“The Sell Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.
Today’s column is by Patrick O’Leary, founder and CEO at boostr.
Much has changed in selling media and advertising. The original relationship-focused DNA of the typical ad seller is no longer sufficient to thrive. Programmatic has flipped the equation, requiring strong analytical and numerical skills.
The future advertising seller looks more like a chameleon; they're a marketing consultant, fluent across all buying channels, more technical than ever, and they can still foster quality relationships.
If media companies wish to remain competitive in today’s unsettling media market, they must find a way to attract sellers that are willing to adapt to their environment. And where they find the new recruits out of college may look very different.
Wanted: analytical and technical skills
The lines between ad sales, data analytics and technical expertise continue to blur. Programmatic buyers have become increasingly analytical and sophisticated. In order to work together and service clients, the future advertising sellers will have to mirror those same skills and surpass them.
Today not only do advertising sellers need to understand the multifactor analysis of combining audience sizes or data segments, but they also have to juggle technical execution issues pertaining to the campaigns deployed by their teams. Their daily exposure to the myriad three-letter acronyms like DSP, SSP or DMP make them in-house experts. With insight into how these platforms work, advertising sellers can work confidently with buyers and ensure the right outcomes for clients.
Sellers become project managers during technical hiccups, such as pixels not firing, ads not loading and low bid or win rates impacting client spend. They get pulled in to triage the root cause and help buyers and in-house teams resolve these issues. The best sellers know how to troubleshoot campaign hurdles, not shy away from the technical conversations, and translate that back to business outcomes.
A seller's ability to quickly adapt and execute is an invaluable asset in today’s unstable market. From data analysis to technical glitches or learning the ins-and-outs of a platform, the future advertising seller will have to tackle each task head on and use their knowledge to inform their next steps.
Enter the marketing consultant role
It’s not just hard data and numbers that make a successful advertising seller. In order to remain viable, the job description will require more marketing consulting expertise such as knowledge in consumer behavior, how their customer’s industry works and the ability to identify and expand a company’s target market.
Customers need business results and not just CPMs and KPIs. Integrated campaigns are commonplace, so sellers must know how these tactics work together synergistically. Sellers who can’t combine products into solutions will be relegated to tactical leftover budgets.
No one is immune to changes in the publishing industry when it comes to driving revenue. Advertising sellers must be agile, with a constant finger on the pulse of the industry and the insights to update and improve processes. As the industry continues to modernize, ad sellers need a deep understanding of the ecosystem, their potential customers and the ability to effectively counsel their publisher or ad tech firm accordingly.
Developing the expertise to be effective is challenging. For industry skills, sellers should seek training and certifications from organizations like IAB and Prohaska Consulting. If sellers don’t come from a technical background they’ll want to build these skills with a curriculum around math, analysis and basic technical fluency. Sellers will also need to chart a course to more deeply understand customer industries, trends and opportunities. And sellers will need to be highly effective at negotiation, persuasion and project management to influence externally and internally. The dilemma is unless an employer has built a world class onboarding and training program ala IBM, which most don’t do in this industry, individuals are left to figure this out on their own. There’s a significant market opportunity here.
The future advertising seller will be a chameleon. They will not be tied down to their job description, which may evolve in lockstep. Sellers must identify revenue opportunities while applying their analytical and technical acumen. They’ll be perceived as a partner and clients will seek their counsel. Their role continues to change, and their expertise will aid their their organizations in winning back a slice of the media pie.