When I was leading a media sales team a few years back, I had a conversation with a senior ad exec at Microsoft who had a reputation for being "all about the numbers." We were talking about what separated the very best publishers from all the rest, and he said that in the end it's all about the results -- and how well you deliver what you say you are going to deliver. But, he added, you can never underestimate the influence of salespeople who really act as partners and show that they care at least as much about the customer as they do for the company they represent.
The wisdom of that remark is one that my experience tells me everyone believes but few live by. It is the exceptional salespeople, I find, who know what problems their customers are trying to fix and what is personally important to an individual client. When salespeople really know and deliver to the objective results and subjective needs of a customer, magnificent things always happen.
The "Advertiser Intelligence Report,"
Advertiser Perceptions' semiannual survey of nearly two thousand marketers and ad agency decision-makers, makes this point emphatically. (Disclosure: I am currently doing consulting work for Advertiser Perceptions). In the most recent report, "Results" are the most important criteria in the selection of online media brands. This is followed by audience "Reach," "Composition" and "Engagement." "Results" includes a wide array of metrics, but here are the criteria that top the list:1. Number of impressions (54% rated it as extremely important)
2. Conversion rates (54%)
3. ROI (53%)
4. Number of visitors (50%)
5. Number of page views (48%)
Well worth noting: Only a quarter of the respondents, viewed "impact on sales," "time spent on the website" and "click through rates" as being "very important." Knowing, for example, that the typical ad decision-maker values page views as far more important than duration on a site, might reshape a discussion of audience engagement. Understanding that ROI is "very important" to more than double the decision-makers than sales impact, should lead to a conversation that clearly identifies what ROI means. And while we know that click-through rates are not mission-critical these days to most advertisers, on the other hand, this metric is important to a quarter of them. Know thy buyer!
With the emphasis on these numbers, what is the role of the salesperson representing a site? Is it possible that online marketers just need a spreadsheet or an online calculator in order to make their decisions?
Hardly. Year in and year out, the Advertiser Intelligence Report shows the pivotal role of the sales team in providing advanced skills to advertising decision-influencers. Of the 30 or so criteria in their evaluation of salespeople, note that media decision-makers are primarily looking for salespeople who know and understand the advertiser first and then work as collaborators in delivering solutions to their problems:1. Understands advertiser needs and priorities
2. Knows the media brands they represent
3. Knows the advertiser brand and products
5. Respects our time
6. Problem solver
Advertising decision-makers who give high grades to an online sales team also expect to do business with the online brand in the months ahead. Objective results and sales expertise therefore are closely connected to advertising decisions.
So the moral is that, to win the minds of top advertising decision-makers, online publishers absolutely need to provide the objective results. But equally important, salespeople must build collaborative relationships that demonstrate extraordinary understanding and problem-solving skills. When a sales team can do this consistently, they will win the hearts of the customer as well as their minds.