The New Native Seller

Mailchimp’s “Building It” segment on Cheddar with Jessica Herrin, CEO of Stella & Dot

Two day turnarounds for ideas, endless revisions, countless people involved from the brand, agency, and publisher. If you work in the Ad Industry, especially the Native Ad Industry, you’re all too familiar with the struggle.

I joined the industry in 2010 when Native was in its infancy, and saw its growth and development throughout my time at Buzzfeed. The traditional “pre-Native” model seemed to make sense. You hire creatives. You hire sellers. You hire account managers. Everyone has a specific role within the organization, and does their part to contribute to the success of the program.

It takes an army, but it’s how you produce the best results. We thought…

In my new role at Cheddar (a new live video media company, ed.), I question that model and how business teams are structured in general. Joining a lean startup in its early days makes you consider alternatives in order to succeed within the given parameters (mainly, lack of manpower).

Why can’t your sellers be your creatives and account managers? Are these skill sets not interchangeable? It’s time break the mold and try something new.

The idea isn’t to avoid hiring for the sake of remaining lean, or to cut costs. The fact is, there doesn’t need to be a whole lot of “selling” anymore. A good ad product should drive demand. The challenge is coming up with the right solution for each specific advertiser, and making sure you’re true to their voice and listening to their needs.

I’ve raised the question in the past among industry friends, and often received the same response- “That’s not scalable” or “Sellers should be selling and not worrying about the minutia of everyday account management.” But I think that sentiment is antiquated in the modern market.

There’s no reason why this model isn’t infinitely scalable. As the business grows, it’s necessary to create verticalized “pods” of hybrid roles. Mangers can lead, execute, and have a deep understanding of the account’s unique challenges.

This type of dedication provides a deeper understanding of a client’s needs and ultimately result in longer term partnerships.

If you focus on hiring individuals who have creative business sense, and are focused on building relationships, it can be done. It’s beneficial to your business, and great for the client.

The key is smart hiring. I’m not necessarily looking at prospective employees’ past job titles, or asking “what numbers did you do at your last company?”, or asking for a portfolio of creative campaigns. I’m looking for the relentless mentality of someone who will succeed at any challenge that is put in front of them, and isn’t tied to linear thinking.

There are a few things that happen when you structure a team this way:

1) You weed out a lot of bad apples. Sure, there are fantastic traditional salespeople who are team players. But there are plenty who aren’t. They view “the sell” as the end of their obligation to the team. They close the deal and walk away. The client misses out on the future benefits of a salesperson who has seen their campaign all the way through and understands the subsequent work needed to make it a success.

2) You become accountable. The attitude of “it’s not my job to know that” vanishes. You learn quickly and become a more well rounded individual just by the very nature of this structure.

3) You eliminate the natural tension between the “sales team” and the “support teams.” One team is tasked with everything. If you sell a bad deal, you own it.

It’s never too late to reimagine an ad product, a strategy, or a team structure. Just because it’s existed for years doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement or reinvention. Take your learnings from past experience and create something that challenges the status quo.

This piece originally appeared on www.nativeadvertisinginstitute.com where Melissa Rosenthal is a contributor

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