In February, we reported that AOL nominated sales rep Ali Van Putten to be one of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s 2009 Sales Excellence award-winners. Ali was the only AOLer to get a finalist nod from the IAB, and so we called her “AOL’s 2009’s top sales rep.”Three months later, Ali no longer works at AOL. According to sources, she’s defected for unknown, but apparently greener, pastures.
Ali is not the only top sales rep to quit AOL in recent months.
A source with knowledge of the inner-workings of AOL sales has passed us a list of top sales people from the company, who, in the past few months, have fled AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s regime for new, better-paying jobs elsewhere, and imploded AOL’s advertising revenues in the process.
They are quitting for two reasons.
- The first is that Tim and Jeff Levick’s Q4 and Q1 re-organisation (bloodletting) of AOL’s sales force made it so that those who remained at AOL suddenly felt like they were working a new job at a new company. These people said to themselves – Well, if I’m going to be working a new job at what feels like a new company, I might as well look around the industry for a better paying new job at a new company. Many of them found such gigs.
- Defecting AOL vets feel that Tim will never listen to and respect them they way he listens to and respects his fellow ex-Googlers. For many of these people, the feeling was confirmed when Tim publicly threw employees under a bus over AOL’s failed SXSW experiment. That’s when he told a crowd of people “If you talked to people at our company, they’d say they’re doing A work. But I went to the site and realised, their expectation and consumer expectation … was different.” There’s a story going around AOL HQ that a reporter at the same event asked Tim when he was going to stop calling AOL “they” or “them.”
These departures have been a disaster for AOL’s bottom line. The reason is simple: AOL is not the must-buy it used to be in the advertising agency world. So ad sales come down to good salesmanship through relationship building.
Ad agency buyers all have client budgets to meet, and often, the easiest way for them to max out a spend is to call up their trusted friend at AOL and load up on some reasonably-targeted, non-offensive, good-enough-that-no-client-will-complain AOL ad inventory.
But when that “trusted friend at AOL” become a “trusted friend at iVillage,” ad buyers’ client money followed.
AOL admits this impact.
Reporting terrible first quarter that missed Wall Street’s already low expectations, the company explained: “Q1 2010 revenue reflects the disruption associated with our domestic salesforce reorganization.”
Here’s the really bad news. The defections, and their impact, aren’t over. Sources tell us AOL is stil having a hard time retaining people and hiring replacements.
During an earnings call to explain the poor Q1 earnings, CFO Artie Minson said the impact of these departures will carry into the current quarter (Q2) and the next. He warned Wall Street to expect display ad sales to decline yet further.
Work in AOL sales? Have more to say? Hit me at [email protected] or 646 484 6438.
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