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You Sell Online Advertising, But Do You Have a Sales Plan?

Posted by Mort Greenberg on October 27, 2008

With all of the recent news about job cuts and ad spending declines, even with online, how can an online sales person stand out?

In the fall of 2006 during a job interview the CEO of a new, well funded, online media company asked me if I ever read the book “Hope is Not a Strategy”. This guy had founded, and sold several software companies, and made lots of money from them. He wanted to know what type of sales strategies online sales people used.

His former heads of sales it turns out all had very elaborate systems for their teams. My initial comment was that when an RFP comes in at 3pm on a Friday and is due by 5pm the same day it can be tough to map out a full strategy. He knew that I was referring to a very short sales cycle with online, versus a very long sales cycle for software that could be a year or more.

However, as we started talking about quarterly and annual planning that most online businesses do, he jumped in again and asked, “but what planning do the sellers do to” ? At the end of the conversation he gave me a homework assignment to read the book “Hope is Not a Strategy” I read the book, wrote a report, believe it or not, and had a new view on how to better sell.

At the end is a link to the report, and below are a few thoughts from this book as it can apply to online ad sales. More importantly, this blog post is meant to be a motivator for any online sales person looking for an edge right now. Additionally, anyone on the ad agency side, who pitch new business as frequently as ad sales people do, may find this valuable too.

1) It is almost impossible to give a tailored, focused presentation if you haven’t spent time face to face with the client before the presentation.

2) Did you have a team strategy session prior to the presentation?

3) Selling ad solutions (Or agency solutions) means reducing risk for the client by taking responsibility for account management, custom ad integration, and deal optimization.

After weeks of back and forth during this long job interview, and conversations about sales strategy, I received a call that I was the finalist, and then presented with the offer. It seemed that not only did no one else read the book, but no one else put in as much time to create a relationship with the CEO. By putting in the time to learn about this person, my customer in many ways, I was able to understand his view of what online advertising was, and could be for his business. In the end I chose to join a different company, and not because of him or the process, that only made it much more difficult to say no. However, this process reinforced that taking the time to get to know someone, their views, and never giving up when you need to fight can go a long way.

hope-is-not-a-strategy

One Response to “You Sell Online Advertising, But Do You Have a Sales Plan?”

  1. steve said

    Sounds interesting i will have to look into the book. Profiling your client as well as their market is defintely a way to make you you deliver what is the best offering for all involved. And sometimes in that profiling process you might realise it is not going to be in your best interests to push on with a proposal or project that is going to be right for you. good read cheers Mort.

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