254: 4 Keys to Retention, with Matt Tennison

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Regardless of what your sales strategy is, you need to have some type of post-sales retention strategy. Tune in to learn the 4 Keys to Retention.

Matt Tennison, VP of Business Development and Partners with Boostability, joins George this week to discuss retention. Matt gave such an insightful presentation at Conquer Local that we had to have him on the podcast to share it with our listeners. He walks us through the four keys to retention; Product Knowledge, Post Sales Engagement, Sales Training, and Product Sales Support. Matt and George dig deep into each key to retention, and provide examples and best practices.

Matt has over 20 years of experience in the marketing and advertising field and over 15 years of experience in high-level business development and partner relations. Over his career, Matt has worked for large advertising publications and national agencies, where he achieved great success in advertising sales, business development, and sales management. Prior to joining Boostability in 2011, Matt ran an advertising agency for eight years, where he became very familiar with both traditional marketing methods and digital marketing techniques. He has an intimate understanding of the small business marketplace and an expertise in forging high-performing partner relationships.



George: It’s the latest edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. There were some great speeches this year and great keynotes this year at Conquer Local, our conference in San Diego. I’m going to bring you one of the best presentations of the entire event. Matt Tennison, the VP of Business Development from Boostability will give us a synopsis of his presentation at Conquer Local, and that is coming up next.

George: It’s the latest edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. Matt Tennison joining me, the VP of Business Development for Boostability. Matt, thanks for joining us.

Matt: Thanks, George. Thanks for having me, and thanks for putting on such a great conference. I’m excited to keep it going by participating in this podcast.

George: Well, we had a lot of really good feedback from your presentation at Conquer Local. It was a great topic because I think that this is something that every salesperson and sales manager needs to be concerned about and that is retention of customers. You spoke at the convention about the four keys to retention. We got a ton of great feedback on it so congratulations on coming up with something that was very relevant. Can we talk about what you believe to be the four keys to client retention?

Matt: Yeah, sure. You want me to just start off by outlining them?

George: Yeah, let’s jump into it.

Matt: Okay. I think before I actually outline what the four keys to retention are, maybe a forward about how I came up with this and a little bit about my experience might be helpful.

Matt: What I basically have done is taken an evaluation of my eight years’ time working in Boostability and working hand-in-hand with partners and observations of what I’ve seen that is really good and what I’ve seen that is really poor with regard to retaining clients because retention is the … well, it’s pretty much the crux for most of our partners.

Matt: As we deal with partners that range anywhere in size from the small one-man website design agency to national Yellow Pages companies on up to global hosting and domain registrar companies and everything in between. It’s surprising to see some of the misses and as well as some of the areas of success that all of these very diverse set of partners have in common.

Matt: I kind of just looked back over that timeframe and thought, “You know, these are the four things that have really stuck out in my mind, observing these partners over the last eight years,” and so here they go.

Matt: First key is point of sales strategy. What I mean by that is is that client retention really begins at and even before the point of sale. The second key is post-sales engagement and reselling. The third key is sales training, and the fourth key is product sales support.

George: I found that these really spoke to a sales process. When I was watching you deliver the presentation, all of this stuff really hit home. I’m looking forward to the way that you lay this out. I didn’t even really consider what you were talking about in number one, but after you explained it, it really hit home. Point of sales strategy, let’s dig into that a little bit.


Point of Sales: It’s All About the Value

Matt: Well, the idea here is, in my mind, really simple. It’s that you need to begin laying out the basis of the client experience and client journey when you sell the client. The way that I like to look at this is what is the core value of the product that you’re selling? How do you break that down into super simple terms, and how do you express it over and over in the point of sale so that you begin to actually lay down the consistent messaging and terminology that your client will expect to hear at every touchpoint they have along their client experience.

Matt: I’ll utilize an example with SEO because it’s what I’m the most familiar with, but I do believe that this applies to any digital product that would lie within a partner suite of products.

Matt: When we train people how to sell SEO, we train them on the basis of relevance and trust, meaning that SEO was the process by which you create relevance and trust to a website so that it deserves to rank. We laid this idea of relevance and trust. We do work on your website such as optimizing code and copy to generate relevance. We do work off your website, such as writing blogs and articles that link back to the website to create trust.

Matt: But what we’re really doing is not only are we selling the client on the value of SEO and what SEO is, we’re laying the foundation for every touchpoint that client’s going to have because from then on out, every piece of engagement that that client’s going to have is going to revolve around these two keywords, these two main value propositions behind the product. We’re creating relevance and trust so you deserve to rank.

Matt: For instance, in the term of a general question, a general question might be from a client to a client services agent, “Hey, why are you doing these particular tasks.” Well, this particular task creates relevance so that when someone searches for a particular service that you provide, Google deems your website relevant for that service. “Why do you do this task?” Well, we do this task because this helps build trust to Google that you are an authoritative company in the space you represent.

Matt: From an escalation standpoint, like a point of frustration, “Why is it taking my website so long to rank?” Well, you recall the idea that we’re accomplishing is building relevance and trust, and it just simply doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t become relevant the first time you set foot into the arena, and you’re not trusted the first time you open your mouth. Google needs to recognize the work that we’re doing over and over and over on a monthly basis so that they really recognize that you are indeed relevant and trusted.

Matt: Anyway, a long story to show though that you begin retention by laying the framework and the value right at the point of sale.

George: No, I love the way that you’ve put this together because it is very simple. First off, you didn’t give them eight things that they need to remember. You gave them two things, and what business wouldn’t like to be more relevant and more trusted. It blows me away sometimes how the most effective tactics are the simplest to deploy. By keeping it to just those two items that they’re going to hear over and over and over again, whether it’s an email report that’s going out, they’re just talking to someone in your customer success team or when we come in to do some post-sales engagement, and I think you’re going to get into that when we talk about number two, which is post-sales engagement and reselling.


Post-Sales Engagement and Reselling: It’s All About Connecting with the Client

Matt: Yeah, it is. It does take a little bit of a turn here. When I talked about observations that I’ve seen with partners over the last eight years, one of the biggest offenders and, quite frankly, one of the biggest surprises is how poorly sales organizations go out and resell their clients. Sometimes they literally just forget. A digital product is established generally on some type of a contracted basis whether it be a six or a 12-month contract. Most of … say most, but a good amount, let’s just say a good amount of clients that I have seen churn out over the years are due to someone simply forgetting about them and not ever going out and reselling them on the value, whether it’s relevance and trust or whatever that value is based on whatever product that we’re dealing with.

Matt: What I said at the Conquer Local conference was is that set and forget is not a winning strategy. These clients need to be told the value story over and over and over. Then there needs to be some type of a mechanism in place that alerts sales organizations or alerts clients services organizations to when these clients are coming up on their contract end dates so that someone can literally go out, give them phone call, pay them a visit and say, “Hey, Mr. Customer, I want to talk to you about the value and the success you’ve had in your campaign and talk about how we can keep this moving forward for you into a new term.” That simply just doesn’t happen very often. Like I said, I’m shocked.

Matt: When I talk to partners about it, the number one response is, “Well, our salespeople are focused on selling new business.” In my mind I’m thinking, “Well, I see your sales numbers, so is that really the case?” Regardless of what your sales strategy is, you need to have some type of post-sales engagement strategy.

Matt: If you are indeed a sales organization where you want your sellers to always be focusing in on new business and not servicing old business, then create a position that does do that because I think one of the bigger takeaways in doing this for me, and my counterpart, Amanda, actually presented this point at the conference was that it is five times more expensive to go and acquire a new customer than it is to save an old customer.

George: Right.

Matt: From a pure economics standpoint, it makes perfect sense. Then from a review standpoint and a client experience standpoint of what that client is going to say to other people, it also makes perfect sense. It’s a double win to have some type of post-sales engagement strategy.

George: Matt, I’ve seen a new tactic. Maybe it’s not a new tactic but in the recent months, I’m like, “Wow, this makes a lot of sense,” where organizations are using email marketing to teach the customer, to remind the customer of the value that they bought day one. The thinking is, and I’ve talked to a number of organizations that are deploying this tactic, were using marketing automation to drive new leads and to warm up cold prospects.

George: But what happens, a salesperson goes in, makes a great presentation of the value proposition and what the solution is going to do, and then they don’t have that ongoing conversation. There is a way to do it with an email to remind the customer of what that value proposition is so it doesn’t have to be a face-to-face tactic. As part of that post-sales engagement and reselling or teaching is reminding them of the value proposition that they have purchased in the hope of retaining that customer.


Sales Training: It’s All About Product Mastery Through Simplicity

George: Let’s get into sales training because I know that you have worked with a lot of sales organizations, and I value that eight years of experience. What’s the one thing that you’ve learned about sales organizations over the last eight years?

Matt: I think the biggest key here is product mastery through simplicity.

George: I love it. I love it. Tell us all about it.

Matt: Yeah. Being such a master of your product that you can break it down into the most simple terms possible and direct and own a conversation and keep it on that simple path. You can only really do that, you can only control a conversation to that degree when you really know what you’re talking about. The more you know what you’re talking about, the more simple you can make things and the more you can direct that conversation to where you want to go because at the end of the day, your salespeople should never be product people. Salespeople should be salespeople. They should be talking about value and features, advantages, benefits, how this product is going to make the client more money, how it’s going to drive more customers. It should never be a conversation that’s based on jargon and industry terms and fancy technical terms. Leave that to the product folks and to the client services folks if and when that client wants to get into deeper conversations. As a salesperson, you own the conversation by keeping it super simple.

Matt: I think that the phraseology and the imagery that I used at the conference was pretty poignant, right? I had a picture of a big weed whacker mowing down a patch of weeds. My comment was is that in sales training, if you’re not focused on the core value elements like the relevance and trust, then what you’re doing is you’re not enabling salespeople. You’re creating weed whackers because then you’re leaving salespeople to their own devices to go out and educate themselves. By and large, it holds true that salespeople will go and educate themselves on the most irrelevant, least important things because they want to sound educated and fancy when in reality they should be all about the value.

George: What happens when I have a customer and they want to go deeper into the product and they really want to understand the technical side of it. How would you suggest, as part of your four keys to retention, that salespeople handle that?

Matt: Well, George, that’s a great set-up for the fourth point, which is this idea of a product sales support role. I’m going to give some background on this. We’ve had a couple of SEO partners who were very poor at selling SEO, right? They had experienced, knowledgeable sales forces, but perhaps these sales forces were more adept at selling traditional media or selling cheaper products. The SEO sale can be quite complicated and nuanced.

Matt: We could give them all the training we wanted; train them, train them, train them, relevance and trust up the ying-yang, give them all types of webinars, all types of collateral pieces, but at the end of the day, they would sometimes just get into a place where they couldn’t direct the conversation to where it needed to go. They were underperforming. We needed to come up with an idea here at Boostability to make it worthwhile to have these partners, right, because a partner is only as good as how much they’re selling.


Product Sales Support: It’s All About Diving Deeper with Experts

Matt: We came up with this idea of product sales support. Here’s how it works. If you’re on the phone talking to a client, and you get into a place where you simply can’t direct the conversation to where you want it to go, the questions are becoming a little bit too deep, and you don’t want to get into that line of questioning or that line of discussion because you want to keep it centered around value, then you can call into a product sales support line and bring someone on board who plays a specific role, plays the role of that person who can get into the deeper dive and get into the more technical discussion.

Matt: I love the idea of a product specialist doing this rather than the salesperson doing this because of a couple of reasons. First off, two heads are always better than one, right? Two perspectives, two different opinions. It just creates more credibility all the way around. Second, it allows the salesperson to stay focused and specialized into what they’re supposed to be doing, and that’s talking about value. It allows this other person to get into the weeds a little bit and to vary. Then the salesperson can actually sit back, strategically listen to this conversation, and then reinsert themselves right at the key times when the client is giving buying signals or other types of signals through the course of the discussion with the product specialist.

Matt: It works great for a three-legged call on the phone. It also works fantastic if you’re sitting face-to-face with someone and you get into this situation to simply say, “You know what, I’m going to call on one of my product specialists because they’re going to be able to talk to you about this in a way that I just can’t.

Matt: The other thing it does is it creates trust and believability because believe it or not, in my years of sales, one of the biggest things that you can say to someone that generates trust in you as an expert, and it’s going to sound totally oxymoronic, is to use the phrase, “I don’t know.” Yeah, because I’m a sales guy. In what world does that make me a digital products expert? To say the words, “I don’t know. Let’s bring someone on here who is a real true blue expert in this,” it’s really a cool thing, and it creates a lot of trust. It creates that idea that, hey, this guy really does care about listening to me and answering my questions, that he’s not just going to make something up.

George: Well, Matt, it brings an enormous amount of value to the conversation. The customer feels that they’re considered important because you brought this technical expert in. Now, I’m sure that you’ve listened to a number of these calls. I just happened to have listened to one about a week ago, and I’d like to talk about something you don’t want to do, and that is you’ve got the product sales support person there, and you don’t intro them properly. It’s just like, “Oh, here’s T-bone now. He’s on the call,” and I haven’t really given any context as to why he’s there, nothing about his background. You’re missing out on an opportunity to tee this thing up. It’s on the salesperson to do that properly. Have you seen any train wrecks where reps have done a bad job of this?

Matt: Well, yeah. We’ve seen the gamut. We’ve seen to where they give no context as to where they’re at in the conversation, or they give no context as to who the person is coming in on the call. It’s all a learning process. We’ve been doing this product sales support line now for I think going on five years. We’re in our fifth year of doing it, so I could say we’ve seen it all. But we’ve really kind of honed in the process now to where it’s super simple.

Matt: For instance, the three of us here are representing the sales agent, client and product specialist. If I’m sales agent, George, and you are the potential client and T-bone’s the product guy, I’m going to simply say something to the fact of, “George, you know what, this conversation’s getting really good, but it’s getting to a point where I think it’s above my expertise of the product. Do you mind if I place you on a brief hold? I’m going to dial in a product specialist who’s going to be able to answer these questions a lot better than I can.” I’m going to place you on a brief hold, I’m going to dial in.

Matt: In the space in between I get on the call with you, the conversation’s going to go something like this. “Hey, T-bone, I have George on the line. We’re at this point in the conversation. We’re talking about this particular aspect. I’d like you to come in and talk to him about how we budget SEO or what the relevance of this particular task is,” whatever the situation is, and then take the conversation from there and help me close this guy. Give him the context he needs, click join call, “George, hey, T-bone’s here. I’ve briefed him on who you are and what you do. I let him know the question that we’re pondering here, so T-Bone, please take it away,” and then you go. It’s generally very smooth.

George: I love the way that you teed that up. For all of those sales managers that are out there, make sure that you’re listening to those calls and you’re watching to see the way that your reps are introducing this enormous resource. It has to be positioned properly so that it shows the prospect or the existing customer the value that it can bring.

George: As Matt mentioned, Boostability is an expert at this. I hear from organization after organization that they work with that this product sales support piece is a really important part of their go-to customer model, and it’s helped them out in the growth that you folks have been having, so congratulations on nailing that down.

George: I really like this. Those four keys to retention again: the point of sales strategy, the post-sales engagement and reselling, sales training, and then that product sales report, bringing in the ninja that is able to speak at a more technical level and to add value to the conversation.

George: Matt has been joining us. He is the VP of Business Development. Matt, we could go on for hours and hours. I’m sure we’ll probably get you back on a future episode, but I really wanted to get those four steps, the four keys to retention from your lips to our audience’s ears because we had a lot of really great feedback from Conquer Local convention on your presentation. I appreciate you joining us today on the podcast.

Matt: Thanks, George, I appreciate the invite.



George: Well, Matt definitely knows his stuff. Over the past eight years, he has been working with partners all over the planet helping them sell SEO and coming up with that very simple presentation so that you can really, clearly show the value. I love going through his four keys of retention.

George: The first is having that strategy that starts right at the point of sale, and then it continues all the way through that sale, from the moment that you bring them on board to the moment that you retain them and you up-sell them or you save them. It’s the same language that you’re bringing that value against those key value points.

George: Next, I love the fact that he says you need to be an expert on your product. You really need to understand it well, but when it gets too technical, it’s great to bring in that product sales support because two heads are always better than one. Then, when it comes to that sales training, you need to understand your product well enough to know when you don’t want to go too deep in the weeds and when you want to really work on that relationship and having the relationship with the customer.

George: Then, the post-sales engagement. How is that going to look? When you’ve sold it at a certain value prop, how are you going to continue to deliver and show that the value is being delivered for the client and very clearly setting those expectations? I thought it was one of the best presentations of the conference, and we’re really happy to have Matt join us again here on the podcast to give us those four key pillars of his retention strategies. Thanks to Matt Tennison, the VP of Business Development from Boostability for joining us this week on the Conquer Local Podcast.

George: You can learn more about the show on our website at conquerlocal.com or you can join our new community on Slack at conquerlocal.slack.com or follow us on LinkedIn. George Leith on LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you. You can private message us or reach out to us on the podcast channel in the Slack community. We just love getting that feedback or suggestions for upcoming episodes or maybe potential guests that we could bring and put in the hot seat here as we are planning out those episodes for the last part of … I can’t believe I’m saying this already, the last part of 2019. We’re already looking at those Q4 episodes.

George: We love getting that feedback from you, the Conquerors around the world. Thanks for joining us this week. We’ll see you right back here as we continue to help sales Conquer Local. My name is George Leith. I will see you when I see you.

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