A client asked me this week what I thought was the most destructive quality in a digital seller. After just a few seconds, the answer that came to me was simple.
There are a great many forces in our marketplace today that demand and drive conformity and acceptance. "We're not budgeted for that"... "That doesn't fit the categories we're buying" ... "We just want to stick to the ROI metrics dictated in the RFP"... "Don't go beyond the dollar limits noted in the planning document." We're constantly told to stay in our swim lanes, fight for our business in confined spaces. We give lip service to innovation and creative thinking, but far too often they are not rewarded.
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If not acceptable, this would all at least be understandable if we were running a mature media channel with limited resources and calcified rules. But we most certainly are not. We are still living in the earliest stages of the digital marketing age; a time of virtually unlimited possibility. Our capacity for marketer value creation is vast, yet far too many of us are trained and conditioned to see the limits of conventional thinking as an electrified fence. Like the flea confined in the jar, even when released we never again jump higher that the lid that once confined us. So what then is the quality that should be most valued in a digital seller?
To disrupt is not simply to sow anarchy. Disruptive thinking and action are the staple ingredients in growth and innovation. Rather than simply accept and report back on the latest roadblock or dead-end ("They're only buying through their trading desks now" ... "The budget's been cut" ... "The customer is only buying one property in our category"), the great seller acts a positive agent of disruption. "I think we can do more with this"... "Let's slow down and take a bigger look at why we're here".... "There's a bigger victory here for us both" .... "If the budget is tight, all the more reason why you need to consolidate with the right company."
Here's a quick test to administer to your team - or to yourself. Look back over the past week's meetings. Did most of them seem comfortable and civil? (Especially the ones that did not result in business commitment.) Did the outlook of your salespeople seem to match up with the "conventional wisdom" of the market? Do you sense a level of acceptance that borders or resignation? If you answered yes to any of these, it's time to raise the bar on disruptive thinking and action.
Two things I've learned working with hundreds of companies over the past few years is that the status quo of the market is just not very good, and that conventional wisdom is always conventional but rarely wise. Our role is not to accept and explain; it's to disrupt the decision process and change the outcome. They call it "sales" for a reason.
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