Are You In?

Are you inTo the casual observer, sales looks to be all about power.

It may look like a bunch of confident, charismatic sellers in command of their material and in charge of the room. The successful seller is the one who can talk a blue streak and who is at ease in any crowd.

But looks can be deceiving.

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Many of the greatest sellers I’ve been privileged to work with are not the ‘life of the party’ types.  Many would probably be classified as introverts.  What these sellers have discovered – perhaps by default – is the power of vulnerability.  They’re willing to own their opinions and feelings, take risks and commit to the moment.

They are present in a way that many of their competitors are not.   They’re OK with moments of silence and even the occasional awkward pause.  It’s in that moment that something unusual can happen:  something authentic, something meaningful, something real.

A significant number of the people I meet in sales are ambivalent about being in sales.   They call themselves account executives, business development people and strategists, and they seem to really gravitate to the word “partner.”  One reason for this “sales avoidance” mindset is that these introverts have never made peace with the popular notion of what it means to sell.

Now they don’t have to.  And neither do you.

Start taking risks.  Share a little more than you feel comfortable sharing.  Take a position in your discussions with customers.  Tell them what you think and then ask them what they think about the position you’ve taken.  Be curious.  Don’t fill up the quiet moments.  Be generous. Let things happen.

This is how you get to an authentic place with your customers.  You have to get in…all in.

If you’re in sales but feel like you’re playing a role much of the time, you are not only cheating your customers, you’re cheating yourself.  This can be a life filled with really terrific moments, but only for those who are truly open to them.

So be open.  Be vulnerable. Be real.

The Client Will See You Now…

The Client Will See You NowOne of the most anticipated and important conversations we’ll be having at the Seller Forum this week will feature marketers from three nationally prominent brands. (Since the Forum is a closed-door, no-press meeting, only those in attendance will hear from these marketers first-hand.) What I want to talk about in today’s post is why top marketers would come to meet with a roomful of sales leaders – because they are the same reasons why they might be likely to open to door to your company. But only if you’re truly ready.

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Let’s start with the reasons why clients have historically not been willing to meet with sellers. Truth be told, our view of client interaction has been fairly unsophisticated. After arguing our case with the agency media planning team – the lower court – we’d try and appeal to the client – the appellate court – to overturn the verdict, essentially asking the client to involve herself in a media planning decision that’s below her paygrade and beneath her agenda. A client – or even someone at a very senior level at an agency – doesn’t care whether one media or tech vendor ends up on a media plan or not. By trying to get them involved in this tussle, you bring them a brand new problem instead of solving an existing one.

So why would a client see you today? And why is today different than days past? Three words sum it up: Data…Creativity….Authenticity.

Data is so pervasive that it can seem like a commodity. But real, valuable, first-party data – and the ability to put it to work for the marketer – are in short supply. Marketers are viewing data through a very sophisticated lens: It’s bigger than advertising, bleeding over into CRM, retailer relationships, localization and more. The marketer will have a smart, future oriented conversation about data with you.

Creativity, also, is scarcer than you think. Sure there are modern day Don Drapers and Peggy Olsons toiling at work stations in agencies. But many of our companies are creating brand new palettes that agency creatives barely recognize. And ‘creativity’ in digital media today has as much to do with anthropology as it does with art. Media companies are simply closer to the behavior of the consumer than either the brand or its agency.

Authenticity is probably the one quality marketers crave above any other. Authenticity is what helps break through the veil of indifference and inattention and makes a brand or product genuinely matter to a consumer. The web is “an embarrassment of niches,” where consumers feel passionate and connected.   I don’t care if you call it content marketing, native, enhanced sponsorship or something else; the challenge is to bring their brand and your user experience together in a way to confers authenticity.

Digital has freed the captive genie from a bottle called “advertising.” Those willing to similarly free their imaginations and agendas from the same bottle will find a willing and open conversation with the marketer.  Just don’t try to fake it.


The Real Deal.

LEVIS RED TAG 550 JEANSOver the last decade the digital marketing business has lived through a personality crisis. On the one hand there’s the relentless march of programmatic automation. On the other, native advertising — or sponsored content or branded entertainment or whatever else we’re calling the opposite of commoditization. Throughout this whole tedious game of semantic Twister, we’ve ignored the quality we should all be striving to embody; a quality that strengthens customer commitment, forges employee loyalty and gets us all closer to purpose-driven business marketing.

The quality – and the word – we’ve been grasping for is authenticity.

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What we all do for a living may remain ridiculously complicated, but the answer may be just this simple. What consumers want from their bourbon, their coffee houses, their granola and their politicians – authenticity – may be exactly what marketers and agencies and publishers desperately crave in our world.

Whether you make blue jeans or offer DMP services, being authentic doesn’t mean that you’re the only one who makes what you make or does what you do. It means being clear and open about your process, your motivations, your beliefs. No matter how right or left brain your company is, there is something authentic and genuine about how you build your product or deliver your service; why you’re in business at all; and in what you believe as a company. Or at least there should be.

Look at two of the world’s most powerful technology companies – Apple and Google. Despite hugely complicated technology stacks and a sometimes confusing morass of products (most of which, in the case of Apple, are mass produced overseas), both companies still seem authentic to the customer. “Don’t’ Be Evil.” “Think Different.” “Designed by Apple in California.” Should any of our companies aim for less?

The thing about authenticity is that you can’t outsource it. Too often the world-class engineers who invented your product or the visionary CEO who got the company funded simply hand off the job to the marketing professionals, the copywriters or the ad agency. Too often those who sell to and service our customers are given talking points or white papers and left to fend for themselves.

Authentic isn’t what you say. It’s who you are. So who are you, then?