Team You.

Last week I posted some ideas about how to shake off the torpor and malaise of Q1-2019 in the digital ad/marketing business. Today I’m speaking to managers and sales leaders.  This is a moment where you can (and should!) reshape your relationship with your team. What looks like a rough patch is actually a garden of possibility.

Whether you’re a CRO, a regional manager, a vertical category lead or even a project captain, there are some immediate, tangible and highly effective moves to be made.

STAQ is generously underwriting this week’s Drift. STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks provides actionable insights into your programmatic performance compared to the broader marketplace. This week’s market level insight: Open auction hits 90% of total programmatic revenue in January and February of 2019, a level not crossed in any month in 2018. Join STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks today.

No Group is Too Small for a Culture. Those who wait for the company to define and establish a culture and values for their teams are inevitably frustrated. Think of the sales team you lead (and don’t forget the account managers and others who support!) as if it were a platoon. Unit cohesion is everything, and Team You is looking to you – their leader – for inspiration and guidance. Engage them (in a group and individually) with these questions: As a team, what do we believe? And How do we treat one another? It won’t all happen at once, but it will begin to happen immediately.

Manage the Moments. If you think management is about the reviews you conduct and the meetings you lead, think again. What you do – occasionally – in the big moments pales in importance beside what you do in all the little ones. Are you pausing and getting your team members to bring answers along with the problems? Are you leading conversations with optimism and patience? Are you summoning the discipline to be completely clear with your employees? Like parenting, management is not something you can schedule.

Reinvent the Meeting. When you do bring your team together, put some real thought and planning into it. Do in a team meeting what you can only do in a team meeting. Don’t waste time reviewing numbers and facts. Decide. Question. Plan. Prioritize. Collaborate. If there’s no strong verb associated with your meeting, it’s not serving your needs or your culture.

Don’t Scrimp on the Inspiration. Statistically, most of us don’t sit in the pews on Sunday anymore, but we are joining the Church of TED in record numbers. There has never been more thoughtful motivation available than there is right now, all with a mouse click. Real people are overcoming real adversity and re-framing business and leadership practices, and they’re giving it to us for free. Program a 5-minute video or short article into your team meetings, along with some discussion time. You may get an eye-roll or a cynical comment along the way, but stay with it. For strugglers, it’s hope; for performers, it’s fuel.

Team You won’t just happen. It takes work and discipline. But it’s your most impactful – and controllable – driver of success.

A customized sales strategy workshop for your team is easier and more cost-effective than you might think. And it may be the key to not only performance, but retention of your best people. Visit or reach out directly to learn more.

Shake it Off!

Snap out of it! 

Yeah… you know who I’m talking to: You there in the Slanket about to launch your Netflix queue. Like many others in the digital ad business, Q1 2019 has been a hazy sleepwalk of stalled budgets, consolidation, sheepish buying and general malaise. But it’s not just you. And it’s not fatal. And it ends now.

Today’s Drift is our collective wake-up call. Here are a few ideas and themes to get your motor going and shake off the cold of Internet Marketing Winter.

STAQ is proudly underwriting this week’s Drift.  STAQ’s Industry Benchmarks provide insights into programmatic performance compared to the broader marketplace. This week’s insight: The 300×250 dominates as mobile continues to grow. The ad unit’s share of mobile revenue increased to 59% in 2019, while its share of revenue on desktop dropped to 19%.  Join STAQ Industry Benchmarks.

Start with One Short List. Getting your business back on track seems overwhelming because of the hundred choices and tasks littering your desktop and inbox. Get all that shit out of your way by consolidating into one short list. If it’s not something that’s going to get you closer to a customer or drive a revenue opportunity forward, table it.

Default to Action. Make sure your short list includes a lot of action verbs like write and call and propose. These will be your triggers to act.  Don’t fall prey to wimpy non-actions like follow up and touch base. The feeling of getting important things done has a massive psychological impact. You move the ball and simultaneously blow your funk out of the water.

Turn Down the In-House Noise. Has anybody ever bought anything from you on Slack? I didn’t think so. Yet we allow ourselves to let an endless string of email chains, slack discussions and internal meetings eat our days. Just say no. Put an internal out of office message on that says I’m on client business right now: text or phone me with any specific, urgent items. Then go back to your list.

Aim for the Middle. The CMO isn’t going to see you and the media planners can’t help you. But there’s a whole lot of people in the middle who can. Client advertising managers and marketing staff; agency media directors and group VPs.  Reach out to them with some We were thinking about your business today notes that cite a potential business problem, missing audience segment, storytelling problem… whatever. Ask for a short phone meeting with screen sharing (it’s less threatening and easier to schedule.)

Generosity is Fuel. Right now, you might be hung up on your need to sell something. Anything! This is exactly the time to be generous. Internally, do a favor or pay someone a public compliment. With your customers, think about doing something cool for their businesses. Generosity gets you out of your own head and breaks the negative loop you’re stuck in. Don’t just make a deal, make a difference.

Ask Unreasonable Questions. Are you open to having us earn a million dollars by solving a problem for your client? What would it take for you to open up the budgeting process and consider improving your plan? What would get us immediate approval to go to contract on this? 

Expect Nothing. Blame No One. Do Something. You are the one you’ve been waiting for. There are a million mopes out there who will only ever be a little better than the worst break they’ve had. Overcoming adversity and being better than your circumstances starts with a positive choice. Make that choice now and start acting on it.

Could your sales team use a boost? We build and deliver custom sales strategy and process workshops with a deep understanding of digital advertising, motivations and the fundamentals of selling. Visit or reach out directly to learn more.

Say Less.

Say LessIn recent conversations and workshops with customers I find myself continually revisiting Simon Sinek’s classic 2009 TedX talk, “The Golden Circle,” which is also the key theme in his best-selling book Start with Why. If you watch the full video, pay particular attention at about 5:40 and he explains the biological reasons why we tend to be purpose-driven mammals who are motivated by meaning and mission.

According to Simon, the newer portion of our brains – the neo cortex – is language driven and can understand and process vast amounts of complex information. The problem is, that part of our brain simply doesn’t drive decision making. So throw all the technical detail and three-letter-acronyms and speeds-and-feeds at me that you can: I’ll listen, discuss and probably feel good about myself for keeping up with you. It’s just going to have zero impact on what I decide.

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To get at what drives the decision, you literally have to dig deeper: it’s the much older, pre-language “limbic” brain that makes us do stuff. Often called the “Lizard brain,” it’s where our feelings and emotions live. It’s the launching pad for motivation. And it has no capacity for language.

The more you say to my limbic brain, the less it hears. The more complex you make your narrative, the more likely it is to shut down and take no action. And this is huge problem for salespeople, managers and marketing teams at digital publishers and ad-tech companies. We’re all having a lot of complex, expensive conversations that are completely disconnected from the outcomes we need.

Connecting on an emotional level with your customer’s Lizard Brain doesn’t mean getting all weepy or going over the top with some kind of gung-ho pep talk. It does mean a new commitment to discipline and focus; not just from the seller but from your entire organization. It goes like this.

Say less. More powerfully. Earlier. To the right people.

Say less: Start with zero PowerPoint slides and build from there. Use short, declarative sentences. Explain what your white paper means in a sentence; your strategic value in a paragraph; the reason the customer should meet with you in 140 characters. Remember, you’re speaking to the pre-language brain.

More powerfully:   At the very front of your materials or presentation, there should be a short clear statement that speaks to the danger your customer needs to avoid, the cost of not reaching that missing customer, the chance that they are falling behind a competitor for no good reason.   Their story is a drama, a come-from-behind sports movie. Tell that story.

Earlier: If you wait till a budget is formed and the problem has already been fully defined, you’re screwed. Unless you influence how the RFP gets written, you’re just another blindfolded kid swinging at the piñata.

To the right people: All the persuasion and motivation in the world matters not at all if you’re talking to someone who can’t give you what you want. Qualify the buyer; ask hard questions; know who you’re talking to.

Say less. More powerfully. Earlier. To the right people.   It just works.

Doing is Believing.

Doing is BelievingOne thing that’s certain about this business of ours: everyone is so damn smart. No matter your personal opinion or experience with just about anyone in digital marketing, the first thing you’ll say is “Well….he’s really smart….but….” Smart is to the digital ad world what blond is to Scandinavia. It’s certainly a high class problem, but there is one big downside. We tend to over-think, over-analyze and over-talk just about everything.

In recent months I’ve been coaching managers at many leading companies in our space and they describe very common – and frustrating – interactions with their team members. When they take the time (as good managers do) to really connect with and listen to their sellers and other staff it can get messy really fast. Employees (they’re really smart, remember?) want to discuss and debate all the history and fine points behind decision and policies. They want to feel heard on the minute details on the difficulty and danger of their accounts lists. They want to open up long closed issues and directions. And the well-meaning, evolved, new-age manager ends up spending a lot of time and energy trying to manage how her reps feel and what they believe.

There’s a better way.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic, who provides a Marketing Automation Platform for Publishers (MAPP).  It empowers publishers with a single view into their advertiser relationships, across every screen, channel and format.  Through workflow automation, real-time analytics and yield management, PubMatic enables publishers to make smarter, faster decisions that drive revenue and streamline operations. To learn more, please click here.

Yes, people in sales organizations want to feel heard. And they may think they want their hands on the levers of policy and management – right up till the day they actually own them and ask “…and why did I want this?” But what they really thrive on is clarity. They want to know their management and leadership is taking in good information (including theirs) and then they want a decisive manager to say “this is where we’re going and here are the guidelines on getting there.” And then she says no more.

Hear the voices of your team members but don’t let them turn you into a weathervane that changes direction with the wind. Empathize and identify with the lives and aspirations of your employees, but don’t become their career grief counselor. Above all, shift your focus from what your people think and believe to what they do. With every interaction, have a list of specific measurable actions for the employee(s) to take. And be ready to say: “I understand your position…what is it specifically that you’d like to see me do right now?

We can hold salespeople and ourselves accountable for discrete actions. Actions breed a culture of clarity and consistency. Take enough steps and you have direction. You can’t manage or control what’s in someone’s head…only what they do. So shut down the endless cycle of reflection and debate and start getting stuff done. You’ll be amazed at how much better everyone ends up feeling.

And Why Would I Do That?

And Why Would I Do ThatAs I’ve walked sales teams through the marketing food chain in recent workshops – from CMO and brand managers to client side advertising and media execs to agency leaders to planning teams – one thing has become apparent:  We have a lot to learn about motivations.  While we are awash in statistics and data and all claim to be the agents delivering the best ROI in the world, we’re flummoxed when people simply don’t end up making the decisions we want them to make…and we have no idea why.

Back in June I wrote about the Aristotelean model of persuasion — the sequential dynamics by which persuasion can be allowed to take place – so I won’t cover that here.  Instead, I want to focus today on why the very specific people we try to sell to either will or won’t end up doing something (making a buy, making a recommendation, creating an exception for us, considering new information and more.)

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First – an aside:  The vast majority of sellers go into the vast majority of calls with no clear idea what they actually want to the other person to do.  When I ask, I hear things like “I want them to understand” or “I want to educate them” or “make them aware” of something.  There must be some gossamer thread that ties these vague, mushy concepts to the ultimate sale, but I can’t see it.  If you don’t know what you want – a decision or action – you almost certainly won’t get it.

The Chief Marketing Officer.  There’s almost always a new CMO. If there isn’t there soon will be.  Average tenure is just a couple of years and they are often tumultuous.  The CMO will make decisions in your favor if they are significant (big deals, big dollars) and if they will help him leave his mark on the business.  He’s like the Hollywood director who thinks of his body of work across many studios and projects.  Keep it interesting, innovative and big. He’s got no time for incremental improvement the slow build.

The Client Advertising or Media Executive.  We see her as the ultimate client, but she in fact has internal clients of her own.  She serves the CMO and her ad or media money rolls up from many individual brands and brand managers. She will make a decision in your favor because it makes her look good to the CMO and brand managers and can be quickly defended based on the numbers.  She has to ultimately worry about whether your plan will work or not.

The Agency Leader or Account Lead.  These folks worry about three things:  Increasing spending by existing clients, preventing those existing clients from straying – either getting a new agency or cutting budgets – and giving their clients innovation and great work while not having to commit much of their own people’s time and energy to it.  Tie your appeal to these points and you’ll have a better chance.

The Media Planner.  Yes, I know many of you want to say “because I got him drunk” or “because he loved the designer Nikes” but there’s a bit more here.  First, understand that there is a limit to the decisions he can even make.  He doesn’t decide strategy, he can’t value the soft qualities of content excellence or brand strength.  He works on an assembly line.  He’ll give you the nod if you keep your request very simple, very clear and costs him no wasted motion or energy.

Make sure you’re assigning the appropriate motivations to the decision maker you’re seeing.  Your life will get a whole lot simpler.