Woe The Digital Sale

Welcome to a look at the underside of the digital world: the buying and selling of digital advertising, products, and services. We'll highlight a few examples of what's going on in the community of hundreds of ad sellers, media buyers, technology vendors and buyers.

Over the years we've come to see that truth is certainly stranger than fiction -- so we want to hear from YOU. Please submit your true stories of the good, bad and ugly that fill our days and nights. The ground rules are simple: you tell us the truth and we'll never reveal you. Submit your story to, but don't include your name or company or any overly identifying features of the real characters -- just whose team you play for (buyer or seller of technology or media). Only Amy, Jason and our editor will see the stories.

Now that the rules are out of the way, here we go.

 STORY #1 Seller of digital advertising at a two-year-old startup:

I made a call on a very big digital buying agency; there were six planners in the room. I started by asking questions about what they were working on with their client and nobody talked. I started working into a presentation and nobody talked. When I was done, nobody talked. And I asked them lots of questions. I have no next steps, nothing to build a plan with, no real reason to call them back. Is it them or me?

Jason: Ouch. Brutal sales call... the worst. Good news is, we've all been there. The bad news is, you know we'll all be there again soon.  I'm assuming you knew the client(s) you were pitching for and knew something about them. If not, that might have helped if you had a very pointed question or comment about their current plans.

If you know you did everything you can, you have to ask yourself if there's really the right fit for them for what you're selling. If you think there is, time to go to Plan B: contact the most influential person who was in the room and try to get them one-on-one out of the office for a drink or a meal.  Then, after a conversation in a more relaxed setting you'll really know if there's anything for you to build on (I've also got plans C through F if necessary, that we'll cover as this column goes on).

Amy:  Wow, was it a media team or just podpeople posing as media planners? I would be mortified if this were my team, but maybe they just needed a bit more time to warm up to the offering -- or the chemistry wasn't there.  The other alternative would be that the planners really didn't know their own clients' businesses but that is too tragic to even consider. 

When things are feeling weird in a meeting, I would say change the subject. The point is to build a relationship and if your business offering isn't tasty bait, just ask what their plans for the weekend are or were. As Loverboy points out, everybody's working for the weekend -- so if you can't get a conversation started over that, I'm not sure the planners were the problem in this meeting.

STORY #2 Seller of digital advertising at traditional media company:

I made an appointment for a group sales presentation at one of the biggest digital ad agencies there is. I made the appointment over two months ago (I'm not kidding). Then I when I sent a confirmation note the day before, that's right, I got a cancellation because they had to "deal w client sorry to do this at the last minute...we'll reschedule."

Jason: OK, here we go. This is one of the more pedantic issues of recent sales times : "to confirm or not to confirm?"  Salespeople have become more reluctant of late to send out a confirmation note the day before a meeting because they simply feel that if they do, it gives the buyer the "out" to cancel. I think this should have been covered in second grade and never been an issue, but as the business has become more mature, the people in it have gone in the opposite direction. 

Call me old-school, but I think every meeting should be confirmed the day before for politeness.  And if the person on the other end really doesn't have the time and doesn't engage in a meeting because they keep checking their watch, then I don't want to be there. My time is valuable, too. 

Now if the person on the other end really needs to cancel, you better initiate the note and not wait for the seller to send it to you. Once you get that confirmation note, Mr./Ms. Agency Person, that meeting is considered locked and loaded.  As Papi said "And on this topic, no reasonable human being can think otherwise."

Amy:  Two months lead time, eh?  Let me get out my crystal ball and see what will be happening for me at work two months from now.  Or, wait -- let me try to remember what I was doing at work two months ago.  My point here is that two months is way too long in advance to schedule a meeting and then just confirm one day before.  I can see how it's great to get advanced booking for meetings, but confirming just one day ahead puts everyone in a awkward situation. 

Since the commitment was made, the agency could have at least sent one or two folks to meet with the salesperson just to keep the meeting.  I'm sure EVERYONE wasn't working on the client issue.  The learning here though is, one-day confirmation is not enough if the original appointment was made weeks ago.  I agree that confirming meetings is important, and a quick email or appointment update does the trick.  However, the timing of the confirmation should be reasonably timed for potential rescheduling or cancellation.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go confirm all my meetings for next week.


2 comments about "Woe The Digital Sale".
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  1. John Faulkner from The Drew Morgan Company, July 10, 2009 at 12:47 p.m.

    My career dates before the Internet and email meeting confirmations, and I learned a very valuable and expensive lesson early on. I had an appointment with a major brand 2,000 miles from my office. I had other appointments in the area, but this was the driving force behind making the sales trip. I show-up early for the appointment and am announced to my client, only to be told by the receptionist that they did not have time to see me and to reschedule. I was stunned, confused and completely at a loss for my next step. I demanded to at least meet for a handshake in the lobby, regardless if I had to wait hours to get it. Eventually we did meet for about three minutes and we did do business a few months later. However, the client never showed any remorse or even the comprehension that I had traveled so far.

    Needless to say I confirm all appointments now, and am thanked by my clients for doing so.

  2. Tony Anderson from Incline Video, July 10, 2009 at 2:38 p.m.

    Loverboy is a cool band. Kinda old but cool. But really....know the ad agencies client roster like the back of your hand and speak to a specific account in which the planners are planning for. You gotta have a warm-up routine. Agency planners are about to entrust you with potentiall a seven figure budget!
    Do your home work and have a game plan. You MUST use tools like Ad Relevance to learn where that brand is running online now, which sites its running on and what their creative suite looks like. Publishers MUST DIFFERENTIATE your offer from the rest of the crowd. Happy selling!

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