Integrated Media Sales Training

The Four P’s of Excellence.

The Four P's of ExcellenceWe naturally exalt success. Another great quarter…another deal won…achieving one more big number after another. But even as we congratulate one another on ‘crushing it,’ we can’t see that it’s crushing us. Success can be thrilling, but in the end it taxes and burns out and disempowers the sellers and organizations we count on.

On Sunday I spoke at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting about what might help our industry achieve the next $50 billion in marketer spending. I focused on creating cultures of sales excellence, and I broke it down to the four characteristics those cultures must include. We all know the four P’s of marketing – price, place, product and promotion; I’m suggesting the four P’s of digital sales excellence:

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Process. Every one of our companies has detailed processes for engineering, workflow, finance and more. But we cling to the idea that sales is somehow different; that just getting in front of the customer and talking is enough. It’s not. Process makes average sellers productive and helps great sellers soar. If you don’t have a uniform process and order to the way your people sell, you are handicapping them.

Practice. I’ve written about this concept before. Culturally, we are an industry that focuses almost exclusively on the games, and almost never on the practices. Sales managers are not patiently walking reps through the structure and content of client conversations in advance. The worst place to hone your skill is in front of the client. It’s what we do when the crowd’s not watching that matters most.

Pathos. This is the Greek word for ‘emotion’ and it’s missing from far too many of our client discussions. Embracing pathos means that we’re speaking to the important business situation facing our customers: the missing customer, the encroaching competitor, the ticking clock. Without an urgent business narrative, our products and stories have no immediacy or weight.

Point-of-View. Culturally, we are all very client centric. We ask our customers what they need and we fill out their RFPs. But in the name or service, we’ve become servants. As sales organizations, we’ve got to start taking positions. What we think and what we want for the customer are the beginning of account leadership. And in wide open era of digital marketing that’s ahead, our customers very much want to be led. If we don’t’ accept the challenge, someone else will.

Process. Practice. Pathos. Point-of-View. Simple, elegant and critical. I believe 2016 must be the year of digital sales excellence if we are ever to approach the levels of success that are ours for the earning.

The Downstream Effect

Why go to the trouble and effort of bringing  your customers big, creative deals when the batting average for such deals hovers well below .100?  Why expend the creativity, vision and ambition to develop these “Black Swan” deals if the vast majority of your business will flow in through normal transactional channels?   To really understand the rationale, you need to factor in The Downstream Effect.

A senior industry executive reminded me of this during a workshop I conducted  last week.  To paraphrase:  Our company must have brought one customer at least 15 big, cross-media ideas over the course of two years.  We’d have great discussions but ultimately they didn’t buy a single one.  Yet, quietly, their spending with us grew 500% over those two years, all of it coming to us through normal channels.

So what’s going on here?  Is this business the company would have gotten anyway?  Was this all a lot of arm flapping?  Unlikely.  The sales organization that  consistently pushes smart ideas up to the customer is winning even when it doesn’t land the sexy ‘Black Swan’ deals.  It’s  getting regular access to primary upstream decision makers and self-branding along the way.  When well-executed, the process itself has value to the marketer.  They learn and grow along the way — they enjoy the process — and they subtly but measurably reward companies who make the effort.  Here’s a checklist to follow if you want to prepare your sales team to bring quality ideas to clients and enjoy the benefits of doing so:

Have a Point of View: Your team needs to have strategic yet dynamic POV on the customer’s marketing and competition, and your ideas should flow directly from it.  Every member of the team should be able to articulate it simply and clearly.   The client will know instinctively that you’re not just throwing stuff against the wall.

Build from Strength: The best ideas aren’t invented, they’re aggregated.  What you do for a client should be based on those things that your company does really well.  So what are your strengths?  What can you put on your “First/Best/Only” list?

Collaborate: Marketing ideation isn’t a talent show, yet too many organizations focus too much energy on preparing beautiful decks and demos instead of opening up the process to the customer.  Don’t stage a presentation; host a whiteboard session.  A client will always build something bigger with you than he’ll buy from you.

Strategy Doesn’t Travel North: If you’re trying to drive ideas up through planning teams or on the back of RFPs, you’re wasting your time.  You need to create an open channel to the marketer and to the strategic agency people they speak to every day.  And never ever throw your ideas over the wall via e-mail; if it’s worth consideration then it’s worth a face-to-face meeting or WebEx.

There’s no reason to choose between strategic, creative sales and your everyday transactional business.  You can have both, and thanks to the Downstream Effect, one will actually feed the other.

January 2nd

The calendar offers us an interesting opportunity in 2009.  We revel on Wednesday night, December 31st and rest, recover and watch a couple of premier bowl games on Thursday January 1st.  Now Friday the 2nd, that’s an interesting bit of time to invest.  How will you invest it?  Some options:

1. Take down the tree and other holiday decorations and put the holiday behind you.
2. Watch the AT&T Cotton, AutoZone Liberty and Allstate Sugar Bowls in one long string (though none offer really great matchups).
3. Eat your first NutriSystem meals.
4. Do five things that will help you take control of your own business future in 2009.

If you chose number four, then carve out a few hours that day, get in a quiet place with your laptop and some coffee and dig in.  Here are the five things I’m going to do.

Segregate the Issues. The very best people in business (‘Doers’) are those who build strategies around things that they control.  Others tend to obsess about market conditions, the economy and a host of other uncontrollable phenomena.  (Call these folks ‘victims.’)  So make a list or an excel document with one column called ‘controllable’ and another called ‘uncontrollable.’  Economic conditions or the amount of money a given client choose to budget toward online are clearly uncontrollable.  Managing your time, reading business and strategy books that will make you more valuable to customers, writing better action plans for your accounts…all highly controllable.  Post the list you create in a visible spot and be accountable to it.  The hours you spend thinking and talking about stuff you can’t control are wasted.  Maniacally focus on the other column.

Create a Learning Agenda for Yourself. What will make you smarter and more vital to your company and your customers if you learn it this year?  What area of expertise or insight will you ‘own’ in 2009?  Perhaps its vertical knowledge of an industry.  Or maybe expertise in a process or technology. If you’re just doing your job you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Growth doesn’t just happen; you’ve got to have a plan… a plan with dates, deliverables and action verbs on it.

Start a Network. No, not that kind.  Plan an event – a dinner, a breakfast, a meeting at a coffee bar – in which you’ll bring together a disparate group of your customers and other smart, interesting people you know.  The agenda?  No agenda.  Don’t worry about selling anything in this environment or being heard.  Instead you’ll be raising your own personal credibility and creating value where it didn’t exist before.  That group of people will see you as a connector and your relationships with all of them will grow exponentially.  It’s the smart, confident and valuable seller who says “Hey, you know who you should meet….”

Take Inventory. Write these words at the top of a page:  First.  Best.  Only.  Under them are two columns.  One says “Me.”  The other lists the name of your company.  What are the things you can be first to offer your customers?  What are you truly best at?  And what can only you offer?   Fill each list with appropriate actions, capabilities, insights, executional tactics and the like.  The “Company” column will help you define the core product and audience strengths.  (Things you do that are not on that list are probably a bunch of commodity “anywhere” junk that’s distracting you and your customers from connecting with your core value.)  And the “me” column?  Your personal strengths – these are the actions and capabilities that you will go to again and again as you compete effectively this year.  These are the “plays” that you’ll run to perfection instead of just falling into the ‘automatic sales stuff’ that will make you seem like everyone else.  Or worse, set you up to play the other guy’s game.

Believe. What do you believe in?  What do you know to be true?  What scenarios would you bet your house on?  Far too many people in sales don’t believe much of anything.  Or if they do, they don’t let that belief structure influence their work and their relationships.  Your belief structure will serve you well.  It will be a compass as you make decisions and it will be a magnet for interest and value.  Be that seller who brings a point-of-view and core beliefs to your associates and customers.   And watch your stature and influence grow geometrically.

Happy holidays everyone.  See you on the 2nd.

Read comments on “Contemplate the Bottom”

“Great post Doug – ballsy, accurate, highly entertaining, equally motivating.  At age 50, with 28 straight years of selling media on my odometer, I’ve seen plenty of real, rough road. This is bumpy, but still entirely paved. At my company, we’re all-wheel driving right over this stuff, both hands on the wheel, pedal pinned firmly to the floor.
It is entirely time for enthusiastic leadership and unmitigated opportunism.

“Good one Doug.  Someone gave me a bumper sticker 10 years ago that still sits on my desk and I love it.
‘Tough times never last in sales, but tough people do’.”

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