Desperately Seeking Reality.

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Desperately Seeking RealityI’m just wrapping up two terrific days at the iMedia Agency Summit, and have had the chance to speak one-on-one with a score of great sellers and collectively with many more.  The theme that’s emerged again and again is customer commitment – specifically the lack thereof.  Sellers are frustrated by the absence of any clear buying decisions or directional clues;  they leave sales calls knowing less than when they arrived.  With that in mind, I reached back almost a year to a January 2013 Drift which I’m reposting here.  Go forth, ask harder questions, and close, close, close!

Digital sellers often share with me their frustrations about the selling process at agencies, and they always come back to the same handful of objections.

“We’re not buying your category this time…Your audience or traffic is below our threshold…Our current partners are performing well…You don’t have the kind of report we’re looking for…”   And on and on.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic. With PubMatic’s platform, publishers have the ability to offer their inventory to over 400 global Demand Partners – ad networks, demand side platforms, ad exchanges, and agency trading desks – and have on demand access to all the software, tools and services they need to realize the full potential of their digital assets.

Of course there are entire books and training programs about “objection management” offering complex, structured approaches to disarming and getting beyond them.  But in our world, I think a lot of this misses the point.  The “objections” we hear aren’t really objections at all.

Maybe they just don’t want another choice.

When you take a hard look at the numbers, the reality is harsh and unforgiving.  There are literally thousands of sites, networks, technology providers, data companies, and individual titles and channels all looking for their day in court.  The media agency with whom they’re all pleading their cases is probably between 30 and 40 percent understaffed.  And clients are putting pressure on them to consolidate the number of vendors — to shrink the field of consideration, not expand it.

Like Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber” (“So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”) most sellers cling to the irrational hope that fixing one or two little problems will take care of things.  They’d be better served by facing the situation head on:  asking qualifying questions like “So that’s the only issue, right?” or “Please be honest and tell me whether we’ve got a legitimate shot before I put a lot more work into this.”

The truth can of course be painful.  Nobody wants to hear that their offering is not really being considered.  But there’s a huge value in knowing where you stand and being able to refocus your effort and resources where they’ll do the most good.  So when you hear one of the objections above, stop the conversation and ask the hard question.  Your buyer will probably appreciate you cutting to the chase:  the white lies she’s been telling to let you down easy are probably getting a little tiring for her as well.

Above all, stop elbowing your way into an RFP process that’s increasingly hopeless and broken.  Start approaching your accounts with purpose, candor and a point of view.  Set the agenda and create urgency early in the relationship.   You might never hear objections like these ever again.

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