‘Keep it Real’ Sales Series Interview III – Hollis Thomases

Preface: If there is one thing Social Media does well which is often overlooked, is its ability to identify people you share common areas of interest with. Souls that you would stand virtually no chance of even knowing about, let alone coming into contact with, otherwise. My acquaintance with Hollis Thomases is very much about just that.

While Ms Thomases has great visibility & respect in the Web marketing/solutions world as a ClickZ Expert columnist on one side, she has much the same in practical terms on the other as well, providing cutting-edge, dynamic solutions to her clients nationally as head of Web Ad.Vantage. And her first book, Twitter Marketing: An Hour A Day, also just arrived this year on top of all that.

Yet, she also can be accessible, as I found first through a series of Re-Tweets of some her columns, Comments that I left on ClickZ for others, and then a Re-blog of yet another. From there a dialogue started, we passed some blog/article ideas back & forth, and have had many totally un-serious, joking moments in between. All that…and yet we’ve never met…and only actually spoken to each other by phone, once. Such is the power of Social Media that leads to today’s interview, for which we at MoM[S] are honored at her in granting.

MoM[S]: Thanks so much for joining MoM[S], Hollis, as our 3rd guest in the ‘Keep it Real’ Interview Series.

Our interests and dialogue have intersected far more to date on the overall ‘Media/ Advertising’ side than on the ‘Sales’ side, oddly enough. Having said that…you as a CEO “sell” your Agency and its value to clients all the time. And in fact have a heavyweight Sales background!

Now, I recently talked on video & have written a lot about my personal ‘Universal Sales Law’, as I call it. From all of that, do you have any beliefs or guidelines for YOUR sales process?

HOLLIS: I believe that a few “universal principles” guide my sales process:
1. Always be authentic & honest
2. Don’t ever over-promise something you can’t deliver
3. Be consultative — what we do isn’t always easy to understand, and very often prospects come to us seeking services they really don’t need (or are ready for). Not only do I have to explain to them why I believe their request to not be appropriate for them at that time, but I also counsel them on ways or tactics they would be better-served to consider under their current conditions. I’ve earned my “Online Marketing’s Voice of Reason” moniker for a reason.
4. Show them your belief in partnerships, not vendor/client relationships — We aim to please and the best way we can demonstrate this is by considering ourselves part of their firm, not a service provider to it.
5. Follow the Golden Rule — I try to treat prospects as I’d want them to treat me…and if as a prospect they appear to not abide by this rule, I may end up turning away the opportunity realizing that they may not be the best client to work for in the long run (i.e. It’s not all about the money).

MoM[S]: And, what about in reverse, when a sales person/vendor approaches you? What do you like to see, or hate to see?

HOLLIS: I really dislike to be pitched to. Most of the sales pitches I receive don’t have a clue about my company or any real reason to pitch me other than I’m on some sort of hit list. I appreciate the sales person who cultivates a relationship with me first. This may be a longer process, but ultimately it will be more likely to get them the sale. And of course, once you sell me, don’t just forget me. My favorite vendors are those who maintain long-term relationships with me, because you never know what else or when else I might need something you offer.

MoM[S]: Between WebAdvantage.net, your ClickZ columns, and speeches, etc., you still manage to be fully immersed in the Web, [which means you are impossibly busy, all the time!]

From that view, then: Ad exchanges, DSPs and RTB processes are all the rage right now…even as some are already calling for their demise.

Until that demise comes about [if it does], a lot of the ‘Sales’ process, and the Sales professional’s that practice them…are seen by some as being without jobs soon. I somehow doubt that, if only because of the whole ‘High Tech/High Touch’ premise. How do you see this?

1. Online media is complicated in the first place and those providing services and receiving the bulk of the dollars are coming out of the traditional space. As one senior exec recently shared with me, “They can barely understand let alone utilize frequency capping so how are they going to move into these kinds of advanced solutions?”
2. Online media isn’t one size fits all. Sure, if you want to do a broad mass market buy with lots of impressions, these kinds of solutions may work for you, but a lot of plans are very niche-specific these days and the technology hasn’t replaced the human’s intellect to assess what’s right or wrong for these kinds of media plans.
3. Clients need rationale. They want to have a plan in advance and they want to understand why you’re suggesting the sites in the plan you are and at what costs. These models turn old-fashioned notions on their ears and many clients don’t get this, let alone want to let go of higher levels of control.

MoM[S]: It is notable you are joining us now as our 3rd guest in our ‘Keep it Real’ Sales Series, as just on August 6, you referred in a ClickZ column to ‘keeping it real’ for your clients at all times. You also mention there a new fave term [in this age of fast-changing ad norms], fadvertising.

Since we at MoM[S] write mostly about Media & Adv sales…what do you see are some of the coming ‘fads’ in our world?

HOLLIS: Well certainly anything social media related as well as video and mobile. Geo-local advertising is hot. Internet TV should be interesting to watch but is early stage. New bigger ads are really old superstitials re-purposed.

MoM[S]: Speaking of fads [or what could end up as a fad], there has been some buzz out there about the agency ‘review’ process being taken in-house and dropping the use of Agency review consultants.

Not looking for a trashing here, either way, but with your views from about six vantage points here, what is your take on where this process currently is?

HOLLIS: I don’t really have a take here. Due to our size, we’re often not involved in an agency review process.

MoM[S]: 2nd Question: One could say at the least, that these consultant’s need to now sell “value” to their clients? Your thoughts?

HOLLIS: If nothing else, everyone is walking a very fine line between being completely over-worked/over-stretched and economically rationalizing every purchase. I think when the balance of that line shifts slightly in either direction, the scales are tipped in that favor.

MoM[S]: Here is an item I love, have written about, and always striving at. It’s also one you have been on both sides of. So, please comment on this ‘Catch-22’:

Ad agencies always want those on the Sales side to “know theirs & their client’s business, goals & objectives.” These days however, of course, we rarely get out for lunch…let alone a phone call back…to actually talk about those objectives, so that we on the sales side can actually help out. Or offer great suggestions. Or create winning solutions.

HOLLIS: Sadly, this is quite true. Objectives seem more like something that someone had to write down on paper somewhere, to hand to higher-ups as realistic goals that all team members are committed to…and that’s even before you come along and get involved in the project. It’s a very frustrating situation, and ultimately, unless you can steer some reason into the process, no one wins.

I think this is why so many huge corporations are failing so miserably these days. Too many ‘Yes Men’; not enough Voices of Reason.

MoM[S]:This is your interview, but MoM[S] wrote an early Blog post about using Social Media tools in the Sales process, but NOT for B2C customers…we wrote it on accessing B2B prospects via Social Media tools.

That is much more tricky, of course. Much more. And very different, too, I might add. You have a unique vantage point/perspective no doubt here as well, Hollis, I’d venture to say. Any comments or thoughts about using Social Media in a B2B ‘Sales’ process…or not?

HOLLIS: It’s absolutely appropriate. Social media can build a personal brand, earn you credibility all of which can translate directly into new business. But it needs to be done so in an authentic way, the same way you’d otherwise go to market (refer back to your Universal Sales Laws/Principles) otherwise you could just as easily have your name turned to mud.

MoM[S]: Last question, Hollis. To end, I’m going to ask you to put your Sales hat back on….

Here at MoM[S], our de-facto tagline for what we do has taken shape finally as, ‘The Right-Brain ‘Art’ of Sales vs. The Left-Brain ‘Analytic’.

Not looking for strokes here by any means, so any thoughts on something like that? Take this wherever you’d like it to go.

HOLLIS: I think these are interesting times. I’m not even sure the old “Right-Brained vs. Left-Brained” adage can hold true these days because so much of today’s tools require both sides of the brain. How can you be creative today and not also be a technologist? How can you be a global communicator without also seeing trends and patterns in communications? I don’t know if we all will keep looking at people as one kind or another when it comes to our brains soon. I think we’ll all be adapting and forced to use more of our craniums than ever!

MoM[S]: Thanks again, Hollis. The very best to you & WebAdvantage.net…!

HOLLIS: Thanks Ken! Best to you too!


~ by MindOnMediaSales on October 27, 2010.

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