Supporting your third-party sales team — the folks who work at your contracted rep firm or ad network — is critical to outstanding revenue returns. Businesspeople who sell effectively through external partnerships or sales channels know this, and they know that understanding and mastering those support needs is a key indicator of how well the sales team will produce for you.
But what exactly does support mean in the online ad sales context?
Last week in this column, we looked at this question in general terms. This week we’re getting into specific examples of successful support. The names have been omitted out of respect for privacy, but the support strategies we discuss here were either implemented by a Ryan Whiteman client or told to us by happy salespeople from ad sales firms. If you believe, as we do, in learning from what works for others, the following ideas should give you lots of food for thought.
Encouraging Firsthand Site Experience
One utility site had enormous loyalty and repeat usage from its desirable site-user audience. But the functionality of the site was rather difficult to explain to nonusers, and the salespeople at the ad network had been having little success in capturing ad buyers’ interest. No matter how carefully it was explained, folks didn’t really seem to understand the site’s unique appeal until they had tried it for themselves.
So the site ran a promotion with fun and creative prizes for ad buyers who experimented with the site. To encourage the salespeople at their network to try the site, an internal competition was launched that could be won only by salespeople who had actually taken advantage of the site’s functionality to get the contest rules and weekly clues. Contestants could win prizes themselves and help their agency and client-side customers win prizes by actually using the site.
Usage among these two important audiences went way up, and ad sales followed closely behind as soon as the buyers and sellers personally experienced the value of the site.
This sort of contest won’t work for everyone. But whenever a correlation exists between personal site experience and ad buying, a variation on the theme could work for you.
Speeding Response Time
Here’s a totally different example of great support. A site publisher heard through the sales network grapevine that slow response to information requests was hurting business and discouraging salespeople from pitching the big ideas.
Rather than complain to the site management group to make those salespeople try harder (an all-too common reaction), this site set up an all day “hotline” for sales firm requests. A cellular phone was dedicated to the special requests of the ad salespeople and was rotated among site employees to be sure that someone with the power to act could answer within two rings throughout the U.S. business day (this firm only had U.S. sales) — from 8 a.m. on the East Coast until 7 p.m. on the West Coast.
This was the promise: an answer within two rings by a person who was empowered to take action, a call back within the hour if more information was required, and a written confirmation by close of the business day if requested. The penalty for breaking the guarantee was a fee paid to the rep who was kept waiting. The result was a lot more calls from salespeople (looking to trip the site up and earn the fee, no doubt) and a lot more closed contracts.
The last we heard, total payout of penalties was… nothing. There’s no need to pay penalties if the commitment to responsiveness is real.
We could offer lots more examples, but you get the idea. Think about what your sales team needs to sell more, then figure out how to give it to them.
Have you seen other ways that sites and sales firms have cooperated and thus achieved greater sales results? We’d love to hear them. Send any ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.