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5 essential rules for closing digital ad sales

5 essential rules for closing digital ad sales Julie Clark

As digital advertising salespeople, we all should be focused on learning about the latest innovations in inventory, formats, bidding, and measurement so we can deliver a personalized service to each advertiser. What happens to the best of us, though, is that we get caught chasing RFPs versus focusing on building knowledge and cultivating solid relationships. So, how can digital sales reps break that cycle? These five strategies can make a huge difference when it comes to winning -- and keeping -- a great client.


It sounds obvious, but, surprisingly, many sales reps don't listen to their clients and potential clients. Because the digital space moves so fast, listening is something so basic it often gets lost in the shuffle. Do the right research, ask the right questions, and listen to the answers. Don't just ask an advertiser what their metrics are right now. Instead, ask what their overall strategy is and what they want to achieve. If you meet the client's needs the first time, you'll probably gain a new long-term partner -- a client willing to take a chance on the innovative ideas you bring to the table next time.

I've heard sales reps walk into a meeting so excited about their product that they just start talking at their clients. I'm even guilty of this at times too; it's an easy trap to fall into. But fight it! Start the meeting by getting them to talk, be creative, have questions prepped in advance, and know that the best meetings can sometimes be when clients talk a lot more than you.

Say no

"No" is not a dirty word. Saying no is often the best thing you can do to build a trusted client partnership. If you know something the client wants is a little "old school," simply because they don't fully understand the capabilities of digital placement, say no, and offer a strong alternative digital approach. When you do, clearly explain the advantages the approach offers. Saying no for the right reasons builds trust and success. Clients want an ad sales partner who addresses their specific needs and offers guidance at every step.

Have you ever had a client that wants you to optimize toward a conversion/lead metric while not allowing for a conversion pixel to be placed? "Just push the CTR!" Yikes! This is a really simple example, but profound in the way that if you say yes to this, you're opening yourself up to disappointing a new partner. Enough research shows that there is little to no correlation between CTR and CPA goals.


Digital ad sales executives are part of an industry that's innovative by nature. Great digital salespeople aren't afraid to push, and educate, their clients. There are times you know about a solution that is far beyond what clients are asking for, simply because they have never heard of such a technology. Be bold, challenge convention, and push clients to think differently. When you succeed together, they'll be grateful you introduced them to new advertising methods that helped them surpass their goals. There is no better way to see this happening than on the branding side of our industry.

Often I hear clients default to CTR metrics as a proxy for awareness, purchase intent, or even confirming the composition of their audience. Right now we have more sophisticated means of measuring such attitudinal metrics through real-time optimization of one-question surveys, advanced analytics, and tying real-time purchase data to digital campaigns. These are informative conversations -- never lose your opportunity to educate.

Be part of the solution

Digital advertising is the future -- but don't forget it's just one part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Clients work with many technology and media-buying partners, and it's important to understand this large ecosystem. Ask your client what gaps need to be filled in their advertising programs (measuring offline sales or purchase intent, tying digital to their broadcast spend, etc.), then present digital solutions that can help them achieve those goals.

Give up sometimes

Know when to stop chasing a unicorn. You're after a huge account with big potential, and it seems like a perfect match for your offerings. Yet, many times, a sure thing turns out to be a no-go. Digital salespeople waste too much time chasing what they think should be the ideal fit. Instead, focus on the clients who love what you're offering, and build those partnerships. You never know; you might just find a winning approach for your unicorn after focusing your attention elsewhere for a short time. Then you can go back to them later with a killer proposal.

The trend at this time is partner consolidation -- an agency trading desk, single DSP partner, DMP, etc. Don't get trapped in the "all is lost" mentality. The reality is that there is always an ebb and flow in our ecosystem -- look for the doors that are open and stop dwelling on the ones that are seemingly closed. I find that every time I focus on areas of real opportunity, I gain insight into areas that used to seem closed off and untouchable.

Winning at digital media sales is pretty simple, if you follow these few simple tactics. The bottom line is to focus on your clients. Too often, I see digital salespeople chasing dollars instead of focusing on growing a business relationship. Present innovative ideas to your clients, focus on building understanding and trust, and take the time to really understand what your clients need.

Julie Clark is a Vice President of Sales at Rocket Fuel.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Handshake isolated on white background" image via Shutterstock.

Julie brings more than 12 years experience in digital and traditional advertising sales experience to Rocket Fuel. Her highest priority is to provide an uncompromising level of service to clients to ensure their marketing goals are advanced via...

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Commenter: Anthony Green

2012, November 29

Sound and pragmatic advice Julie. Good one!