As digital and integrated media sellers break free of the suffocating transactional market they've been enabling for the past decade (a market that will be fully automated), their real sales skills will be tested. Ideation, communication, organization, problem solving, service.....all critical. But in my opinion, one quality will truly define the great ones of this coming era: persistence.
In working with sales teams over the last dozen years I've seen a crushing aversion to pushing the envelope, or even making a third phone call or drafting a fourth e-mail. Either because they equate persistence with bad manners or perceive rejection, a great many sellers simply won't pursue customers regardless of the potential value they may be able to create for them. But in the era ahead -- in which all the buying and selling of inventory is machine driven -- the seller's career will be focused on framing, explaining, scoping and selling through unique ideas and models. Getting in the door is table stakes: 100% of meetings that don't happen also don't produce any business.
When I managed sales teams, our weekly status meeting would invariably include at least one rep saying "I've already called that guy three times and got no answer." At this point I'd ask a simple question: "Do you believe the program you're offering would really be valuable for this customer?" If the answer was yes, then I'd tell the rep it was his duty to the customer to pursue; to stop at nothing until the customer got a fair chance to engage. Anything less meant cheating the customer.
Sound old school to you? Maybe so. But know that many customers use the pursuit itself as a winnowing process; sellers who are not committed to the potential relationship (or who are simply just not very good) will fall away. Those who continue to creatively, honestly and persistently reach out to the customer define themselves in the process. I believe in what I'm selling and I'm going to be just as determined when it comes time to make it work for you. And so often, when a committed seller would relentlessly pursue a customer for the chance to present a program or opportunity, she'd ultimately get an unexpected response. "Thank you." Thanks for staying on me about this....it's important.
If I could give every digital seller two gifts to start out 2011, they would be these: commitment to creating true value for marketers, and an equal measure of courage and persistence to bring that value to the customer.
A happy and successful new year to you all.