Things We Say Instead of Selling.


In the dozens of sales workshops I lead every year I can’t help but get hung up on the words.  Specifically, all of the non-sales language that erstwhile sellers get stuck on.  While they might never actually come out and say Please don’t buy anything from me today, these anti-selling clichés may be the next best thing.

We just hope you’ll keep us top of mind.  This is the perfect ending to a sales meeting with no purpose and no agenda.  Like Brigadoon or Shangri-La, Top of mind is a beautiful but non-existent place.  Buyers today are stretched thin:  If you don’t have an urgent sales agenda, they sure won’t either.

This is just an introductory call.   You’ve just told me that you can do me absolutely no good in the important half hour you’re about to subtract from my life.  You’re either immediately useful to me or you’re irrelevant. And you’ve just chosen irrelevance.

Is your sales team describing instead of selling? You win business one serious, well-planned meeting at a time. Can your team do that? A strategic digital sales workshop with Doug Weaver and Upstream Group is easier and more cost-effective than you’d imagine. Reach out now. The consult is free.

Can we talk about next steps?  This is what we say when we don’t want to directly ask the customer to buy from us or commit to anything.  In spite of what may have been a very good and persuasive call, this is the kind of question that lays on the table like a dead fish and tells the client you’re not all that sure about, or committed to, your product.

Let’s touch base in the next few weeksThere’s just so much wrong here.  It’s the verbal equivalent of awkwardly backing out of the room.  You’re telling the customer I know you’re not interested and I’m going to save embarrassment for both of us.

Let me send you more information.  Great plan!  If we’re not talking about me buying something from you today then perhaps your ninja writing skills will do the trick.  Because we all know how much customers love to pour over documentation and product description.

Today’s buyers have more ways to keep us away than ever before.  If you’ve been lucky enough or diligent enough (or if your product is good enough) to have earned an in-person meeting or a scheduled phone appointment, it probably means you’ve got some kind of shot. Why waste it with lazy, ineffective language that let’s the air out of the room?

Real sales is about persuasion, and the language of sales is the language of commitment.  Practice asking questions that contain verbs like recommend, approve and budget.  Then ask even more questions that either advance the sale or tell you why it’s not happening.  To do anything less is to cheat your employer, your customer and yourself.


If You Choose to Manage…


At last week’s Seller Forum we published a few top line ideas for managers in our hyper-kinetic, often dysfunctional world. We’re reprinting them here.  Please feel free to share your own.

Don’t try to manage what’s inside the heads of your employees. Instead, focus on their actions. Don’t try to change their minds. Change their behaviors and they’ll end up changing their own minds.

Don’t use meetings and personal interactions to share information that could be delivered in other ways. Reserve your personal interactions with employees and teams to do what you can only do in person – coaching, prioritizing, planning, deciding.

Many managers overburden themselves and their teams with too many scheduled meetings. But management doesn’t fit into neat little boxes on your calendar. Focus instead on maintaining a helpful and healthy presence with your team. Accessibility and being able to focus intently in-the-moment are the superpowers that matter.

As a manager, you quickly become the PEZ dispenser of answers on a million tactical questions. About price, escalation, exceptions and more. Force your sellers to bring you two possible solutions each time they bring you a problem (see item 1 above). This change in the script will turn them from problem-bringers into problem-solvers and make your interactions far more productive.

As soon as a seller elicits your help – on strategy, on an email, in reaching a customer – immediately ask them for a first-draft. You want to put yourself in a position to coach and improve the work they do… not to do it for them.

Don’t give feedback. As a term, feedback has become tainted by association with criticism, nitpicking and negativity. It’s also always about the past. Instead, give guidance… it’s about the future, about possibility. Language matters.

No team is too small or too temporary to benefit from a strong culture, and that culture starts with you. Get in touch with the specific values that matter most to you as a leader – tenacity, generosity, curiosity, whatever – and share them directly with your team. Invite them to hold you accountable to those values and bring them up frequently. Don’t worry if you get a few eye-rolls; it doesn’t mean they’re not hearing you or that it’s not making a difference.

Don’t manage results. Manage excellence. You don’t control whether your team gets the business, but you absolutely control whether they deserve it. Focus on deserving it and you’ll be leading a team centered on excellence. The results will follow.

Insights like these are just the beginning. Join us for our final 2019 Seller Forum on Wednesday, October 23rd, at Reuters on Times Square and enjoy firsthand ideas and advice from your digital leadership peers. Contact us today to save your spot.


So Long, My Friend.


While I always write The Drift from a very personal point of view, over the last 18 years I’ve perhaps only used this space three times to speak about something truly personal. This is one of those rare occasions.

I invite each of you reading this post to think of someone in your career who somehow changed its course. For me, that guy was Ed Gazich, and he died last Friday. I wish you all could have known him.

As a 22-year old college student I interned at a regional ad agency south of Los Angeles where I met Ed, 25 years my senior but with the outlook and enthusiasm of a teenager. On my very first day at the shop, Ed took me under his wing and – quite simply – made me fall in love with the advertising business. A seasoned “account guy,” Ed started his career in the halcyon days of the 1960s, working legendary campaigns for Volkswagen at Doyle Dane Bernbach. When we met, he and his wife Barbara were the kind of fully-committed Californians that only ex-New Yorkers can be. But he was my connection to Madison Avenue and the golden age of creative. Before advertising was a science – perhaps even before it was a business – it was a creative playground informed by art and Hollywood and commerce and real-world experiences. It was all bigger than life, and so was Ed Gazich. The stories of legendary pitches melded into celebrity commercial shoots and always seemed to end with side-splitting laughter. Our business could use some of those stories today.

Like many kids in their 20s, I was adrift and wondering what the hell I would do with my life. Ed and Barbara’s house in Laguna Beach was my second home, and over cold Dos Equis (our account) we’d talk about the future and what might be. On one of those endless evenings, Ed was the one who told me I’d be a very good magazine rep – the exact conversation that started me on the path that brought me here. Without Ed Gazich and his kindness to a clueless kid from suburban LA, maybe I don’t end up here, writing and sharing with you. There’s no way to know. But I do know that my life is less interesting and my passion for advertising is less intense without him.

In recent years, our friendship continued mainly over email. To the end, Ed never stopped sharing his humor and stories and railing about what was not right in the world. He talked too loud, told jokes that were not always appropriate, laughed from the bottom of his feet and shared anything and everything he had.

Why am I telling you all this? Because not all who make a difference end up recognized and eulogized. Because this was a life that mattered, and that had a profound and lasting influence on mine. Because as I try to share completely with those I teach and mentor, I know that I learned some of that from a guy named Ed Gazich.

You should have known him. He’d have loved you.


Belief.


Less than five years ago, the Interactive Advertising Bureau had just tracked digital ad spending at $50 billion (with a B) dollars. They recognized and celebrated that milestone by subtitling that year’s Annual Leadership Meeting “The Next $50 Billion.” So, guess what? The same organization has just announced the cracking of the $100 billion mark. To a guy (me) who was on the Internet Advertising Bureau (yes, that’s what we called it then) board when the first million (with an M) dollar year was announced, this all still seems quite remarkable.

So why the long faces? Consolidation got you down? Latest tracking prohibitions making life tough for your tech solution? Old ways of competing for RFPs not working anymore? Yes, change and dislocation are what happens in a dynamic market that’s growing geometrically. Our inability to handle that change may be – in part – because we’re losing touch with our core beliefs. Into that void, let me toss out a few of my own.

Is your sales team describing instead of selling? You win business one serious, well-planned meeting at a time. Can your team do that? A strategic digital sales workshop with Doug Weaver and Upstream Group is easier and more cost-effective than you’d imagine. Reach out now. The consult is free.

I believe that we must tirelessly align what we do and build with the creation of true value for marketers. The creation, distribution and enhancement of advertising is a means, not an end… a service to business, not a business in itself.

I believe that truth and delivery are not relative terms. When I buy a dozen eggs, it’s not OK if two of the slots are empty or half of them are occupied by ping pong balls. Everyone should get what they pay for, every time.

I believe that consolidation of power is inevitable in any open marketplace. I also believe that markets and societies will ultimately reject and create remedies to prevent hegemony. I believe that’s happening now.

I believe that the growth curve of digital media consumption and the corresponding shift in marketing behavior are hard trends that will not only continue but accelerate. For those creating real value and operating fundamentally strong businesses, the playing field is still wide open.

I believe that we are approaching the end of iterative thinking, and that very soon we will stop comparing and contrasting what we do with earlier forms of advertising and marketing. For that reason, I believe we need new models of value creation and commerce on which to draw, and new people who don’t share our common background.

I believe that in five years the current boundaries between publisher, agency and platform will dissolve, and that anyone threatened by that dissolution will either have left the business or will be looking to.

I believe that there has never been a better time to be in sales. In the asymmetrical world of today, selling becomes a creative profession, and the seller has more impact on outcomes than ever before.

I believe the future cannot be navigated by historical precedent or experience, only by imagination, ambition and the right questions.

I believe that values are the ultimate platform on which satisfying careers, good businesses and great lives are built. I also believe that there is no team too small or too temporary to benefit from a strong culture.

What do you believe?


The End of ‘Advertising.’


Accountable direct response ad sellers would often say “Selling is like shaving: if you don’t do some of it every day, you’re a bum.” It was a handy way for DR sellers to contrast their work with that of the ad sellers out there peddling branding – which they dismissed as no more than a con.

But today the slogan takes on a deeper meaning for all ad sellers, publishers, tech and marketing service providers. The jig is up, the news is out, the fatted calf has been picked clean. For generations, we’ve organized our businesses and revenue models around helping advertisers and their legion of agencies spend their money… perhaps a little more accountably, responsibly, efficiently or viewably than the next guy. We’ve all been citizens of ‘the Capital-A-Ad Business,’ and we spoke its language and observed its customs. But no more.

Is your sales team describing instead of selling? You win business one serious, well-planned meeting at a time. Can your team do that? A strategic digital sales workshop with Doug Weaver and Upstream Group is easier and more cost-effective than you’d imagine. Reach out now. The consult is free.

Fundamental change doesn’t always break down the door. Often it creeps in on tiny cat feet. And while we were busy arguing and negotiating over how much of that big pile of ad money would go to digital or TV or something else, marketers have been under siege from direct-to-consumer competitors, a collapsing retail channel, online shopping and more. In the face of this existential crisis, they’ve fallen out of love with advertising.

Well… to put a finer point on it, they’ve fallen out of love with advertising for the sake of advertising.

Which leads me back to the new premise. Today we must all help the marketer sell – we must attach ourselves to business outcomes, become co-marketers…lest we be dismissed as bums. To survive and thrive in what used to be called the ad sales business we must all go back to school and become fluent in the language and customs of marketing. Someday soon our talk of rating points, viewability and attribution will sound as anachronistic as the Latin mass.

The 21st century ad seller is a business problem solver. She doesn’t wait for budgets, she helps create them. She avoids the watering hole where the herd gathers for RFPs and planning cycles. She hunts alone. She knows more about how the client’s business works – how he sells his products, who he sells them through and what gets them bought – than anyone but the client.

She sells. Every day. But she doesn’t sell ads. She helps the customer sell product.

Lightly edited, this post originally ran in 2017. Perhaps more relevant still today.