The One You’ve Been Waiting For.

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Maybe it’s because it’s where my birthday falls, but I’ve always felt like the mid-point of the year was a good time to reflect and reevaluate.  New Year’s Day is alright, but after the holidays who’s really got the energy left for serious resolutions?  If, like me, you’re considering a course correction for July 1, here it is.

Stop waiting.

Among the many sellers and managers I coach, waiting is a constant thread.  Before making a positive step or taking responsibility for a new initiative, they find themselves waiting:  waiting for a title, waiting for an executive mandate, waiting for recognition, waiting for their boss to really, truly approve of them and the actions they’re taking.  Sometimes they are waiting for consensus or, worse, for everyone involved to really understand or to get on the same page.

Stop waiting.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic.  Transparency has become the most pressing issue facing digital advertisers and publishers this year. As more brand spend shifts to programmatic channels, the call for transparency around the overall value exchange has reached a fever pitch. It’s time to be clear – about control, quality, and supply. Join PubMatic in a dialogue around these issues and together, let’s be clear.

Certainly there is the occasional psycho, anal-retentive CEO or manager who tries to control every move.  But they are the outliers, the exceptions.  In my view, the need for consensus and permission in today’s business culture is more perception than reality.  When I’m asked about how to get an initiative off the ground I ask the individual, “How much of this project could you just start taking on right now, without any formal action by your boss?”  The answer is almost always “most of it.”  Then I ask, “What exactly do you need from your boss to get started?” Occasionally there’s a shifting of some resources or a minor policy exception, but most often the answer is “not much.”

The advice is simple and clear:  go take action and just keep your boss informed.  Communicate your intent and then act on it.  Most busy executives love to see their reports take initiative.  At best it shows they are thinking on behalf of the company and trying to make things better.  At worst it creates a coaching opportunity in which the boss gets to talk with you about how you’re making the change instead of a long, philosophical talk about “if.”

In the 1991 film “The Fisher King,” Robin Williams’ character gives Jeff Bridges’ some advice on how to conquer his cigarette habit.  “Decide if you’re a smoker or a non-smoker and then be what you decide.”

Be what you decide.  Be the change you want to see in the world. Stop waiting.  Because it turns out the one you were waiting for is you.

Happy mid year.

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I’m Dying Up Here!

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If you’re a sales manager – or if you manage just about any kind of team – you may be feeling, at best, ambivalent about your regular meetings.  At best they accomplish soft goals like “making sure everyone is on the same page” or “running through the numbers.”  At their worst – and all too frequently they are – you feel like the comic on stage tapping the microphone and asking “Is this thing on?”

Let’s face it:  by default these meetings are often awkward and painful.  Instead of fostering decision making, motivation and action, they end up being a weekly chore for you and your unlucky team members at the conference table or on the other end of the webcam or conference line.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Here’s a short checklist of ideas to help you go from suck to successful.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic.  Transparency has become the most pressing issue facing digital advertisers and publishers this year. As more brand spend shifts to programmatic channels, the call for transparency around the overall value exchange has reached a fever pitch. It’s time to be clear – about control, quality, and supply. Join PubMatic in a dialogue around these issues and together, let’s be clear.

Don’t use the meeting as a data delivery vehicle.  If you can deliver facts, numbers, research in writing (either in advance of, or instead of at) the meeting, then do it.  Telling everyone what they can otherwise read is a waste of time and only muddies the facts.

Set your agenda using verbs.  Meetings should be where you do stuff.  Decide, practice, troubleshoot, role-play, question.   Program your meetings as if you were going to have to sell your team on attending.

Cut the meeting time by 50% and the electronics usage by 100%.  You’ll be amazed how motivated and productive people can be when their phones are sitting in a box in the middle of the table.  You ambling hour long meeting just turned into a 30 minute gem.

Share your own questions with the team.  “Here are the three issues I’m grappling with that I’d like your help resolving” is a great meeting opener.  As you’re dispensing answers, your team is your audience.  Engaged in your quest for answers, they are your army.

Celebrate Interim Victories.  Add a modest amount of recognition to every meeting.  But don’t just recognize success; note the high quality actions – a breakthrough in contact, a compelling idea that opens a door with a client, a well-prepared meeting.  You orient and motivate your team around excellence, which nourishes and sustains.

Program 10 minutes of inspiration.  If like me you belong to the Church of TED, you know that inspiring talks and ideas are everywhere.  Instead of just routing a TED Talk or a blog post, share ten minutes of it with your group in person and discuss it.

Much of this won’t feel natural at first.  Leadership never does.

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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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Write This Down: Part Two

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Back on May 9th, I posted part one of my “Write This Down!” series – really just a running list of helpful sayings and ideas that I share with sellers in my workshops.  Today we add to the list.  Enjoy and share.

The Opposite of yes isn’t no.   The opposite of yes is anything other than yes.  Most sellers don’t get this fact.  They hear “we’re waiting on our budget” or “we have a couple more proposals to look at” and they stop selling.  They don’t see these as the objections or brushoffs that they are and fail to qualify them further.   Hence all the ambivalence and murkiness in your pipeline.

The opposite of selling isn’t not selling.  It’s describing.  This idea prompted the biggest response I’ve ever gotten to The Drift.  Somewhere along the line we lost the connection between sales and actually selling stuff.  The goal is to persuade and change the outcome.   But sellers and those who support them seem completely focused on just endlessly describing stuff.

Don’t take no from someone who can’t also tell you yes.  This ancient gem still shines.  It’s particularly poignant in our industry because of all the lower-level gatekeepers whose main purpose seems to be role-preservation.  Sellers either don’t know these bureaucrats can’t green-light projects or are just too frightened of ‘getting in trouble’ to push any boundaries.

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.

Big decision makers want to make big decisions.  I like to talk to sales teams about the client’s floor of consideration.  We think that by keeping the price minuscule and reassuring everyone that it’s just a test we are making the customer more likely to act.  But serious executives don’t want to take political and business risks to spend $50-100K.  Risk aversion only works with those who probably don’t want to buy from you anyway.

Work backward from the cost of the unsolved problem.  The core of the media sale is to stack up enough units of value – pre-rolls, banners, videos, full page takeovers, impressions, etc. – to justify a price tag.  But it’s not about that anymore. As I like to say, if you want to make a million dollars, go find a $20 million problem to solve. One of the crippling limitations of media thinking is that we never stop to consider what the unsolved problem – or the unrealized opportunity – is really worth.

Stop negotiating against yourself.  Speaking of crippling downsides…  Experience is a great teacher in our business.  Unfortunately it tends to teach limitations.  Show me 10 “experienced digital sellers” and I’ll bet you that eight of them know exactly why every new idea won’t work….why the customer won’t pay that price….and why there’s really, actually no way out.

Don’t sell or manage to what’s in the other person’s head.  Managers and sellers alike seem fixated on changing belief and getting others fully on board.  We talk of evangelism and winning others over.   But this just leads to endless cycles of guessing.  Instead, focus on discrete behaviors.  A client either agrees to recommend (that’s a verb) a buy or not; a seller either books a call, or doesn’t.  The sooner you focus on the actions of others the sooner you’ll be fully in touch with reality – and empowered to start changing it.

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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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