You, But Strategic.

Somewhere out there this morning, a seller has already been awake for hours. She’s staring at a number – her sales goal for the next several months. Her company has a solid product, not a dominant one.

Her managers try to motivate and support, but only being a year or two in management themselves they can tell her to ‘be more strategic’ but can’t really tell her how.

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Here’s how:

Triage. What are the factors that make one prospect more likely than another to become a customer? Are they cranking up spending this quarter? Do you have even one ‘truth teller’ at the agency or client who could give you the straight story? Do their preferred metrics and buying style align at all with your offerings? Have they been a customer before? If you answer yes to all or most of these questions, these are your focus accounts – your A’s. If you answer all or mostly “no” then it’s a C account; drop it. Mixed results? It’s a B, so set it aside for work later.

Decide What You Control. It’s easy to waste time lamenting what you don’t have, what a competitor might be doing, or how bad the decision making is at the agency. Instead, inventory those things you can control. They are: (1) your intent – are you really out to do a great job for the customer? (2) Your POV on the customer’s business situation – not just what you know but what you think is important; (3) the agenda for your meetings – a good answer for “why are we here today?” (Hint: if it’s about ‘updating’ the customer, ‘introducing them’ to your product or ‘learning more’ about their challenges, you will lose); (4) the quality of your recommendation; stop with the big capabilities deck; nobody cares. Decide what combination of products and services will help this client at this moment in time. If you tell ‘em everything, you’re telling ‘em nothing.

Start in the Middle. In between the CMO and the media planning team, there are a lot of people who can help you: account owners at the agency… strategic planning… group VPs… functional specialists at the client. Put away your pitch for a while and start teeing up honest conversations and email exchanges with these people.

Ask Better Questions. Ask questions customers can say “no” to. Will you buy from me? Do we have your commitment? Do we really have a chance here? Hope is too often the opposite of clarity. What you want to constantly be asking is Where do we really stand?and What can we do to keep moving forward?

Stop Waiting. If things are not closing because you’re constantly waiting on something – a product feature, a call back, a change in the budgeting process – then you’re not making a difference.  You can wait till things calm down, till you get through your inbox, till the weather changes. Or you can simply act. Take chances, try one new thing each day. Ask forgiveness, not permission.

It may turn out that the one you’ve been waiting for is you.

This post was originally published in 2015.

Feel It.

During the strategic media sales workshops I often conduct, we always start with a core foundational principle:  Aristotle’s model of persuasion.  To completely over-simplify the idea, Ari believed that three qualities had to be present — and flow in a specific sequence — in order for one human being to persuade another of anything important.  They are Ethos (the sense of empathy and understanding), Pathos (the sense of shared struggle or collaborative journey) and Logos (supporting logic or facts).  Get them out of sequence — say, start with the numbers or logic — and you fail to persuade.  Good stuff, yeah?

Today I want to spend a minute on the first quality of persuasion:  empathy.  It’s occurred to me as we’ve explored this concept over years of workshops that many sales people see it as a tactic.  How can I demonstrate just enough empathy to get them on my side?  To get them to open up to being persuaded? When I sensed question in the air during a recent group session, the answer just seemed jump out all by itself:

Don’t struggle to demonstrate empathy:  Actually empathize.  The easiest way to look like you care is to actually care.

How many of us when we go into a sales situation can honestly say we’re really out to improve the customer’s business?  That we’re out to do right by them?  How often do we set out to truly make a difference?  By my count, only the really great ones do this.   And many more of us need to.  So the  sales message of today’s Drift post is a pretty simple one:

Stop worrying about making the plan.  Obsess instead about making a difference.   Because if you make a difference, you’ll not only make the plan… you’ll be the plan.