Sales Effectiveness

Closing Cases, Solving Crimes.

Watch any police procedural and you’ll hear the grizzled veteran detectives talk about ‘closing cases.’  To add a retro visual, you’ll even see them erase victim names or case numbers from a huge blackboard in the station house.  But as you learn, closing cases is not the same as solving crimes.

The cop who closes cases is mostly concerned about the bureaucracy of getting a case disposed of; tagging it with a plausible outcome and getting it out of active consideration.  It’s Dragnet meets The Dilbert Zone.   In contrast to these uninspired civil servants, we’ll see the real cop in the bunch…the one who isn’t satisfied until she solves the crime and brings the real culprit to justice.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux, the Salesforce DMP.  Krux drives more valuable content, commerce, and advertising experiences for the world’s leading marketers and media companies. Clients include Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, JetBlue, Kellogg, L’Oréal, Meredith Corporation, NewsCorp, the BBC, and Peugeot Citroen. Learn more at

It’s occurred to me recently that we have a version of this contrast playing out within sales teams in our industry.  There are a lot of erstwhile sellers who are actually just closing cases.  They watch the board, they take notes, they report out what happens.  If they don’t get included on the RFP or the client decides to spend the money with another vendor, they dutifully append the case with the outcome and take it out of circulation.  They will have a half-dozen very good reasons why the sale wasn’t made, and an air-tight rationale for closing it out.

Contrast this with the seller who’s really out to solve the crime.  This seller goes into the investigation with genuine curiosity.  Win or lose, he wants to chase down every lead, interview every witness, eliminate every dead end.  If the case seems to be going cold or the witnesses disappear, he digs deeper and with greater urgency; he finds a way to pry it back open and earning a second or third look from the customer.

Sellers who solve crimes are a rare breed in our station houses.  Maybe it’s because we don’t call out and recognize their particular contributions enough.  Or perhaps we’re just not being clear about the nature of the job that needs to be done.  Is the drive and ability to solve crimes just something you’re born with?  Or can it be taught?  I aim to find out.

We need a new kind of cop in this town.

Getting to the Client.

Gettign to the ClientThe headline for this week’s post is one of those sneaky little bits of irony.  A lot of us spend a lot of time and effort “getting to the client.”  But when we do, we don’t end up “getting to the client.”  Let me explain.

Many digital media and tech sellers work diligently to close transactional deals with buyers.  We respond to their RFPs, try to decipher conflicting signals and contradictory requests, and – to the best of our ability – bring them proactive ideas and opportunities.  But when these efforts predictably collapse in despair and recrimination, our boss inevitably says “we’ve got to get to the client!” And he’s right.  Well…half right.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

We take the cue and pursue the client meeting.  But, fatally, we don’t bother to upscale the agenda.  We bring the client the exact same buying decision that got turned down or ignored at the agency.  The client either ignores our outreach, sends us back to the agency or politely listens to our pitch and then does…nothing.  Without realizing it, we brought this customer an issue or opportunity that was below their pay-grade.  We’ve treated them like the appeals court…asking them to overturn the verdict that we lost in the lower court.  To the client, this is no opportunity:  if they change the outcome and put you on the plan, they’ve created a whole new set of problems – an alienated agency, political risk and potentially a shit-storm of POVs and meetings that they really don’t need.

Don’t just get to the client:  get to the client.  Make sure that your client-side agenda is squarely focused on business issues and marketing opportunities.  Don’t help them spend an existing budget; help them justify a new one.  Don’t show them how you’ll reach their current customer; introduce them to the one they haven’t yet met.   Work with the media planning team to fill existing orders: help the client decide what to order next.

I’ve always believed that big decision makers only want to make big decisions.  If you’re going to knock on the client’s door, don’t show up with an agenda that’s two sizes too small.  If you do, she’ll send you packing.

And she’ll be right to do so.  Totally right.

The Cone of Silence.

The Cone of SilenceThe topic of this week’s Drift changed when I was contacted by Digiday reporter Ricardo Bilton about the article he was writing about phone-phobic salespeople. I was happy to comment for the piece, but I also think there’s a bigger theme in play. If you’re a young seller, or someone who manages one, this Drift’s for you.

Do younger sellers tend to be phone-averse? Oh yeah. Somehow engaging with customers directly in a two-way, voice conversation is seen as rude, disruptive and overbearing.   Maybe it’s a millennial thing, maybe not. But we’ve nonetheless come to embrace the asynchronous, polite, wait-your-turn-and-wait-for-a-reply ethos of email and text. It’s about fear of discomfort; feeling it or causing it.

This week’s Drift is underwritten by Krux, which helps marketers and publishers worldwide deliver more personal, more valuable advertising, content, and commerce experiences, improving revenue performance and deepening engagement across all consumer touchpoints. Clients include companies like Kellogg, Time Warner, Meredith, BBC and Ticketmaster, with enterprises achieving 10x return or higher on their investment. Visit to learn more. 

And it doesn’t just impact buyer-seller relationships (the focus of Ricardo’s article). You see it within the home office environment too. I visit client companies all the time and watch as rows and rows of young workers, sitting only inches apart, send one another email after email, never thinking to stop the madness and have a clarifying conversation.

As a manager, you’ve got two concerns here. First, your people end up engaged in long, ponderous email strings over issues better resolved by intimate, immediate conversation. The clarifying question you can and should ask (in person) is “Did you talk about this face-to-face?” Ask it frequently enough and it becomes a mandate, then a habit.

Your second problem is that your salespeople are over-reliant on an email mindset that’s working against them. It’s not that email doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work the way the way they’re using it: in a vacuum and badly. Knowing that it takes between 9 and 12 attempts to elicit a response from an unknown customer, your reps should be thinking of their communication as a campaign. An email about one topic, followed by a well-planned voice mail, followed by another email introducing more information, followed by a Linked In in-mail. And then there’s the “don’t be a meathead” rule. When you do send email, avoid the “Poison Pills” and stop writing so much at one time: What fits on the screen of an iPhone is about right.

And while you’re at it, pick up the phone. It’s good for your relationship with your mom, with your co-workers and with your customers.