So I finally saw "Million Dollar Baby" on-demand. It is a very tough movie about a tender-hearted guy who has to make the ultimate tough decision. And it's about his protégé who knows what she wants, and is willing to do what it takes to get it.
In one of the early scenes, the aspiring boxer is working out; and behind her on the wall is a sign that reads "Winners will do what Losers won't." It's a clear and strong statement about the fearfully competitive world of boxing. It is also a notice that most certainly applies to the fiercely competitive world of advertising sales and what it takes to build a winning sales team.
I wrote a month ago that "What Matters Most" to successful Internet publishers is excellence in sales. More recently, fellow columnist Ari Rosenberg wrote about "Carrying a Bag." Both addressed requirements for success in the competitive world of digital advertising sales. Winning at digital advertising sales requires doing what the competition won't.
Thousands of salespeople are trying to call on a few hundred major advertisers. And at the same time, as advertisers have tried to become more efficient, they have squeezed the funding required to maintain agencies with sufficient staff to do more than give cursory consideration to alternatives. To put a point on it, buyers have very limited time to dedicate to meeting with media reps.
In a world of many choices for advertisers, sales-person-ship is more important than ever. Salesmanship starts with a sales call. More sales calls scheduled is "job one." Are you providing your sales people with tactics and resources to help with job one? Or are you handing them a list, patting them on the back, and saying "go get'em, champ?" Here are the best practices for you support a winning team in digital media advertising sales:
· Goals and expectations: Salespeople benefit from intermediate goals that lead in a stair step fashion to success. If your salespeople are averaging one real sales appointment per day, the goal should be two. If they are doing three telephone appointments a day, you should be helping them aim for four. If you don't know this metric, you need a system to track it. All good CRM systems make it easy to track this without taking up the time of the salespeople. You can't manage what you can't measure.
· Tactics: Your salespeople need reasons to have sales appointments. "I'd like to tell you about my internet property Blah-blah," just won't cut it. That is like going on a blind date and talking the whole time about yourself. It's a sure way not to have a second date. And sales is like mating -- you need second dates! You need to supply (train?) your sales people with background, expertise, research and ideas that will allow them to propose a meeting by saying: "I know something about your needs (or about your market), Mr. Advertiser, and I have information that will help you -- perhaps a solution that will make you a hero." That is a meeting a prospective advertiser would want to have.
· Resources: Too many sales people call on only one person per account. They try to see the "buyer" or the "planner," or in today's jargon filled world the "engagement specialist." But decisions on advertising are made by a committee. And sales people need to be calling on multiple influencers in the decision process. It is often very difficult to determine whom to call on. Your salespeople need resources like Advertising Database that helps them understand and access contact information for all the members of the media decision hierarchy. Keep in mind the "buyer" who says they are the decision-maker really means they "decide" what to recommend. And they want to recommend something that will be easily approved.
If your salespeople are going to "know something" relevant to the advertisers, they are not going to get it out of thin air, but from resources you supply them. Salespeople need not only a stream of news about their industry so they know the issues their customers have (easy to get), but they need research about prospective advertisers' markets. Media buying research like Nielsen NetRatings or ComScore MediaMetrix is a place to start, but since all your competition has that too, it's no competitive advantage. ESPN's innovative research on the "sports fan market" is a great example.
Sales calls, whether in person or on the phone, represent the opportunity to capture the attention of buyers and begin the sales process. They are harder and hard to get. Being scarce, sales calls are more and more valuable. Prepare and support your team to maximize this scarce critical metric in order to maximize your revenue.