Publishers Need To Stop Looking For Unicorns

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

Today’s column is written by Eva Smith, vice president of sales strategy at The Weather Company.

A mild panic has come over our industry. Leaders are increasingly concerned that the complexity of sales is increasing at a faster clip than the ability to hire the talent capable of managing it.

That selling, especially in parallel with the exploding programmatic marketplace, is becoming more consultative and complex is not a new story.

Yet how the industry thinks about and staffs the sales function hasn’t fundamentally changed. Everyone keeps looking in vain for super-charged individuals: They have great relationships and superior oral and written communications skills, are amazing under pressure, critical thinkers, technically savvy and creative problem solvers. In short, everyone keeps looking for unicorns. And they’re not just looking for one, but armies of people who can do it all when the reality is that very few can. Let’s face it: Those who can do it all are already highly successful leaders. You can’t afford them.

The industry is at an inflection point. How it thinks about sales, the act of selling and getting deals done needs to radically change. The myth of the perfect sales person needs to be replaced with the perfect sales team. Think of the seller as the movie star who needs an entire coaching, PR and glam squad in order to shine.

Sales can no longer be an individual sport, but rather a highly coordinated team effort. Building the sales glam squad capable of turning account executives into stars can be done the same way you kick off a great client relationship: by asking the right questions. The critical questions need to be answered with clearly assigned ownership and accountability.

Key Questions

What are your target vertical industries?

How and where will you prospect for clients within those verticals?

What are the client’s business problems and needs and how will you uncover which problem they are experiencing, from both an industry and client perspective?

What products and services do you have that uniquely address those issues? How will you align the problem with the solution?

What is the competitive advantage of those products and solutions? How will they be superior in driving industry and client KPIs?

How will you communicate this in a clear, succinct and engaging way, to the trade as well as to the client?

How will you manage the client’s various seniority levels, as well as their strategic, buying and creative agencies?

How will you negotiate the deal terms?

How will you launch and optimize the program once closed?

How will you gather feedback for case studies, product improvements and new prospects?

A Path Forward

From there, you will understand what you need and can begin to outline and build the broader team. You will also need to clearly define the roles, responsibilities and workflow so that the team works towards one common goal cleanly and efficiently. You want World Cup soccer, not KinderKickers.

So, now that you have the organization, what about the salesperson? How should the market think about them? Err on the side of hiring for raw talent, drive and leadership potential, not specific experience and established contacts. Those are the sellers that will know how to establish a relationship when there isn’t one and adapt to change.

We can build the unicorn. We have the technology. It just won’t be a single person. So stop looking and panicking, and instead start organizing your winning team.

Follow Eva Smith (@EvangeliaPSmith) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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