How can a salesperson win in 2018 when buyers are becoming more skeptical of complicated digital products and services? According to James Moore, Chief Revenue Officer of Simpli.fi., it all starts with credibility. It’s time to say goodbye to the same old script, and hello to continuous learning to become an articulate and passionate salesperson that buyers trust. To learn about bolstering your own credibility and so much more, tune in to this week’s episode with James Moore now!
Simpli.fi’s Chief Revenue Officer
George: Welcome to the latest edition of the “Conquer Local” podcast. I was trying my hardest to get James Moore, the Chief Revenue Officer of Simpli.fi on this show. I saw James speak at the local online advertising conference that Gordon Borrell puts on in New York last spring. I’m like, “I need to have that guy as a guest in the podcast.” Well, the star is aligned, and we were able to get him in studio for about 20 minutes Q&A. It’s two guys that love to talk. So it’s gonna be interesting. James Moore, he’s gonna cover up a couple of things. This is the guy. So you can buy Facebook ads. You can buy Google AdWords. Him and his company, Simpli.fi, sell the rest of the internet. So we’re gonna find out about that. We’re gonna find out about what it takes to be a successful sales reps. James believes to be a successful sales rep you need to be credible. And in order to be credible, you need to really understand and believe in your product. We’ll talk more about that. It’s all coming up on this edition of the “Conquer Local” podcast with Chief Revenue Officer of Simpli.fi, James Moore, next.
We’re here with James Moore, Chief Revenue Officer from Simpli.fi. And, James, tell us what Simpli.fi is. I think that’s the first piece we need to get out in the open.
James: Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I haven’t been to Saskatoon in Canada and I’m enjoying the cold weather. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. So Simpli.fi is a programmatic platform. It’s a fancy way of saying we’re in the data-driven advertising space and we walk with thousands of local media groups and agencies and brands to do data-driven advertising for display mobile native video. We connect consumers with impressions that matter on those moments that matter.
George: You’ve been in the sales business for quite some time.
James: Yeah. It’s probably a longer story than your podcast can support, but I got a degree in speech communication. I jumped into sales, so my first job, I was a class rings salesman for a little company that got acquired my Jostens. I joined a company called Airborne Express where I was in the fleet business for about five years. And then I joined a little startup nobody ever had of called Careerbuilder.com. And I opened the offices for those guys over five and half years all over the country. That got me into the advertising space. And so I’ve been doing this now longer than I care to admit.
Changing Sales Climate
George: Well, when you and I met for the first time, it was last March in New York at Gordon Borrell’s annual convention and you were doing a keynote there at that…and I was really impressed with the content that you were delivering to that group. I wanna talk about making salespeople sales professionals and I know it’s something you’re passionate about. You’ve got quite a large sales organization that you work with on a daily basis. And then through your partnerships with media companies, and agencies you work with salespeople all the time. Let’s talk a little bit about how you’re seeing sales change in today’s day and age than when you started in this space.
James: You know, for me, I’ve been trying to put my finger on really the changing sales climate. And I think the way that I can best communicate this is that, you know, we saw the internet fundamentally change the world. We saw the internet change the way you bought music, and we saw music stores disappear. You know, I remember a day in time when we used to pass notes, but it’s actually changed sales, too. And the reason why it’s changed sales is because it’s changed the buyers. We live in a world where people are used to getting the information at their fingertips on demand when they want it.
So what we find is that people’s tolerance for communicating with people where they’re not able to extract the information they need to make a decision in a rapid fashion is getting shorter and shorter at the level of skepticism that they bring to the conversation and that trust that used to exist between a seller and a buyer has been eroded over time because you get a lot of people selling confusing things that they don’t fully understand themselves. And so I just think that the sales climate has fundamentally shifted from the world we knew, which was a very consultative sale that was extremely relationship oriented, where a signature actually meant you got a sale into something completely different today and I’m happy to articulate that more.
Recruiting for a Stellar Sales Team
George: Well, let’s talk about…you know, I’ve met a number of your individuals that work in your company and that are, you know, under your organization and I find them to be, you know, very smart, very articulate. They have the answers to the questions, you know, true professionals. Is that something that, you know, when you’re out recruiting you’re looking for? Is this something you’ve been developing internally?
James: It’s a little bit of recruiting and it’s a little of development. But I have a philosophy in my own sales organization which is my team is not gonna be able to sell anything unless they either impact or sold themselves. And so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to teach salespeople on how to sell a product. What I find is that if you hire good talent and you sell them on the value that that product creates, they’re gonna take that message and they’re gonna articulate authentically, passionately, and people are gonna wanna buy from them. If they don’t understand what they’re selling, no amount of scripting, no amount of sales collateral is gonna make them effective in the marketplace because they’re not gonna be authentic when they’re communicating to people. So I spend a ton of time just trying to sell my own people on my own company my own product.
Learning Platform for Sales Teams
George: You know, you unveiled a little something earlier to us today and I was introduced to it about a year ago when our organization started working together and it’s called Bullseye. And it’s just this amazing learning platform and you guys built that for a reason. I know it’s something you’re very passionate about. Tell us a little bit about Bullseye and what that’s meant to your sales organization?
James: Well, you know, digital advertising while it’s not new is relatively new to a lot of people. And we work with a lot of organizations who have hired a lot of very competent sales professionals who have a long history of selling things that are not digital advertising and certainly not programmatic advertising. So one of the things that we had to do was make the content of understanding the industry, the space, the product, the questions that are likely to come up. We had to make that palatable and transferrable to the organizations we work with.
And so building a web accessible portal that you can access 24 hours a day with bi-sized co-segments that really started a million-foot level and worked their way down to a very granular level allows an organization to take a very broad sales organization, put them through the same learning experience and ensure that they’ve got some level of common understanding about the products that you’re deploying to the marketplace and just knowing that we’re putting the growth of our company in the hands of those companies who were in turn growing their company, and knowing that they’ve got competent qualified salespeople who are gonna be able to articulate what we do in this industry in a very competent and profession way, I think is essential to scale. And so it’s been a very important part of our business.
George: You know, there aren’t a lot of people that have been successful in doing what you’re describing, which is channel sales. You’re one of the organizations that have done very well. What are some of the other things you’ve noticed to make channel sales work properly where you use another organization’s, you know, foot soldiers to deliver your products and services?
James: Well, on the one hand, we try to be a common source of information exchange. So because the industry is moving so fast and so many new solutions get hit into the marketplace. We try to develop a two way conversation with our partners that allows us to have some sort of connected dialogue either to the sellers directly or through sales leadership, or through a training function within their organization where on a real-time basis, monthly, they can give us feedback about the questions they’re receiving in the field, the objections that they’re experiencing so that we can collect that data, produce solutions against that data, talk about our own experience in overcoming those objections, and ensuring that we have that information.
I think the other thing is that where people don’t understand is that, you know, my company, like so many companies we’ve got, you know, more than 50 developers working in two weeks sprints. And the product, frankly, is changing all the time in order to keep up with the business, in order to meet demand, to have new target, to take advantage of new data, new creatives that come into the marketplace. And so you could have been trained on what it is we do six months or a year ago and have very little understanding about what that product actually does today. And so taking something that is a legacy partnership and keeping it fresh and new by keeping people appropriately informed through webinars, through newsletters, through trainings, through web portals, and things like that are essential toward keeping your product top of mind and also keeping that competency level up because it just changes.
James’ QBR (Quarterly Business Review)
George: So there’s legend in the space because you and our organization share a number of the same partnerships. And somebody said to me one day, “You’ve got to see the simplified QBR. You’ve got to see it. It’s amazing.” Tell us about this QBR and, you know, is it the secret source?
James: Well, QBR, of course, stands for Quarterly Business Review. We really internally been saying maybe we should just call it business review because I’m not sure how often that happens every quarter. And some clients we do then once a quarter or sometimes we do them twice a year. But I can tell you this, that our own company because we work with advertising exchanges who we are the vendors buying media from publishers. And we would sit through these business reviews that we’re getting from the people we work with and they’re saying, “Here’s who you are. Here’s how your compare against your peers’ app. Here’s what you guys are doing that we think is different and unique and better than others. Here’s where we’d see you lagging.”
We saw a lot of value in that, and we saw an opportunity to basically take that one step further and do it across the local media group spaces and examples. So it’s great for us to be able to walk into, say, a large TV group, or a large newspaper group and say, “Look, this is what you do today. Would you like to know how you compare against other local media groups across a broad range or across newspaper groups only? Would you like to understand how your usage, how your performance is, what your average deal size is, what your tactical mix is, what their go-to market strategy is and aggregate without revealing anything too proprietary?”
And have a two-way conversation about how to drive more recurring revenue or more renewals, higher deal size, drive more value around the product. And those have been incredibly engaging conversations, and they’re also super helpful for us because we get a front row seat at the roadmap that our partners need. What is it that they’re missing or what is that they need to be developing. And so we get this regular two-way communication that we say, “This is who you are, and this is what you’re doing in the marketplace.” But they say to us, “Well, this is our experience and this is what we need and can you produce this if you can? This is the value we believe it can bring.” And so it informs so much of what we do on an ongoing basis as well.
What it means to be Chief Revenue Officer
George: I had a message the other day on Twitter from Joanne and she had a question. She said, “This thing, this Chief Revenue Officer title, what does it mean? It seems that it’s new.” You know, it is a new title and what does Chief Revenue Officer mean to you?
James: Well, Chief Revenue Officer, obviously, is a connotation that probably means a lot of different things in different organizations. Even you and I have had conversations, George, about how your role differs from mine. In my world, it’s more of a Chief Sales Officer role than probably a Chief Revenue Officer. I think CRO is a vogue term that gets carried around in the ad-tech industry that doesn’t exist in other industries. But I’m in control on the topline revenue in this company and if it touches topline revenue growth and I play a part of it. And, you know, and in some organizations the CRO touches the operations or service side of the business, and I think that makes an awful lot of sense. In my particular company, we’ve separated sales from service because it’s a real separation in church and stay. My job is to drive increased revenue. Our service organization’s job is to drive satisfaction. “Do you like us? Yes or no? Would you recommend us? Yes or no?” And sometimes whenever that organization, if they were focused on revenue, the line between growing revenue versus growing satisfaction kick across.
So as ideas, I’m focused on bringing business into the organization and really around the profitability of that, the huddle rate of that, the net recurring nature of that, making sure that our sales resources, which by the way are expensive resources in any organization just from a pure compensation and support standpoint are being targeting the right kind of companies, they’re gonna net us the right kind of deals that are gonna renew at the right levels. So keeping the organization focus con on the right things, doing so effectively and getting the best possible ROI for those investment is a full-time job, and that’s what it is for me.
George: I’ve done a bunch of research, so I’m gonna use some of that research right now. I hear you’ve got this Monday morning memo that you send out. Tell me what that thing is all about?
James: You know, I’m a big believer in that if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, you know, did it really happen? And so I use my Monday morning weekly sales update as a bit of scorecard across everything. In other words, as my organization gets bigger, what I find is that the ability to communicate anything takes time. Not everybody reads their email immediately. Some people take longer to do so. Not everybody is on Slack, which is our internal messaging system all the time. And others are, some people need to hear something twice, other people would need to hear something once. So what I’ve done in my organization is create a reliable communication string that says at the bare minimum once a week, you can count on it like an egg timer, you’re gonna get from me, and it’s gonna say, “This is what is important that happened in the last week that I need to make sure that you as a salesperson in this organization understand that you’re professional and if you’re not, you need to raise your hand now because moving from today forward that’s my expectation.
It’s also my chance to basically, to report on the scorecard for the month. Here’s what we signed a month today. Here’s the performance month today. Here’s our clients who are up. Here’s our clients who are down. So if it’s important to me, then it’s in that email. And what I find is that people will make important what they know is important to me, and they will watch what they know I watch. So, to me, consistency is the key with that, knowing that you’re gonna get it without question every week, and knowing that if I ask for some information in the form of reporting or something from the field, I need to prove to them that I did something with that data by bringing information back to them that says, “You did not bring me that reporting or data for nothing. This is how I consumed it and this is how we’re using it.”
Advice for a New Salesperson
George: So we’ve been in this business a long time as salespeople and then as sales managers, and business owners. And I’d like to ask this question of all the guest. You know, if we were to look back at, you know, our former self when we first started in the space, what some advice you would give to a young salesperson who’s deciding, “I’m gonna be a salesperson?” What are some advice that you would give to that person?
James: You know, to me, as I look back on my own success and really the people who work for me, I would put more stock and really truly understanding what it is I sell. I think in the past, I’ve been known to say, “Give me the script, give me the collateral,” as opposed to really fundamentally understanding what’s happening. And what I find is that it’s made me incredibly effective to just be able to understand what I do and I may not know what a car dealer’s need is or a multi-location brand’s need is, but I understand my product and space better than almost anybody I’m gonna talk to. I’m know what my solution is capable of. And I come across some credibly candid and passionate about it because I get it at a root level. So I think understanding it is a big part of it. And I think the other thing is that as salespeople we tend to fall into sales routines and mentorship and a methodology of kind of the way we do business, but I think you have to recognize that times change and you’re gonna have to evolve as a salesperson.
And so I think I use the example before, one of the best books I’ve read in the last two years, and I’ve read a lot of books that I would say, it was just more of the same. But one I read that actually resonated with me was a book called “SNAP Selling” because I thought it really articulated what’s changed in the marketplace whereas, you know, you used to go in, sat down with people, and do these big needs analysis and collect all these data and then present. And what you find is that the buying climate is relatively short today. People are…they don’t trust you enough to sit around and give you all the information you need to make the sell back to them. They want you to get to the point. They want to know what it is you do this particular unique and differentiate it, if you can validate that. They wanna make it easy to try because they don’t trust you to lay experience you. And it’s that experience, that sale after the sale where they’re really deciding whether they wanna buy anymore, right? And so I would just say just understanding that the buying climate changes how people evolve, evaluate solutions changes, and just making sure that you are attuned to the environment that you’re selling in and that you’re not locking yourself into a style, it’s a key to progressing over the years.
Credibility Comes From Belief
George: Well, you did say something that really resonated with me and, you know, I’ve had the privilege of spending the last almost full day with you and listening to you speak to a number of people in our organization. And, you know, that passion that you have for what you do on a day-to-day basis, I think sometimes people take that for granted that you really need to be passionate about what you’re doing.
James: Well, I think at the end of the day, you need to be credible and credibility is around belief. And so, you know, in our world, particularly what we do, at the end of the day, we’re a technology and you’ve got so many people in the advertising business on the sales side who are not technology people selling their technology to buyers who are not technology people. So you’ve got non-technical people selling a technology to non-technology people, okay? So oftentimes, it’s the confused selling to the confused, right? And so, at the end of the day, this market demands that…well, let me say, too, differently, the other thing that we hear is that, you know, you have to simplify this and you really have to, you know, bring it down to a level that people understand. And I gotta be honest with you, I’m not sure I completely agree because what happens is people buy stuff they don’t understand all the time.
People buy complexity all the time. A new TV sets come out in December and it’s got the new 4D quad graphic, pixels, or wherever, and that’s what justifies that it’s $1,000 more than last year’s TV. And people buy it even though they don’t understand it. When an iPhone 8 comes out, people believed their iPhone 7 was out of date immediately and people rush to buy it. So people are buying the latest greatest things that they don’t understand all the time. So they don’t mind buying complex solutions, but they wanna buy it from somebody they trust, that they believe understands it, gets it right, and has an interest to their business, which means as a seller you’ve got to slow down, understand it, understand what you’re selling, understand what it’s really going to do, communicate it passionately. And if you do, they will buy it from you whether they understand it or not.
George: James, we really appreciate you taking a few minutes to join us here. And this isn’t the main studio, this is what we call the remote studio. But we appreciate you coming in and joining us here on Conquer Local and the “Conquer Local” podcast.
James: Thanks a lot.
I like to surround myself with people who are better than me. And James Moore is a top-shelf Chief Revenue Officer. And you know what I take out of that? He doesn’t communicate very often. He puts it into one memo a week. So all of his people understand that that’s where they can go to see exactly what’s going on in his head and kind of a level set for the organization. All right. I took that away from that presentation. The other thing that I took away from that interview is he’s extremely passionate about his solution and he believes that what he has is a fantastic thing to help businesses and to help salespeople. So, you know, that level of passion and believing in a solution was a key takeaway for me. James Moore, Chief Revenue Officer of Simpli.fi on this week’s “Conquer Local” podcast. My name is George Leith. I will see you when I see you.