Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sales: Key Steps You Need to Take to Be Prepared

Thanks to Wayne Mulling of the Sunshine Pages for showing me this article which describes the 14 basic preparation things that sales people should do before making a sales call.

This was an article that actually ran in 2010, and it starts with a revealing study from IDC which found that only one out of six sales professionals were “extremely prepared” for an initial meeting with a customer. 57% were either not or only somewhat prepared.  Seriously?  In this day and age, in this economy, you are often only going to get one shot at talking with a busy small/midsized business owner. Most SMB’s will know right away that you are “winging it”.

The crazy part is that there really is no excuse for not being prepared.  This industry has more supportive data than most other media, and even if you are not familiar with a particular line of business, there is always the Kuk, Baldwin & Associates heading analysis sheets, or even a quick Google to provide you with some much needed background.

Let me pick a couple of the points discussed in the 14 tips article for some additional commentary:

3. Prepare to fight the status quo: What’s one of the first comments most SMB’s currently advertising with you will say – “just leave it like it is”…  Yet, has their business changed within the last year?  It most likely has, so that program from last year probably isn’t the best indicator of where their business stands, and is headed.  Probe deeper.

4. Research the company:  Dah.  While this truly is Sales 101 stuff, given the statistics from the research at the beginning of this post on preparedness, I am still surprised at the number of reps who don’t do this.  And what is the one of the most common complaints from SMBs – “the rep didn’t know anything about my business”.  If you fall into that camp, how are you ever expecting this owner to accept the recommendation you are making??

6. Anticipate objectives and questions:  You already know what the top three objections will be.  Do you have an answer for them?  Why not?  Don’t try to wing it further.  Go in prepared. Think about the most likely questions and objections you are likely to hear and prepare your responses.

10. Prepare case studies and testimonials:  I know your company has these.  Do you have them ready to show to the customer?  If your company is being a little stingy on new sales aids, create your own.  It’s worth it for you.

11. Bring your ROI information:  The main point here is why is this business going to spend several thousand dollars with you, with your company?  What’s in it for them?  Show them the value they can expect, and why?

13. What do they see when they look for you?  This may sound a bit old fashion, but when you arrive at their door, what is the way you are dressed, your materials, your energy level, and your smile (or lack there of) saying about you?

 

Would love to hear more on what else do you recommend? What is a waste of time? How much prep do you do or recommend?  Let me know at ken@yptalk.com

 

 

Advertisements

Why Facebook Will Kill The Yellow Pages

Actually, those of you that know me, have probably already figured out that this is a leading, bogus title.  Even if this is the latest, hottest, newest, most exciting thing from Wall Street, I seriously don’t think Facebook is going to make a dent in the local advertising.  Why?   Because there are already some serious clouds forming in its over-hyped empire.

Now don’t get me wrong – I enjoy some of the info sharing with widely dispersed friends and family that Facebook can bring.  I just don’t see this as the local advertising nirvana that it is being made out to be by some.

By the time you are reading this, Facebook will have completed its initial IPO stock offering, and with a final price at $38 a share, it should raise about $18.4 zilllion (ok, billion), becoming the second-largest U.S. IPO ever.  That’s a lot of cash no matter what you think of their business model.

Facebook is also one of the few profitable Internet companies to go public recently — it had net income of $205 million in the first three months of 2012, on revenue of $1.06 billion. In all of 2011, it earned $1 billion, up from $606 million a year earlier. That’s a far cry from 2007, when it posted a net loss of $138 million and revenue of just $153 million.

But at these kinds of valuation levels, the expectations will be huge.  And as we know in the Yellow Page industry, everyone will be gunning to take a piece of their pie.  Therein lies the rub.  So let’s look at the cracks already appearing in their armor.

Problem, #1 – Expectations require results, big results

To meet these over inflated expectations, Facebook will need to cook up new streams of revenue that indicate a future beyond its current revenue model of just advertising. Last year, advertising represented 85% of Facebook’s revenue of $3.7 billion. At its IPO, Facebook will likely be valued at about 100 times its current profit, meaning it must fuel growth by somehow figuring out how to squeeze a lot more value out of its 900 million users.

For example, their latest revenue test came a week or so ago when the company began charging users in New Zealand as much as two New Zealand dollars ($1.53) a post to ensure that their own friends see what they write. The service, dubbed “Highlight”, seems contradictory to Facebook’s long-standing pledge, emblazoned on its home page, that the site is “free and always will be.” The service is similar to one for marketers, called “Reach Generator”, which Facebook introduced in February, for brands to pay per “fan” to reach those users 75% of the time with marketing messages.  Naturally, some users have been puzzled by Facebook’s fee to make posts show up more often. Maybe they just need to add an asterisk to that free pledge.

A Facebook spokesman was quoted as saying that the company constantly tries new features. “This particular test is simply to gauge people’s interest in this method of sharing with their friends,” but declined to say how the experiment was going.

The problem is that Facebook already has a reputation of fast and furious product introductions that don’t always stick. For example, it abandoned a major 2007 initiative called “Beacon” that sent data from external websites to Facebook, and a 2011 effort at selling daily deals, similar to what Groupon offers.

Problem # 2 – The return on their advertising sucks

As I’m sure you heard, General Motors has announced it is withdrawing its advertising on Facebook because it just wasn’t seeing the results they expected. GM currently spends about $40M on its Facebook presence, with about $10M of that for advertising. But GM isn’t the only company to see weak results for its Facebook ads: Wordstream estimated that Facebook ads have an average click-through rate of just 0.051%. That’s barely half the 0.1% rate typically seen for Internet ads, and a small fraction of what Google has (0.4%). Moreover, analyst noted that Facebook’s 6.5% Q/Q revenue decline in seasonally weak Q1 compares unfavorably with the 1% increase posted by Google’s display ads for the same period, and that from a much larger base.

Problem #3 – Most advertisers have no idea how to use Facebook to their advantage

If you do a quick Google search you will see a whole rash of stories on this.  Given the experience the Yellow Page industry has with SMB’s, where those marketing a range of products often see sales calls now running 2 to 3 hours, why would we think that these same SMBs would understand Facebook seamlessly?  And the bigger question is that if they struggle with this newest, hottest of internet sites, what does that say about the future of social network advertising?

Problem #4 – Users don’t trust the site

One benefit of print Yellow Pages has always been its huge trust factor amongst consumers.  For Facebook, a recent global survey by the digital marketing agency, Greenlight, revealed that a full 30% of people ‘strongly distrust’ Facebook with their personal data.  Additionally 44% confirm they would ‘never’ click on Facebook sponsored ads, and 31% indicated they rarely click on them.  That kind of distrust and lack of interest in Facebook as an advertising vehicle does not bode well for Facebook’s advertising programs.

 

We’ll have to see what the future holds but the early signals aren’t showing me any indication that Facebook is a platform to connect buyers and sellers.  To communicate and share with others, yes.  But to find local products and services?  Not yet.  Not even close.

 

Exploding Common Employee Myths in the Yellow Page Industry

At the recent Local Search Association conference, one of the most informative sessions came from a team of presenters – Robert Hawthorne from Hawthorne Executive Search, and Michael Taylor from BIA/Kelsey.

The two covered results of a recent survey of media sales reps and shared their observations from the field.  Hawthorne’s presentation was particular insightful because he covered six common employment myths in the marketplace.

Robert Hawthorne is an excellent speaker for this topic.  In 2011, Hawthorne Search’s team of 6 full time sales recruiters placed over 150 local market sales reps.  In 2012 YTD, the company has placed over 50 sales reps in 22 cities.  Their client list spans local search, technology, media companies focused on SMB’s.

Here are the marketplace myth’s he covered

Myth #1: overall unemployment rate parallel with local market sales reps

  • Reality: Even in the depths of recession, sales reps were still in demand

Myth #2: Reps are happy since my turnover is down

  • Reality: Strong pent up demand as many reps chose to “ride out recession” and are now active interviewing

Myth #3: Base salaries haven’t increased due to economic conditions

  • Reality: In Tier 1 markets, $60-65k base salaries common, Tier 2 $50k minimum, small markets $40-45k average

Myth #4: Local search companies need only worry about other Yellow Page industry companies poaching

  • Reality: Yellow Pages/Local Search companies have been known for great training, coaching, sales development, many other factors which make your people VERY attractive to other industries.

Myth #5: If I lose sales staff, it will be easy to find a replacement

  • Reality: In many markets, even large base salaries no guarantee of robust candidate supply.  Simply put, there are only so many “top performers” available in any given market

Myth #6: Job ads on the boards will get me a replacement

  • Reality: strong decrease in our posting results across all active job boards in past 2 years

In talking about the sales survey conducted, Hawthorne also covered “What Your Sales People Want”:

  • Stability.  Many reps will eschew the start up in social media if they think their company is stable
  • Resume Builder.  Does your company allow your rep to keep their resume “hot”  Selling new technology a way to keep reps from leaving
  • Flexibility. Work from home, flex hours, flex vacation, etc. particularly with young set very important
  • What They Want to Earn — $80k minimum by year 2 with no less than 50% of that in base salary

On finding sales talent, Hawthorne had a couple of simple, basic fundamental suggestions:

  • Jobs that don’t have minimum $40k base virtually impossible to recruit for
  • Cell phone, laptop, paid expenses, etc. all very important to today’s rep.  Sell the package, not just the base salary.
  • Benefits important, be specific

 

To find out more about Hawthorne Executive Search, go to their website at www.hawthornesearch.com, or contact Robert directly at robert@hawthornesearch.com, 910-798-1800.

 

10 Reasons Why The Yellow Pages Still Work (well)

Lest you think I was being supremely creative with this title, I have to give credit for the concept to Steve Averill who writes the OCBizblog blog which he claims is “…an award-winning (?) small business marketing blog boasting more than 5,000 followers most of whom are located in Orange County, California….” Boo-ya for him.  His most recent missive was 10 Reasons Why The Yellow Pages is the Drunk Uncle of Advertising.

Now normally I would chalk commentary like this up to someone who really doesn’t understand how small business advertising works and just move on.  But his comments were far too tempting to ignore.  So let’s have some fun and test his 10 Reasons to see how if maybe, just maybe he has things a little backwards:

1. He just shows up one day on your doorstep unannounced.  Yes, the print Yellow Pages is free, doesn’t require any power, any special connections, any technical expertise to operate, doesn’t attract spam email or viruses, and when the newest version arrives, the old version can be fully recycled.  Should I keep going on this one, as it isn’t even a fair fight?  I guess in Orange County they don’t get email spam or bogus text messages like those that I do now.  Steve:  you’re missing the excitement of all of the neat things inside that book.

2. He talks a big game.  True. By why?  Distributed free to every home and business, vs. at best 80% penetration of broadband in US (note: key word is “adoption”, not exclusive use of Internet and nothing else). For advertisers, Yellow Pages has an ROI for advertisers of at least 10 to 1 (CRM Associates research).  If 70+% of businesses in the print directory are at least renewing each year, but 50+% of online advertisers are churning year to year, which one really works better for SMB’s??  As our esteemed Vice President would say, yes, Yellow Pages is a big ___ deal.  Really big.

3. He’s always asking for money.  I’m a little puzzled with this one.  Is he suggesting that buying Google Adwords is free for advertisers?  How about getting that Internet connection to begin with?   The average household pays about $150 for a first time connection fee for broadband services and then monthly fees ranging from $50 to $130 depending on how much data you need/use.  And all of these hi-tech gizmo’s cost:  ____.  Fill in the blank based depending on which device(s) you get.  All I know is my cell bill, with my new iPhone hasn’t been under $100 a month since I got it..For users, it seems to me that it’s the other way around.

For advertises, they know right up front how much a print Yellow Pages ad is going to cost.  When they start spending money in the online world, they really don’t know how far they will need to go to bring in the level of business leads they need.

4. He’s completely unreliable.  Huumm.  Also not sure what the point is here.  Where does he think most of those listings you find on the Internet come from?  Perhaps if he looked at the Yellow Pages he would know.  And how do those listings get to a printed telephone book?  Each publisher reviews and scrubs them for accuracy.  Most books are then scanned/rekeyed to create those databases you encounter online.  So help me.  Define “unreliable”.

5. He’s old.  So’s my wife, but that doesn’t mean I have ditched her for the flavor dejour.  If he’s complaining that Yellow Pages has a 150 or so year track record working with a very diverse range of small/midsized businesses to help them bring more leads to their doors, well, go ahead and complain.  New is not always better.

6. He thinks it’s 1982 and yellow is a fashionable color.  Ok let’s compare: a Yellow Pages rep walks in the door of a local business and identifies that are from an established provider of local print and online Yellow Pages, a recognized product that businesses have been spending money in year in and year out.  The rep and publisher contribute to local community efforts like the  Little League, his kids probably babysit for some of the business owners kids, and the rep buys products because he lives in that same community as that small business.

The other option is a rep from XYZ Local Search Daily, who’s been in business for maybe 10 minutes, only sells products for which he can’t guarantee anything such as consistent first page Google results, has to explain an alphabet soup of acronyms so the business owner understands what he is buying, and in reality, has the same services that could be bought from the next guy through the door.  Which one do you think has a higher  trust level beginning their conversation??  I think Yellow is a beautiful color, combined with some black it is a powerful combination.

7. He thinks all the information he spews out is meaningful.  I have to agree with Mr. Averill on this one.  I don’t need a fencing company each year.  But I did need one last month.  Where did I look for local company?  In the print Yellow Pages.  I’ve never had a problem with my garage door opener.  Ever.  Until two weeks ago.  Where did I look for local company?  In the print Yellow Pages.   In the past two weeks, I haven’t used the print Yellow Pages.  Not once.  Tomorrow?   Not sure what the next need for a local product or service is going to look like.  And while that phonebook is sitting idely by for two weeks – it hasn’t used any power, attracted no viruses or spam, and is still ready to go a moments notice.

If there are upwards of 4000 potential headings in a print Yellow Pages, I’ll bet most people wouldn’t need more than a handful of them in a normal year.  But do you know when you’ll need the info in the other 3995 headings next??

8. He thinks television is technology.  From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey — 2010 Results:  Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.7 hours per day), accounting for about half of leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over.  So if you watch TV is this guy implying I’m stupid?  Or I guess if I don’t have the latest hi-tech device I must be 90 years old.

9. He thinks shouting is advertising.  A print Yellow Pages has no audio button, so…??  However, I have visited a number of websites recently that feel compelled to blast me with a video the second I reach the site, a video I didn’t ask for, that I can’t stop until it runs fully, and with an audio level that seems to be at about 100 decibels.  I think that would classify as worse than shouting.

10. He’s a big fat waste of space.  At the recent Local Search Association conference (the Yellow Pages Association for you old timers like me), research showed that the results on the call tracking lines in the print Yellow Pages were up at least 20% year over year.  Seems like someone is using those books and turning those walking fingers into phone dialing so they can buy local products and services..

 

Sorry Uncle Yellow, but that’s the way it is.  Sorry, Steve Averill, you don’t get it.  There are more information sources these days, no argument there.  Heck, I sit in front of two compueters all day long.  But I’m not using those to shop locally.  Surf for info, a little social networking (but don’t tell my boss please), email (far too much of it), and a whole bunch of other things.  But not buying locally for a product or service I don’t know a lot about.

Steve, my friend,  there is still time for you to retrieve that book from the recycle bin (kudos for at least doing that).  Check it out. You will find some pretty amazing stuff, even things like coupons that can help you save money.  We understand your ignorance, but we won’t hold it against you….