Some time ago, I worked for a seasoned sales pro who learned her craft at Larry Ellison’s Oracle. Oracle has a hyper-competitive sales culture; you don’t survive long if you’re not successful.
She told me a story about participating in a team-building exercise at an annual sales conference. Each team was given the same theoretical challenge: be the first to ascend to the top of Mt. Everest. And each team was given a set of resources – food, gear, money, etc. The point was to use your resources as wisely as possible within a given amount of time. Otherwise, the resources would run out and not only would you fail to make it to the top, you might perish trying (theoretically, of course).
The winning team did something no one else did – they risked everything and took a detour. It was a calculated risk that paid off because that detour led to a local guru who knew the shortest route. Following his route not only would make up for the lost time but put the team way ahead of its competitors.
My boss was not on that winning team, which really pissed her off (she was well-suited for that cut-throat sales environment) but she learned a valuable lesson: knowledge is power.
And sometimes you get that knowledge not by hard work but by knowing where to look and who to ask.
The List, which for years has offered one of the best information sources on decision makers at marketers, brands and advertising agencies, has just launched a new product (still in beta), called Winmo Talk.
(A note here: the database product formerly known as The List is transitioning to a new name, Winmo, and Winmo Talk is one of its new features.)
Winmo Talk is a child of the sharing economy. It’s community-sourced insight and context on your prospects (and your clients).
It has the potential for being a valuable tool for ad agency new business leads because, like the Mt. Everest exercise, it helps you work smarter, not harder. If the community of subscribers uses it the way its meant to be used, it’s going to grow into a rich deposit of qualitative information.
And it will address one of the biggest problem agencies face when trying to maintain sales momentum: time (or a lack of it). Knowledge is the best, most effective short-cut you can have.
But why would you want to share your secrets with competitors?
Well, maybe you don’t want to share all of them, but don’t you think you’re in a position to need information too? It shouldn’t be a zero-sum game.
Here’s another anecdote by way of illustration. When I first got into advertising, I was a sales rep for a commercial production company, pitching my directors to agency producers when I was lucky enough to have them return my calls. Unfortunately, I missed the fat days of commercial production by about 20 years (remember the final scene of Mad Men when we’re given a glimpse of Joan’s future success?).
In fact, the market was saturated. There were only so many ad agencies for us to call on and yet everyday there seemed to be a new production company or a new director on the scene competing for a smaller pool of business. Many of us sales reps, especially the newer ones, figured out that we had more to gain as collaborators than competitors. My weeks were filled with as many lunch and drink dates with my colleagues as with customers. We weren’t naïve - we didn’t give everything away, but we knew that our knowledge was valuable and could be used as currency.
You give, you get.
Fast forward another twenty years and today it’s the advertising agencies that are proliferating – thousands of them in the US alone. Some of them do exactly what you do but many are just as likely to be your partners, not your competition. A tool like Winmo Talk creates a similar sense of community and cooperation that we sales reps had over our lunches.
Winmo Talk is still in beta and during the time I demo’d it, I felt a little like I’d shown up at a party on the early side before a critical mass of people start to arrive to liven it up. It’s only going to get better with use so, if you’re an agency subscriber of Winmo, it’s well worth your while to stop by and see what you can learn (and share).