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

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.

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