Woe The Digital Sale: Getting In The Door

From the mailbag:


Hi, I'm a developer trying to gain traction in both the agency and publishing worlds. I have a product that I think can make a real difference in how the business works,  but getting traction isn't easy. This may seem like Sales 101, but please share any tips for getting me in the door.

Jason says: Ah, a refresher course. Yes, it is Sales 101, but it's only two credits, so I am sure I can help you out before finals. As a former publisher, I can tell you that my calendar could easily have been booked solid with nothing but vendor meetings. Thankfully, I am not a masochist. The fact is, only some of those companies could have actually added value to my business. I was always very selective in my screening process so as not to waste anyone's time. Having said that, here is what I suggest you do to gain entrance to the elusive world of Publishertopia:

1)    Who you gonna call? Please do not pretend to be her child's teacher in order to get through to the most senior person. You do not need to go to the top. On the contrary, many times, I had an account executive or marketing associate from my team recommend something they thought would be a help to them in their job. If it was important to them, I would certainly take a look to see if it was worthwhile and strategic for the business.



2)    Get a silver tongue. Make sure you have a good voice mail message to leave highlighting the value of your product. Do not overlook this. Not so short that I have no idea what you are pushing, but not so long that I polish off the M&M's on my desk trying to kill time until you are finished. It is basically an elevator pitch that should make me understand, pay attention and see value. The same goes for emails, of course.

3)    Say what? Make sure your Web site explains what you do. Sounds simple, right? What else could it do? You'd be surprised. I come across many sites where I am left trying to figure out what the purpose of the company is. I suggest having someone outside your industry look at your site cold and ask them to explain to you quickly what you do. If that person cannot tell you, odds are your prospective clients will not know either.

4)    In your face. Get a face-to-face meeting. I know, now you want to know what we smoke in Publishertopia.Easier said than done, right? Try this. Tell the person you only need 15 minutes (this is not meant to be a lie). If all goes well, the client will extend the meeting or ask you back in. Also, try to get a 7:30 a.m. meeting. That way, if accepted, you are the first meeting of the day so you will not get pushed back. Even if you are denied, at least the person will be impressed that you care enough about their time and their business to get up early.

5)    Feed me. In the figurative sense, I mean bring donuts or another treat to the meeting. In the literal sense, I mean send your professor some chocolate-chip cookies for giving you all this great free advice.

6)    Focus, focus, focus. Explain very clearly what you think the existing problem is and how your product will solve it and make the publisher more money.

7)    Sample sale. Have a trial version of your product. If you are a new entity, nobody is going to give you access to their team for something unproven. Have something "light" that is not in danger of becoming a time or money sucker. If you cannot install a trial version for your first customers before you prove yourself, you may be in trouble.

8)    Elicit feedback. Get quick feedback (good and bad) even if you will not be working with them. Definitely get next steps before you leave and resist the temptation to retrieve the donuts if the news is negative. That's not what I mean by feed back.

9)    Recycle. Ask the person for a referral to another site. All of the sales leaders and general managers know one another. That fact can be annoying, but in this situation, it can actually help you.

10) Honesty is the best policy. If you do get a referral and call those other sites, do not embellish your relationship with the person who referred you. Just say, "so-and-so gave me your name."

Well, that's the bell, and thus concludes our lesson for today. Amy, how do things work in that alternative universe called Agencyland?

Amy says: Agencyland is a bit different when it comes to technology.  And I'm not sure in a good way when it comes to trying to bring in something new. 

For larger agencies, technology decisions are commonly made at the holding company level and then distributed across a number of agencies who can or will use it.  Usually there is someone who is more inclined toward the operations and improvement of how digital advertising is managed, so you can try to seek out that person.

Another way in is to talk to folks who are at the agencies, toiling away every day, just waiting for your solution to arrive and sweep them off their feet and make their lives easier.  Taking this approach may be just as difficult however, as media folks are bombarded with new vendors all the time. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, agencies and technology is a tough mix, especially in this economy.  But if I may humbly add to Jason's list of tips above, "no" is just the first step toward a successful sale.  Good luck!

2 comments about "Woe The Digital Sale: Getting In The Door".
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  1. Bill Glass from Victoria James Executive Search, November 8, 2009 at 7:58 a.m.

    Jason's comments and Amy's comment are excellent. They apply to a wide variety of industries not just publishing and media. I'd like to underline finding the right person to approach and add researching the company, when possible, to find out if they really need your product.

    When I was managing a catalog for an international luxury company, I'd be approached by people offering services that they assumed we needed, but which were done in Europe or occupied so little of our time that it wasn't worth reviewing vendors. Very few of them understood how different real luxury was.

  2. Steve Noble from, November 9, 2009 at 12:45 p.m.

    I want to commend you on a great article. I have been selling video solutions to publishers for over 7 years. I consider myself good on the phone and you have made the article as concise and to the point as you recommend the door opening pitch be. I just started my own company and this will help me get back to the basics. Great job! Thanks for the insight.

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