The business of ad operations is a complex one, requiring various teams to coordinate their activities to align, compliment, and work in sync with each other well. When it comes to working well with other departments, the first step is embracing a partnership mindset. True partners understand how they each fit into the bigger picture.
That’s how it is with sales and ad ops–their successes are interlinked, as neither department can achieve its greatest height without the support of the other. And without effective communication across teams and a highly-structured workflow in place—there truly is no success.
The truth is, sales heavily relies upon the technical and executional expertise of the ad ops department to deliver phenomenal results. And while ops may not always be in the position to say yes to everything that’s asked of them, they should always be willing to provide the best alternative solutions. This is one of the greatest values that ops can demonstrate in their conversations with sales.
Leveraging Sales Conversations
Any great relationship is based on two-way communications. As an ops professional, are you listening to what buyers are talking about and paying attention to the developing trends that might impact operations? For example, think about how viewability and brand safety changed the way your team operates. Did you miss out on uncovering meaningful insights that could’ve led your team to be more forward thinking? As many of our ad ops friends have told me, active listening is a skill that can, and should, be developed over time. And if you’re doing it right, your partners will feel more understood and appreciated.
But communication isn’t the only element necessary in a happy marriage between ops and sales. Designing a solid workflow between the two teams is just as critical as providing open and honest communication about what can be done when it can be done and how it can be done. In that workflow, an operations team must think through every single scenario and streamline processes to the umpteenth time, and most important—you must have all fail checks in place. That’s why it’s important to have a service level agreement (SLA) in place that works as a living, breathing document that can be updated in real time as necessary.
Providing Top-Flight Internal Customer Experience
The key to providing a top-flight internal customer experience is making sure that your SLA is highly visible and that it’s shared regularly; perhaps at the end of the month or end of the quarter or during major tentpole events that might happen on strategically important weekends (let’s go Superbowl!) or holidays. Continually sharing your SLA at these times serves as a good reminder to sales and it’s often when teams need to see it most.
No one wants to wait until campaign escalations occur to have to whip out the good ole SLA, but if you find yourself in that position be sure to have a simple email template on hand with the most prominent information needed so that ops can make decisions. According to our sources in ad ops, that information should include:
- Launch date:
- Duration of flight:
- Revenue impact:
- Relationship impact:
A common mistake that often occurs, causing conversations to get stonewalled, is when pre-existing decisions or processes become too inflexible. While process is at the heard of running any scalable operation, yesterday’s decision making shouldn’t get in the way of innovation and adaptation. With this in mind, the operations team will want to be seen as an approachable, collaborative, and solutions-oriented team, as every interaction with other teams is as an opportunity for ops to deliver a world-class experience to internal stakeholders.
However, even the best-laid plans can’t account for the invariable friction that is likely to occur, whether that friction stems from miscommunication, human error, oversight, or unforeseen circumstances. It’s always more productive when both sales and ops walk into every interaction with an open mind and willingness to maintain a positive outlook.
So when problems (née escalations) arise it’s a great practice to first, address the problem and then evaluate why things derailed. Here’s a list of questions ad ops should be asking when addressing firestorms:
- Is there an opportunity to learn something new here?
- Are we building or spending relationship credits?
- Where did things go off the rails?
- Is this something we can account for in our process?
- Is this something we can improve through education and coaching?
- What was the opportunity cost? Is this sustainable?
Whenever stakeholders have a need to reach out to the ops team, there should be a consistent client experience across the team. So everyone on the ops team should be trained on what it means to deliver a world-class experience from communicating productively to being able to provide insights into what’s happening across the funnel, to showcasing an individual area of expertise.
If delivering the best customer experience is your goal (and it should be) ongoing training of your team is imperative to avoiding discordant experiences due to variable knowledgeability and solution orientation amongst your individual contributors. A healthy relationship between ops and sales isn’t just about having the right processes in place, it’s equally important to have the right people in place and strategically hiring and training is the best way forward (we’ll dig into more of that in part two of this series).