Seller Forum

Six Questions for Tom Deierlein.


Six Questions for Tom Deierlein Nine years ago today, Captain Tom Deierlein was shot by a sniper in a Baghdad slum. His life since that day has been a remarkable story of service, leadership and transformation.Tom will speak at next month’s Seller Forum about creating your own personal leadership philosophy.

1. You think it’s important not just to believe in a leadership philosophy but to actually write it down.  Why?

People have in their heads how they want to lead but articulating this is tricky.  When you write it down on a page or two, it causes you to really, really think through how you want to lead…to think through values, priorities, and expectations. It immediately leads to a healthy discussion about how best to work together and — critically — in times of crisis it will guide your actions.

2. You’ve been in leadership positions in both the internet ad/tech world and the military.  Is there a common thread for great leadership?

I think that leadership is leadership.  I find myself guided by the 11 principles I was taught 30 years ago when I was a 17-year-old cadet.  It might be a high school student athlete who is captain of her soccer team, a Marine leading a team in combat, or a first time manager at an ad agency. The principles are the same.  I feel it breaks down into three major areas:

  1. Values and character:  People want a leader they trust and who makes the right choices regardless of consequences.
  2. Concern for your people: Genuine concern and desire to help them be their absolute best personally and professionally.
  3. Decisions:   Willingness to make decisions –including the hard ones — and be held accountable for them.

Technically there is a fourth:  Results.  Without success the other three don’t matter.

If you lead a national or regional digital media sales organization request your invitation to the Fall Seller Forum – “Leadership is Not Optional” — or call us at 802.985.2500 for more details. Two thirds of our available spots are already taken, so save yours today.

3. Can you give a short statement that tells us the difference between leadership and management?

I guess I’m one of those people who believe management is about things (process, operations, technology) and leadership is about people.

4. They say that adversity doesn’t build character, but rather reveals it.  You were shot by a sniper in Sadr City, Iraq in 2006 and spent most of a year recovering and rebuilding at Walter Reed.  What did that experience reveal to you about Tom Deierlein?

I spent 8 months in the hospital first in recovery and then rehab.  That gave me a lot of time for reflection and self-analysis. Not that I was an ogre before, but I decided to be a better person.  I decided to be more selfless and help others. To slow down and enjoy life more – let fewer things bother me.  As a joke, I call this ‘Tom 2.0.’ Whenever I slip back into undesired behaviors or attitudes I call it ‘Tom 1.0 creeping back in.’

5. Through the TD Foundation, you’ve made your story about more than your own struggles and successes.  You’ve tapped into something bigger and more important.  That seems like a good leadership lesson right there, doesn’t it?

Whenever you talk to anyone about charity and helping others I think you find they get as much out of it as those they help.  It is like fuel for the soul.  People that help others are actually happier in general.

6. Someone reading this post is struggling to unite their team and get them to perform at a whole new level.  What one piece of advice do you offer?

I just finished a great book on this topic called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”  But if I were to give one piece of advice it would be to set shared goals, communicate those goals, and then publicly reward behaviors that demonstrate teamwork and cooperation to get these goals accomplished.


The Unmanaged.


UnmanagedLast month 55 sales leaders joined us at the top of the Hearst building for the final Upstream Seller Forum of 2014. Since the session focused on leadership, we thought it would be a good idea to bring the voice of the front-line seller into the room. So along with our friends at Seller Crowd, we broadly distributed a questionnaire to find out how digital sellers feel about the quality of the leadership and management they get. Close to 600 sellers responded, and a good many more added color commentary via the Seller Crowd site.

If you’re the leader of a sales organization, or if you manage even one or two sellers personally, you should pay close attention to the results.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by comScore. For media sellers, comScore helps demonstrate the quality of their inventory in traditional and programmatic environments as well as provide tools for internal pricing and packaging. VIDEO and display environments benefit from detailed information about demographics, viewability and non-human traffic.

The short questionnaire was designed to get a pulse on levels of engagement, empowerment and support that sellers feel. It also factored in distance (are you the home office with your manager or alone in a branch territory?), levels of motivation and empathy (do they feel like their manager really understands their challenges?) Here are just a few of the results:

  • Across the entire population (589 Sellers) only 28% say they feel consistently engaged with their jobs and companies; an equal percentage say they rarely if ever feel engaged. For the remaining 44%, engagement comes and goes. This group represents the huge opportunity for managers.
  • We asked sellers to rate quality of the management they receive on a five point scale from “Exceptionally Well” to “Not at all.” 58% of respondents said they were being managed either “modestly but inconsistently,” “poorly” or “not at all.” Coffee to go with your wake-up call?
  • One might ask whether and how managers can make a difference. Looking more deeply at the “unmanaged” 58%, engagement with their companies was virtually nonexistent. Just 3% felt very engaged, while “rarely if ever engaged” jumped to nearly 50% of this group.

Seller Crowd seeded a few of these findings on its message board and sought comments. Here are a few of the things sellers told us there:

  • Managers too often wasted the precious time in team meetings or 1:1 meetings with seller just going over what was already in Salesforce. Why use potential engagement and creative time to go over numbers, which are better and more accurately recorded digitally?
  • Sellers reject “micromanagement” but not because they don’t need help. The busywork of over-reporting crushes them, and they don’t like not feeling trusted. But they welcome the manager who will help them “break the numbers down” and engage with them on strategy to open doors and land business. What are you doing as a manager that’s more important than this?
  • Do meetings with your sellers frequently get bumped in favor of something more critical? Yeah, they hate that. It makes them feel unimportant, disengaged and disconnected.

As we head into the Thanksgiving week, let’s be thankful for the trust sellers give us and their willingness to learn from us. And as we head into the new year, maybe we all commit to filling ‘the digital sales management gap.’


Six Questions for Dave Morgan.


Morgan - jacket-blue CU - MG_0361 medium close cropOur theme for The Seller Forum on October 28th will be leadership, and a big part of leadership today is disruption: causing it, managing it, preparing for it.  Across his career, keynote interview Dave Morgan has been the disruptor-in-chief for companies focused on ad technology (RealMedia), audience targeting (Tacoda) and now the economics of TV buying (Simulmedia).  Here, some of his abridged thoughts on disruption in our world.

1.      How can you tell that an industry or a sector is ripe for disruption?

The easiest path is to find industries or sectors where emerging technologies are virtually certain to solve big problems or create new value for consumers and major industry or sector participants. By the early 90s, it was pretty obvious that the news, information, advertising and entertainment world would be disrupted by networked digital computing. We didn’t know it would be driven by the Internet. We didn’t know how long it would take to hit each sector of the industry and what the results would be. But, it was obvious that disruption was coming.

2.      Many companies who claim to be disruptive and revolutionary turn out to be just iterative and incremental.  Any way to tell the difference up front?

I think that to be truly disruptive or revolutionary, you need to either create something that didn’t exist before to upend a market structure or major market leaders by doing something in an entirely new way.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by REDBOOKS. For ad sales and business development, REDBOOKS is the most effective prospecting and competitive intelligence tool – used by your peer teams at Google, ABC, CBS, Comcast, ESPN, Time, Apple, Adobe and ad-tech companies of all sizes. Real-time, actionable news/alerts, direct contact info + all the context to close sales faster.

3.      Sales and company leaders in the digital and media worlds are having to deal with and plan for disruption all the time.  What have you learned over the years that could help them?

Study your market intensely, from all sides. Put yourself in the shoes of all of the different market participants. Generate a personal point of view on the market, and how it is likely to evolve – or devolve – and make sure that the point of view guides your actions every day.

4.      Is there a personality type or background you try to hire for a disruptive company like Simulmedia?

Yes. We want people who are curious, mission driven and have shown themselves as real risk-takers. We want people who are impatient. If they have been at a large company for more than five years, we tend to avoid them unless they have also demonstrated real success at a true start-up.

5.      How do you sustain a disruptor culture as a company grows?

It is much harder to be disruptive as your company grows its team. You start institutionalizing practices. You have to work really hard to make sure that you are still promoting and rewarding disruptive behavior, though not just for the sake of it. You have to attack you own products, your own processes and push your folks to raise the bar every day.

6.      You’ve said it’s important to have a personal point-of-view on the market.  Explain.

Too many folks in our industry pick jobs based on compensation and titles, not the problems they are solving or the changes that they will make in the market. Developing a personal point of view on the market you work in is a good way to be sure that you’re in the right job, working for the right company, and playing the right part in the market’s development. If you don’t have a personal point of view, you’re no surer of anything in your future than your last paycheck.

If you lead national sales for a team that sells media or marketing services to advertisers and agencies and would like to request an invitation to The Seller Forum (10/27-28, Manhattan) send us a note.   Seating is very limited.


The Right Questions


When we convene the Spring 2011 Seller Forum tomorrow morning in New York, we’ll be joined by 50 top digital sales leaders all seeking clarity and context for the very important decisions they make every day. But given the complexity and dynamism of the digital, media and advertising landscapes, we’re not so much solving a puzzle as framing a set of mysteries. When one solves a puzzle, accumulating data and drilling down to firm answers is the way to go.  But when it comes to framing mysteries — the Middle East, economic trends, our world — it’s really all about asking the right questions.  So for public consumption — and as a focal point for those at the Forum — here are some of the questions that i hope will help light the path.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by PubMatic, which provides one holistic selling platform to protect publishers and increase their online and mobile ad sales.

As Linda Gridley offers her thinking on the crowded digital landscape, I hope we’re asking “Beyond which companies are going to win or lose, or which sectors rise or fall, what are the underlying hard trends that will shape the landscape?  What’s causing all of this?”

As we debate the value and validity of ad verification, we should ask “In embracing  — or at least acquiescing — to current verification demands, what genie might we be releasing from its bottle?  Are we really enabling greater spending or applying a gloss of ‘truthiness’ to a flawed buying process?”

As we host two top agency executives in a candid discussion, I hope we’ll ask “Is there a dramatically different model for the media company/agency relationship that we haven’t yet considered?  And what would it take for us to move beyond platitudes about ‘partnership’ and really abolish the processes and roles that serve neither of us?”

In the time we spend talking about the publisher’s response to demands for audience buying, I think we should ponder the question of “Is audience buying an innovation that brands are screaming for, or is it fundamentally driven by the needs of the agency for a more profitable transaction model?”

And as we entertain six innovative new companies that serve publishers, I hope we’ll be thinking “What is the cost of one more bit of complexity, one more alliance?  And should we at this point be thinking about fewer and deeper relationships vs. ‘one more interesting opportunity?'”

It’s likely there will be no firm or uniform answers to these questions. But I think we’ll all be better sales leaders and better business people for having asked them.