Better than the Market.

Better than the Market.

Perhaps you’re freshly back from Cannes or already have a half dozen industry conferences behind you this year. In those environments you’re trying to make the market better for your sales team: Frictionless buying, data standards, uniform measurement and making sure your offerings fit in with the most recent agency/holding company data/buying mousetraps. Over time, if you’re successful, demand will improve: the market will get better, and budgets will grow.

But there remains an unanswered question: how will your team be better than the market?

In the dozens of sales team workshops and scores of manager coaching calls I’ve done this year, I consistently hear they cut the budget, they’re only buying lower funnel, and they’re not buying our category right now. I’ve heard economic trends, oil prices and even crop yield as justifications for missing numbers. Seller energy is spent on lobbying for new accounts or smaller numbers, because the market just won’t allow them to sell what’s expected.

Completely unreasonable goals and unreasonable management are, of course not OK. But questioning the premise above is quite reasonable. Selling is about the strategies, efforts and execution to be better than the rest of the market.

Some ideas:

6-6-12: Every seller should have a strong six-week agenda for competing for already-budgeted campaigns. But she should also spend time every day on her six-month agenda: how she’ll proactively drive unique demand for your products and services. And some time every week on the structural and long-range stuff that will play out over 12 months with key accounts.

Diversification: If you only ever talk to investment and media – on the agency or client side – you’ll only ever discuss price/value and features. Brand, strategy, planning, centers-of-excellence, shopper marketing, regional and local spending… these are the seedbeds for incremental demand, ideation and budgets.

Depth: Don’t go to the people noted above with the same case you bring to the investment team. Learn something about the customer’s calendar and what geography they need to support. What are they doing in local broadcast? What new products or line extensions are they launching? Who is their chief competitor? If your only expertise and knowledge are about the ad sales business, you are a sitting duck.

Diagnosis: Always have a solvable customer problem at the top of every customer conversation, every meeting, every time. In our foundational sales training program, Leading with Needs, we call this the diagnosis, and it challenges us to make it about them, not just the stuff we have to sell.

The next time a seller says They’re not buying us or The budget parameters have changed, I hope you’ll ask, So what’s your plan? Where else do you plan to look? Who else can we approach on the business? Or What else might you try?

If you’re collectively unsure where to start, I know a group that can be of help.