Let Your Robots Be Robotic And Your People Be Creative

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

Today’s column is written by Jeremy Hlavacek, vice president of programmatic at The Weather Company.

Quick question: What’s the fastest way to kill the enthusiasm and energy of a media sales team?

Lost business? Re-orgs? Missed goals?

I don’t think it’s any of these. All of these things can hurt the team’s spirit, but in my experience, many sellers can rise to the occasion and bounce back with even greater determination.

So what’s the real killer? I think the answer is actually hiding in plain sight: process.

Next time you attend a process meeting that is designed to improve sales performance and efficiency, take a look at the participants. You’ll see glassy eyes, constant looking at phones and laptops and even outright yawning with eyelids drooping.

Then try to understand a presentation that is likely to be full of complex schematics illustrating low value and time-wasting processes. See if you can understand and remember all of the various procedures, acronyms and software tools for managing leads, filling out forms, entering orders, pulling reports, tracking spending, sharing data and renewing campaigns. I guarantee you will find it challenging.

These processes are then forced on sales organizations for the purposes of better measurement and transparency. In other words, they are meant to make life easier for management, but not to sell more or solve more problems.

So what’s going on here? Should digital sales teams abandon all processes?

Absolutely not. I think the mistake stems from a sales management strategy that is forcing the weight and complexity of arcane processes on human beings who were hired to be high-energy problem solvers and relationship builders.

In short, managers are asking people to be robotic instead of creative.

This is poor strategy because in the world of programmatic media, we don’t need people to be robotic. We have actual robots for that. With the rise of automated media platforms in the programmatic market, simplification has finally come to digital ad sales. Programmatic systems are scaling rapidly and making it easier for buyers and sellers to do business in a number of different ways, including auctions and fixed pricing, guaranteed and non-guaranteed buys, different data sets for targeting and other combinations therein.

This change is important because if media sellers adopt programmatic correctly, it should free up resources to invest in better ad product solutions and forge deeper relationships with clients. This is desperately needed in a digital world where commoditization is eroding traditional publishing businesses at an accelerating pace. The more a publisher can invest in ad products that differentiate and can then scale, the better. Nirvana is when interesting, valuable and high-quality ad products can be created quickly and then rapidly brought to market via automated channels.

Publishers that try to hold on to selling commoditized media by hand can expect further declines in pricing and revenue, more errors by humans trying to be robotic and increased turnover from sales people who are underused. The solution is to quickly figure out what parts of the business can and should be automated and then redeploy resources to high-value areas, such as differentiated ad product development and relationship building with strategic clients.

Don’t send a human to do a robot’s job. They won’t do it well and they’ll hate every minute of it.

Follow Jeremy Hlavacek (@jhlava) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Ed Carey

    Right on! The challenge arises when no one at the firm understands programmatic and the programmatic leads become the teacher, builder, parent, coach, accountant and priest.