We’re at a critical inflection point for how brands are born and thrive, how advertising is defined and how and where it works, how measurement and attribution happen, and much more.
Seismic changes are happening fast, and all at once. What IAB calls “The Great Reset” is at hand. Is your team ready to react? Are their priorities in the right place?
As leader of the IAB CRO Council, I’ve been talking with dozens of the industry’s top sales leaders about where their organizations are focusing to thrive in 2021. Here’s what I’m hearing, and what your sales team needs to hear.
1. “I feel the need, the need for speed”
When an RFP comes in, your team needs to jump on it and deliver fast. We’re not talking about a week or two — if Amazon can deliver a 2,500-pound variable-speed sander in a couple of days with free shipping, you can answer an RFP that fast.
Task a 2-3 person team of promising salespeople with interviewing the other sales people about your current sales processes. Have them distill what they learn into a presentation, and ask them to brainstorm ways to make those processes faster.
Worst case, they’ll get a refresher course in what works well from your experienced salespeople. Best case, they’ll come up with a few genuinely good ideas that can help you speed your way to success.
2. No stale insights, ever
Customers expect real-time insights and real solutions to their problems. Peddling generic inventory coupled with year-old “insights” won’t work.
Think hard about the challenges facing a specific industry. What do they need, and how can your solution help in ways that others can’t? For example, do they need to drive people to a retail location? Do they need to drive web visits? Do they need to generate more and better first party data?
Ask your clients what they’re sick to death of hearing (e.g. “we drove 2x click-throughs for a campaign in 2018…”) and what challenges they wish they had better answers for. Listen hard to those answers, and build your insight and solution muscle around it.
3. Fewer dollars up front, but plenty all year
You’re going to have to hustle for every scarce dollar up front, and every incremental dollar throughout the year. This, more than ever, will be the year when go-getters make their quotas and sleepy salespeople don’t.
Challenge your sales team. What’s their plan if this year’s up front spend is half what it was last year? What if it’s only a quarter of what it was last February? There’s always demand out there, but your sales team needs to be reminded that they’ll need to be hunting every day.
Waiting for the RFPs to roll in might be a very long wait. But a well-timed email or phone call when new budgets have just been approved can work wonders.
4. Smart succeeds
Leverage every insight you can from your platform to help marketers understand changes in consumer behavior, and they will run to you, checkbooks in hand. Brands need what you know.
In-market A/B testing of ads can be faster, cheaper, and more predictive than market research — especially in a marketplace where consumers may not even be able to accurately articulate how their behavior has changed.
Ask your clients what they wished they knew and get creative about helping them to find the answers. Anybody can sell inventory. Not everybody can sell intelligence.
If you can, you will win.
5. The 2021 marketing wars will be fought zip code by zip code
If you have incredible, real-time local and geo-location insights, you’re in a great position to benefit. The economy will come back zip code by zip code, and market by market.
If you can show marketers where the money is, they’ll buy from you.
If you can’t show marketers where the money is, go to a friendly buyer and ask them to pilot a program with you that helps you figure out your methodology. You can discount the impressions if you need to, because you can tell management that the short-term goal is to build stronger capabilities you can monetize later. Some sales leaders are using unused T&E budgets as funds for clients to test their property given tickets to events, dinners out and sunglass parties are so 2019.
Better to leverage your unsold inventory to build muscle and relationships than to just dump it on the exchanges for pennies on the dollar. Be ready to work harder to build strengths.
6. Shift from “what can I sell” to “how can I help” mindset.
One-size-fits-all plans are never a good idea in any economy, but they’re a formula for disaster now. You need to meet your clients where they are, with plans that fit their pain.
Don’t take a shallow approach to this, and don’t assume that “of course my solution is the perfect solution”. You’ll build your customers’ respect if you invest the time to really understand what they need — and you’ll earn their trust if you’re honest and tell them why your solution isn’t exactly the best fit.
Now more than ever, don’t just peddle a generic sack of impressions all over town. Get ready to fight hard to help your friends and customers win.
7. Reach out to be a friend, not just to make a sale
To quote legendary salesman Zig Ziglar: “If you go out looking for friends, you’re going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Now is the right time to do all you can to help your friends who are in verticals that are struggling. Make your numbers by helping the industries that are thriving make the most of it and make a difference by bending over backwards to help your friends in verticals that are fighting their way back to success.
Also, remember that some of your best clients might find themselves out of a job. Help them network, help them brainstorm opportunities for what’s next, and help them land a new job that makes them richer and happier.
It’s more fun — and more profitable — to work with clients who are also friends. Go out there and earn that trust.
8. The world needs zestier Zoom
Re-think your sales pitch to work virtually – use engagement techniques and focus on what value/insights you bring versus what you want to sell. Remember that your customers are people who’ve been binge-watching wildly addictive entertainment for months on the same screen that you’re on. You can’t afford to be less interesting.
Have your junior salespeople practice their pitch to you on screen — but ignore what they’re saying and focus on what you’re seeing. Are they visibly engaged, or just going through the motions? Are they leaning too hard on the pitch deck, or too far off-script and winging it? Are they building your confidence, or losing your interest?
Also, think about how you can compress your sales calls. Can you do a thirty-minute call in fifteen minutes? Can you do that same call in ten minutes?
Ten fun, compelling minutes is much better than thirty meandering minutes. Trust me when I say there’s not a human being alive who bought because the sales pitch took longer to get to the point.
9. Focus on the fundamentals, and encourage young salespeople to do the same
Everything you would normally do to sharpen your focus on the fundamentals is even more important now. If you’re not busy enough closing sales, get busy researching the challenges your prospects are facing, the insights you can bring to the table, and the difference you can really deliver to their business. Hustle while you wait, and don’t wait to hustle.
10. Stay positive
Things now aren’t easy but remember that we’re on the upswing. More people will get vaccinated, fewer people will get sick and die, and more and better opportunities are on their way. Keep yourself, your team, and your prospects inspired. It matters.