As you no doubt are aware, the IAB is now offering a Digital Media Sales Certification. The program was created by and for industry experts. It raises the level of professionalism by allowing salespeople to demonstrate their knowledge of the most important concepts, guidelines and best practices in interactive advertising. Likewise, companies benefit by ensuring that they have the most knowledgeable sales teams possible. Some companies have already embraced this and are offering to pay for their employees who are qualified to take this test.
For those of you still on the fence, you should consider the following:
What serves the advertiser best? Isn’t this our fallback criteria for all decisions? The test is for sellers and other client-facing digital sales professionals who have been in the business for at least a few years. For them, the test will be challenging but passable. However, for rookies with less than 2 years of experience, this test may be too daunting. It is this very fact that makes the certification so very valuable. People who sell other media usually recognize each other’s competence by the number of years they have been in that business. Without question, a 15 year veteran of print or television sales knows what they are talking about. But, in the digital arena, a person with 15 years’ experience can probably tell us all about the early days of AOL and Friendster, etc., but may not be ready to address advertiser’s concerns about mobile apps. It is not the years, but the miles, so to speak. Advertisers are best served by professionals who understand how to leverage 360° campaigns across multiple platforms that engage users through social media and SEO. Without the right chops, the seller doesn’t even know what to ask let alone what to present. People who pass that test can truly help advertisers.
a. What serves the media company best? Every digital publisher I have spoken to in the last few years has told me that their offering keeps expanding but their competition now includes non-traditional peers who may have more visitors, uniques, page views, etc. These kinds of competitive differences can only be overcome with skills and knowledge. The alternative is business lost to competitors as well as selling wrong, where clients with the goals that don’t fit your sweet spot are being worked on tirelessly by your already-overworked service team. That is the recipe for defeat. An IAB Certified sales team knows how to compete correctly. It’s like the NFL out there, digitally speaking. Do you really want to play against an NFL team with an intramural flag football team of non-certified sellers? You are buying the best content, partnering with best resources, using the best technology – and then you want to cheap out with non-certified sellers? What does that communicate to the rest of the industry about your commitment to excellence?
b. What serves the sales team best? Investing in your players builds a team much more effectively than a team-building day in the woods. Yes, the certification challenges your team to be at their best. Why would you –or they – be satisfied by anything less? Best case, they have a stressful day on the day they take the test. Worst case is that they prepared for the test and “wasted” some time learning things they didn’t know but come up daily.
I’m at a loss to see a negative. The commitment to professionalism by passing the IAB test communicates to peers, partners and clients that the seller and their organization is in this game for the long haul. What does not being certified communicate?
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