Programmatic hasn’t wiped out salespeople. Here’s how to use them best

By Angela C. Kinsella, Senior Director, Programmatic Sales Operations, Demand Media

When we all started down the programmatic road, the fear was that salespeople were an endangered species. I can’t even tell you the number of articles I read featuring horrible robot imagery. Would we all lose our jobs?

But now that “premium programmatic” is a term you hear 10 times a day, we can answer that question: no. In fact, the programmatic sales team is a reality. But that team needs to be built on a solid foundation.

Here’s how you achieve an effective programmatic sales force or, if you’ve already got one, how you improve on what you have.

Step 1: Do you have a programmatic product?

In the last year, nearly every digital publisher has built out a programmatic strategy with one degree of complexity or another.

The product you build will inform where your team will sit and what form it will take. For example, a programmatic product managed by an ad operations unit would require additional yield management and operations staff. The person providing that support would be responsible for managing demand sources. But he or she would also have to work closely with SSP and DSP partners to evangelize your programmatic product. Depending on the size of the team, this person could also become responsible for both the initial and ongoing technical integration with your SSP/DSP partner and would need to understand how to evaluate an SSP.

Now imagine that programmatic is based on the sales side. Here you’d have to train your media planners or sellers – or both. You might even have to develop a dedicated programmatic team within the direct sales organization. This team would work in lockstep with the sellers, educating buyers about the value of programmatic and functioning as lead liaison unit when programmatic requests come in.

Step 2: Sell it. And then sell it again

Once your product and team are in place, it’s time to spread the word about that product. This is no easy task. Communication with the buyside is still quite fragmented. Many buyers, for example, rely heavily on their demand-side platforms or agency trading desks. Others manage programmatic from in-house units, a few seats down from their display planning teams.

The key here is to know how to navigate this discussion . The point is that a publisher might have to have three different conversations: with an agency trading desk, a demand side platform, and an agency. We as publishers have to remain nimble in terms of who we talk to if we want to find the dollars and make sure programmatic represents a worthwhile use of everyone’s time. We need to strive to solve our clients’ problems, just as we would in direct sales, by proactively bringing them programmatic solutions.

Step 3: Evolve

Programmatic isn’t set it and forget it, and neither is building your sales team. No doubt your product will evolve, which will require you to continuously educate your sales force. You may end up moving into display native, video, mobile, and programmatic guaranteed – the whole bit. Your sales team needs to know what this means for your company, for your clients and, of course, for them.

Direct sellers can’t just wine and dine clients. They must be able to articulate product integration. That skill is learned, and then honed. A well-educated sales team won’t just parrot company talking points; they’ll be able to share their opinions on where the market is going, turning themselves from vendors into trusted consultants.

Our goal as publishers is to solve buyers’ problems before they arise. One way to do that is to continually evolve your offering and your sales team.

Programmatic is an ever-changing and growing area of the industry. As buyside adoption evolves and product and technical capabilities become more advanced, the growth and reinvention of the programmatic sales team is a requirement if we are to remain relevant and essential to our partners.

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