Hire Excellent Digital Sellers: 5 Secrets - Walter Sabo

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Hire Excellent Digital Sellers: 5 Secrets - Walter Sabo

Made you look. There is nothing harder than finding effective digital sellers. So hard, it is logical to conclude that there aren't any great digital advertising sellers. The job listings are packed with ads begging, "Sharks wanted." "Are you a shark?" "Can you bring business with you?" "Closers only."

The account executive turnover at major digital firms is very high. Start-ups raise funds to salary qualified, experienced shark-sellers but their hires sell -- nothing. Not a little, but nothing. In talking with dozens of start-up CEOs they share the same story:

"I hired a seller with a killer resume and they sold nothing. Almost all of the billing we have was sold by me and my co-founder -- or by sellers with no sales experience."

CEOs then try new ad-wording (sharks), nothing. Or they outsource freelance sales teams only to discover those are often scams, i.e. the outsource company wants the client to fund their enterprise 100%.


After studying this for years, I believe that professional sellers are less than effective at selling digital advertising because BUYERS HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO BUY DIGITAL ADVERTISING. MBAs call this an "inefficient marketplace."


1. Sellers are hired based on their robust resumes in sales. They have effectively sold TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor. Digital is a new medium with a new language and buying patterns. Prior experience, therefore, is not applicable. It may be a hinderance.

2. Buyers have no rules for digital engagement. Go to Mindshare, Mediavest, Starcom, Starbright, FirststarIseetonight.net.uk, or any major buying agency and they have well tested methods for buying proven media. But they have less robust algorithms or measured demands for free tickets to close a digital buy. (No, of course not your agency.)

That's why they always ask, "How do we measure the ROI if we buy this from you?" Fact is, every brand has their own ROI standards but these standards have not been established for new media. It is not the seller's job to outline the ROI. Brands/agency ask because they don't actually know what the ROI should be.

3. There is no standard for online video ROI. Do you measure the first click? The first 5 seconds? Or does a person have to watch the whole video for it to count?

4. No training. Because it's a new medium, there is no standard for training digital sales people. Larger digital enterprises have in-house training programs but their success rate is about the same as companies that have no formal training. This is because the parameters for training are rooted in traditional media examples.

5. The timeline for success is different. Transactional timelines used for radio, TV, print do not apply to digital. It takes at least 10 times longer to close a digital sale than it does traditional media. Most of the time is not spent on selling, it's spent on finding the buyer. "New Media" is dumped into different silos depending on the company. While many companies and agencies lie and say, "Our entire company is the digital department," the reality is that the true digital buyer is either the boss or the just-hired kid.

It's not just you. The frustration of finding and managing digital sales is both profound and unspoken. Now you are free to speak.

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