Write this Down: Part One

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When I conduct a sales workshop (of which I do about 40 in a given year) I have a verbal tic that participants notice right away.  As we move through the structured materials and focused discussions of our day, I’m constantly telling them to “write this down.”  I do this because I’ll recall an idea or strategy midstream that I know is going to prove helpful later on.

So I’ve decided to write some of them down myself.  Enjoy.

If you want to be terrific, be specific.  Most of us treat our customers’ business and advertising problems like so many disposable razor blades.  Get just a little specific about their situation and watch the nature of your meetings and your relationships change for the better.  It’s better to be specific and wrong than accurate and meaningless.

Sell pain relievers, not vitamins.  Most of us tell clients about things that are generally good for them. This will extend your reach…this will help your brand.  Those who zero in specifically on an important short term pain point are more likely to create urgency and walk away with a sale.

Complexity is your enemy. Clients thrive on direction and clarity. Most sellers drown them in options and detail. Just get to the point.  Start with zero slides and build from there. And tell your customer what you think they should do.  If you’re not there to recommend action, why are you there?

Promotional Message:  If you’re a qualified CRO or manager from a company that sells digital media and advertising services, request your invitation today for the Seller Forum on June 7th.  There are just ten seats left for a day that will transform the way you manage and the way you see the market, the competition and the consumer.  Rethink. Reframe. Refresh with a room full of your peers.  Only at Seller Forum.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” TED Talk and his book “Start with Why” are game changers.  Don’t go more than two slides or 3 minutes into any meeting before explaining “Why We’re Here Today.”  And have a really good answer.

Be the party host, not the entertainment.  Sales is not performance art.  Most of us are way too wrapped up in what we’re going to say and how we’re going to perform.  Instead, pretend you are the host of the meeting and task yourself with creating a real conversation and making sure everyone is heard and comfortable.  Transformative.

Clients will always build something bigger with you than they’ll buy from you.  We tax our companies and our teams by making them build thousands of polished presentations and demos every year.  And they fall flat.  Instead, show your customer the plans, the blue print, the storyboard.  Keep it rough and invite them to draw, cut, add.  If they help build it, they’ll also own it.

You never get more than you ask for.  And most sellers, unfortunately, don’t ask for anything.  They imply. They talk about the next meeting, or going back to the office and putting together a proposal.  But ask for the order?  Close?  Not so much.  And the opportunity – to qualify, to clarify, to keep selling – is lost.

Watch for future posts in which I’ll continue to build on this list.

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Here’s How.

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Somewhere out there this morning, a seller has already been awake for hours. She’s staring at a number – her sales goal for the next several months. Her company has a solid product, not a dominant one.

Her managers try to motivate and support, but only being a year or two in management themselves they can tell her to ‘be more strategic’ but can’t really tell her how.

Here’s how:

Triage. What are the factors that make one prospect more likely than another to become a customer? Are they cranking up spending this quarter? Do you have even one ‘truth teller’ at the agency or client who could give you the straight story? Do their preferred metrics and buying style align at all with your offerings? Have they been a customer before? If you answer yes to all or most of these questions, these are your focus accounts – your A’s. If you answer all or mostly “no” then it’s a C account; drop it. Mixed results? It’s a B, so set it aside for work later.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

Decide What You Control. It’s easy to waste time lamenting what you don’t have, what a competitor might be doing, or how bad the decision making is at the agency. Instead, inventory those things you can control. They are: (1) your intent – are you really out to do a great job for the customer? (2) Your POV on the customer’s business situation – not just what you know but what you think is important; (3) the agenda for your meetings – a good answer for “why are we here today?” (Hint: if it’s about ‘updating’ the customer, ‘introducing them’ to your product or ‘learning more’ about their challenges, you will lose); (4) the quality of your recommendation; stop with the big capabilities deck; nobody cares. Decide what combination of products and services will help this client at this moment in time. If you tell ‘em everything, you’re telling ‘em nothing.

Start in the Middle. In between the CMO and the media planning team, there are a lot of people who can help you: account owners at the agency… strategic planning… group VPs… functional specialists at the client. Put away your pitch for a while and start teeing up honest conversations and email exchanges with these people.

Ask Better Questions. Ask questions customers can say “no” to. Will you buy from me? Do we have your commitment? Do we really have a chance here? Hope is too often the opposite of clarity. What you want to constantly be asking is Where do we really stand? and What can we do to keep moving forward?

Stop Waiting. If things are not closing because you’re constantly waiting on something – a product feature, a call back, a change in the budgeting process – then you’re not making a difference.  You can wait till things calm down, till you get through your inbox, till the weather changes. Or you can simply act. Take chances, try one new thing each day. Ask forgiveness, not permission.

It may turn out that the one you’ve been waiting for is you.

This post, in its original form, was first shared in January 2015.

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Closing Cases, Solving Crimes.

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Watch any police procedural and you’ll hear the grizzled veteran detectives talk about ‘closing cases.’  To add a retro visual, you’ll even see them erase victim names or case numbers from a huge blackboard in the station house.  But as you learn, closing cases is not the same as solving crimes.

The cop who closes cases is mostly concerned about the bureaucracy of getting a case disposed of; tagging it with a plausible outcome and getting it out of active consideration.  It’s Dragnet meets The Dilbert Zone.   In contrast to these uninspired civil servants, we’ll see the real cop in the bunch…the one who isn’t satisfied until she solves the crime and brings the real culprit to justice.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

It’s occurred to me recently that we have a version of this contrast playing out within sales teams in our industry.  There are a lot of erstwhile sellers who are actually just closing cases.  They watch the board, they take notes, they report out what happens.  If they don’t get included on the RFP or the client decides to spend the money with another vendor, they dutifully append the case with the outcome and take it out of circulation.  They will have a half-dozen very good reasons why the sale wasn’t made, and an air-tight rationale for closing it out.

Contrast this with the seller who’s really out to solve the crime.  This seller goes into the investigation with genuine curiosity.  Win or lose, he wants to chase down every lead, interview every witness, eliminate every dead end.  If the case seems to be going cold or the witnesses disappear, he digs deeper and with greater urgency; he finds a way to pry it back open and earning a second or third look from the customer.

Sellers who solve crimes are a rare breed in our station houses.  Maybe it’s because we don’t call out and recognize their particular contributions enough.  Or perhaps we’re just not being clear about the nature of the job that needs to be done.  Is the drive and ability to solve crimes just something you’re born with?  Or can it be taught?  I aim to find out.

We need a new kind of cop in this town.

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More, from Less.

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JP Morgan Chase publicly announced that they’d cut the number of sites on which they advertise from 400,000 to 5,000 – with no difference in marketing outcomes.

YouTube announced that its Creator program is being given a new floor.  Where previously any YouTube creator could participate in the flow of advertising, now only those creators with a set minimum of followers are qualified.

Fake news, fraud, viewability issues and dodgy content have pushed many marketers to pound the table and demand a new level of care around distribution of their ads.  In so many words, P&G’s Mark Pritchard said we’ll play in a somewhat smaller arena if we just stop the nonsense and get back to making great ads and showing them to real people.

Welcome to the age of less.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

For two decades, the growth and capitalization of the online ad business has been built on assumptions of abundance; that more page views, more ad calls, more reach and more clicks would always be the answer.  Now we are faced with a different question:  how might our companies thrive in an age where we must manage scarcity?

Our planning for this era has taken on a bit of urgency.  If the headlines above weren’t enough, there’s the simple fact that the war for reach and scale is over.  (Spoiler alert:  Facebook and Google won.)

I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but supposedly the Chinese character for crisis combines characters of both danger and opportunity.  (If not true, it should be.) In this crisis, there is indeed a huge set of opportunities.  Now that it’s no longer possible (or desirable) to reach a bazillion users, we can get back to knowing our customers, speaking their language, creating great stories for them.  We can pull the reach needle out of our arm and start a respectable life solving business and marketing problems.

We can all get more of what we want.  In the era of less.

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Life on Mars.

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“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, ‘this is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work”

~Matt Damon as Mark Watney in “The Martian,” 2015.

In the dynamically wonderful and broken world of digital marketing, media and advertising, we all live on Mars.  We find ourselves alone in and facing the latest existential crisis.  The technological shift that happens overnight and threatens to render your business model obsolete in minutes.  The public fiasco that frightens the advertiser herd into a stampede away from whatever it is you’re selling.  The dawning realization that – from where you sit right now – you simply can’t get to your number.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at www.krux.com.

It’s at times like these that I like to pass along this little gem of a speech that slid in at the end of “The Martian.”  Having survived the unsurvivable, Matt Damon’s character makes the essence of survival very simple.

“That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

You just begin.  You do the math.  You solve one problem at a time.  Simplistic? Perhaps.  But is there really any other way out?  When I coach managers and sellers in our business I often find them feeling overwhelmed and broken by the perceived enormity of the challenges.  Indeed, if you find yourself struggling intellectually with the entire issue it will, in fact, break you.  But the best managers and sellers – the best executives of every stripe – all seem to have the same rhythm.  They slow it down.  They break it down.  They solve one problem and then the next.  And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

They also realize that what we do – as people and as executives – is a team sport.  They tap into their own generosity and to the generosity of others.  They beat back the crippling cynicism that hollows the soul and drains the spirit and they choose to believe that – given the chance – others will rally to help them.

“Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

Welcome to Mars.  You’ll do fine here.

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