Selling

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.

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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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Whole Selling.

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If you’re in sales today, there’s a simple three-word phrase that you might consider tattooing onto your forearm: Finish the Job!

Unless yours is the most transactional commodity-for-price type of selling (in which case you have an entirely different set of problems), you are finding that getting the customer to “yes” may actually be the easiest, most straightforward part of the job. Bringing the deal to fruition, fulfilling the terms and ultimately recognizing the revenue… now that’s another story.

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.

The name of the game is co-dependence.  To realize success in today’s increasingly complex, high-touch program and platform sales, the seller depends on finance, legal, account management and creative services.  As this side of the business and the predictable tension and friction grow exponentially, weak sellers acclimate themselves to a culture of blame:  “I sold it, but (at-fault department here) didn’t do their job!”

No more.  Motivating, empowering and rewarding other team members for supporting your deals is the new definition of your job.  Don’t think it should be this way?  There is no should:  there is only must.  Great sellers have always realized this and behaved accordingly.  They are the ones who other team members gladly stay late for.  The ones who inspire and share credit are the ones who win.  It’s not even close.  This is not just what defines excellence:  it’s what survival and relevance look like in 2017.

Maybe there’s someone on your New York team who embodies this definition?  Along with the New York area’s premier digital marketing organization, I’m very proud to announce the 212NYC Weaver Award for Digital Sales Excellence.  If you’re a sales leader or manager in digital media, ad tech or services, you can nominate your special team member for special recognition by his or her industry peers.  I’ll be participating in the judging myself, and we’ll recognize the top three finishers at the 212NYC Winter Gala on Wednesday March 22nd in New York.

Sales excellence isn’t what it used to be.  And it doesn’t just happen.  It’s high time we started calling out the deeper qualities of the great seller…qualities that are driving a renaissance in our business and our profession.  It’s time to celebrate the best of the best among us.

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The Opposite of Selling.

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the-opposite-of-selling-2The opposite of selling is describing.

Selling means changing the outcome.  It means turning a no to a maybe and a maybe to a yes.  It means earning more favorable terms and protocols on a technology deal and overcoming the competition to have your content marketing program win the recommendation.  Selling is persuasion.  It’s leaving the world a slightly different place that it was a few minutes ago.

This all sounds obvious, but – sadly – it’s not.  A great many sales executives in our industry (and I’d suspect many others) are not actually selling at all.  They are part of the culture of description.  They describe your products to the customers and then describe the customers’ reactions to the boss.  They describe the market conditions or feature shortcomings that prevent the customer from buying.  They describe technology and process in excruciating detail, and they describe their own backgrounds and track records on their ever-growing resumes.  They’re just not selling.

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.

It would be natural for those of us who run companies and sales teams to lament this creeping cultural affliction.  But first we’ve got to stop causing it.

Stop Loading Your Team Down with Stuff to Describe.  Between marketing, product – sometimes even your company’s founders or top brass – your would-be sellers are bombarded with a crushing volume of slides, concepts, diagrams, videos, demos and more.  The message is unmistakable:  Just better describe more of our stuff and everything will be OK!  This happens for a reason. So…

Stop Worshiping Your Own Product.  The “Product-as-Hero” myth is a prevailing one, and companies in our world buy into it with enthusiastic myopia. When they buy, it’s because the product is great.  When they don’t, it’s a sales failure.  Yes, work to make your product and features great.  But immediately recognize that great products don’t always win and you immediately recognize and elevate the importance of a strong sales culture.

Root Out Cultural Ambivalence about Sales.    If the language of sales – closing, pipeline, incremental commitments and more – seems somehow beneath the brilliant engineering and master-of-the-universe business planning of your company, then you’ve got a problem.  If within your sales team itself there are no titles that include the word “sales” you might have an even bigger one.  We need to be as great – and as proud of – sales as we are of our engineering and business plans.  If we are not, they will never have a chance of succeeding.  There’s your new mantra.

Don’t just describe the difference between sales and description.  Sell it inside your own company.

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Green Selling.

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Selling GreenA few years ago I was approached by a publishing agent who wanted to know if I’d consider pulling together a book based on some of what I’ve posted in The Drift over many years.  As it was something I’d thought about off and on, we ended meeting to talk it over.  All was going pretty well until she asked me for one word I’d use to describe the book’s appeal to those in sales.

I chose the word Green.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

“You mean Green like the color of all the money they’ll make in sales?”

Nope.  “I mean Green like sustainable.”  Well, that pretty much ended the meeting.  She explained to me that books about selling stuff have a certain way of doing and saying things.  And they don’t include words like “sustainable.”  Too abstract, a little weird.  Publishers won’t like it and salespeople won’t buy it.  She may be right – and that book’s not yet been written – but I still believe in Green Selling.

Much of what I’ve learned about the art and science of selling and persuasion has been through my work with the fast-paced, rule-breaking digital ad and technology companies that most of you work for.  It would be easy to assume that those who sell in an environment like this are over-the-top, take-it-all types.  While we’ve certainly got a few of these running around, I see far more successful sellers who do it green:  they create sustainable, mutually beneficial, long-term business environments with their customers.  But taking the long view doesn’t mean they don’t put short term numbers on the board.  And it doesn’t mean they’re ‘customer centric’ pushovers either.  Here’s what it does mean.

Leaving something on the table.  Those who think selling means the same thing as winning are relegating their customers to being losers.  Green focus on shared growth, not victory.

Staying human.  Many of those sales books my literary friend leans on are filled with artificial, salesy bullshit.  If you wouldn’t act that way with a group of close friends, don’t do it on a sales call either.

Slowing it down.  Trade in your fearful hysteria for thoughtful progress.  As I’ve written here before, the great ones are never in a hurry.

Focusing on excellence.  Success can be fleeting and fickle. When we obsess about it, we burn people out and often recognize those who might just have found themselves in a fortunate situation.  Green organizations and green sellers obsess about excellence.  Excellence nurtures and sustains.

Chances are my publishing pal was right. Maybe this book never gets written, and perhaps this post won’t get as many forwards and tweets as others.  But if you sit where I sit and see what I see, Green Selling is quietly taking over our world.

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The Best of The Drift, 2013: The Selling Stuff.

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Best of the Drift 2013 The Sellign StuffLast week we began our year-end wrap up with a look back at the top Drift posts related to industry trends and developments.  But as our regular readers know, The Drift also offers hard-core sales advice to those who put themselves on the line every day selling digital media or technology services.  For all of you who drive our business forward based on how you sell, here’s a Christmas Week collection that just may get your 2014 off on the right foot.  Happy Holidays from all of us at Upstream Group.

“The Agenda Vacuum.”   Things not going well on your sales calls?  It could well be that you’re suffering from the lack of a proactive, challenging agenda.  Without one, all you can do is react and respond, which always puts the seller at his worst.

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.

“Straw Men.”   Looking for some good advice on objection management?  Stop managing them until you know whether they’re even real.  An ounce of qualification is worth a hundred pounds of argument.  Recognize the “straw man” objections for what they really are.

“Being Curious.”  A little curiosity goes a long way in a sales situation.  But don’t just show up with an open notebook and a bunch of questions:  start your discovery well before the meeting and then let your real curiosity guide you through.

“Hacking Your To-Do List.”   OK, so this one isn’t sales advice per se.  But LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s list of “26 Time Management Hacks I wish I’d known at 20” is priceless. Here we serve up a few of our faves.

“Don’t.”   Much of great sales performance is about what you stop doing.  So, like, just stop doing all this stuff.

“Once More, With Feeling.”   Stop playing a role and actually care about the difference you’re making for your customer.  It’s amazing how much more powerful  empathy feels when it’s genuine.  In 2014 shake off any lingering sense of cynicism and care, dammit, care!

“Change the Conversation.”   Like Don Draper so often says on Mad Men, “If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation.”  But how to introduce a proactive new conversation?  Easier than you might think.

“The Child Inside Your Customer.”   We built hugely complex arguments and decks to impress our customers.  But in the end they have only three real questions:  “What Did You Bring Me?”  “Where are we going?”  And “When Are We Going to Get There?”

“Your Cheatin’ Heart.”   As Rishad Tobaccowala said at our Seller Forum this fall, “In times of change, clients become polygamous.”  How to thrive in a world full of cheaters?  Read on.

“The Fab Five.”   Five things super successful digital people do all the time.  So, again, not just about sales.  But who can’t benefit from a list like this?

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