The Unmanaged.

Last month 55 sales leaders joined us at the top of the Hearst building for the final Upstream Seller Forum of 2014. Since the session focused on leadership, we thought it would be a good idea to bring the voice of the front-line seller into the room. So along with our friends at Seller Crowd, we broadly distributed a questionnaire to find out how digital sellers feel about the quality of the leadership and management they get. Close to 600 sellers responded, and a good many more added color commentary via the Seller Crowd site.

If you're the leader of a sales organization, or if you manage even one or two sellers personally, you should pay close attention to the results.

This week's Drift is proudly underwritten by comScore. For media sellers, comScore helps demonstrate the quality of their inventory in traditional and programmatic environments as well as provide tools for internal pricing and packaging. VIDEO and display environments benefit from detailed information about demographics, viewability and non-human traffic.

The short questionnaire was designed to get a pulse on levels of engagement, empowerment and support that sellers feel. It also factored in distance (are you the home office with your manager or alone in a branch territory?), levels of motivation and empathy (do they feel like their manager really understands their challenges?) Here are just a few of the results:

  • Across the entire population (589 Sellers) only 28% say they feel consistently engaged with their jobs and companies; an equal percentage say they rarely if ever feel engaged. For the remaining 44%, engagement comes and goes. This group represents the huge opportunity for managers.
  • We asked sellers to rate quality of the management they receive on a five point scale from "Exceptionally Well" to "Not at all." 58% of respondents said they were being managed either "modestly but inconsistently," "poorly" or "not at all." Coffee to go with your wake-up call?
  • One might ask whether and how managers can make a difference. Looking more deeply at the "unmanaged" 58%, engagement with their companies was virtually nonexistent. Just 3% felt very engaged, while "rarely if ever engaged" jumped to nearly 50% of this group.

Seller Crowd seeded a few of these findings on its message board and sought comments. Here are a few of the things sellers told us there:

  • Managers too often wasted the precious time in team meetings or 1:1 meetings with seller just going over what was already in Salesforce. Why use potential engagement and creative time to go over numbers, which are better and more accurately recorded digitally?
  • Sellers reject "micromanagement" but not because they don't need help. The busywork of over-reporting crushes them, and they don't like not feeling trusted. But they welcome the manager who will help them "break the numbers down" and engage with them on strategy to open doors and land business. What are you doing as a manager that's more important than this?
  • Do meetings with your sellers frequently get bumped in favor of something more critical? Yeah, they hate that. It makes them feel unimportant, disengaged and disconnected.

As we head into the Thanksgiving week, let's be thankful for the trust sellers give us and their willingness to learn from us. And as we head into the new year, maybe we all commit to filling 'the digital sales management gap.'