Posts Tagged ‘sales’

How Simplification of Local Solutions Can ‘Lift’ Business

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Today’s post is brought to you by our guest contributor John Klein, managing director at Cevoh.  Cevoh is a Management Consulting Firm that provides guidance to improve business equity along five key offerings: consulting, elevating customer value, validating performance drivers, optimizing results and harmonizing people assets. Visit for more.

John Klein, Managing Director, Cevoh

In my discussions with a local media organizations and local search providers, there is a common pain point or thread that exists throughout the space. For most, the commonality that connects them is the need to develop robust digital offerings while managing an incredibly complex legacy business. At CEVOH, we’ve spent some time trying to better understand this, how the complexity happened and what to do next and I think there is good news to consider.

When you count all the products, items, rates, market prices, bundles, discounts and exceptions – a large multi-product publisher will have millions of iterations to keep track of. This sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Much of this is with the legacy business, but some traditional publishers and digital pure plays have duplicated some of this complexity with their digital offering and the customers, reps and fulfillment groups struggle with this. It causes confusion around the value story, and there are too many choices.

The reps can’t keep up with all the products/prices and try to make-do while understanding the differentiators of choice because the increments between each choice are too small. Many reps tell me they have to pick a few ‘favorites’ to focus on. But this can make it hard to follow another rep and the ‘inherited complexity’ from separate companies makes it nearly impossible to “merge” and extract the efficiencies.

When it comes to the SMBs, they are interested in offerings that are more clear and transparent. Complexity is burning time and energy, bridling all employees. Innovation, systems and processes are taxed.

While it may seem risky to move away from a formula that has proven so profitable in the past, adapting to client needs and desires is more critical than ever in today’s market – a market that offers plenty of alternatives for an unsatisfied client.  Simplifying the menu of services makes sense and can help drive some meaningful improvements to the space. Here are some of the benefits to this approach:

  • Sales reps can focus on the value of each offering rather than trying to explain the differences and complexities.  A clear, focused and easy to understand presentation is much more effective than a convoluted one and helps with a sales rep’s credibility.
  • Clients are more willing to commit to purchase something they understand and are comfortable with.  They are more likely to say “yes”.
  • Clients will pay for “easy” as demonstrated by companies who have leveraged its sale-ability.  Staples still uses the “easy button” effectively and Apple monetized easy over free when users migrated to iTunes from Napster.
  • Removing complexity makes room for new/innovative products, important segmentation approaches and leads management initiatives that didn’t get traction before.

In summary, trying to transform the business to digital with all this complexity is like trying to run a race while pulling an old car.  So view simplification as a way to lift your revenues and bring greater value to your customers.

Feel free to contact me at to keep the conversation going.

BIA/Kelsey Leading in Local: Utilizing LinkedIn to Sell

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Koka Sexton, senior social marketing manager at LinkedIn share some interesting numbers and data:

  • 75% B2B purchases are influenced by social
  • 57% of buying decisions are made before sales rep involvement.
  • 97% of the time cold calls do not work.

The most successful sales reps do 3 things:

  • Find the right people
  • Lead with insights
  • Leverage relationships

Professional networking sites like LinkedIn help sales reps with these 3 things and they claim that the #1 factor for driving high sales rep performance is using social media in critical communications channels. LinkedIn defines social selling as follows:

  • Leverage your social brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and relationships
  • And they offer these 4 Actions to maximize results from social selling: 1. Build your Profile 2. Develop your Network 3. Gather Insights 4. Contribute Insights

Doing these things to build your network will help you gain credibility with potential clients and help you sell successfully.

BIA/Kelsey Leading in Local: The Role of Digital Agencies in the Local Space

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A panel made up of Jeff Folckemer, president and CEO, LocalEdge and SVP, Hearst Newspapers; Jean-Philippe Gauthier, COO, Mediative; and David Hughes, CEO, The Search Agency, spoke of the role digital agencies play in the local marketing space and how to make it work.  Key points made by the panel include:

  1. Relationships and service matter.  Increasing touch with clients reduces churn rates by 3-4 points.  Relationships equate to trust which helps differentiate the agency from self-service or call center products.
  2. Use technology to reduce costs.  Make sure you provide a solution for as broad a range of digital products as possible.  Make sure you make a sufficient margin: 30% is the sweet spot – anything less is not enough.  Folks that want agencies will pay for the service.
  3. Local is critical – Google can’t talk to every local business.
  4. Traditional media still plays a part – Google acknowledges that traditional media adds a 30-40% lift to Google media.
  5. Training on digital is necessary.  One panelist trains their sales team 50 weeks a year.
  6. Incentivize digital sales.  One panelist penalizes traditional media sales if insufficient digital sales are made.

SoMoConf: Borrell Provides List of Data Sources to Help Local Media Improve Ad Sales

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Larry Shaw, VP of research at Borrell Associates, gave a great presentation highlighting all of the free data sources out there that provide detailed audience analysis.  Some of these sources even provide information on specific local markets which can help with targeting but also with ad sales.  Some of the sources he highlighted include:

  • Borrell
  • BIA/Kelsey
  • Kantar
  • US Census
  • Nielsen
  • eMarketer
  • Millenial Media
  • Pew

In addition, Larry provided insight into what kind of information local media organizations need to bring to sales presentations.  Most importantly, Larry said that knowing the latest trends and behaviors is critical which is where the resources mention earlier can come into play.  In addition, knowing your media organizations reach, in other words, “how much of the pie you have,” is important for helping sell your ad solution.

Finally, he gave some insight into the trends Borrell is seeing in regards to ad spend across many sources and also some projections on ad spend and usage over the next few years:

  • Most ad spend is remaining relatively flat except online advertising has seen a huge jump because of targeted advertising.
  • Targeted ad spend is expected to double next year.
  • Promotions are growing rapidly and they are now bigger than online advertising but not nearly as big as online marketing services
  • Mobile (smartphone and tablets) will quickly overtake desktop usage in the next few years
  • Social ads will double in next 5 years

LSA Annual Conference Welcomes Influential Speakers from Google, Groupon, YP and more

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The speakers and panelists coming to our 2013 “Search Starts Here” Conference in Las Vegas include experts, veterans and thought leaders from all areas of the local search space. The biggest names in digital, mobile, social and print media will discuss many strategic and tactical topics that are driving the local search industry forward.

In addition to the great keynote speakers from Solocal Group (formerly PagesJaunes Groupe), Facebook and CityGrid, here are some more exciting subjects and speakers you can’t afford to miss:

SMB State of the Union
Greg Sterling (Opus Research)
Neal Polachek (Industry Observer)

Making Transformation Happen
Paul Plant (Radicle Consulting)

What’s Working in Mobile
Tim Garcia (Moasis)
Dan Hight (xAd)
Tae Kim (Google)
Michael Rubin (YP)

State of the Industry
Bill Dinan (Telmetrics)
Neg Norton (Local Search Association)

Print Directories in a Multi-Platform World
Matt Centofanti (YP)
Eric Webb (Marquette Group)
Dave Wolf (Linkmedia 360)
Emil Morales (TNS)

Sales Differentiation in a HYPER Competitive Selling Environment
Bob Sanders (AXIOM)

Building the “Local Commerce Operating System”
Ethan Anderson (MyTime)
Dave Gilbertson (Constant Contact)
Sean Harper (Groupon)
Bob  Gregerson (hibu)

Finally, as announced earlier, we also have some great workshops and breakout sessions with Yelp, Yext, edō, Supermedia and many more.

To learn more about all of our impressive speakers, visit our Speakers Page and don’t forget to check out the agenda for all the great content planned for the conference.  Register today and we will see you in Vegas!

Suzanne Franks: ‘Need Satisfaction Selling’ – A Sales Methodology of the Eighties

Friday, January 18, 2013

Today’s guest blogger, Suzanne Franks of  Axiom Sales Force Development,  has over 20 years of sales and marketing experience in local media. She began her career at Young & Rubicam in New York City as a media planner and buyer. She joined Verizon, which became Super Media, and began her service helping small & medium sized businesses grow via print, online, mobile and social media solutions. Throughout her career she has held various sales, sales management, sales force development, compensation planning, marketing and executive positions.


I am a “professional of the eighties”. That’s when I entered the sales force and began my long and rewarding career in local media sales. I attended 6 weeks of sales training before being released to the field. While we learned the features and benefits of our product, and how to submit an order accurately, the majority of the time was spent learning and practicing needs based selling in context to the product we were selling, yellow pages. We were taught to discover our client’s needs, craft solutions that would meet those needs and prepare a presentation so the client could understand our value proposition. And all local media, radio, television, newspapers where taught to do the same. It worked great!  Our clients businesses grew I was making a terrific living, and our company was succeeding.

Well now it is 2013, and the needs satisfaction selling methodology of the eighties no longer produces the results it once did, for any industry. Why? Because as we have all experienced in our professional and personal lives the world has changed dramatically and forever.

Competition has notably increased. Both the numbers of local media providers and media choices have increased tenfold, and the trend is predicted to continue.

Additionally, many of the providers are selling similar, if not the same digital media products. And this proliferation of providers, choices and commoditization is not unique to the media industry.

So when most providers can meet the needs of the client, how does a client know which is BEST at helping them accomplish their goals.  This is the help clients are looking for. This is the catalyst for installing a new sales methodology that keeps pace with how clients want to buy. If sales professionals cannot provide this help, the client’s decision quickly defaults to price since no clear differentiation among the solutions is evident.

In order to maximize today’s buying environment the needs based selling methodology must evolve from simply meeting their needs, to helping clients establish decision criteria to determine which SOLUTION is BEST in terms of product, support and the company that will provide it. This will help them differentiate amongst what appears to be like options. It must evolve from needs based selling to differentiated decision advising or consulting.

We owe it to our clients to help them establish these criteria if we expect to build a trusting relationship with them. When we make the commitment to transition from needs based selling to differentiated decision advising we truly earn the title of advisor or consultant that so many sales organizations have merely bestowed upon themselves.

Sales organizations that have evolved to differentiated decision advising enjoy increased revenue, margins, customer satisfaction and loyalty and decreased sales turnover.

Don’t you owe it to your clients, sales force and shareholders to bring your sales methodology into the 2010’s? I would love to hear your comments or feedback. Please email me at AXIOM Sales Force Development.  And if you’d like we will be happy to share, at no charge, the key questions we use that will help your clients develop meaningful decision criteria. My email address is

Thoughts on Day 1 at BIA/Kelsey’s ILM West

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I’m very much enjoying my time here at BIA/Kelsey’s ILM West conference, taking place this week at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

The event kicked off yesterday, and without question the highlight for me was the session “SuperForum: Sales Force Transformation,” which discussed the ongoing question on how to structure sales teams to successfully meet the demands of today’s fragmented media environment. Charles Laughlin, SVP and Program Director at BIA/Kelsey, moderated an expert panel that included Kris Barton of ReachLocal, Mark Canon of SmugCloud, Jeff Folckemer of LocalEdge and Kathy Geiger-Schwab of Geiger-Schwab Consulting.

Laughlin opened with the important reminder that in the realm of sales force transformation, “absolute success is hard to find, and fundamentally difficult to achieve.” He said that BIA/Kelsey would be publishing a foundational paper in early January that will explore attempts by Deseret Media Group, Dex One, Eniro, Yodle and others to make significant change in their approach to sales.

Pointing out that recent studies have determined that 79% of SMBs are either confused or don’t understand their digital options – and that 45% do not understand the ROI of their digital programs – Laughlin said that “the enormity of the challenge tends to be underestimated.”

Each of the panelists weighed in. Kris Burton explained that sending members of the tech team on sales visits has helped to close the gap in the understanding of client needs. Mark Canon observed that the SMB experience has changed, becoming much more complex with the proliferation of media choices. Jeff Folekemer said his company’s dashboard includes all of its products, making it easier to track supplier performance.

Kathy Geiger-Schwab, a former Berry executive and longtime expert in the sales improvement arena, suggested looking at the “CoreCo vs. the NewCo” She said companies should ensure that they continue to profit from their core business, while engaging a new team to build their future. She recommended “Profit From The Core” by Chris Zook and James Allen as a good read for those looking to transform their businesses.

The group discussed a variety of ways to improve sales teams, including:

  • Automating SMB research as a tool for sales teams to use
  • Watching your NPS (Net Promoter Score), but working with the baseline and be realistic about improvement
  • Creating websites for SMBs that reflect the business’ identity
  • Create a long-term business plan that emphasizes that success takes time
  • Moving to resellers wherever possible and using their embedded investment to your advantage

And perhaps the most important message the panel had to sales teams out there was not to let what you know get in the way of what you don’t know. At the end of the day, change scares the entire management team. So to transform your sales force, start with the top and work down.

vSplash’s BuzzBoard: Connected On the Go

Thursday, August 2, 2012


A few weeks ago I wrote about the vSplash team’s new sales tool, “BuzzBoard,” which will prove incredibly valuable for sales reps, changing the way they prep for sales calls. We thought it was worth sharing a few more highlights we didn’t get to feature in our last post.


BuzzBoard actually has the ability to map each sales call for outside reps to better keep track. The mapping tool offers the option of sorting by geography, revenue opportunity, favorites and analytical score.


For the outside rep, the BuzzBoard tool provides the option of using the tablet’s video, picture and audio capabilities. For instance, the audio recording tool can be used to interview local businesses about their marketing needs and expectations, eliminating the need to take written notes and assuring the most accurate information.

Using the video and picture capability offers the option of taking moving or still images of the customer’s location. Content that can then be used for upgrading or building the business’ website and other digital presence.

BuzzBoard Audit

Another great feature is the ability to audit a business’ website “on the fly.” Using BuzzBoard, a sales consultant can input a few pieces of data – name, address, URL – and within a few minutes BuzzBoard generates an on-the-go audit.

Imagine a sales consultant or rep seeing a new business in the market and being able to generate a web audit within minutes – allowing the them to walk in informed and ahead of the curve.

Some of our members are engaging with vSplash to begin market trials with the BuzzBoard tool and we’ve heard they’re pretty impressed. We’re keeping an eye on this new product as trials move forward.

To check out more on BuzzBoard go to

Sales Training vs Product Training

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tony Lannom, Regional Manager at Axiom Sales Force Development, has over twenty-five years of sales and sales management experience in a broad range of industries including software, electronics, and communications.

I started this morning just like any other: with cup of coffee in hand, I begin reading my emails. The first email I came across began with the statement: “Product training is the most important aspect of sales training.”  While I wasn’t interested in the free webinar the email was offering, the statement evoked a thought: Is product training more important than sales training?

Many organizations invest money, time and effort to teach sales people all about the products and services they sell. Perhaps as a direct result of this effort, we often find sales people spending the bulk of their time attempting to pitch their products and services to prospective customers.

So what’s wrong with this approach? To fully grasp the problem, we have to put ourselves in the position of the prospects. Prospects often sit through sales presentations learning about the sales rep’s new products and services. The prospect must then attempt to make the connection between these products and any applicable impact on their organization. Unless the product clearly solves a top-of-mind problem the prospect recognizes, most simply won’t conduct that thorough an analysis.  It becomes a bit like channel surfing – if their attention isn’t grabbed quickly and decisively they simply move on to something else.

Unfortunately this pitch, or even the value prop approach, works often enough that many believe it’s a good idea, but what about the more than 80% of meetings where this approach didn’t lead to any meaningful opportunities for either party?

Placing priority on product training runs the risk of focusing sales people in the wrong direction: our solutions instead of the prospect’s company.

Does this mean everyone should abandon all product training and focus exclusively on selling skills?  Of course not.  However, all training should focus on the customer first.  Moreover, equipping sales people to engage in meaningful conversations about the customer’s business must be the top priority for the organization.  Assume for a moment that a sales person knows nothing of her products. As long as this seller focuses her energy on gathering critical information from the prospect, the meeting is likely to be more productive than a product pitch. This assumes the sales person has the skill needed to gather critical information including details regarding the prospect’s organization and the criteria the buyer would use to evaluate any proposed solutions. Obviously there are additional information objectives that would be important from the prospect’s perspective, but you get my point.

Leaving the meeting with meaningful information from the prospect, the person could simply take this information back to his company and seek help finding an ideal solution. Imagine a seller returning from a sales call and stating: “Here are the business objectives I learned from my prospect… Here are the criteria the prospect will consider in order to make a decision….Do we have any solutions that address these problems and align with their criteria?” Assuming once again the sales person knows nothing about his company’s products; it seems likely there would be adequate help to define the ideal solution.

There is no question that equipping sales people with a clear understanding of the solutions they offer is important to the success of the sales organization. However, when product training becomes the top, or sole priority, there is a risk that the sales people becoming too focused on their products, and not focused enough on prospects’ best interest.

Have you run into obstacles with product focused training programs? If so, were you able to find a good balance between products and skills training?

Facebook’s Yvette Lui: Local Businesses are Social by Design

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Facebook’s director of North America sales Yvette Lui spoke at the close of Search Starts Here. After spending six years at Google before moving to Facebook, Lui experienced first-hand the shift to a social web. Her goal at Facebook? To make sure every small business in the U.S. is successful using their platform.

As Lui explained, consumers initially came online with a particular topic or place in mind – an essentially static and anonymous online experience. Then search came along and that helped us find new businesses, among other things. Next we used the web to compare before we got to the social stage we’re in today, which is largely about the advice and opinions of our personal network.. This last stage – the social web – is profoundly different than any of the others in that it’s 100% personal. Rather than coming online with a topic in mind, Liu says we “come to listen and learn” from the people and businesses we care about.

She shared with us three key insights she learned at Facebook: 1) local businesses are already social by design, 2) online took the social out of local, and 3) now local can be social online and off. Operating within this framework, she had the following advice for small business owners:

  • Create an authentic identity to foster relationships
  • Advertise to build a community
  • Bring people to your business with social ideas
  • Make the point of sale and in-store experience social
  • Run sponsored stories to amplify the word of mouth and help new people discover your business.

For Facebook in particular, this last piece – amplified word of mouth – has the potential to reach a large audience and quickly. With the average user having 130 friends on the social networking site, connecting with one loyal customer can mean potentially tapping into 130 more people that know and trust their friends “likes,” “check-ins,” or comments. By incentivizing customers to check-into your store and share their opinions/experience with their friends, the ROI potential from this investment in engagement is huge.

Some other facts I found interesting from the Q&A portion of her talk:

  • Facebook has a small dedicated team thinking about how they can reach small business at a greater scale
  • Each business may measure the ROI of Facebook differently, but Lui considers the number of people they interact and connect with (the interaction rate) where the real ROI is
  • Even if click-throughs aren’t particularly high, Facebook ads can significantly increase brand recognition and boost search results for a small business.

Great information for our attendees and savvy advise for their clients.

See our backstage interview with Yvette Lui.