Tech Selling – Tough Truths to Help Vendors Do a Better Job

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What do Sales Directors, Chief Technology Officers and Chief Marketing Officers at prestigious media owners and brands most look forward to each week? I know, pitches from ad tech vendors.

The avalanche of ad tech offerings continues apace – DMPs, DSPs, addressable video advertising, sentiment tracking, CRM packages – and both media companies and brand owners are eager to learn how tech can bestow a competitive edge.

But they are also wary of being sold a pup. Marc Pritchard, CEO of Procter & Gamble, threw down the gauntlet to media agencies and tech suppliers when he asked for clearer transparency around how ad tech works and proof of its effectiveness in a keynote speech made in January last year.

Publishers are beginning to streamline their supply chain and remove suppliers they do not see adding value. Le Figaro and Le Monde have removed 12 ad tech vendors from their digital trading supply chain in a joint alliance and Le Figaro is claiming video ad revenue jumped 50% – a very uncomfortable truth to digest.

Tech vendors need be aware that the decision-makers and budget-holders see an awful lot of tech presentations and often perceive no difference in the shiny new software and platforms put in front of them. They need a practical demonstration and convincing explanation how the tech will give them a competitive edge. Unsubstantiated claims and slick sales patter are not enough to get serious attention any more.

A little insight into what the C-suite at media and brand owners really want to know can go a long way to getting a fair hearing and striking a satisfying business deal.

My company, Propeller, numbers both media owners and ad tech companies among its clients and we have gleaned many tips, tricks and tough truths from talking to both sides of the equation. Some of which turn conventional selling wisdom on its head.

Here are seven pieces of sage advice to digest while drawing up your sales strategy:

  • We now live in an information-driven world and the old adage “People buy from people” may not hold the weight it once did. Buyers now want to see data to give them confidence in their decisions. With corporate governance to consider and the pressure to justify every pound spent, buyers will need more than a chummy relationship with the sales person to convince a company to invest in a piece of kit.
  • Ensure your back story stacks up. Buyers will conduct due diligence before beginning a serious conversation. They will investigate the company’s backers and financial situation and look for evidence that long-term support for the tech is provided. They will comb trusted and relevant media sources for profiles of the senior team, case studies and interviews to see evidence of successful previous partnerships.
  • Make sure any case studies are relevant to the individual buyer. One size fits all is not seen as a smart move in the era of personalisation. Think what research and client examples are available that will catch the buyer’s eye and persuade them that the sales team does know the nuances of their business.
  • GDPR data protection regulations become law on May 25th. Publishers and brands will have to up their game on collating, storing and using customer data and they will expect their tech partners to operate to the same high standard. Due diligence will include analysis of the security of a vendor’s data handling and storage capabilities.
  • When the rubber hits the road and you are called upon to show your kit in a private demo, it had better damn work. If you promise to identify new audiences with cross-device tracking for a TV station’s ad targeting strategy, the machinery needs to whir into action. Remember, the C-suite in the room are becoming inured to being promised the moon only to see the tech spluttering on the launch pad.
  • Tenacity is required. At some point a company’s Chief Technology Officer will become involved to evaluate and stress-test the tech. This will be a pivotal point in getting a contract over the line and the sales team needs to be prepared to go through relationship and trust building a second time with a new individual.
  • A good story is worth its weight in gold. You must be able to cut-through the plethora of lookalike tech with salient points that capture the imagination of the buyers. The ‘thrill of the new’ as an entry point for ad tech has long since evaporated for time-pressed, budget-stressed buyers – and those buyers are no longer the wide-eyed innocents of seven or eight years ago. They are switched on and can smell out the bullshit.

These points and many more will be discussed at Propeller’s Ad Week Europe panel Tough Truths For Tech Vendors on March 22 at 3.20 pm. The panel will feature senior sales and marketing decision-makers from a variety of online and mobile media offerings . Brace yourself to swallow some painful medicine if you are a vendor – but it’ll be worth it if it helps you focus on doing the right things to secure that lucrative contract.

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