How the YPG Sales Force is Walking the Talk
June 4, 2009 | Contributed by: Stephanie Hobbs
Our industry hinges on relationships, so it’s no surprise that we invest a lot in training and arming our sales force with everything they need to provide customized marketing strategies to their customers.
Recently, Kelsey Group blogged about sales innovation and whether Yellow Pages companies are moving quickly enough. As a whole, I believe we are moving in a right direction. There are numerous examples of innovation in recent years that we can be proud of.
One YPA member, Canada’s Yellow Pages Group (YPG), comes to mind. YPG started a focused effort to innovate its sales force in 2002.
I sat down with YPG to hear about how a few starting philosophies blossomed into its “Customer First” program in 2004. Through Customer First, the company automated and integrated the various end-to-end processes involved in serving its directory advertisers. The program goes well beyond technology, extending to the ways in which YPG views, treats and serves its customers. The program, which is still going strong today, has benefited its client relationships, work culture and bottom line. Here are a few key learnings to share:
- Customer Segmentation & Sales Channel Alignment: Recognizing that all advertisers are not equal, YPG started a program in 2002 to segment its customers and train its sales force accordingly. Think of this as sending a specialist M.D. out on house calls, instead of a G.P. In addition to changing their training, YPG adjusted account volume and sales targets based on the amount of face-time their designated customer category required.
- Walking the Talk on Technology: In 2004, YPG decided that if the team was expected to provide counsel on innovation and digital integration, they had to “walk the talk” – i.e. they could no longer rely solely on print sales materials. They armed their sales force with tablet PCs and developed proprietary “Customer First” software that today provides product video demos, design mock-ups, pricing options, and critical ROI data for customers on the spot.
- Marketing/Media Consultancy: To ensure that the team is knowledgeable about the broader local search industry and the options available to their customers, YPG established a Sales Certification Program offering courses on selling skills and marketing counsel, Google Ad Words, Video advertising, SEO/SEM and a host of other topics. This effectively transformed their sales channel from an army of ad reps to a team of media account consultants.
Today, 60% of YPG’s advertiser base includes online advertising as part of their marketing programs – indicating that these changes are working. And after some early resistance to change, the sales force has embraced the new technologies and is now pushing for faster adoption.
These are all exciting developments that represent our overall industry migration. In fact, a Borrell Associates report last summer suggested that:
The proof of the industry’s rapid transformation is in the numbers: Of all local media companies, yellow pages publishers have been the most successful in moving toward digital sales.
I’d be happy to hear about yours too. Drop me a line.