event – a dinner, a breakfast, a meeting at a coffee bar – in which you’ll bring together a disparate group of your customers and other smart, interesting people you know.  The agenda?  No agenda.  Don’t worry about selling anything in this environment or being heard.  Instead you’ll be raising your own personal credibility and creating value where it didn’t exist before.  That group of people will see you as a connector and your relationships with all of them will grow exponentially.  It’s the smart, confident and valuable seller who says “Hey, you know who you should meet….”

Take Inventory. Write these words at the top of a page:  First.  Best.  Only.  Under them are two columns.  One says “Me.”  The other lists the name of your company.  What are the things you can be first to offer your customers?  What are you truly best at?  And what can only you offer?   Fill each list with appropriate actions, capabilities, insights, executional tactics and the like.  The “Company” column will help you define the core product and audience strengths.  (Things you do that are not on that list are probably a bunch of commodity “anywhere” junk that’s distracting you and your customers from connecting with your core value.)  And the “me” column?  Your personal strengths – these are the actions and capabilities that you will go to again and again as you compete effectively this year.  These are the “plays” that you’ll run to perfection instead of just falling into the ‘automatic sales stuff’ that will make you seem like everyone else.  Or worse, set you up to play the other guy’s game.

Believe. What do you believe in?  What do you know to be true?  What scenarios would you bet your house on?  Far too many people in sales don’t believe much of anything.  Or if they do, they don’t let that belief structure influence their work and their relationships.  Your belief structure will serve you well.  It will be a compass as you make decisions and it will be a magnet for interest and value.  Be that seller who brings a point-of-view and core beliefs to your associates and customers.   And watch your stature and influence grow geometrically.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year.

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