How To Build A Programmatic Sales Team

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

Today’s column is written by Brian Mikalis, senior vice president of monetization at Pandora.

Publishers that sell directly to advertisers and agencies are now faced with how to handle programmatic sales.

Traditional RFPs have recently started including questions about publishers’ programmatic capabilities and data sharing, as well as requirements around automating the buying process for upfront and longer-term deals. This has shifted rapidly over the past year, and publisher sales teams without answers to these questions will be at a disadvantage.

So how should publishers set up their sales organization so they’re equipped to take advantage of this ever-changing landscape?

The first thing to do is consider which stage your organization is in with regard to understanding programmatic and its willingness to adapt, embrace and devote resources to making programmatic a part of the sales offering.

Strategize With Multiple Stakeholders 

If you’re ready to make programmatic a priority, you’ll need the right strategy and the one that represents interests and objectives across the company. Get a cross-functional working group of advocates together to talk through how programmatic can play a part in the overall sales strategy. Picking a vendor to support programmatic efforts is just one potential part of the process, which should be led by product; vendors should not drive programmatic sales strategies.

You’ll need to think through tough questions internally with multiple stakeholders. Will programmatic cannibalize existing revenue or effect yield? Will programmatic cause internal channel conflict? Will your sales team embrace programmatic or push back (sales compensation will come into play here)? What will make your inventory stand out in a crowded marketplace? How will you enable or protect your data?

These are just a few of the issues you’ll need to get the internal buy-in and resources behind to move forward. Each publisher will also have its unique set of questions based on their own approaches to sales and monetization.

Get The Right Resources 

Let’s assume you’ve made it to this step and now have a technology solution in place to start accepting programmatic advertising. You’ve also decided to either pursue a private exchange or programmatic direct strategy, since this limits many of the risks publisher are faced with when moving into programmatic.

Most publishers start doing some tests leveraging the team that has worked on the indirect/remnant monetization side of the business. This team makes sense for a test case given they have worked on the business that most closely resembles how programmatic started through open exchanges.

Shortly after kicking off testing, within this team, you’ll want to make someone or a small number of people exclusively focused on and dedicated to programmatic. It can’t be part of someone’s job. If it’s a part-time job, things will surely slip because there is a lot to do to get ramped up in an area that is new and evolving quickly.

If there’s not someone in your organization who is passionate and well-versed in programmatic, ideally you’ll want to hire someone. The ideal candidate would have operational experience in the programmatic space that can help shape the program and talk to a whole new set of partners you will need to start dealing with on a daily basis. This person should have experience working with demand-side platforms (DSP), data management platforms and agency trading desks. This group will be the sell-side equivalent of the agency trading desk.

Generate Demand 

Once you have some tests under your belt, it’s time to start generating the demand. You’ll want a programmatic sales leader who can work alongside your existing sales teams to evangelize programmatic in a way that complements your current offering in the market. The goal here isn’t to make a drastic shift in your sales strategy, but rather to add another sales tool to match the way the demand side is moving.

In addition, to accelerate the messaging of the programmatic offering across the sales organization, you’ll want to train ambassadors that can help evangelize the message and reinforce the offering on a regular basis. Over time, the team of programmatic sales specialists can grow to match demand from your field sales team. Putting regional or vertical programmatic sales specialists in place can also help accelerate the demand broadly.

The long-term goal should be to train your existing sales team on your programmatic offering, and support those sales efforts through your internal trading desk. The sales team does not need to be experts on the topic to start, but it should be equipped with the tools to have initial conversations and understand how programmatic plays into the holistic strategy with the advertiser and agency.

Maximize Efficiency

Lastly, you’ll want to clearly define who owns relationships with the client, the agency, the agency trading desk and the DSP. Deals can stall along any of those links, and you’ll need to have resources stacked up against all of those partners to get programmatic deals flowing smoothly.

Over time, the promise of efficiency in the programmatic world will come true, but for now, you’ll need experts and devoted resources to set your program up for success.

Follow Pandora (Pandora_radio) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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