Sales Should Be About Service

When Internet media salespeople email me privately after having read one of my articles, quite a few ask about my perspective on how they might sell more effectively. I can usually offer up some good advice regarding how to get on an agency media buy, but I also find myself recommending that sales reps learn how to keep more of the business that they do book.

Truth is, given the nature of the medium and how advertising is sold, sales reps need to be diligent about maintaining existing business. Media buyers are looking not only for the right media venue but also for good service during and after the buy.

I’ve often heard sales reps complain that they’ve had signed contracts with advertisers that were canceled because their site didn’t measure up to others on the buy. I find it surprising that most of these reps fail to learn from that experience. Prior to launching my last Internet advertising campaign, only one out of the several reps I was dealing with was interested in how we were planning to evaluate the success of the campaign post-launch. “Explain to me how the agency is going to determine success in this campaign,” he said. I smiled. That rep also checks in on a regular basis to see how his site is comparing to others in his category and to the campaign averages. That rep is also still on the buy, while some of his competitors have been removed.

Service is truly the name of the game. Sure, there are plenty of ways to service media buyers before a campaign launches. Filling out requests for proposal (RFPs), providing information regarding your site, negotiating pricing within the acceptable parameters of the buy, and providing specs are crucial to getting on the buy in the first place. But regular checking in to see how an existing buy can be improved will seal the deal and keep buys from being canceled or cut back.

Buyers will always remember when they get terrific service from a sales organization. In many of the agencies that I’ve worked for or consulted with, usually one or two sites seem to make it onto almost every plan put out by a given agency buyer. “They always find a way to make it work,” is typically the reason given for a site’s repeated appearance on a series of media buys. Translation: The site services the agency properly.

Bad sales reps, once they get on a buy, only want to hear about what other agency clients are doing. Now that they’ve made it onto one client’s buy, they want to branch out and earn a spot on every client’s buy. Good sales reps, once they get on a buy, call in regularly to see how they’re performing on the current campaign. They ask about other clients and their objectives only after they’ve been assured that they’re doing all they can to maintain their current business. Truly great sales reps generate a list of ideas for improving the current campaign before they even call, and they ask their buyers things like, “Have you considered weighting the impressions more heavily to this section of the site?”

Although many sales organizations are under constant pressure to generate more sales and land new business, a lot of online media sales companies would be in much better shape if they placed more emphasis on maintaining existing agency business. If more sales organizations were to set up relationships in a way that provided a better idea of how their sites are performing, they could get more business from those relationships.

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