License to stall

In business to business sales, you will encounter three kinds of people:

  • The vast majority, empowered to stall, to ask for more information, to delay, to send you after the broomstick of the wicked witch of the west.
  • A smaller population that can stall but also have the authority to say no.
  • A tiny portion of your meetings will be with people authorized to say yes (and some of these people are foolish enough to do the other two tasks, just for kicks).

You have no chance (zero) of moving someone from one category to another. The reason this system evolved is straightforward: the yes people are rare in a typical organization, because they have responsibility and power. So they are busy and need to be protected. The no people are easy to train at saying no, and they're waiting to be promoted to yes people. And the stallers? They represent the dip, the barrier salespeople have to get through to show that they are serious.

This is true for all business to business selling, but I think it's worthwhile to consider ad sales.

In today's long tail new media world, I think that marketers that rely on this system are failing. When there were only a few media options worth considering when placing an ad, the stalling, no-ing and eventually yes-please system didn't hurt them much. NBC had the wherewithal to get through the system. Yahoo and AOL organized to get through it as well. A marketer could just arrogantly wait for the best salespeople and buy ads from them and succeed.

Now, though, there are thousands of sites that could offer your organization targeted, efficient media that would pay off handsomely at the price you are willing to buy it.

Look at it from the blogger's point of view: If you're a blogger, would you sell a monthly sponsorship on your blog for $2,000? $20,000? Probably, and it would be a bargain for both sides. But you don't even try, because the overhead is huge.The cost of selling that sponsorship is more than you'd earn.

So, Visa, a stalling marketer, spent a million or more dollars on a very expensive, complex and largely ineffective online promotion last month–not because it was likely to work, but because it was well sold by persistent and effective salespeople. They should have sponsored your blog and 400 others instead.

The opportunity for marketers in search of media is not to play defense, to stall people with clever ideas or small platforms, but instead to stop stalling and start looking. The bargains are there, just waiting.