Sales Focus: Got Any Inventory?

If you sell media, you sleep with your quota. If you float easily past your number, you sleep like a baby. If trending below it, you're as jumpy as a kid who guzzled a gallon of soda before bedtime.

Missing your quota is like coming up short for Tony Soprano. It can only happen a few times before it never happens again. The mood and behavior in the corridors of multimedia publishing companies is affected by where a salesperson, and consequently a sales team, stands versus a revenue goal. The less sleep people get, the more tense things become.

Buyers have always known what keeps sellers up at night, and they professionally manipulate this fear in order to buy what they want at a cheaper rate. So how can online publishers regain leverage? They must first figure out what keeps a buyer from sleeping. I was recently reminded of the emotional fears buyers sleep with when I had to purchase ad space last month for the first time since Harry met Sally.

It was an ad in New York's Village Voice to promote a show for a singer/songwriter friend of mine. After struggling to reach the right salesperson, I began to worry that I wouldn't get the ad in the paper in time. After two days, I finally reached someone, but that night in between reminded me of the sleep-chasing fear that can keep buyers up at night.

Once media buyers have identified what they need to buy for their client, their biggest fear is that it will not be there by the time they have approval to buy it. Regardless of the medium, scarcity is the only thing that gives a buyer insomnia. Other job-related stresses may keep them at work late, but sleeping troubles only come when a client needs to be in a certain place at a certain time and the buyer fails to get them there. So how can online publishers help their own cause? Create the illusion of scarcity. This is a challenge for interactive venues where impressions are plentiful. Here are a few ideas:

Create a single, sponsored editorial package: "Top 10" editorial lists are created because they come with a natural hype that makes them easier to sell. Develop a promotion touting the "Top 10" something of the year. Have a single presenting sponsor, and spell out exactly how the sponsor will tie in to the event and the promotions leading up to its unveiling.

Then make sure the idea sets sail with a sponsor on board, even if it's not sold. Upgrade an existing advertiser into that slot if you need to, and then promote the package with a press release citing the perfect union  but keep the terms "undisclosed." That way you will have something to use when you sell it again the following year.

Sell a one-day roadblock of your entire site to one advertiser: Pick a day like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is known as the springboard to the holiday shopping season (or any other day that has a marketing target on it). Put a huge price tag on it, and start selling it months in advance. By selling it exclusively, you have created a winner-take-all contest among your target accounts.

Follow the leaders: Yahoo! and msn sell their home pages to one advertiser for the entire day. Instead of carving up the gazillion impressions their home pages generated in a given year, they neatly slice them into 365 days. They add further value by selling these daily fixed positions exclusively.

Scarcity is a time-tested formula of limiting supply, which increases demand. Increasing the value of this limited supply is the challenge. But if done right, you will sell what you created at a higher price because buyers fear missing out. This will keep them up at night, but you may finally get a decent night's sleep.

Ari Rosenberg is a media sales consultant and principal at Performance Pricing. (

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