In the past, clients who asked a media sales person, "Why should I buy your ad products?" also were asking the implied question, "Why should I do business with you?"
The inverse was also true. A client who asked, "Why should I do business with you?" implied, "Why should I buy your ad products?"
These two questions have been inseparable because media sales people and their inventory have always been a package deal. But that's changing. Technology has given marketers, sponsors, and their advertising agencies the power to self-serve when they purchase media, which has the immediate effect of separating these two questions.
The new reality is that a client who asks, "Why should I purchase your ad products?" will not necessarily mean, "Why should I do business with you?"
Indeed, anyone with the right software can sit in his kitchen in Seattle and purchase media across the country in New York or in his hometown of Seattle without ever speaking to a single sales person.
Of course, while the concept of self-service might be a fairly new dynamic between buyers and sellers of media products, it's pretty much old news everywhere else. When you finally decide to buy that 60-inch Samsung you've been thinking about, can you envision driving down to Best Buy to buy it from their sales people or will you just order it from Amazon?
The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer. To do that, you have to do those things that will make people want to do business with you. - Theodore Levitt
So, how might your sales people make your clients want to do business with them?
As a manager, you can train and coach your sales people to take three courses of action.
- Take responsibility for helping their clients grow their businesses.
The best way to communicate your expectations of your sales people is through the questions you ask. When you meet with your sales people, ask them questions that will get them focused on helping their clients grow their businesses.
Do they know exactly how their clients make money? What are their clients' most profitable products? What different target consumer segments are they pursuing? Which competitors are trying to steal their business?
Little by little, you will teach your sales people how to arrive at a point of view on what it would take to grow their clients' businesses.
- Do the one thing computers cannot: Use imagination to create and develop ideas for their clients.
When I say "idea," I mean a persuasive campaign. It's not enough to identify the ad products that make the most sense for the client to use. Why not go all the way and propose the messaging, the creative copy that you think they should use? You know your community. You know your audience. Write the persuasive message on behalf of the client.
- Be as proactive as they would be if they worked for the client’s company instead of yours.
It is sometimes shocking how much time media sales people spend waiting and hoping for the business to come their way. Teach your sales people that you expect them to come up with ideas and present them to their clients as proactively as they would if they actually worked for the client's company.
Why would they wait for an RFP? After all, they are part of the client's team! Teach them that the time to propose an idea to a client is when they see an opportunity to help and not only when the client is ready to buy media.
The rapid advance of the self-serve technology that today we call “programmatic” is going to challenge the very existence of media sales departments. You, as the manager, can train your sales people to remain relevant and to continue to deliver value that will make your clients eager to do business with them.