When Nobody is Watching.

What if there were no bosses? If there were no office hours, no vacation policy, how would the people make decisions? If there were no one watching, what would lead them to make good decisions that cared for the business and your customers? What if the ultimate responsibility were theirs?

This may sound Utopian – or foolish, depending on your perspective. But it’s increasingly the reality of business. In our industry, it’s here.

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.

The combination of big territories, big employee-to-manager ratios, distributed locations and the raw speed of business means that employees are making their own decisions much of the time. Your policies and caps and meetings and policy reviews simply can’t keep up with the pace of business. Control-based top-down rules and approvals end up looking foolish and bureaucratic.

So, what then?

This is not to say that policies and rules are obsolete (a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, for example, is an excellent one). But regardless of how much you elaborate on the rules, you need your employees to make judgments… sound, moral, positive judgments. And the only way to get there is to establish a culture of values. Here are the four values that I recommend to my customers; each is personally controllable by the individual and helps him/her make better decisions both internally (with team members) and externally with clients. Share them, talk about them.

Be Curious. Healthy, appropriate curiosity leads one to ask more and better questions of customers and coworkers. It generates true empathy. It builds trust and connection. Curious people want to know how things work, more about the customer’s business…more about their co-worker’s role and queue.

Be Generous. Those who are generous don’t keep score. They continue to treat customers like customers even when there’s no big jackpot in front of them. They give coworkers the benefit of the doubt. They don’t infer motives that are not there. They help others.  They focus on making a difference while also making a profit.

Be Tenacious. Tenacious employees go the extra mile for customers and coworkers. They don’t accept the easy, obvious answer.  They stay with the conversation, the project or the problem – that much longer. They take the time to examine the situation fully.

Be Worthy. Worthiness is about the journey, not the destination; about the quality and excellence of work and effort, not just about the score. It’s not about getting… it’s about deserving. Deserving the customer’s trust, deserving the best efforts of your coworkers, deserving the job you have and the success you crave. As John Adams said, We cannot assure success. We can only deserve it.

If you want your team to thrive, let them make the decisions within a culture where values are the dominant drivers. Then get out of the way.


The reason your sales calls aren’t turning into sales may have nothing to do with preparation, content, fit or numbers. They might just be too big. Repeat after me:

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

It’s counterintuitive, but very true. Many of us grew up doing classroom presentations, went on to practice doing the company pitch in front of our peers at sales conferences, and probably dream of someday doing our own TED Talk. So it’s understandable that we crave the spotlight that goes with a crowd. But in reality those presentations are not moving the ball down the field. And they never will.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

When you get a group of 3, 4, 5 or more people together in a conference room, the politics get bigger and the opportunities get smaller. People don’t share in large rooms. They are less curious, more guarded, less honest. People don’t surface real objections in a crowd. They may listen to you, but they don’t work with you. Collaboration never gets started. Everyone is polite (well, except those jerk-offs checking email on their phones of course) but no one is truly engaged.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Salesforce DMP. Salesforce DMP allows you to capture, unify, and activate your data to strengthen consumer relationships across every touchpoint. Find out more here.

In workshops with digital sellers, I preach the value of the intimate, collaborative, one-on-one or one-on-two meeting. With the right decision maker of course. You’d be better off having five small meetings on the phone with key customers than ten big lunch-and-learns. In small meeting about the right things, customers lean in, they share, they object, they tell you the truth…and they collaborate. It doesn’t just happen of course…you’ve still got to earn the opportunity and execute it well. If you go in and turn on the lawn sprinkler of PowerPoint and company bullshit, you’ll still get a bad outcome in a small meeting. But if you prepare and plan and focus on doing good things for the client’s business, your meeting will stand out like a candle in the darkness.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

Marketing departments, stop cranking out newer and slicker versions of “the company story.” Nobody wants to hear them. Start helping your sellers tell the customer’s story and the heroic role your company can play in it. Sales managers, stop confusing activity with progress. Counting the number of rooms filled with warm bodies is a fool’s errand. Sellers, focus on really deserving the meeting with the CMO or Product Manager or Group VP and you will get more of them.

And for God sake, keep ‘em small. Intimacy is the new power.

This post was first distributed in May 2016.  Rumor has it that there are still too many big meetings taking place.

Yes is the New No.

Nobody says no anymore.  But then again, nobody really has to.

Much of the lore and literature of sales has the seller managing the objection, tenaciously staying in the conversation and turning the no into a yes.  But most sellers today wouldn’t even recognize this kind of mano-a-mano customer interaction.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Salesforce DMP. Salesforce DMP allows you to capture, unify, and activate your data to strengthen consumer relationships across every touchpoint. Find out more here.

First, most buyers effectively use technology to keep the seller at a distance until the time and circumstances of their choosing (like the very last minute when they need you to quote a price).  They hide behind RFPs, email, voicemail and other means of high tech cloaking.  If this was combat, the buyer would be operating a drone, far from the battlefield.  Most sellers have rather mildly accepted the terms of this new relationship and are paying the price for it now.

But even when they do get face-to-face or voice-to-voice time with the customer, sellers end up taking no for an answer … because the no sounds like a yes.

This is really exciting stuff.  We look forward to working with you guysTranslation:  I say this to everybody.  It’s a lot easier than arguing over merits or suitability. And you probably won’t ask too many questions. No one does.

We’re getting budget and direction soon and we’ll make sure you get the RFP.  Translation:  Sure, we’d send an RFP to a ham sandwich.  It doesn’t even cost us a stamp.  Knock yourself out slugger. You’ll never know if we’ve never read it.  In the meantime, ignorance is bliss.

Be sure and see my agency with this.  Translation:  If it was really something I cared about, I’d stay with the deal.  Let them be the bad guys.  There’s zero upside in me rejecting you directly.  I might need you someday.

Let’s get a master services agreement in place. Translation:  That should keep you occupied for a while. We pass out MSAs like free thumb drives. I’m not going to bother telling you that it won’t move a single dollar and that the hard work is all still ahead and it’s all on you.

Will you send me a proposal on this?  Translation: This is the 21st century version of ‘send me your media kit’ and ‘I’ll keep your information on file.’  I’ll ignore it later.

There’s zero upside for any customer to communicate a negative outcome.  At best, they’re inviting an argument and at worst they’re causing their team more work.  You’ve got to ask and then ask again.  You’ve got to stay in the conversation just as it’s starting to get uncomfortable.

Yes is the new no.  And you can’t take yes for an answer.


Nothing Sells Itself.

Next month I’ll be speaking at Programmatic I/O in New York about selling programmatic technology and audiences.  No, selling programmatic isn’t a typo, nor is it a contradiction in terms like jumbo shrimp or amicable divorce.  I believe the seller has an active role in an automated marketplace.  That the role hasn’t been fully realized yet doesn’t make this any less true.

The person who first said this technology (or algorithm or data set) sells itself was clearly not tasked with selling it.  We must believe in our solution, the logic says, and if it’s good all we should need to do is get it plugged in…get the tags up, get the master services agreement signed. The market will respond appropriately and it will provide, we tell ourselves.  But then, too often, it doesn’t.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Voicera. Are your teams 100% focused?  Do you wish your teams had a 100% accurate Salesforce?  Sign up for Voicera and give them EVA; the Enterprise Voice AI.  Eva listens, takes notes and automatically updates Salesforce!  Act now and get special discounted pricing as a reader of The Drift.  Visit www.voicera.com/upstreamgroup.

This is where the seller makes a difference.  As I’ve previously said in this space, there’s a big difference between selling and simply describing stuff.  So how, then, do technology sellers earn their keep and drive the business forward?

Draw Sharp Contrasts.  Only by understanding the deeper business and audience needs of the client accounts can the seller draw sharp contrasts between the quality and depth of their solution and the rest of the market.  Broad banalities like brand safe and premium don’t get it done.  There’s a lot of crap out there:  if your offering has real value to the advertiser’s business, you have to own that narrative.

Be Radically Curious. Far too many sellers are just happy to be included. They settle for just being in the game, which explains all those non-producing PMP deals and under-producing programmatic streams.  Until something happens, nothing happens. Strong sellers have hard conversations about how things work.  Who do we need additional support from?  How will planning and investment teams express demand?  Any rep who has just one or two points of programmatic contact is vulnerable.  And if you find yourself frequently waiting for stuff to happen, you’re in trouble.

Catalyze Activation. Once a programmatic buyer says yes to a PMP or other automated relationship, their attention and enthusiasm wane noticeably.  Strong sellers push back on what happens next – How do we get set up? Exactly how the money will begin to flow? Who will make the downstream decisions that will affect revenue? – and puts appropriate pressure on the buyer organization to get things going.  Many a promising business relationship ends up stillborn simply because the integration was never prioritized.

Merchandise Your Offering.  Someone once told me that you have to merchandise programmatic inventory and tech.  Indeed.  Just like the person in the supermarket who makes sure their product is at eye-level and supported by in-store signage and coupons, you have to constantly make sure your inventory or solutions are constantly in view of planning and investment teams.  We can’t just be supply sellers…we must also be demand generators.

Nothing sells itself.  And when we count on the technology to do the selling, that’s exactly what we end up with:  Nothing.

Look for me on Monday October 15th at Programmatic I/O in New York.  If you haven’t yet made plans, you can find out more here.

The Presence of Joey G.

It seemed like Joe Gallagher had a million friends.  And logic tells me that, while I was his friend, I was certainly not his best friend.  Yet somehow, he always made me feel like I was.  If you knew Joey G at all, I’m sure you can identify with this feeling.

To those not lucky enough to have bent an elbow or shared a laugh with Joe, he was a presence in our business over the last 20 years, most recently leading sales for Digital Remedy and before that in a half dozen high profile media jobs.  In late July, while on vacation in Wisconsin, Joe was the passenger in a single car accident and died.  Suddenly, shockingly, and – needless to say – far too soon.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Voicera. Are your teams 100% focused?  Do you wish your teams had a 100% accurate Salesforce?  Sign up for Voicera and give them EVA; the Enterprise Voice AI.  Eva listens, takes notes and automatically updates Salesforce!  Act now and get special discounted pricing as a reader of The Drift.  Visit www.voicera.com/upstreamgroup.

I wanted to find some way of honoring and remembering our friend.  The best way to do that is to talk about the man’s presence, which his absence calls into such stark relief.  Joey G had presence, and he had it in spades.  First, let’s talk about the sport coats — loud, bold and a little off color, much like the man himself.  Joey G talked a little louder, laughed a little harder and hugged a little tighter than one might anticipate.  His jokes and stories were more animated and drawn out than we often see in today’s world of ironic tweets.  And he smiled with his entire face – the happiest most welcoming smile imaginable.  Presence.

But there was another important aspect to the presence of Joey G. He was always present.  It didn’t matter if you hadn’t seen each other in a year or had spoken 30 minutes ago, Joey G was always completely there for you.  Attentive, interested, focused.  When you talked with Joey G, you were the only person in the world in that moment.  He didn’t just listen, he listened generously.  In an age where we’ve all got one eye glued to our phones and are paying half-attention to one another, perhaps the best way to honor Joey G is to follow his example.  We can all decide to listen and be present for those in our lives.  We can decide to put away our phones and truly hear and understand those who are important to us.  And we can live our decisions.

Joe leaves behind his wife, Patty, and three children.  His colleagues at Digital Remedy and the IAB are hosting a tuition fundraiser for Joe’s kids next week at Ben & Jack’s in Manhattan, his favorite haunt. Space is limited at the event, but you can still make a donation to support the family of a great man, a man who was one of our own.   If you’d like to make some other kind of donation to the cause, just email me and I’ll be happy to put you in touch with the right people. 

The last time I got to feel the presence of Joey G was at our Seller Forum event back in June.  We shared a drink and more than a few laughs at the post-Forum networking reception, which we’ll be informally renaming “The Joe Gallagher Happy Hour” in his honor.  Well also be donating part of the proceeds from the event to the scholarship fund.

Joe Gallagher may no longer be with us, but the presence of Joey G can live on through each of us. Just listen a little longer, laugh a little louder, and hug a little tighter.