Your Circle of Control.

As I talk to digital sellers about their hopes and wishes for the coming year, one theme continually emerges: Control. Digital sellers worry a lot about a myriad of players, factors, decisions and technological forces over which they have absolutely no control. They fill out blind RFPs that they may or may not hear back on; they read in the trades about how trading desks and demand platforms will automate them out of their jobs; they wonder whether Google or Facebook be making a decision today that marginalizes their sales strategy tomorrow.


To succeed in 2011 you need a strategy that's rooted in certainty, not one based on hope, fear or speculation. In my workshops over the past few weeks I've been offering what I call the "Circle of Control" to keep sellers rooted in certainty. Stay focused on these five areas and you will create opportunity, get better information, know where you stand and create bigger, more durable relationships with your most important customers.

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Orientation: The first area of control is all about what direction you're facing and where you start your process. Do you begin with a customer need in mind, or with your own need to "move product?" Are you out to really make a difference or are you just one more rep out to get a piece of the plan? This step is nothing but a gut check about whether your out to do something real and meaningful or just take dollars. Get it right; if not, it's all very tough to fake.

Ambition: Many reps say they want to do big programs for their customers. But when they get up to the plate they choke up on the bat and try desperately to bunt or hit singles. Be ambitious: align with customer business outcomes instead of the narrow agenda of the media planner. Instead of just talking about getting your share of the budget, start discussing how you can help the agency create more budget.

Preparation: Most sales are won or lost after 10:30 at night. Not in a bar, but over a laptop, where one sales rep is outworking and out-thinking another. But it's not enough to simply work hard and prepare more: you've got to prepare the right stuff. Focus your prep on genuine consumer behavior and value creation. Forget the numbers, offer up some anthropology. Prepare to be interesting, but above all prepare to be interested. Your own curiosity should be the driver here if your orientation is real.

Approach: I like to say that most reps overvalue the meeting and undervalue all that leads up to it. They assume that since their e-mails don't elicit replies they must be having no effect. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think about your approach -- from initial e-mail to the opening minutes of the meeting itself -- as one long campaign focused on creating a genuine picture of the value you'll truly bring to the table.

Return of Value: I wrote about this concept in a recent Drift post, but it bears repeating. Simply put, "return of value" asks "how are you rewarding the customer for doing business with you?" Are you focused on great service, transparency? Are you taking personal responsibility for communication and troubleshooting in the relationship? Are you doing the work to make your customer smarter? Are you bringing them together with other great people and ideas? Those narrowly focused on "the numbers" miss the point here: Marketers are not lacking for one more place to drop their ads, but they don't have nearly enough smart, committed, genuine people they can rely on. Be one yourself and you will be rewarded a hundred times over.

Happy holidays to all my friends, collaborators and readers. May 2011 be the most personally satisfying and rewarding year you've ever had.