Yell, the UK based parent of Yellow Book USA has decided it no long needs regional sales offices and will go virtual, closing 18 satellite sales offices with the option to use the Regus PLC companies’ network of 140 UK business centers (press release). The move is suppose to save Yell about £1.5 million a year.
But will that be a more efficient setup for sale management to both monitor their team’s efforts and work with their reps??? Yell is very proud to say that “…continual developments in technology over the last 12 to 18 months, Yell’s sales teams have increasingly been undertaking many traditional office based activities online, on-the-move, with the office network mainly used for team meetings…”
For the 700 reps I can see how they might like the convenience of being able to be more work-form-home centric, and to be able to avoid the direct inquiry of a sales manager, but the company’s press release also labeled them as “…on-the-road consultants..” Hum.
Much of the success the Yellow Page industry has been built on was based on being able to be right there in front of a small/mid-sized business, to look them directly in the eye to understand where their business was positioned and bring them solutions that are matched to their needs. That personal, relationship building contact is still a critical cornerstone for sales success. For sales management, it is a similar situation — being able to work face-to-face with reps in the morning before they started out their day, and then assess how they did when results were collected at the end of day, often in a group setting, often with results usually posted on a big board in the sales offices. Now that’s all going to be done over the phone and with a spreadsheet??
Mark Dixon, CEO of Regus plc commented in the release “…More and more organizations are beginning to adopt more agile, lower risk, lower costs ways of working. The question of how, where and when we work is an important issue for all of us and those business that are able to respond in the most flexible way will secure the greatest competitive advantage…”.
True, but at what cost?? How would you do if where managing your sales team remotely like this??
Noticed this recent post from a sales “expert”: B2B selling is “absurdly” simple. Hum. Think he’s oversimplified this, but the core message is a good one. His five steps are (with my comments following as it relates to the YP industry):
- Discover where your prospect is today: Well, yeah, but for many small businesses you’re probably not going to have the luxury of finding a lot of information about them on the web. This is where your probing/fact finding will be essential which is really what you see in the next step. For our industry, I think the better first step would have been Getting Past The Gatekeeper….
- Discover where your customer wants to be. When you get past that gatekeeper and are able to get to the decision maker, now you can really get to the meat of your work – fact finding, probing, open ended questions. Are they looking to grow, to expand, maybe just protect their business? Are they giving those buyers at the point of making a purchasing decision all of the information they need – brands serviced, hours of operation, years in business, location, etc, etc, Remember your RASCAL factors. Use them.
- Show how to get from current situation to the desired one. Pretty obvious again but more correctly stated for our industry – show the value of the program you are recommending. Don’t get into a price game. No one wins at that and your conditioning the advertiser to expect discounting every time you walk in the door.
- Repeat steps 1 through 3 with multiple contacts. Of course. But would have been more helpful would have been that the most successful reps not only do a great job with existing clients/advertisers, they excel at finding new-new clients, showing them the value of the media, and getting them started on a package which will grow/expand/defend their business.
- Close the deal. In the authors mind, if you followed the four steps above, you should be positioned for the close. I think that’s being a little naïve to believe it’s that easy. The key point here – don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. If you have gone through all the steps before, the close should a logical conclusion, but getting that business to now sign on the contract and even give you a deposit/down payment is just as important as my step one of getting past the gatekeeper.
What do you think?