“Sales” is Broken

For context, I have been in sales since 1997 and have seen the profession evolve as the Internet grew, technology influenced the process, and now as AI takes over. My oldest memory of sales people was when I was an Assistant Media Planner at an ad agency for Microsoft. This was the dawn of digital so print advertising ruled when it came to B2B Marketing. I recall walking through our lobby and seeing my more senior colleagues meeting with reps, casually reviewing a printed flip deck of research. My instant takeaway was added value. In other words, if a sales rep could provide additional value that allowed someone to do their job better, relationships could be developed, and everyone won by just doing their job. This was 1996 so when I was approached by my sales contact at AudioNet (later broadcast.com) for a job, I first said that I didn’t want to be is sales. But then we continued to discuss what “sales” meant and I eventually told him that if I was going to take the job, I wanted to be different. I wanted to be more like a consultant. I wanted to educate buyers on a new digital channel that most people didn’t know anything about. At the time, the Internet was only becoming known by most of the country and now we were introducing radio across it that allowed people to listen to content from almost anywhere. This is commonplace today but in 1997, not so much. I enjoyed having technology conversations with others so I decided to give it a shot; I quickly found out that I enjoyed it.

I follow the same principles to this day but unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most of the people involved in sales within MarTech and adTech. As a business owner, I receive just as much cold outreach as any buyer of ads or tech. Just this morning, I received 12 cold emails and 5 cold LinkedIn messages and it’s only 9:30 am. I try to review them as often as I can but it’s frustrating when they are uninformed and irrelevant. Cogent is not an ad agency. I am not free at 2:30, and I am flattered that you still want to connect but maybe I don’t. You know what I am talking about, right? The worst is the cold outreach that I receive from the SDR tech that all of these people leverage. The last thing I ever want to do is send out cold emails that are uninformed or irrelevant. After 27 years in this business, I have multiple networks from my various roles so I leverage them for warm leads and introductions.

So why do we have such a large issue in our industry now? I believe there are 3 contributing factors:

  • Too many tech companies and not enough sales people
  • Sales has become a numbers game
  • Buyers are strapped for resources and don’t have enough time to evaluate every possible vendor and give them each a fair assessment

These all kind of work together but I am sure these points resonate with every buyer of Martech and adTech. Cogent was built to address all of the friction created by the points addressed above. Our members tell us what they need or are struggling with and then we curate and vet solutions for them. We can provide them a winner or a short-list but either way, we save them time researching, allow them to ignore all the cold sales outreach, and partner with confidence. However, at the end of the day, we are just human as well and have limitations so we decided to build a platform to help scale what we do and give more control to buyers and a fair shake to each relevant vendor.

We have been referring to this platform by a few different names as we built it. You may have read about Cogent Spotlight or Squarely. Now we are referring to it as Blurbs. Let me explain and then the names will make more sense. You are welcome to weigh in on the names below in the comments. Through our research, interviewing buyers of tech, we asked them about their process for finding the right tech for their needs. We typically got one of three responses:

  • “I do a Google search, read some top 10 lists, visit some websites, and send a few email from their websites”
  • “I ask a few colleagues in similar roles what they use and I investigate them.”
  • “I don’t have time to research so I just buy a solution from someone that we already have an MSA with, like Google or Amazon.”

The biggest complaint with the first answer is that it is very time consuming, limited in scope, and annoying. Most people said that the vendors websites didn’t make it easy for them to understand what their true value prop was and how they differed from others in the market. The top 10 lists tended to be affiliate websites and there wasn’t any consistency.

Gaining validation from colleagues can be comforting but if they run a different type of business, have a different tech stack, or just need to solve different challenges, their input isn’t very helpful and it could lead to people picking the wrong partner for their specific needs.

The third answer was very common. Buyers tended to have a love/hate relationship with the industry behemoths. They know they won’t get fired for buying from them and that it will be easy to get done because the MSA is in place. But they also know that they would be buying an inferior solution compared to point solutions. They also don’t want to give these companies more business as they already have “too many eggs in their baskets.

Blurbs, from the reviews on the back of a book cover, will categorize several thousand tech vendors across every possible category. Buyer will be able to quickly get a blurb on each vendor in their search and quickly decide if they want to read more, download materials, or schedule a call. Once they compile a list of vendors that meet their needs, buyers are welcome to use our evaluation engine to quickly help determine the best vendors for their needs. Then it’s just a matter of one meeting to make sure you like the people, platform, and roadmap. Of course price will play a part too. Blurbs will also contain tools to help buyers connect with peers, learn from experts, and share experiences in a light and breezy way.

If you would like to learn more about the platform or become a member, just send me an email at sean@becogent.co. We anticipate that the platform will launch in early September. It will be free for brands and agencies to use. Vendors will have freemium and premium access opportunities but our main priority is to give all buyers a clear and wide view of the entire Martech and adTech ecosystems in one place, without the need to visit every website, read every email or LinkedIn messages. Now you will have solid data to justify your selections and it will be easier than ignoring spam. So know that when I email you or offer assistance, I am being 100% genuine.

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