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The topic of sales transformation is a key issue for the media segment, and BIA/Kelsey brought to the stage four key media companies who have taken a more measured and systematic approach to focusing their sales teams on the new way of selling and how they are utilizing data to better select the right candidates, prove the value of their approaches and to accelerate transformation.

Hubspot is an inbound marketing company whose sales force approach came not from an established playbook, but from their own experience utilizing their own inbound marketing platform and data. Mark Roberge subscribes to the old sales adage of “what you don’t measure does not matter to sales.” As a self described data junkie, Roberge captures sales data based on Hubspot’s hiring criteria to better identify how skills and traits translate to sales success. Over years of collecting data, they have isolated the characteristics of their most successful sales people which they now use in their hiring and evaluation process. By using metrics to diagnose key performance factors, Hubspot is able to coach and manage their sales force more successfully.

Once hired, Hubspot is a big believer that all sales people need to be trained in a consistent manner are continually managed to those criteria throughout their careers. Part of Hubspot’s training is to certify all sales people on the product and approach. Hubspot achieves this by having new sales trainees set up their own small business then utilize the Hubspot system to build a site, create a blog, develop and add content and track their progress utilizing the company’s dashboard. By working through the platform as a small business, they gain an insiders view of how best to leverage the system as a way of improving their salesmanship on every interaction.

Jeannie Parent of Digital First tackled the classic dilemma of transforming a legacy media sales force into digital sellers, and one that could adapt to new selling methods. Digital First also took a “home grown” approach to their transformation process by developing an approach that is self guided but built off of their own sales best practices. Using many of their own internal resources, Digital First was able to create an online, video based learning approach which minimized time sales people were away from customers but maximized the learning process. Utilizing a bit of gaming mechanics, Digital first created a sales bade system where reps are taught key digital sales and product knowledge in an online learning system that must then be utilized on a sales call and successfully closed for the sales person to earn the necessary certification badge. Once certified, sales people are supported by digital literacy and other just in time training to support on-going learning and re-certification to maintain their commitment to the new products and sales approaches.

Neil Salvage from Lending Tree rounded out the panel discussion by reinforcing the idea that ensuring sales has the best and most attractive product not only increases sales motivation it creates customers who want to engage with them to learn about and purchase those products. Coming from Bellsouth and other highly trained sales teams, Neil points out that “you need to specifically define what you want sales people to focus on, stick to those goals then provide the support necessary for them to effective accomplish those tasks.” Neil also observes that one of the key problems with sales messages in this product overloaded time is that features and products are pushed rather than selling solutions specific to the customer’s needs. Neil also felt that the value after the initial sale has also been neglected since this leads to longer retention and greater life time value of the customer. One of the key ways Lending Tree simplifies the sale presentation is to avoid the lengthy demo of the product and focus more on the outcomes of using the product and how it can solve specific solutions. Other tips shared from the Lending Tree playbook were keeping the needs analysis to a small set of critical questions and not being afraid to ask for the close if the sales person has done an effective job in position the solution to the customer’s needs.

What all of these leading sales organizations have one thing in common is the recognition that you can’t cut operational costs to build year over year revenue growth, it has to come from a more effective sales organization that retains customers. When asked, all three companies advised that the ROI impact of taking the time and energy to train, coach and manage an effective sales process far out weighed the impact of losing customers or continuing to sell products that decrease in value over time.

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