“The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.
Today's column is written by Jeremy Hlavacek, vice president of global automated monetization at The Weather Co., an IBM business.
Imagine if today was your first day at your first job in digital media sales. You have no experience, no long list of industry contacts and no well-honed navigational skills to understand who does what so you can find the right decision-makers.
Your boss hands you three key documents and tells you to get up to speed – immediately. The three documents you must review: a list of all current marketer clients and their recent campaigns, a detailed map of the agency and holding company landscape and a pile of assorted Lumascapes for various channels, including display, video and mobile.
Not so easy, is it?
I would submit that even the most educated, motivated and ambitious new media seller would find it nearly impossible to make sense of all the connections and complexity that go into selling a digital ad. Sales leaders feel like their teams are constantly behind the curve. Sellers are monumentally stressed out by a challenging combination of intense pressure to achieve and maddening difficulty to execute.
In many articles that describe these type of challenging sales scenarios, the authors often start down a path of “Why can’t we go back to the good old days?” Unfortunately, that’s impossible. In fact, I personally think complexity of technology and ecosystem companies is likely to increase.
So, what can be done? Should those frustrated new sellers break out the LSAT/GMAT study guides?
Not so fast.
In my opinion, there are a few easy strategies that media sales leaders can deploy to make their teams more successful.
Simplify The Supply Chain
As much as industry mappings and Lumascapes can create confusion, I believe there are really only three strategic areas to focus on: marketers, agencies and ad tech companies. Every media sale has at least one stakeholder in each of these buckets. Marketers are the “clients” at the brands. Agencies act as an “agent” or adviser to a client. Ad tech refers to a platform or technology company that is helping to execute the buy.
All three of these buckets contain decision-makers, and a sale can be blocked by any one of them. To be successful, it’s important that each stakeholder gets what they need out of the process. Sellers must pay attention to all three groups and try to understand their motivations. There will be blurred lines, and while the three are not necessarily all equal, they nevertheless all require attention.
In a sales leader’s dream world, the sales team would be up on every burning thought leadership issue in digital media and making the smartest, most strategic recommendations to clients. However, every sales leader does not want the team spending all of their time reading industry articles and going to conferences. The job is to get out and spend time with clients.
I think a sensible solution to this challenge is to have a healthy team of specialists who are truly excellent in their subject matter and available to help sellers succeed. Specialists need to have a unique combination of IQ and EQ. They have to understand complex issues inside and out, but they also need to be highly collaborative.
Sales leaders will often cringe at adding additional steps to the process, but I think it’s a small price to pay. The alternative is to have teams that move at lightning speed but don’t know what they are talking about. That’s a path toward a transactional team that will repel large strategic partners.
This is the hardest one to execute but perhaps the most important. Even if you have successfully simplified your view on the supply chain and you have a killer team of specialists helping your team close deals, you are still not out of the woods because this is a highly dynamic ecosystem where all the pieces are moving parts.
Clients change agencies, agencies change tech partners, some agencies are trying to become tech platforms, some tech platforms work directly with clients like an agency and holding companies buy and reorganize agencies and tech platforms. So just when you think you have it all mapped out, someone will throw you a curveball. Don’t be fazed by it. Think through what the person or company is actually executing, try to put them in a bucket and navigate accordingly.
Perhaps the hardest problem of all is the constant movement of people around the ecosystem. You may spend all your time convincing the smartest and most important influencer at the agency to buy in only to find that he has switched jobs and now works at a competitive tech platform. Suddenly the client is hearing a different recommendation from a trusted and influential source. The landscape has instantly changed. People move around and expertise and influence goes with them, so the kryptonite to this problem is ultimately a great network.
It’s a jungle out there. Everything is in flux at all times. However, remember the lessons of evolution: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”