Face to Face, 2.0.


Sellers in our industry are tasked with explaining detailed technology, benefits and programs, and subsequently persuading the customer to act.  Each believes that — if only I could get the meeting! – he or she could make the case and make the sale.

Maybe.  Except you’re probably not going to get the meeting.  And you’re almost certainly not going to get it in time.

If you’re a qualified media sales leader or manager, reach out to us today to secure your company’s season pass to the 2019 Seller Forum Series.  Side-by-side with other industry leaders, you’ll hear from key customers, anticipate market behavior, and solve real management problems.

Consider that clients and buyers have fewer available hours on the calendar and less administrative and staff support than ever before.  They’re looking for fewer face-to-face meetings and can erect barriers to contact more easily than ever before.  And the average client is getting literally dozens of requests for an hour of your time every day.

Some sellers continue to bank on getting that hour in the office.  Others give up altogether and do nothing but transact by email.  But there’s a third option:  the well-planned phone meeting.  Scheduling a call with a tight, focused purpose puts less pressure on the client’s calendar, is more easily scheduled or rescheduled sooner than a face-to-face might be.  For reps who are trying to shorten the sales cycle this means fewer I can’t make the meeting but I’ll see you in 3 months moments.

But there’s also a powerful hidden benefit to the phone:  intimacy.

Structure and execute your phone meeting properly (more on that below) and you can use the phone call and supporting visuals the way a storyteller uses a podcast.  Here’s how.

  • Have Something Clear to Solve For. If the client won’t take a meeting just to be talked at, they’re not going to take a phone call either if that’s all you’ve got.  The incremental audience or enhanced ability to tell a crucial brand story will give your call purpose.
  • Share a Screen. Rather than a complicated video conference, choose instead to be looking at the same slides and images that your customer is.  A common point of reference can be more productive and less awkward for everyone involved.
  • Get to the Point and Keep Your Promises. If you asked for 20 minutes, then get down to business right away.  No glad handing early in the call.  Pace yourself and end on time.
  • Short and Simple. Two or three slides or diagrams is the most you should ever hope to convey in a phone conference.  Make sure they’re about the customer and the opportunity.
  • Ask for What You Want. If you can’t ask a question with a strong verb (recommend, approve, budget, etc.) then you’re not going to move the ball.  By respecting the client’s time and intelligence, you have the right to ask for clarity on where you stand.  Do it.  Listen to the answers and engage around them…that’s where the selling happens.

Don’t think of phone calls as just stepping-stones to in person meetings.  Nor are they something you’re settling for.  They’re a smart, effective tool that can speed up your sales cycle and help you compete in a time-starved world.


1,816 Sellers.


In 2018, I got the opportunity to work directly with 1,816 digital ad sellers in company specific workshops.  If you shared one of those rooms with me, here are five things I’d like you to remember as you get started on 2019.

Win the Middle.  While your competitors are wasting weeks chasing down media planners or betting the house on that meeting at CES with the CMO, you stay focused on the translators – those higher-level strategy, investment and account leads at agencies and their operational counterparts (media, shopper marketing, promotion, etc.) at clients.  Motivating just one to become a champion for your value proposition can make or break a quarter – or even a year.

If you’re a qualified media sales leader or manager, reach out to us today to secure your company’s season pass to the 2019 Seller Forum Series.  Side-by-side with other industry leaders, you’ll hear from key customers, anticipate market behavior, and solve real management problems.

It’s Not About What You Sell… It’s About What You Solve.  Uniquely.  What’s the non-obvious problem that your company is uniquely qualified to solve for this customer?  Being a solution seller doesn’t just mean calling your products solutions.  If you want access and opportunity, they begin with the identification of a solvable business or marketing problem.

Know Exactly What You Want and Ask for It.   Great meetings are the comfort of the weak seller.  If your goal is just to have a terrific meeting, you’ll reap nothing but pipeline ambiguity.  Here’s the trick:  write out your closing question – what you’ll ask this specific customer to do – before you go in.  If you can’t include real verb – recommend, approve, budget, introduce – then you don’t really know what you want.

Stay… Just a Little Bit Longer.  The real selling begins – and the real information flows — near the end of the conversation.  But only if you’re still there to hear it.  Ask another question… qualify… inspect.  Find out about other decision makers.  Learn more about how the budgeting process works.  Ask the customer how he/she personally feels about what you offer.

Write for the Small Screen.  If she’s spent even a dollar online, your customer is getting dozens of inbound emails every day from you and your competitors, and you all want just a few minutes of her time.  As a result, your potential client is filtering and disposing of emails on her phone.  Lose the long, brilliant emails and start writing the smart subject lines and strong opening sentences (e.g. I’m writing you because…) that will make sense on the small screen.  If she doesn’t swipe right, nothing else matters.

If you’re one of the 1,816, I’d love to hear what else you found memorable and helpful during our time together.  Click the black comment icon above or email me.  And here’s wishing you an amazing and intentional start to a successful year.


Road Trip 2019


As each year ends and we plan for the next, we try to start with an idea – a belief, actually – that will inform our work going forward:  Seller Forum discussions, The Drift, workshops, coaching conversations…everything.  So with one of our final posts of 2018, I want to be clear about what we believe here at Upstream Group.

We believe that the future for publishers and agencies is diversified.  Anybody relying on one product or one channel can start numbering their days.

We believe that marketers have finally chosen to believe their media agencies.  You’ve been telling them media is a commodity for 15 years and now they’re on board.  Media is a cost center now…we know the rest.

We believe there is no silver bullet.  Only more bullets.

We believe that it’s all strategy now.  Those who focus only on execution and tactics are the unskilled labor force of the next 20 years.

But we also believe that those who believe strategy is about a future that’s months or years away will fail.  We believe the immediate future will be won by those who can live well in the moment.

We believe that pivoting is not just for companies.  It’s one of the most critical personal skills any of us can possess.

We believe that success in our business is not a destination.  It’s an endless journey, a perpetual road trip.  Stop building your dream home and start thinking about what you’ll have room for in your car.  Those who keep moving, changing and experiencing will define success.

We believe that any good road trip depends on knowing the terrain, packing the right cargo, keeping the right fuel in the tank and choosing your passengers well.

It’s with these beliefs in mind that we are devoting our entire 2019 Seller Forum series to one single theme: “On the Road:  Marketing Navigation in a World of Perpetual Change.”  Though we’ll work to deliver a great standalone experience at each Forum, we’re thinking in terms of stages in the same uninterrupted journey.  Part One: Departure on March 6th… Part Two: Acceleration on June 5th… and Part Three: A New Gear on October 23rd.

Maybe you and your company have been part of the Seller Forum community in 2018 or for many years before that.  Maybe you’ve never experienced it.  But if you’re a qualified sales leader who wants to invest in yourself and your most valuable team members – your most critical passengers – we’d love to have you in the car with us.

Reach out to us if you’d like to know more or go to www.thesellerforum.com.

We look forward to riding with you.


Don’t Just Say Thanks.


Veterans Day 2018 brought familiar reminders to those of us in the general public – non-veterans – of the service of others.  Who can miss those Camo’/faux-military hats and warm up jackets on the sideline of NFL games?  And then there are the military themed TV ad campaigns and the reminders that this retail chain or this coffee company proudly hire veterans.  And all over social media and – sometimes – in person, we say Thank you for your service.

Nothing particularly wrong with any of that.  Except that quite often saying thank you is all we end up doing.  I recently saw an interview with Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, former helicopter pilot who lost both legs in a crash in Iraq.  She said near the end of the segment that what veterans like her really want to hear — far more than Thank you for your service — is the simple phrase Never forget.

Never forget is more than a feel-good catch phrase. It’s a challenge. Far too many veterans do feel forgotten for much of the year.  And those who probably feel it most are our wounded warriors and their families and the kids and spouses of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice – Gold Star families.

As we all break for Thanksgiving, I’d like to appeal to those of you who read The Drift to not only Never forget, but to act on that value right now.  For the past 12 years I’ve been involved with The TD Foundation, a 100% volunteer group that gives 100% of the funds we collect to the families of those veterans who can least afford to be forgotten. We help make mortgage payments, have car engines rebuilt, send children to camp, buy soccer equipment. Sometimes these small acts of support are enough to keep a family from losing their home;  other times they just make a kid with a wounded or missing parent feel like – a kid.

On Thursday evening December 6th, near the World Trade Center site in New York, we’ll be hosting our annual fundraising event.  Click here to go on our website and buy your ticket.  Even if you can’t attend, go ahead and make the donation.  You can do it on the same page.

Yes, there are many people in the world and in our own country who need our help.  But I’m asking your help for a particular group of Americans that should never be forgotten but who too often are.

I thank you for your generosity and wish you and your families a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Never forget.


I’m Writing You Because…


For something we use every single day, most of us really end up sucking at email.

It’s not that we’re not all really articulate – we’ve got some really brilliant writers in our ranks.  It’s not that we have nothing to say – most of our companies really are doing terrific things that create real value for clients and agencies.

No, our emails suck for one very simple and pedestrian reason:  We don’t know how to start them.

We’re asking for your support for the family of our great friend and digital advertising pioneer Joe Gallagher, who we lost tragically and unexpectedly this summer. We’ve set up a GoFundMe page to raise scholarship funds for Joe’s kids. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated and 100% will go to the Gallagher family. Thank you for your generosity.

There are whole books and business articles and classes devoted to the use of email.  Recently, Robert Glazer celebrated the joy of brevity in his ‘Friday Forward’ post.  Brief, well-structured – check, check.  But none of that matters if you don’t – first – get to the point!

Consider that your customers read and edit much of their email on the screen of a mobile phone.  A quick swipe of the thumb and your email is gone and forgotten.  Whether or not that thumb goes left is based on (1) whether you have an existing personal or business relationship – odds are that you don’t;  (2) the subject line; and (3) the first two lines of copy.  Yet despite the critical importance of points 2 and 3, sellers waste this precious real estate every day.

For lack of consideration (or maybe lack of any real reason for writing), we carelessly stick the client’s company name “X” our company name in the subject line.  Perhaps because we want to appear folksy and nonthreatening, we start with something inane like “Hope you had a great weekend!” or “I’ll only take a minute of your time.”

Your subject line is nothing less than the headline for the story you’re writing.  It should speak directly to the core value you hope to deliver.  “3.5 Million Incremental Shoppers for Your Holiday Push” or “High Income Millennials are Not Hearing Your Core Story” would be good examples.

And when it comes to the opening sentence of your email, here’s the best one I’ve ever seen:  I’m writing you because… This simple phrase forces you to speak immediately and directly to the reason why your customer should spend even another second reading.  If you haven’t got a good reason, it will become immediately apparent to you, and you can go back to the drawing board.

It’s time to start thinking, acting and writing intentionally.  Drop the shallow chumminess and stop clearing your throat.  Respect is the new friendship, and if you respect your client’s time by getting to the point you’ll be rewarded with their most precious currency:  attention.