Steve Bookbinder, CEO and co-founder of Digital Media Training, started his career being a sales person by day and a comic by night. Arguably it was his work in the latter that best prepared him for a career in sales training -- helping both aspiring and established sales executives improve their game.
In this interview, Steve talks about his company, how sales has changed over the years and the future of sales in a programmatic world. He also offers tips for people looking for a job in this new media environment.
(Editor's Note: Steve is a frequent contributor to the DMTraining blog here on MediaVillage.)
Charlene Weisler: Tell me about your current company.
Steve Bookbinder: Digital Media Training provides training for companies that are involved in competitive sales. Many of our clients are involved in the media business. We work with these companies to teach them how to evolve their media offerings. Our training program covers two main aspects of selling digital media. The first is an overview of the digital media landscape and what's trending. Then we focus on how it all fits together and how to sell in this increasingly competitive landscape.
Charlene: You were founded in 2009. Has the sales environment changed over the years?
Steve: Yes. It's constantly changing. The reasons are vast but typically related to changes in technology and our society. For example, with today's technology increasing awareness and accessibility customers are much more informed, which makes them smarter buyers. They use the Internet to research your company, your market, your competitors and all the choices they have available.
Another change in today's sales environment is the actual approach to selling. Buyers are looking for someone they can trust, that they can rely on, and who can help them solve their problems in the quickest and most economical way. This takes a very different approach to selling, as well as much more patience than before.
To help keep up with these changes you must stay up-to-date on the latest selling techniques and skills. You also need to keep up with your market and your competitors' business and products so you know their strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own products.
Charlene: What are the principles of sales?
Steve: The first principle all sales people need to know is Pipeline Management, or the tracking of progress. It is the management of time and focus that creates a predictable path to fulfill sales goals. The predictable path to the goal includes all of those pieces of business that are most likely to close. It is the combination of understanding your selling cycle and the next step you have to complete to close the business. We often confuse managing and monitoring in sales. Most people track how things are going but there is no time audit. True sales management has a time audit. Time management in sales ensures that you are aligning time spent with your goals.
Charlene: Has sales changed since you first started in the industry?
Steve: The closing pattern in sales has not changed; that is sacrosanct and is always the same. But what has completely changed is how long a sales process goes. It is taking longer because it is harder to sell than it has ever been. There used to be a clear decision-maker but that's no longer the case. Today we try every qualifying question in the book, but I find that once you reach the end of the negotiation you'll be told, 'I have to ask my boss.' There has to be a sales insider to make the deal happen.
Charlene: How has programmatic TV changed the sales landscape?
Steve: Programmatic TV is a growing area of interest throughout the media industry. While programmatic TV is still very much in its infancy, for many it represents an inevitable future. For others, it raises skepticism regarding programmatic's potential value within the traditional TV transaction model. From a sales landscape point of view, sellers must think differently and be open to adjusting their workflow to make things more efficient by doing different tasks. Given the challenges sellers face with increasing audience fragmentation, deteriorating reliability of the ratings currencies and the expanding number of inventory options necessary to fulfill advertiser audience commitments, programmatic may offer TV operators the ideal platform to holistically monetize audiences wherever they're consuming content.
Charlene: Where do you see programmatic TV going in the next five years?
Steve:We are still in the very early days of programmatic TV. Current solutions are fragmented and long-established processes and business practices may slow the transition. Many content owners have understandable concerns that by putting their inventory into programmatic platforms, they risk a devaluation and commoditization of inventory -- analogous to what happened to some display inventory in the digital space on ad networks and exchanges.
Despite all the audience fragmentation, TV remains the best medium to reach large audiences through the power of sight, sound and motion. Programmatic offers the opportunity not only to adapt to a changing viewing ecosystem, but also to take advantage of data and automation to optimize yield in ways never before available.
Charlene: How do you think the media landscape will look in the next three to five years?
Steve: From a sales point of view, I believe that successful sales executives will have to become marketers, too. The days of thinking like a person who merely hawks ad inventory is over. We don't need that guy anymore. Salespeople must be helpful and informed. They need to stay up to date about what's trending in the digital media landscape. They need to understand what the advertiser is trying to accomplish, who they are trying to reach and how they will measure success. Few sellers truly understand their customer's business. That's why sellers need to go from hawking to thinking strategically, like a marketer. The customer may want/need to know: How do I get more people to my website? How do I get my customers to re-engage? How do I use mobile marketing? It's an ever-changing and always-competitive marketplace. We must be ready to answer and act upon these types of questions.
Charlene: What advice can you give to someone looking for a job in media right now?
Steve: The key is learning to think holistically. What's the bigger picture? How do all of these other elements fit in? You must first understand the parts that make up the whole. In today's competitive job market, you must be open to thinking differently than ever before.
For new, entry-level job seekers, there are many opportunities out there. Stay open minded. If a job description doesn't perfectly match up with what you had in mind, but seems appealing to you, consider applying for it anyway. You'll learn something new just from applying. And at this stage in your career, the idea is to network, make new contacts, educate yourself and gain experience.
For experienced, senior-level job seekers, there can be an ageism stereotype associated with this level of seniority. Prove them wrong! You can counter this with enthusiasm, by being passionate about what you do at work. Leverage your experience into opportunity by staying knowledgeable and up-to-date on what's trending in the digital landscape. You'll stand out from the pack when you become a fountain of intelligence about your job and the industry.
The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com / MyersBizNet, Inc. management or associated bloggers.