Managing Direct Sales In A Programmatic World

It’s no longer feasible to be a premium online publisher without a programmatic offering.  The mistake, however, is an over-reliance on private marketplace or open exchange revenue to be successful.  Direct-ad deals sold are your “Tom Brady” -- they march you toward your quarterly goal line.  Programmatic is your kicker.

Success selling direct deals to media buyers (and their clients) still requires common blocking and tackling skills.  However, techniques have to change to compete in this new media world where sales meetings are harder to come by, leverage to close a deal is harder to locate, and the complexity of executing ad campaigns suffocates the reasons why the buy should occur in the first place.  

Managing a direct-sales team is a weekly job that gets repeated 52 times a year.  Here’s how I would approach each week to get the most out of the year.

Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays



I would ask my team to schedule sales meetings only on these days.  By limiting sales meetings to just three days a week:

A.  More of your sales reps will have multiple meetings in one day, which makes them better those days.  

B.  You limit the supply of your salespeople’s time, which sends a subtle message their time is in high demand.  Publishers have to start gaining back increments of sales leverage, and this is a small step in that direction.

C.  Your share of voice among buyers increases on these days and your sales communication improves because your sale reps now have consistent and structured time to better prepare for these meetings.


Too few salespeople read content on their sites with enough passionate intent to excel at channeling the user experience on sales calls.  Mondays would include mandatory time spent reading the site they get paid to sell.  

I would schedule a Monday afternoon meeting/conference call so salespeople can then share what they found compelling on the site, and how they may weave this content into their meetings that week.

Then I would share which stories from the prior week were the top three based on total visits so they can choose to use this insight in their meetings as well.

Monday, is also of course, a day they can use to fill in their schedules for that week.


Tuesdays would be the key to success.

I would insist sales and marketing people work together most of this day to customize a three-slide deck each salesperson must have prepared for each of their scheduled meetings.  

Slide One:  Spells out the client’s marketing problem you aim to solve.  

Slide Two:  Includes content example(s) that match your brand’s DNA to that advertiser.

Slide Three:  Outlines a million-dollar program that uniquely integrates that advertiser into your site experience while appearing to solve the client’s marketing problem.

Slides one and two take work and are a fantastic exercise.  Slide three requires confidence that you got slides one and two right.  

It takes great sales and marketing people to develop a custom and succinct big idea — but proposing one to a buyer who doesn’t expect it takes guts.  When presented well, at a minimum the buyer will see your brand in a more favorable light. The upside builds from there.  Of course there will be times when walking through a big-dollar idea won’t make sense, but not having one prepared is a sales felony.

On Tuesday afternoons, I would coordinate peer-to-peer prep meetings where salespeople role-play the most important meeting they have that week with another salesperson.  Sales meetings are so hard to get it makes sense to build in time for dress rehearsals.

Now when Wednesday morning hits, tag along on a few meetings or just get out of the way.  Your job now is to prioritize which opportunities soak up your support resources to help produce the most revenue.

Finally, on Friday I would make it my job to ensure a memorable lunch is catered for one media department per week — so by the end of the year, your brand has sponsored the stomachs of 52 different ad agencies.

In an ever-changing media industry, some things never change.

2 comments about "Managing Direct Sales In A Programmatic World".
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  1. Brian Quinn from Triad Retail Media, February 16, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

    Really good stuff here Ari! Love how you break out an ideal week for sellers. Cheers.. BQ

  2. robert fritze from Chromium Brand+Culture, March 18, 2017 at 1:16 p.m.

    Ari,  Great food for thought in an ever changing business.  It's a structure worth considering and I like both the internal and external interactions. Thanks,  Bob

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