112: Alexander Group’s Secret Weapon: The Client Impact Analysis

Matt Bartels, Quang Do

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Connecting the dots between your advertiser’s objectives, their audience, and every other success factor has never been so complicated for salespeople. Matt Bartels and Quang Do from Alexander Group join us this week to discuss why solving that problem starts with CIA: a ‘client impact analysis’. Tune in to hear some of their specific pointers so that you can grow and get to the top of your sales game, this week on the Conquer Local podcast.

Participate in Alexander Group’s Modern Media Ad Sales Study.

Client Impact Analysis

  1. Confirm objective
  2. Determine wants and needs
  3. Define target audience
  4. Find unique selling proposition
  5. Determine budget
  6. Lay out timeline
  7. Determine how client will measure success

Well, this week on the Conquer Local podcast, I have Matt Bartels and Quang Do from the Alexander Group. And I was introduced to the Alexander Group a little over 18 months ago, and I’ll tell you, it’s been game changing, the insights that they have given me and my career and in helping to develop sales organizations. And their website has a great blog, if you wanna log in to have a peak. But in this episode, we’re gonna find out how they’ve moved client needs assessment to a client impact analysis. They’re gonna talk about a go-to-customer strategy rather than a go-to-market strategy. And you are gonna learn about Sales 101 and how organizations are transitioning for this constant change that is happening in the sales space, plus what investment are you making in human capital. All this and more coming up, with Matt and Quang from the Alexander Group, on the “Conquer Local” podcast, next.

What is the Alexander Group’s mission?

Welcome to this week’s episode of the Conquer Local podcast. And we’ve got two gentlemen that I have been really excited about joining us on the show. Matt and Quang, I’m gonna let you guys introduce each other to the audience this week, and then we’ll get in. I’ve got some big questions.

Quang: All right, thanks, George. Hi, everyone, really glad to be on this podcast, and really looking forward to sharing some insights. My name is Quang Do. I am a director of our Chicago office and leader of our media practice.

Matt: And I’m Matt Bartels, a principal also out of our Chicago office with the Alexander Group. I’m a global media practice leader, been with the firm for over 20 years, so I’ve been consulting in this capacity for quite a bit. A little bit about the Alexander Group, we are a revenue growth management consulting firm. We’ve been in business since 1985. We like to talk about go-to-customer design versus go-to-market. So go-to-market is where you break in to a new organization, go to a new country. What we like to focus on really is everything that touches the customer from the strategy or segmentation model through the org design, how many people do you have, where you put, and more importantly, what people do we need, what types of roles do we need, and then what are the management supporting programs that you need to actually drive change in the organization. So the types of training programs, the types of competition programs. So we really work across the gamut on everything that needs to be aligned in order to be successful in your revenue generating exercises.

George: I had the chance to speak to a number of people that have worked with you, folks. Sometimes it’s validating, but the other point, it’s really good to get that extra set of eyes that can see the forest for the trees.

Matt: It’s interesting, over the last six years, every two years, we run a very comprehensive marketplace study on go-to-customer models within the media industry. And we’ve seen significant changes just from the 2014 to 2016 space and we’re leading into, really, the amount of changes happening for 2018, we’re doing another comprehensive study. And as you know, everybody recognizes that there’s so much change going on in media, and we do work not just within media but we do work in high-tech, in manufacturing, in healthcare. And what I tell people is, with the pace of change, the ability to bring products to market, the proliferation of those products, the consolidation that’s going on, if you can sell in media you can sell anywhere. So, really, that is what we’re seeing, and with that consolidation, with the proliferation of product, I mean, just think about all the different products that are out there now, owned and operated, programmatic, network, native, branded. How do you make sense of all that and bring something to the customer that’s gonna be of value, that they understand and they feel like they’re getting a greater return when they’re working with you?

George: That’s the big challenge. I don’t know if companies really have a product problem, they might have too many product problems.

Matt: Yeah, the old analogy that I use is going into the Cheesecake Factory. You’ve got a menu that’s 100 pages long. And by the time you get through reading all of them, you’re like, “I’m not even hungry anymore. I don’t wanna do it.” It’s really trying to figure out how can we get the right configured solutions together for that particular client that’s gonna help them with their business.

Better Than a CNA

George: So how are you combating that product dumping or that transactional sale? Because I think what you’re referring to is moving to a consultative sales model and gaining insights and research. One of our guests, Jed Williams from the Local Media Association, a couple episodes back, said, “We’ve got to be doing a needs analysis 2.0.” So how are you shifting organizations away from dumping product?

Matt: Right, yes, I hear you. So, yeah, the old CNA, the client needs analysis. We like to talk about it now as the CIA, the client impact analysis, because that’s what we’re really trying to figure out, is how can we actually drive a better impact for their business. Really, when we talk about this, it is a calamity, it’s a challenge. The first thing we talk about is, “What is your revenue growth equation? How are you actually going to drive growth for your organization?” And we think about that equation… And there’s a lot of ways you can grow. You can say, “You know what, I need to break into a completely new area. I need to create a new product set. I need to go out and acquire somebody.” But a lot of that revenue growth equation can start with your existing clients and do what we call conversion penetration and retention analysis. So you look at your overall growth year over year, in aggregate. A lot of people do it and they say, “Oh, I did pretty good. I grew at 9%. I grew at 30% in my digital area.” But really, what are the components that build that aggregate number? And it’s really account by account, advertiser by advertiser, agency by agency, however you wanna look at it. And looking at year over year, how much business have I done with them, from a retention standpoint, from a penetration standpoint, so selling more to the same customers, or from actually converting new business? And that equation, that set of analysis really can give you a clearer picture of the current revenue structures that you have coming in, and that can be a quick win. So we think about, “How do you win now?” Well, a lot of times, win now is, “Let’s just get a handle on our existing book of business, and understand can we be better in one of those parts of the equation?”

George: So what could… We’re talking at a high level around entire organizations, what if we go down to the street level right now and talk about some things that you’re seeing as we start to make a better salesperson, start to develop a sales professional, what are some of the things that the sales reps that are listening to this could start to adopt that you’ve seen to kinda move, and learn, and grow?

Matt: Yeah. So we’re talking a lot about local, we’re talking a lot about digital solutions, and for sales organizations, and for sellers themselves, think about some of the hidden culprits of churn in your digital business. It’s out there, but I think it’s helpful to be explicit about what they are. And usually, what we’ve seen as the first one is just the customer doesn’t understand what they’re getting. So there’s a poor understanding or misalignment between what you’re saying and what the customer is hearing. So you almost have to break it down in very simplistic terms, almost like you’re talking to a second or third grader, not to be pejorative, but really be simple on what it is, what the goals are, and how they’re gonna achieve them. Because if you had misalignment on that, you’re going to churn, and that retention portion of your business is gonna be at risk right out of the gate. And we’ve seen that with a lot of the clients that we’ve worked with, especially in the SMB space that, you know, the core revenues, while they might be declining or not growing as fast as you would like, there’s a lot more volatility in those digital and multi-product solutions and it starts with the lack of clear understanding between what you are promising them and what they are promising them or what they think they’re getting.

The second major area where you could potentially improve that we see is just lack of courage. So organizations think they’ve given you the right training. They think they’ve given you the right comp plan, they think they’ve given you the right targets. But you have to have courage to ask for the necessary investment, to make sure that you have the right reach, the right product mix, the right frequency, the right equation, all of those things that are necessary to really have a successful campaign with the clients. And then the third is don’t be over reliant on specialists. So one of the things we talk about is, if you have a specialist role, whether it’s dedicated and they carry their own quota or if they’re working in an overlay capacity, you cannot just rely on them. At the renewal of the sale, you have to really, the specialist should be working themselves into a new job and helping everybody lift up their skill sets when it comes to the solution selling.

Breaking Down the Client Impact Analysis

Quang: I mean, going back to something we just talked about a second ago, which is going away from just doing a simple needs analysis, doing a true impact analysis. For that front line seller, you know, what does that mean? It means to us seven things.

  1. Confirming with their clients what the objective is of the advertiser.
  2. What’s their course, where are they today in terms of their marketing strategy of where they wanna get, and what’s their desired state.
  3. Who their target audience is, what’s the type of person that they’re trying to go after, what do those eyeballs look like.
  4. What’s their unique selling proposition. What is unique about this customer that’s gonna differentiate them from the competition?
  5. What’s the budget.
  6. What’s the timing.
  7. How will the client themselves measure success.

So being armed with that, being in the front line and sitting down with your, discussing them with their customers, having that conversation will make sure that A) not only are you gonna be able to pick the right product solutions to deliver the results looking forward, but B) you’re really doing it from a customer-centric perspective.

George: You know what’s interesting, I was listening to you give those seven items, and we could sell anything with that type of a format. It doesn’t just have to be digital marketing solutions.

Quang: And that’s absolutely right, George. You know, that is both a gift and a curse because that gives an opportunity to go beyond just selling, let’s call it, the core products. You can, in theory, sell everything. Then the question is, how do you enable a seller? How do you actually find the talent? Can you build? Do you need to go out and buy to operate in that fashion? And what we see day in and day out is that it’s a different DNA. It’s a different type of person, different skill set, and, you know, getting folks who have been used to selling things in the, I call it the “legacy ways” and switching to this model is a challenge. It’s not impossible but it does take a lot of effort.

Meeting the challenge of constantly training salespeople

George: You know, when I think back, you know, I’ve been doing this about 31 years in the media business, and then I’m a technology company now but I work with media companies, so I still consider myself in the media business. I’m wondering how we ended up here. But, you know, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that things that we were selling never really changed. The technology that was delivering them might have changed, where, you know, we weren’t typesetting a print ad, we were using a computer to do it. In the radio business, you know, we were recording it on a reel-to-reel, and then we’ve got a hard drive. That was amazing! So the technology of delivering did change, but what we sold to the customer really didn’t change that much. It was, you run your ad and you get to reach these people, and do we wanna change the copy or something like that. So I’ve found that that might be the thing, is we really didn’t need to be constantly learning. And how are you navigating that where, you know, you gotta really transition those organizations that, “No, you need to be investing your people in training,” how are you navigating that challenge?

Matt: Right now, I think the baseline is that the reality is that change is gonna always be data from here going forward. We hear about having to be an agile organization or an organization that’s continuous and open to evolving, and being able to connect the dots between the advertiser objectives, the audience, the themes, the reach, the content, the platforms that you’re using. That’s the challenge. I think, in order to be successful, training is good. I think people overemphasize training sometimes and think that training alone is gonna get it there. I would say, if I were a seller, I would be asking the organization about segmentation. And if I was an organization, I would be trying to arm my sellers with the right segment and understanding the customers that they need to be going after. One of the things I love, I love talking about it, George, there’s a reason why people rob banks, and that’s because that’s where the money is. So, as a seller, you need to find out where the money is, and as an organization, you need to show them where the money is, so that they can be put in the right position. So you’re not wasting your time doing all of this prospecting upfront, that you’re actually trying to get in front of customers that fit within your revenue growth equation, and so you can be armed and dangerous with those and have a higher hit rate.

Who Should You be Selling to?

George: So the other question that I’m asking when you bring up segmentation, are you talking about, if you’re good at selling to a certain vertical of a business, should you just go be calling on all those? Is that what you’re referring to?

Matt: Well, that’s one of them. The question is, how far down do you go? Do you do it at just the manager level or do it all the way down to the rep level? But I believe and I think this has been proven out that you have to be able to bring those industry-specific insights and understand the business as you walk in there, and organizing by vertical definitely is one of those ways where you can continue to drive those skills.

George: You know, you’re the principal and, Quang, you’re the director of the media practice. So you’re sending in the expert that can help make those media practices successful, and that’s what the customer is looking for when the rep shows up is, “Have you worked with an organization like mine and made them successful?”

Matt: We’re in an era right now where there’s unprecedented amounts of data, and there’s all kinds of it, so you should have your industry insights. And now, you’ve got all of this data. And the question is, what do you do with it? So, I love this, one of the clients we work with was always hammering, you know, data and insights mean nothing unless you can turn them into ideas, ideas that are gonna help your client. So, because of this shift, because of the proliferation of these products and the need to be able to articulate a greater ROI, we are seeing a significant change in the composition of the entire sales and revenue generating organization. So one of the major trends that we’re seeing is the pre-sales roles and the post-sales roles now are playing a much bigger part in that sale. So the actual investment as a percent of headcount 2, even 3 years ago, in presales, has gone up from 2% to about 12% of the total investment in headcount, and the post-sales has gone up from 10% to 20%, 22%, 25%, and I think that’s gonna keep happening. And then the question is, once you start integrating new roles into the sales organization, and they gotta work together, how do we make sure that it’s seamless? How do we make sure that there’s clear rules of engagement? Because once you start, you know, introducing… There isn’t one person that can do everything, right? You can’t have everybody knowing every single insight, every single data point. So that’s one of the big trends that we’re seeing.

George: Amen on that one. Quang, as we move forward in 2018 and 2019, what do you expect we’ll see when we get to 2020? What’s this gonna look like with the go-to-customer model?

Quang: I’m really glad you asked that, George. We’re actually in our planning phase for our 2018-2019 media study that’s gonna answer that exact question from the local-local perspective. The study is a no-cost effort to participate. All you have to do is provide some data and participate in a very short interview. And at the end of it, we’ll provide a customized report that gives you not only trends but also benchmarks in terms of things like revenue per rep, turnover, benchmark compensation relative to what your peers are doing. But to answer your original question, you know, what are some of the trends we’re seeing? I think, at a high level, there’s this increased scrutiny on digital ads and actually performing the way that the clients want them to perform. So what that means is there’s a big focus on sales enablement. For sales leaders, how do you enable your team with the right roles, the right structures, so that they can be as customer-centric as possible? For the reps, how do you enable yourself to also be customer-centric as possible through the use of tools and all the different, you know, technology that’s available out there? Again, it’s a no-cost effort. If anyone is interested in participating in our 2018-2019 study, please visit our website or contact one of us, and we’d be more than happy to talk to you about it.

George: Well, we really appreciate both you fine gentlemen’s time to be on the program this week, and I look forward to spending some more time with you in the future. I’m sure we’ll talk sales for hours, and we always, we have done that up to this point. I’m sure we could continue doing that. Thanks for joining us on this week’s edition of the Conquer Local podcast.

Quang: Thanks, George.

Matt: Thanks, George.

Episode Takeaways

A couple things that I’m gonna take away from this episode, one of those statements that Matt made, data and insights mean nothing if you can’t bring ideas to the customer. And, you know, that really hits it home. There really is a lot of data out there, and you’ve gotta dig into it and find the insights that hit home, but you’ve gotta have those ideas for that client. And then the other piece that we heard about, you have to have the courage to ask for the dollars to get the job done, and I feel sometimes that we have some reps that really don’t have the courage to ask for that dollar. And that takes me back 30 years ago, when I started in the sales business, like you’ve gotta ask. We can’t forget that piece as well.

We have more Conquer Local podcasts continuing to come up, and we really appreciate the time. Matt Bartels, Quang Do, from the Alexander Group. My name is George Leith, I will see you when I see you.