Partnering For The Right Sales Capabilities

We’ve been looking at the variables and complexities surrounding selecting a third party sales partner for Internet advertising sales.

An especially important (and just as tricky) part of the process is in understanding the particular sales skill and sales team capabilities your site needs to succeed in your market, and then selecting the sales firm whose talents and philosophies best match your needs.

Are you anticipating a sales partner’s employees to actively build your site’s brand among advertisers? If so, select a small firm whose sales people handle only a few publishers each, otherwise they won’t have time to spend a great deal of their selling time talking about your site independent of the total buy. If you do make that choice, however, know that you are trading off the access to buyers a large firm can provide.

Are you offering a product similar to much of what is already on the market, or is your ad product, site format or site visitor in some way unique? If your offering is really different, you may need a sales person to pro-actively promote its unique strengths to customers. On the other hand, if your inventory is largely like other familiar sites, you may be better served with a great negotiator than a very conceptual sales approach.

Take a look at the other sites your prospective sales partner represents, and ask yourself whether the sales process for your offering will be substantially the same, or very different. Being brutally honest with yourself about this one, and selecting according to the outcome of your introspection can save a lot of headache and frustration later on.

Do you expect to make a lot of sales calls with your network or rep firm? Don’t ever assume this one — some firms are set up to easily accommodate joint calls and even welcome them. Others, especially those whose reps handle many publishers, will find it difficult to rearrange client call schedules to focus on your target accounts when you hope to be in the field with them.

What about training? Some sales managers expect to re-train sales people every week or two which is fine for your own internal team, but generally prohibitive for a network or other third party sales partner. Imagine if the sales execs from each of 200 sites wanted 4 hours with the sales team every month — no time left to sell! If you can’t simplify the story to the point where training needs are minimal and easily updated by emails, you might want to reconsider a large ad sales network.

All of this is important to understand and discuss with prospective partners prior to signing a long-term agreement. We can’t offer simple partner selections to guide you; each sales company is likely to answer each of these questions differently depending upon how important your business is perceived to be to its portfolio. If your site attracts high-demand traffic, you may find potential sales partners very eager to accommodate your needs.

But they don’t want to take on business they can’t satisfy or sell, so be clear about your expectations in advance and be willing to bend where you can, to find the best fit. You won’t know until you have the conversation.

Next week, a look at the economic issues surrounding this decision.

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