A Tricky Transition: Getting Digital Ad Sales Teams Ready For Programmatic

darentrousdellsellsiderThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Daren Trousdell, CEO at OneUp Sports.

Most publishers that are embarking on a programmatic solution will quickly reach a fork in the road with their direct ad sales strategy. Depending on what direction they take, they could be headed for obsolescence and interference or to an expanded offering.

To reach the latter, they must have the right strategy and platforms, and pay attention to the technology and human factors that can sometimes make the transition complicated.

Depending on the organization’s size, a successful transition lies beyond a coexistence of methodologies. The combination of programmatic’s automated marketplace and relationship-centric direct sales efforts creates a larger opportunity than either method on its own. The most successful organizations will embrace both.

To get the most out of a combined sales strategy, steps must be taken to reorganize the ad sales team. Sometimes the promise of programmatic platforms can make it seem like automation can solve all inefficiencies. Relationships, however, matter more than ever in this new model and it’s critical to build a team that can grow to deliver a combined strategy.

While some headlines suggest several organizations have cut back and eliminated roles within their organization charts, I believe there is plenty of room for the right people. The next generation of ad sales expert will be even more well rounded than those before, with a keen understanding of data and analytics and the ability to foster strong interpersonal relationships.

One immediate first step is to expand the sales team’s roles to include participation in the onboarding and training in new programmatic platforms and relationships. In some cases, there would be a skills gap that effective education can solve, making good teams future-proof.

The benefits are immediate. Since programmatic platforms, for example, are a lead-generation tool, publishers gain access to advertisers that are evaluating and bidding on all forms of available inventory. With the right platforms, publishers also get access to deep prospecting data that can fuel their sales team’s efforts, providing an immediate lead-generation opportunity.

The same platform data can be used to shape campaigns and media plans. The data held within the best platforms offer a treasure trove of insights that can be used to package and price inventory and shape new deals.

By offering both options, the sales team can make more money. It’s not getting any easier selling direct. Pricing is under pressure by new mediums and formats. It also takes most sales organizations a significant ramp-up to reach a consistent flow of ad dollars. Programmatic is almost instantaneous in delivery, depending on the platform, and the direct sales team can see a large increase in volume.

Change is difficult for many people, but it is imperative for individual and collective development. Once the direct ad sales team gets over any initial fears, the education and growth in opportunity will be clear to the best people. Most importantly, publishers that grow their direct sales team to deliver a comprehensive solution will gain a distinct advantage in the marketplace and a smoother road getting to their destination.

Follow Daren Trousdell (@dtrous), OneUp Sports (@oneupsports_) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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