Online Sales

Words Never Uttered!

Because we can all use a laugh, I’m re-sharing one of the most popular Drifts I’ve ever posted. Feel free to add your own examples of “Things No Customer Has Ever Said.”  And have a great day.

“I just wish there had been more PowerPoint.”

“That was great! Could you play that sizzle video one more time?”

“So, you’re really that much bigger than your competitors? Who knew!”

“Wait… don’t leave yet. I haven’t really committed to anything.”

“Forget what I paid last time… let’s start fresh.”

Most sellers end their meetings right before things get good. Prime information and qualification don’t happen until a closing question gets asked. In a short, time-efficient workshop, Upstream Group can walk your team through the process and role-play the very-real-life scenarios they face in the market. Reach out today. The consult is free.

“Would you look at all those logos! Wow, if those companies are buying from you then I’d better get on board too, right?”

“Oh absolutely! Bring a whole bunch of your managers to the meeting. It’ll be so much more productive that way.”

“Wait… you mean you’re the leading company in your space?  Heck, I had no idea!  That changes everything!”

“You know, we’re just talking way too much about our issues. This is feeling a little too much about us.”

“Hey Jenny… call everyone in here please. This guy brought in his general presentation and I don’t want anyone to miss it.”

“I’m sorry, but there just weren’t enough acronyms and buzzwords in this for me.”

“Are you sure those are all the products you have? I’ve got more time.”

“Would you mind flipping back to that slide with the map of all your offices? I forgot whether your APAC headquarters was in Singapore or Hong Kong.”

“I’m actually just telling you that we’re waiting on direction.  You actually don’t have a chance in hell to get this but I just hate when things get awkward.”

“I was confused but those cylinders, arrows and triangles really sorted things out for me. Thanks!”

“Tell me more about your founder! He sounds like a fascinating guy!”

“You’re launching a new site? Well by all means come on over!”

“You say your CEO is in town? Shoot, that hardly ever happens! Of course I’ll make time on the calendar.”

“Wait… that’s it? It’s over already? Are you sure you don’t have a couple more slides?”

Ask the Question.

Ever wonder what mediocrity sounds like? It has the sound of the self-imposed limitation. It’s the stillness of the question that goes unasked, the hypothesis never tested.

They’ll never pay that price. That’s not how the customer wants to buy. Nobody’s doing it that way.

Nobody gets up in the morning and says, Wouldn’t it be great if absolutely nothing happened or changed today? But as we know, actions speak louder than words; sometimes the action is the choice of not acting.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, a free app that helps you reach media planners at exactly the right time and place – in their media planning system when they start a new media plan (with a fresh budget!). To learn more, go to

In our industry, we are constantly challenged to evolve, invent and grow…to imagine whole new courses of behavior and economic models…to hit bigger numbers by selling brand new products and crafting them into entirely new packages and configurations. But in the face of this challenge, many sellers never get out of the gates. Instead they immediately begin negotiating against themselves.

They’ll never pay that price. That’s not how the customer wants to buy. Nobody’s doing it that way.

When I led sales teams many years ago, and when I coach managers and individual contributors today, the advice I give them is shockingly simple.

Ask the question.

Failing to make the sale is acceptable. Failing to ask for the sale, the price or the terms is not. You may be right about how the customer will react, but go out and get me that ‘no.’ The act of making your case and putting an opportunity or a challenge in front of a customer creates a new dynamic and good things can fall out. Perhaps they start to actually negotiate and tell you where their boundaries are. Or maybe you end up finding another opportunity, or another path to the sale.

Ask the question.

George Bernard Shaw said, The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. Sometime in the weeks and months ahead, an unreasonable seller is going to get in your client’s ear and ask a question that seems unreasonable…and create a little bit of the future.

The only question is whether that unreasonable seller will be you.

Seller Forum will be held on Wednesday March 18th, Wednesday July 15th and Tuesday October 27th (New Date) at the Reuters Building on Times Square. If you’re a qualified media sales leader, reach out now for your invitation or to discuss your company’s Season Pass planning. Or visit us at


This is traditionally the time one would write a post that details all the things he’s grateful for.  This is not that post. The concept of gratitude deserves more than that.

In recent months I’ve gotten the opportunity to build formal coaching relationships with managers at several client companies in our space. Among many other topics, we often discuss the adoption and application of core team values: those qualities that become the basis for your strategies and decisions, and with which your team most strongly identifies – now and when they look back on their work with you. We discuss core values like resiliency, adaptability, action, curiosity and pride. Ideas like joy, empathy, respect and passion also find their way into the discussions. All are hugely powerful and useful in crafting culture and shaping behavior. But perhaps the most powerful value is one that’s often overlooked.

Yes, gratitude.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, a free app that helps you reach media planners at exactly the right time and place – in their media planning system when they start a new media plan (with a fresh budget!). To learn more, go to

In far too many organizations, being grateful is something we need to remember to do… it’s the seasoning we add at the end of a project, a sale, a quarter. Gratitude is something we summon and put on display on special occasions. But imagine the powerful change that occurs when gratitude is embraced as a core value…when it becomes part of who you are as a team and as individuals.

In life and business, gratitude is the fuel that makes us work harder and be more committed than we otherwise might. It’s the nourishment that helps us rise to the occasion and overcome cynicism in the face of big, hairy, audacious goals. If one of your first active thoughts in a day is about being grateful, it’s almost impossible to have a bad day.

Imagine your team living up to the following statement: We will live, work and act gratefully in all we do. Just having this as a vision would change how you address customer service, interdepartmental work and collaboration and the sales process itself. If you started with, I’m really grateful to have this account, your work, approach and commitment would all shift dramatically.

Gratitude is the most human of superpowers. We can all decide to embrace it on a deeply personal level, and you can choose to make it core to your team’s values first thing tomorrow.

Being grateful is not something to remember. It’s something to live up to.

Expect? Or Engage?

The good news: if you’re selling digital advertising and marketing services today, you are in a position to make both a huge difference and a very good living. The bad news: it’s a hell of a lot of work.

In digital sales workshops I teach sellers the research, strategy, critical thinking, patience and discipline that it takes to compete in our confusing, asymmetrical world – a world with no closing or air dates… a world of incomplete information… a world where people don’t call you back or tell you why you didn’t get the deal. I tell them how it often takes eight or nine quality messages to engage a decision maker. I tell them about the insight-driven, structured approach needed to run a successful meeting with a senior customer. I tell them about all the other budgets out there that don’t have the words digital or media attached to them. And I tell them about how many people they’ll need to generate the kinds of quality opportunities and long-term loyalty needed for long term success.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, which automates ad sales lead generation with software that pitches your ad inventory to hundreds of media planning teams while they are making media buying decisions. To learn more, go to

How they respond tells me a lot about who they are and how they’ll do. They tend to fall into two camps.

The Expecters. This group tends to respond with a lot of whens and ifs. To them the future is a bunch of contingencies. When we have better tools. If the customer could only see the value. When measurement catches up. If I only had a better list. With every pivot toward expectation and deferral comes a new level of disempowerment. The market is too consolidated. The duopoly is too powerful. My company’s management is not making the right moves. It is, of course, a self-fulfilling set of prophecies. At their best, the Expecters will be as good as reality — when reality, itself, is really good.

The Engagers. These sellers lean much more into whys, hows and whats. Why does this customer need us? How can we do something great for them? What’s the best place to start? To the Engager, there’s no someday, only today. They don’t allow themselves to get caught up in meaningless speculation about company politics or the horse-race of venture funding or bright shiny objects. As the name implies, their natural inclination is to engage: with the tools at hand…with the problem or opportunity… in the quest. If I need to do all that stuff and see all those people to be really good at this… well then, shit, I better get started.

There are probably many reasons why someone turns into an Engager or an Expecter. Life experiences, personal psychology, past work history and more. But I believe that it often comes down to something quite simple: a choice.

So choose. Decide if you are going to be an Expecter or an Engager. Then be what you decide.

We are currently booking a limited number of team workshops for late Q4 and Q1 2020. To discuss what you might want for your team, reach out to us today. The consult is free.

The Wrong Question.

As standard media has become more and more commoditized, publishers and media sellers have diversified their offerings. Rather than racing to the bottom on prices for banners and pre-roll videos, we’ve clambered up to the high ground of content creation,video programming, events, social optimization and data engineering.

The switch can be a jarring one. The work is harder and more detailed, involves more people (account management, client services, creative, production et al), eats up more time and is far more expensive. The uninformed, unqualified RFPs that used to aggravate us in the banner age are devastating us today. Too many sales teams take the bait and engage in a full-blown idea-fest, spinning out fully-baked programs, proposals and bespoke ideas… great work that ends up going nowhere 80-90 percent of the time.

There’s a better way.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic for Ad Sales, which automates ad sales lead generation with software that pitches your ad inventory to hundreds of media planning teams while they are making media buying decisions. To learn more, go to

For starters, when we start the value creation process for a client brand, we almost always start by asking a question that begins with what: What are we going to sell them? What should we build? What do we include in the program? Instead, we should be starting with why: Why do they need us at all? Why are they not selling enough of their product? Why do their best customers not understand their value? 

Asking these why questions early in the process helps you quickly expose the fatally flawed RFP and cattle call invitations. Often the understaffed and undercompensated agency planning teams may not even know the answers to these questions. They too are focused on what. As well-intentioned as they are, the planning team is at best an unreliable narrator in a process that is causing publishers to swing at too many bad pitches, bankrupting their bottom lines and alienating their internal teams.

The second big change that must be made is quite fundamental. Accept that this kind of work must be proactive, early stage, left of budget. We must be the ones who identify client marketing issues, approach them with strong points of view, and create our own white spaces. Since we can’t count on decent RFPs in this new age, we have to start writing them ourselves.

Clients have told us what’s important to them. Real data. Real contextual integration within meaningful content. Real solutions to real marketing problems. They really mean it, and they really don’t care who brings them the fresh take on their situation and offers the fresh idea.

All we have to do is believe them. And act accordingly.