10 Essentials for Success in Your Digital Sales Career

  • Posted by Steve Goldberg
  • |
  • January 13, 2016
success in digital sales career

The smartest of us in digital media, ad tech and SaaS sales know that we’ve been back in school. It is no longer enough to have that winning smile and great personality in digital sales, and it has been that way for a while now. To sell in today’s digital arena and secure the most promising jobs, you have to know digital and the concepts that envelop this exciting, evolving industry. Don’t get me wrong, you need to BE a salesperson as well in order to truly succeed in this field. But without a dedication to learning (and continuing to learn) the conceptual and practical knowledge that surrounds digital sales and marketing, you might as well find something else to sell.

“You have to immerse yourself in the digital landscape – its terminology, concepts, ideas, trends and its major industry players,” said by one of our clients 5 years ago!

So, in addition to becoming a “lifetime student”, what else does it take to be successful as a digital media seller, a seller of ad tech or a SaaS platform in today’s digital world? Digital agency and ideally client contacts are crucial in this market. But is this enough? Media companies and media recruiters are looking for candidates who are ambitious, proactive and have a successful selling track record. They also look for people with tenacity, problem-solving skills, a technical understanding of what they are selling, and the ability to listen and absorb information. Last, they want someone who is prepared, strategic, and will close business.

Below are 10 essentials for a successful career in digital sales that will help propel you to greater heights and achievements in today’s digital world.

1. BE – DO – HAVE

A couple of jokes you can find online about salespeople:

“You might be a salesperson if when you bought a new house you called your fellow alumni and offered to name a room after them, if they’ll help with the down payment.”

“A Sales Manager handed a laptop to an Account Executive interviewing to be a member of his team, and said, “sell me this laptop”.  The Account Executive got up, left with the laptop, and went home.  Puzzled, the Sales Manager called the candidate and said, “Hey, I want my laptop back.”  The Account Executive said, “Sure thing. I’ll bring it back for $200.”

There is a whole list of these jokes and quips, begging the question, “Are you a salesperson?”

There is a natural order to life, and it applies to business and sales (bring out your right brain power for this part). Question: If you have the things digital salespeople have and do the things digital salespeople do, are you a digital salesperson? You might have the job, have a list of clients, go on sales calls, etc., and have a certain degree of success. But is being a salesperson really you? In sales, like every other career and aspect of life, it helps to know yourself.

The answer to the question above is “maybe”. Truth be told, the world works in the reverse order. The happiest and most successful salespeople ARE salespeople first. They love selling, they don’t mind rejection, they are persistent, and they get a thrill when they close a deal. They then DO the things salespeople do, and HAVE the things salespeople have.

So, know yourself. If you’re not truly a salesperson, find another field – one that lights you up.

2. Passion

Passion is what I mean by a field that lights you up. Without passion, no list of essentials, principles, rules or tips will help. You only go through life once, and with work being such a large component of life, you should love what you do.

Sales call activities (research, email, social, phone and in-person) are voluminous and you need a high quantity and quality of “sales activity” to succeed. You have to deal with a lot of frogs before finding the prince. Without a passion for digital sales, this part of the job will feel like drudgery. Passion overrides the mundane parts of the job and provides you with the energy and stamina to take each contact as far through the sales cycle as you can.

3. Knowledge

Simply said, digital sales and marketing knowledge has become a “must” for all media professionals. Even if you have the knowledge, get more. If you have no experience in digital, get it. Now. As one of the leading digital media and technology recruiters with a focus on sales, account management, marketing and related careers, Media Recruiting Group made this transition years ago. We started the firm in the mid-1990’s before there really was “digital media”.  As a firm, we had to educate ourselves on the intricacies of digital media, technology, SaaS, etc. starting in the late 90’s.  And, we have continued literally every day to learn something new.

Imagine you’re on a sales call representing a digital content site, and your client says, “Branding and search are both important to me and we have to discuss flighting and adjacency, but what I want is a contextual campaign with a behavioral component using rich media and roadblocks on a CPM basis and mobile on a CPC basis. I also want access to Facebook and other social platforms, and want to know your Programmatic offerings. Do you think this kind of campaign will be effective in having readers/viewers pause their multitasking and transmedia navigation?”

Huh? If you don’t know what all of this means, or if you know what it means but not with the depth to truly engage, then you have to upgrade your knowledge base.  Whatever your level, you have to be reading and studying digital news and trends every day.

4. Authentic Relationships

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield compared a job in sales to working in comedy in a Time Magazine interview. “In both fields, the most important ingredient is: you’ve gotta be liked. Whether you’re selling aluminum siding or going onstage, you gotta make ’em like you and believe you,” he quipped.

Most executives believe strongly that relationships are the key to success in sales. There is so much to say about building strong relationships, but let’s begin with being trustworthy. “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”-George MacDonald. This should be the foundation of all business relationships – clients, vendors, marketing directors, media buyers, staff and other business relationships. Without trust, empowering and rewarding relationships with your clients simply cannot exist. Do what you say you will do, and if you can’t, communicate ahead of time to avoid surprises, and make up for any fall out.

Keep things confidential if asked to do so. This will help build trust.

Think for a moment…can’t you tell when you’re being “sold”, versus when someone really cares? Ensure that there is real authenticity, transparency, clarity and honesty in all your dealings. Never assume anything and never be seen to be taking advantage of your client/sales relationship.

Embrace individuality. Each person you deal with will be different from the next, and different from you. Understand that; see people for who they are, learning to read each person and look from their perspective when selling. Ask yourself, “How will they hear what I’m going to say?”

As you grow into your relationship from a place of integrity and service, you will move from an acquaintance to a professional peer to a trusted advisor.

5. Social Media Savvy

Everyone by now researches their clients on social media…Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You should also use appropriate social media platforms to become better known to the people you’re trying to reach. Use of a blog as well as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook updates can help enhance your digital credibility.

6. Never Forget the Basics

Sales have been around for a long time – long before people started selling digital. There are clear tried-and-true basics you should only ignore at your own peril. I’ll go through some below.

First impressions count. When you’re first introduced, give a warm facial expression and positive body language. Have careful attention to your appearance; deliver a firm handshake and respectful eye contact.

Authentic humility is a subtle way to gently building rapport with your clients. A salesperson that blows his/her own horn too much will be a turn off and distract significantly from your value proposition.

Exude self-confidence without appearing cocky. Establish a common ground. Respect people’s time by using the client’s time purposefully.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You have two ears and one mouth.” Salespeople should use these in this same ratio by listening twice as much as they speak. One of the keys to a person’s success in sales is their ability to establish client’s needs. This requires good listening skills to uncover unmet needs and to identify key signals sent by prospective clients. Open your ears to improve your listening skills in order to tune into a client’s goals, passions, struggles/challenges and desires.

Other qualities that count in terms of being a successful digital media seller include being a good problem-solver, paying attention to details, being emotionally resilient, being independent, organized, self-motivated, driven, dedicated, results-oriented, hard-working, a self-starter, adaptable and flexible. A high-energy work ethic and having the ability to effectively prioritize and re-prioritize as needs change are key. At digital companies the culture is highly entrepreneurial, and you have to be able to work well in a small, fast-paced, team-oriented environment.

7. Preparation

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.” – Henry Hartman.

First and foremost, know your pitch by heart. Practice it. Memorize it. Tape it and listen to yourself. Know how to deliver it in a short amount of time, because your clients don’t have a lot of time – especially those on the agency side. Can you deliver your value proposition in 10 minutes? 5 minutes? 1 minute? The answer needs to be “yes”.

Do mirror work. Get rid of the extra nodding, twitching, touching your hair, etc. Nuff said. After all the work you will have done to get the sales call, make sure you go through your checklist. For instance, logistics (confirm the appointment, confirm the address/floor, confirm the attendees, etc.), research (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, etc.), what to bring (tech check, cleaned screen, working remote), etc.

8. Creativity & Strategy

Creativity and strategy are used to get meetings with busy media planners or CMO’s for sure. But the rubber meets the road once you have the meeting and you are delivering your presentation. Your competition is strong in this field.  First, you’ll be sure to cover the basic qualifying questions like:

– What are your biggest challenges?
– What is your overall marketing objective?
– What is your target?
– What is your timing?
– What is your success metric?
– What assets to you have?
– Who is involved in the decision?

So now, what will set you apart? How will you earn the business when planners and CMO’s have so much choice?

What is your value proposition, and how do you position your property in relation to others so that the agency or client feel it is a more strategic buy? What kind of added value and new ideas can you bring to the sale that will make you and your property stand out? What is your competitive advantage over your competitors?  The answers to these questions are unique to your property and client. But if you are going to succeed in digital sales, answer these questions you must with creative ideas and strategic approaches.

9. Assertiveness and Resiliency – Don’t take “No” for an Answer

It is easier to file down the claws of a lion than to teach a lamb to attack. You have to be relentless in your search for sales leads, qualified leads, sales meetings and closes. Successful digital salespeople have thick skins and learn to not take rejection personally. While you don’t want to cross that line of turning off a client, you must get out of your comfort zone.

In some cases, it is appropriate to take a bit of a risk to make happen what you want to happen. Strengthen your resolve with conviction; you know your digital property or platform is not only good for the client, but it’s better than the competition. If you’re coming from being of service to your clients and satisfying their needs, it is difficult to go wrong. If you are coming from your ego or your next commission check, you may want to revisit any tactic deemed risky.

10. Ask for the Order

After you’ve done all the heavy lifting, if you don’t ask for the order it is all for naught. Find out what it will take for you to get their business, and get it – then and there. But do not over-promise while in the throes of your enthusiastic close. Manage expectations.

Your dedications to these 10 essentials will fast-track you to success, prosperity, and excitement in your digital sales career.