Darwinian Digital Sales - Michael Kassan

By Media Link-ed Archives

The NewFronts are a great show, no doubt about it. As I’ve said before, they are relevant, important, and are evolving into a real and vibrant marketplace.

But even as I got reports of the week-long sensory storm, snacked on industry anecdotes, noted new players and sampled new content, I kept thinking about how dependent the fates of all of these ventures were on a development far less glamorous than the latest A-lister to launch an online channel.

The NewFronts, as with everything else in digital, must be viewed through the prism of the unstoppable force that is programmatic buying and its effect on sales.

Consider that for the digital salesperson today the task is not simply to outsell the competition but to beat an algorithm. And not all salespeople, not even most of them, represent a premium digital brand that facilitates face-to-face selling.

It’s a new era, a time when salespeople will shine—and be the most challenged.

Ben Horowitz co-founder and partner of Andreessen Horowitz, summed up this challenge brilliantly in a recent and widely disseminated blog column. The piece addressed the fallacy of tech firms applying the same strategies they employ to hire engineers to the sales hiring process.

“All things being equal, always interview the Google engineer over the Quest Software engineer,” Horowitz wrote, because “you have to be way better to get a job at Google than at Quest.”

When it comes to sales, though, Horowitz noted that “anybody with a pulse can sell a massively winning product” but “people who consistently sold Lanier copiers against Xerox were elite.”

By this analogy, every direct digital sale is a Lanier copier going against the Xerox of plugging in a data set and bidding automatically. This is the toughest selling environment that we’ve ever seen apart from massive economic downturns. And that, I think, is where the tipping point for a lot of digital content – and digital content producers, aggregators, distributors, etc… - will lie.

Yes, much of the original content we have seen and continue to see emerge is amazing. Nevertheless, in a marketplace increasing dominated by automatic auction buying, it is going to be the elite salespeople who seal the deal.

Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New York City-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at michael@medialinkllc.com

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