Skip to main content
dstillery dstillery

by Tobey Van Santvoord


A recent article published by FOLIO highlights a Trusted Media Brands survey that reports on marketers’ concerns about transparency around programmatic.

Programmatic platforms continue to evolve and change the way marketers are buying digital advertising space, and with that, a trust gap, as highlighted in this AdAge article, has emerged. Sales leaders who have tenure in this space are in a unique position to become a trusted advisor in the ecosystem.  Now more than ever, there’s a need for sales leaders to stay abreast of the evolution and leverage their knowledge and marketplace view to help make customers feel more secure as they venture into the programmatic world.

The underlying message of this study for ad tech salespeople is that you can’t get by on relationships alone anymore. Gone are the days of showing up at a business meeting with greasy breakfast burritos and a smile to close a business deal—and that’s not just because buyers now want an organic egg-white-and-kale gluten-free wrap. The reality today is that marketers have access to more information, which means that salespeople are being held to a higher standard.

The modern marketing organization is slowly being taken over by executives who grew up in the digital age and bring with them a deeper understanding of marketing technology. In order to succeed in today’s fast moving and ever-evolving technology landscape, the modern salesperson and organization needs to have a deeper understanding of the technology they are selling and what this means for the marketers they are selling to.

Follow this advice to stand out from the crowd and meet the demands of a more sophisticated and critical buying community.

Know Your Stuff—The Sales Landscape Is Ever-Evolving

Marketers expect salespeople to shed their slick chatter and be prepared with details about the technology they are hawking and the trends that drive executive and engineering decision-making. Not only do you have to have a clear grasp on the features and benefits of what you are selling, you have to be able to tie that back to the needs of your customers. After all, if we can master the distinction of our own story, why can’t we master the distinction of our clients’ businesses?

Prior to meeting with a new client, dig deep into their business and the trends that are driving their marketplace. Are they making waves in the world of virtual reality? Exploring the evolution of programmatic buying? Focusing their efforts on new vertical markets? It is up to you to ask all of the right questions ahead of time, and be at the ready with answers that will resonate and scale their business to the next level.

Transparency Translates Into Trust

Knowing your client’s business and how what you are selling maps back to core business objectives not only helps elevate your credibility, it also highlights a willingness to be transparent. Transparency also builds trust as buyers want to purchase from people that they believe have their business success and best interests in mind.

One of the elements of transparency (and also trust) is to have a keen understanding of what the competition is offering and how your product is different and/or better than what they are offering. People often think they know what their key differentiators are only to learn that their competitors are saying the exact same thing. This is where research comes into play. Check out the competition and scour their marketing materials, press releases, newsletters, and more to better understand how they are positioning their products and what they believe makes them different.

Then take the time to articulate the Four D’s: Different, Defensible, Disruptive, and Direct. Telling a story of what’s behind each of these words will help you define what makes your product different, how that differentiation is defensible (can someone come in and do the exact same thing), and how and why your product is disruptive within the industry. Then say this in a straightforward, clear, and fully transparent way—be direct.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk about how your company makes money.  ‘Black box’ doesn’t just refer to technology, but also to economics and business models. Many salespeople, and companies at large for that matter, are afraid to talk about economics with clients. They’re afraid that if clients know how much money they make, they’ll lose negotiation power.  Clients that are true partners will understand and respect that your company needs to make money and that you need to reinvest in your business and innovative technology that will ultimately benefit their business. Be confident in transparently discussing your economics.  If your company doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy, push them in that direction or find a company to work for that subscribes to this philosophy.  Opaque business models are not long for this world.

Become The Go-To Sales Advisor

Once you know your client’s business and can easily map the value of what you are selling back to their core objectives, you are putting yourself in the position of evolving from salesperson to trusted advisor. This is the holy grail in the world of sales, when the client ends up calling you instead of the other way around, because they value your expertise and input.

Again, getting to this point requires a keen understanding of the client’s core business and complete transparency. Once you have demonstrated these important traits, you are able to speak with authority and also challenge a client to think differently about their business. In some cases, it is okay to push back and say no. As an advisor, the customer expects you to use your knowledge and guide them through the decision-making process. From conceptualization to implementation, your counsel and ability to say yes and no, when appropriate, will help to further position you as a salesperson and advisor.

Ultimately, to be successful in sales and marketing today requires an evolved understanding of current technologies. Remain confident and willing to use the authority that will come with your enhanced knowledge and business practices—as this will also help maintain relationships. Keep in mind the power of no—don’t take a bad deal that will not deliver in full. Relationships are still important, and to maintain good ones means making good deals and building trust.