I come from the sales side of the ISP and SEO industry as part of my interactive background. In my time, I did OK. In that time I also saw MANY who did not do OK and wondered what they said in an interview to get hired. That’s the way it is with most sales positions which is why turnover is so high and ‘opportunities’ are more than most other job segments.
Part of the trouble is the learning curve for sales folks especially in a space that changes as rapidly as Internet marketing does. It’s very different than those who are actually delivering the services being sold. Sales people usually have a 30,000 foot knowledge of what they are selling. Many know just enough to close a deal. Once again this is normal although I won’t go so far as to say it is good. In fact, I would bet that many service delivery folks are ready to jump through the screen right now. Sorry.
Apparently the folks at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have seen trouble in the area of digital media sales that has gotten so bad that they have introduced a certification program for this important group in the overall mechanism of Internet marketing. The IAB’s press release states
“The certification program will help raise the level of professionalism in the digital field by allowing salespeople to demonstrate their knowledge of the complex interactive environment,” said Michael Theodore, Vice President, Member Services, IAB. “Much like examinations in other fields, this test will give current job holders and job seekers a ‘score card’ to prove their understanding of the most important concepts, guidelines, and best practices in digital advertising. Businesses also benefit by ensuring that they have the most competent sales teams possible.”
Let’s just say this is a long time coming. I would venture that most of the trouble that the industry experiences from customers and clients who have been burned by a provider of any kind are, at the very least, the indirect result of sales incompetence. I am very comfortable saying that because I have been guilty of displaying that incompetence (which was rooted more in ignorance rather than me being a sales scumbag) in the past.
Selling in the interactive space is a difficult thing to do especially since everyone is an ‘expert’ (Now that is where TRUE certification needs exist as well. If we could develop a client certification process that would solve all the problems in the interactive world). This certification concept is a good idea so at least a baseline of competence can be established thus creating a more professional sales force.
So who is behind this along with the IAB? Well to name a few there is CNN Money, Conde Nast Media Group, Disney Interactive Media Group and many more. Let’s just say it’s not a fly by night effort to extract money from people (I hope at least!).
So what will be covered?
- Differentiating the benefits of digital versus traditional media
- Describing digital advertising formats
- Defining key digital advertising tools and technologies
- Calculating media mathematics
- Adhering to compliance standards/policies
- Understanding differences in digital ad formats
- Prospecting for new clients
- Aligning digital advertising products with client objectives
- Comprehending internal and third-party research
- Analyzing, launching, and monitoring digital advertising campaigns and data
- Reviewing opportunities to renew or upsell digital advertising campaigns
To be sure it’s not exactly an Ivy League load of work for qualification. The press release describes it further
There is no formal coursework required for the “IAB Digital Media Sales Certification” examination. Designed for salespeople with 2-5 years of experience in the digital industry, it is recommended that candidates have a strong command of current industry issues, players, and operations, as well as a broad understanding of every major digital platform. The test costs $350 for IAB members and $450 for non-members.
While certifications can be obtained anywhere and sometimes the concept rings hollow the main thing this program has going for it is that it comes from the IAB. If Joe’s School of Digital Media Sales were doing this, it would be a non-story. But this is the IAB and they have seen enough evidence to put together this program to try and clean up whatever it is that prompted this course of action.
What do you think about this kind of program? Should there be more like this for sales and delivery folks alike? Do you think it really helps? Will it add value? Will it build confidence?
Let us know in the comments.