Changing Tracks… From Selling to Analyzing

For the past three years and in more than a hundred columns, we’ve looked at the challenges and opportunities of media selling in the interactive space. While the subject can never be fully exhausted, and industry evolutions have created a need to return and re-examine many aspects of the media sales job, there comes a time when the major points have been made and it’s time to move on.

Starting next week, we will be shifting direction a bit and looking at this changing business we’re a part of from different perspectives. Next week, Janet will be discussing the importance of analysis and measurement of audience data to all marketing activities; she’ll also expand from media selling to media buying. And soon, Nancy will be broadening her online focus to look at the emerging world of wireless and mobile advertising.

We hope our loyal readers will stay with us as we explore these new topic areas, and we promise to incorporate into our future columns aspects of selling the ads. Let’s face it, once you’ve jumped into the ad sales business, you can never fully leave it behind.

Today, for our media selling wrap-up column, we’ve decided to review and explore our thinking on media selling and to offer some overarching recommendations and guidelines for ad sellers. Regular readers will recognize familiar themes, which we think of as the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Salespeople (with thanks to Stephen Covey… our list just happened to come to seven):

  1. Know your audience. Most advertisers buy audience — individuals with specific characteristics, interests, demographics, or behaviors. They don’t pay much for undifferentiated eyeballs. The better you understand and can describe your site’s visitors, the more advertisers will value your ad buys.

  2. Know your customer. Agencies and advertisers are extremely busy people who are under lots of time and financial pressure. The better you understand their needs and can match your sales approach to filling those needs, the more you will sell. (This one is true in any type of sales!)

  3. Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the site you are selling. See this from the advertiser’s point of view, and manage expectations before the sale. If the advertiser only wants clicks and your site has low click rates, you won’t get a renewal (and may not get paid on the initial buy). Sell to your strength, because advertising revenue is economically viable only when it is repeat business.

  4. Be a student of marketing and business. The more you think like a marketer, the more you can sell solutions. And selling solutions is a better business than selling banners.

  5. Stay up on industry issues. This still-young interactive business morphs quickly, and effective salespeople know where the winds are blowing and what trends are having an impact on their business.

  6. Invest in developing sales skills. Great salespeople spend a lifetime mastering their art. One or even fifteen successful years does not make anyone an expert. Keep learning new things, trying new approaches, and practicing the art of effective salesmanship.

  7. Have fun. Creativity is the heart of great selling, and it’s difficult to be innovative if you are bored or angry. If it’s no longer fun, consider a new direction; this business deserves to be developed by the best and the most inspired. With that sort of leadership, interactive advertising still has enormous potential for advertisers, agencies, and media businesses.

Starting next week, visit Janet at her Analyzing Customer Data column.

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