Digital's Blind Spot

By: Kevin Ascher

I've always found it ironic that we in the online media and adtech industry tend to measure just about everything except for the performance of our own sales calls.  Adding up comp, benefits, and T&E for all in attendance each call or meeting can easily top $1,500 in real expense – and that’s before including marketing, product development, and opportunity cost – yet most of these conversations yield little more than an educated guess  or intuitive feeling about whether it moved a sale forward.  Salesforce dashboards?  They're are only as accurate as the information going in, assuming it goes in at all.  I believe this is the blind spot of our industry.

We've all seen the result.  Lingering deals that never close, close for less than anticipated, require extensive and unprofitable customization, or that only a handful of inherently-talented reps account for the majority of revenue.

These blind spots can also cause problems beyond sales:

  • Missed revenue and earnings forecasts hurt executive credibility with the board and investors
  • Product team doesn’t get accurate and quantifiable information about what to build next
  • Marketing team needs to know what resonates with each type of customer, and why
  • CFOs and Account Management teams bear the brunt of deals with high customization & service requirements that aren’t correctly priced

After years of investigating, I conclude this results from relationship-focused selling, the huge influx of new sellers with a lack of structured training, the desire to avoid conflict and real emotional connection, and non-linear sales processes.  

I've learned from dozens of interviews that other industries, such as enterprise software and consumer financial services, have this mostly figured out.  They clearly define successful call outcomes and monitor, measure, and coach their sales and customer service reps to follow a consistent playbook. Their structured approach builds repeatable and sustainable systems that allows these companies to survive and thrive in all market conditions.  

Considering our current investment environment, I think we'd be wise to follow their lead.  In a series of upcoming posts, we'll go into more detail on alleviating each of these blind spots by including perspectives and advice from industry leaders.