The Sale After The Sale: The New Reality Of Selling Display Ads

In my current role leading the sales organization at, I have the pleasure of interacting with all levels of media buyers representing local and national brands, advertising agencies, trading desks, publishers, ad networks and resellers. Predictably, the contacts making media-buying decisions within these companies span a broad range of age and experience levels.shutterstock_124544959

While no universal statement is true for every individual, I can confirm that those that buy online media today are genuinely confused. They are under a sales and marketing assault by vendor representatives that are often confused themselves.

And why wouldn’t they be? For instance, among programmatic solutions today, vendor representatives are presenting solutions that often access common inventory sources and common data sources, while leveraging features with common names such as “look-a-likes,” “algorithms” and “transparency.”

The truth is that the genuine differences between vendors are often highly technical and outside of the scope of what the average sales person can articulate with clarity.

For this reason, I applaud the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) for taking the necessary first step to bring some form of accreditation to online media sales via the IAB Digital Media Sales Certification.

The average buyer of digital media today does not want to be sold anything. They want to be educated so they can make an intelligent buy, and unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to know if the education the vendor is providing is authentic truth or just propaganda designed to separate buyers from their test budgets.

In fact, have you noticed that in today’s sales climate, everyone seems to have a test budget? I would argue that more than ever, it is increasingly easy to get an individual to test your product or solution.

This is just one of many defense systems developed by media buyers today that should send a clear message to all. The message is, “Based on experience, we don’t fully understand or believe everything we are told, so we must experience your online media solution to distinguish the reality from your sales pitch.”

This experience of buying and using your company’s display media solution is, in fact, the true sale. My peers and I have come to define this as “the sale after the sale.”

What Do Buyers Of Display Media Want?

The truth is that buying and selling display media has changed. The buyers of this generation have been marketed to every moment of their lives, and their BS detectors are razor sharp.

The only way to get past their filters is to not BS them to begin with. While an entire book can be written on this subject, here are a few simple requests buyers have made clear to me and my team when approaching them with a new solution for buying display media.

Get To The Point

Unfortunately, ad networks increasingly don’t call themselves ad networks; demand side platforms stopped calling themselves demand side platforms and so on. Buyers want to know what you are, who you compete with, and why you are different. They need and want a frame of reference for you and your display solution so they can bring their experience immediately to bear in the conversation. They want you to arrive at the punch line without a lot of fanfare.

Consider the length of a text message or a post on Facebook or Twitter. People today like their information in bite-size, easy-to-swallow pieces. Be concise and to the point.

Don’t Make Claims That Can’t Be Validated

Nothing is more frustrating to a buyer and harmful to a vendor than universal claims that logically cannot be validated. Today, we see this manifested in sales presentations and vendor websites that claim, “We have more data than any other vendor,” “We have more clients in [fill-in-the-blank] vertical than any other provider,” or even, “We are the only display solution that can do this.”

We live in the information age when people can click a button and learn almost anything. Even the most trusting media buyer knows that these companies have no real idea what their competition has or does not have, or what they can or cannot do. People today want you to be transparent and candid.

Help Me Make The Case

Unless you are meeting with the business owner or the CEO of a company, the reality is that whoever is working with the display vendor will have to answer for the decisions they are making and the display vendors they are selecting.

For this reason, I find that media buyers of all levels are looking for trusted tools and resources to help them make their case. We live in a world where the average person can and will research decisions. They want to know that they can articulate the reason that your solution is the right solution and that they can make that case without you while maintaining their credibility.

Be Honest About Your Limitations

Perhaps no question has been more insightful to me than the following. “Can you tell me the ways your company has deployed campaigns unsuccessfully?”

When media buyers give you test budget or trust you with a significant allocation of their marketing budget, they are asking you to help them navigate the minefield of potential risks.

I find that candor regarding what you can do and proactive acknowledgement of any element that may lead to failure is accepted with refreshing gratitude. This includes frank and honest conversations about the quality of the creative, the attribution methodology and the conversion process itself.

Deliver A Reality In Line With The Vision

In the end, when a media buyer is partnering with a company to deliver their display advertising today, they are often doing so without fully knowing how the vendor and tactics being sold to them will work with absolute certainty.

They have a vision delivered to them by vendor sales reps, validated with research and supporting materials that they have internalized and repeated to clients, peers and superiors to the best of their ability. The sale after the sale has begun and only time and budget will know if the reality equals the vision.

It is my belief that when selling display marketing, we have a personal responsibility to make every effort to align the pre- and post-campaign visions through the adoption of higher and better sales standards built for today’s audience in today’s crowded landscape.

Stock image used with permission of

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column | Display Advertising: Programmatic Media Buying


About The Author: is the Chief Revenue Officer for, a company quickly being recognized as the authority in search retargeting. Since the mid 90’s James has been involved in leading companies who are paving new paths in digital space.

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