Going beyond product peddling by proving performance.
This week, George chats with Jed Williams, Chief Innovation Officer of the Local Media Association to discuss how personalized, business-specific data can help you drive sales in 2018. Tune in to hear them discuss how to execute a better customer needs assessment, the post-sale quarterback strategy… and something about a #blowything.
Guest: Jed Williams
Jed Williams is the Chief Innovation Officer at the Local Media Association, where he leads industry wide digital revenue and business transformation initiatives for newspapers, radio and TV broadcasters, digital publishers, and R&D partners. These programs include Innovation Missions, Chief Digital Club executive networking groups, and LMA’s strategic consulting practice.
Previously, Williams was a Senior Analyst and Vice President of Strategic Consulting at BIA/Kelsey, where he managed the company’s consulting division. He has led projects for AT&T, Constant Contact, Google, Time-Warner Cable, and Yahoo!. He has also advised local media companies such as GateHouse Media, Advance Digital, CNHI, Raycom, and Valpak.
He previously also helped lead business development and strategy for two venture-backed technology companies, Vendasta and Main Street Hub.
Williams’ insights have been cited by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Digiday, Bloomberg, FOX Business, and the BBC, among others. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and corporate meetings. He has written extensively on creative destruction and disruptive media and his work has been published and taught by the Columbia Journalism School and the Yale School of Management.
Coming up on this week’s edition of the Conquer Local Podcast, we speak to Jed Williams, the Chief Innovation Officer of the Local Media Association, working with media organizations all over North America. You’ll learn why you need to be thinking about a CNA 2.0, and what is it. If you’re going to do this job, you’ve got to get really serious about consultive selling. And Jed will talk about process, structure, and data from his work with hundreds of media organizations. It’s all coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast.
George: Jed Williams is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Local Media Association. He’s joining us today on the Conquer Local Podcast. My friend, thanks for coming on board.
Jed: Mighty George Leith, it’s a delight and pleasure to be on your podcast and I’m so excited that you guys have launched us.
George: Well, it’s been a long time in the making, and it’s a huge commitment when you say you’re gonna do a podcast every week. I’m not regretting it yet because I get to talk to fantastic people like you. And when I was looking at the list of who I’m going to talk to first, Jed Williams was on that list. You and I had the privilege of working together for a period of time and then you went off to your calling at the LMA. Can you fill people in a little bit about what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Jed: I’m happy to do it. And actually the time I spent in Vendasta with you is one of the best times in my career. You know, as you know, I’m very passionate about the cause of local media and the challenges of local media and what they need to do to forge sustainable and profitable paths forward, and that’s what the Local Media Association is all about. So our mission statement at a high level, and I think it’s worth underscoring this, is we work with local media companies of every shape and size, color, and dimension, whether it’s radio, TV, newspaper, digital peer play, whatever it might be, to help them discover and develop new and sustainable business models. So it’s a very heavy and important charge.
And my task there, you know, I like to joke, the Chief Innovation Officer sounds on a business card. It’s fancy and pretentious, but what the heck does it mean day-to-day? What it means is I’ve got to work with these members day-to-day at an executive level and on the ground floor with sales managers, sales teams, product managers, etc., to figure out what are they investing in to transform their businesses? Where are the new digital business models? How do they build more effective sales structures? So my job, my charge, is to design programs, initiatives, strategies for them that help them achieve exactly that.
George: I like to think that… I talk to a lot of salespeople and sales managers and chief revenue offices in my travels, but I think that hands down, Jed, you talk to more. So we’re looking to get some of those insights back from some of those discussions to us so that we can start to understand what an account executive needs to do when they’re dealing with their customers to provide the most value and to make sure that they’re that trusted local expert. So, you know, first thing I wanna dig into is some of the things that you’re seeing in the last 24 months, and what’s that pace of change? What’s it like right now out there in the street?
Jed: I mean, in a word, it’s unbelievable. Maybe another word would be dramatic, would be existential. I mean, I know I’m using big words here, George, but I’m using them on purpose. I mean, that’s the culture of change and disruption that we’re in in media and particularly in sales. What’s happening with advertisers, what’s happening with digital advertising, what’s happening with digital marketing services, who are the competitors, the flattening of the space. I mean, let me give you a number to put these into context, because we all here this number about the number of phone calls that a local business and SMB gets on a weekly basis or a monthly basis, right? And you and I, you know, we’ve seen the stat, oh, it’s 39 or it’s 40, it’s something like that, which, by the way, is a ton. So I was talking to “The Dallas Morning News” not that long ago. Pretty successful local media company transforming itself, big digital agency presence. And they were talking to several of their auto partners, and they asked them, “How many phone calls about marketing and advertising do you get in a month?” You know what that answer was George?
George: I’m interested to find out.
Jed: Eighty nine, 89 phone calls in one month about advertising and marketing. That is… Now, granted this is Dallas, fifth biggest market in the country. I get it. It’s not Dubuque, Iowa or Tucson, Arizon, but this is what our sales forces are up against. And I don’t mean that as a fear tactic, I just mean that to say, if we’re not rethinking every part of the operation, every part of the organization from the talent that we’re bringing in, the professional development and the training and education that we’re giving them, the support that we’re providing them and fulfillment on the backend, the cultural buy-in in an executive level around the important of what they’re doing in digital sales, data, and systems to help them have smarter conversations from the very first moment that they touched that client or prospect, and, by the way, sales manager and coach that really gets them and is there to promote them and help their path forward, then you don’t have a chance in digital. It takes all of those things, and it now takes all of those things to breakthrough, because of the number of competitors that are out there, whether it’s SaaS companies, whether it’s vertical providers, whether it’s the dominant platforms like Facebook and Google, whether it’s Pure Play digital agencies. If you’re a media company, you are up against all of that. You need to be reexamining every part of sales infrastructure.
George: You know, and I will say to you that there’s always been a lot of calls happening on the prospect, especially if you’re an auto dealer, you’re low hanging fruit for every sales organization out there that’s trying to sell even the blowy thing that goes on in the parking lot that attracts people that are driving by or the guy in the gorilla suit. But the difference being today, and I’d like you to really dig into that, is the quality of the sales rep that is on those 89 calls, they’re top shelf.
Jed: They are, and I think they are for a couple of reasons. One is you’re dealing with a different generation and a different sort of quality of salesperson that was raised digitally, that is very fluent digitally. Like this is all they know and all they do. You’re not teaching that 25-year-old about digital platforms and digital tools, like this is how they were raised. It’s innate to their DNA. So a lot of traditional media companies have that challenge. They’re trying to reeducate or educate from scratch a traditional seller versus, you know, that very savvy 25-year-old coming out of the school, whatever the case might be, that really knows digital.
I think the other thing is when you look at so many of these organizations, so I’ll give you example. And I know we’re gonna talk more about this in a little bit. But at LMA we lead these trips called innovation missions, and we’ll go see progressive media companies but we’ll also go and meet with disruptive technology companies. Those might be platforms, those might be software providers, etc. An example of one that we went to visit last year is HubSpot, up in Boston. You know, a fascinating company. They’ve had a great story. They had their public IPO. They’re incredibly, as you know, George, I mean, incredibly metrics driven. Everything about that organization is fueled by data.
I mean, it dictates every single decision that every sales reps and every person in that organization makes in every minute of every day. And so data is fuel. Data is oxygen. Data is power in your sales force, in understanding what the key sales activity should be, who you should be calling on, why, what you should be offering them, where they are in the journey and in the sales process. And I think that is something that media companies are up against more than ever, is not just thinking through your talent, but really thinking through how data-driven and how metrics-driven are you as an organization. And the answer is you better not just be driven, you better be obsessed by that.
George: So I’ve got a great relationship. I’m the rep that’s been calling on a client for 20-some odd years of knowing the owner of the business, now I might dealing with the son or daughter that’s taken over the business on a day-to-day operations. I’ve been relying on my relationship. I haven’t really been training myself too much on new products and services, although my organization is starting to sell new products and services. These are the sales reps that are really being disrupted by these data-driven organizations that get it, because the client is starting to look really deep into the offering saying, “Am I really getting the value that, you know, Old George has been professing that he’s been giving me?” So that’s where we’re seeing that disruption, isn’t it?
Jed: That’s exactly, yeah. I mean, I think at the end of the day, look, if you’re a traditional media rep, you’re a tea seller, you’re a newspaper seller, you have a relationship with that furniture store, auto dealer, hospital, whatever it might be for 10 years or 15 years. That’s nice. Maybe that gets you the first conversation. But if you can’t actually solve specific problems for them, I mean, I always come back to, in any part of our business, but particularly in sales, the jobs to be done framework, if you don’t really understand their jobs to be done as a business and you can’t deliver on those with absolutely clear discernible ROI and attribution on what they’re spending and why and what they’re getting back in return, in the long term, you’re going to lose because you’re going up against organizations that understand products and understand solutions that can do that and have data and have trained their sales people to be able to have that conversation.
So, you know, that all… just handshake and “I’ll be back next month,” I mean, none of that stuff works anymore, and so I think that there’s such a focus on ROI with the SMB, with the advertiser… Look, they are, as you know, George, like they are as lost as the traditional media salesperson that I’m talking about. So they’re looking for an advisor more than ever, and I think they’re pretty ruthless and pretty objective about the person that walks through that door and truly understands their jobs to be done, gives them elegant, great customer service, and then delivers on that promise with products and services that deliver clear ROI. They’re going to be the winners.
And they aren’t just the traditional advertising products that we’ve all known about for 50 years and they aren’t even traditional digital advertising products. If you look at the digital advertising market, George, it’s growing, but a lot of that growth is gobbled up by Google and Facebook. The digital marketing services opportunity, that is twice the size of digital advertising. According to Burrell, that’s a $1 billion market and, you know…or, you know, excuse me, it’s a $700 billion market and digital advertising opportunities are $350 billion market. So you’ve really got to understand all the options that are out there for a business and where the money is moving and be able to move in these directions.
George: So then previous episodes of the podcasts we talked about the proof-of-performance layer to the sales process. And you’ve just touched right there with some really good data that you better be showing ROI. When do you think in the sales process should we be setting the stage for looking at the proof of performance and “Did the things that I sold to the customer start to work or not?” When do you set that stage?
Jed: I think you set it pretty early. I don’t think you set in the first touch point because I think you’re learning in that first touch point. But I also want to talk about that for a second, George, before we get into reporting and managing client expectations, and that is sort of the era of the customer needs analysis. I really believe we’re moving from CNA 1.0 to CAN 2.0. CNA 1.0 was “I got my little form and I wanna walk in there and take 30 minutes of your time and ask you a bunch of questions about your business.” Well, here is the challenge. Every one of those 39 or 89 or whatever the number is you wanna believe, every one of those people that’s making the phone call and asking to come in there wants to do the exact same thing. How much time does the business have to explain themselves and answer the same set of CNA questions for every single person knocking on their door? It is really much more about do you have data and information about them where you can come in from the first touch point and be helpful to them and provide information that they didn’t know and help further their business as a result.
So that, you know, that old era of “Let me come in and do a capabilities assessment,” I think we’re moving way beyond that. So I think there’s a different kind of CNA required upfront to be a truly effective multi-platform seller. But then I think after you do that, to answer your question directly, pretty early in that process, when you’re coming back and you’re putting in solutions, and notice I don’t say products, I say solutions, when you’re putting solutions in front of that business, you need to be framing expectations around that early on. You know, “Here’s what happens first and next, and after that, here’s how we’re gonna tell you about that, here’s typically how long it takes for something to take effect and for you to see results, here’s what the first results might be, here’s the second results. We’re gonna come back and calibrate with you on those on a recurring basis.”
I think you’ve got to be upfront with people. If not, particularly with products that are new to them and they don’t know… Let’s take something like SEO, search engine optimization, if you don’t set those kind of expectations on strategy, tactics, and what they can expect to see by when, they will draw their own conclusions. And if you allow the business to draw their own conclusions, you are asking for trouble. And so I think it starts very early, but I think it also gets back to this notion of customer success as important as sales is and data in informing sales, customer success and service are a real differentiator for media companies or any successful sales organization.
And that means that you’re constantly coming back and delivering results. But you’re not just showing them a dashboard, you’re not sending them a 20-page report, you’re doing real analysis, putting it in context, creating prescription on what’s happening next or what you encourage next and why, and you’re doing that on human touch point. You’re not sending them an email with the PowerPoint saying, “Take a look. We’ll see you next month.” Like that, in this era, none of that is good enough. So I believe, to, you know, kind of tie it together, I believe that that expectation setting happens early, George, but it doesn’t happen once. You are constantly calibrating with the customer on that.
George: You know, what you’re leading me to believe here and you’re making very compelling point, it is that an annual sales cadence where I go see the customer once a year just isn’t gonna cut it. And even that I’m going to have to see that customer on a regular basis. So we go back to a couple of episodes ago, we were talking about the monthly cadence but not just sending the report in an email, not expecting them to log into your multi-million dollar dashboard that you built, you’re going to have to sit down with the customer and relate it back to that original presentation and start to adapt the tactics that you’re using because the change is there and I don’t know if everybody knows 100% when they set out on a marketing strategy if it’s gonna work or not. You’ve got to see what’s happened over the last month and make that adjustment, and that’s what the prospect is actually looking for. If, you know, you’ve got 89 people calling on them, what is going to put you into the top three or the top two that they think about when it comes solving these problems?
Jed: Amen. And also, to your point, what’s gonna get you there and what’s gonna keep you there, right? How are you constantly aligned with them where they know, “Hey, this guy is in communication with me. If something is not working, he’s telling me that. If something is working, he or she is telling me that.” Like we are always building and refining this strategy. And I think what’s interesting about it is, if you think about it, you know, George, in the first part of this podcast we talked a lot about the role that technology can play in economizing and improving the sales process, you know, using data to figure out your key selling activities or learn more about your prospects and build digital audience and snapshots and things like that. And all of that is great.
But in some ways, what we’re talking about here is as manual as you can get or it’s certainly more manual. We’re talking about old fashioned…you know, I mean, sweat equity, building and maintain rapport with the customer, getting in front of them, taking the time, walking them through them, this taking the time to build an executive summary for them to give them context to build prescription. You know, these are old-fashioned things. But I think in this competitive flattened environment, they’re more important than ever. And I’ll give you an anecdote here to make this a little more specific.
Jed: There’s a company that we work with that’s a midsized radio group. And I think, you know, they built their own digital agency,, it’s got its own brand, I think it’s done really well overall for the market that they’re running and who they’re up against, and they have a really…they have done a great job of saying, “Okay, we wanna be in front of the client this way in this very…” you know, how do I wanna put it, “…sort of customer touchpoint, you know, in front of them, at least once a month. And for the clients that we do that with and we do it in a sort of standardized form with certain guidelines, our retention on them is X. And if we don’t do that, if we go see them every six weeks instead of every four weeks or every eight weeks instead of every four weeks, our retention on them is Y.” And I don’t know exactly what the difference is, but I can tell you there is a delta. And they have found that four weeks or under, George, is their inflection point. They’ve got to be in front of the client every four weeks at minimum or less. If they go beyond that, that churn, you’ll hear the leaky bucket problem starts picking up for them.
George: Jed, I’ve got an interesting stat for you from 20-some years ago when I actually started hitting budget as a rookie salesperson. It was when I started seeing my customer more than once every eight weeks. You know, it hasn’t changed. But there are organizations that think you can just go in once a year and make the sale and then send them a report and you’re gonna be fine. Those are the people that we will gobble up, ‘we’ being the greater ‘we’ on this call, we’ll gobble up because we’re going to start to adopt a monthly sales cadence and that’s where you’re going to talk about what you’ve delivered to the customer. What I found when you have that monthly cadence is also where you identify all sorts of cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Jed: Absolutely. And I think, you know, one of the bigger points here is when you say ‘the collective we’…and I really like that. We as an organization are a company, we’re going to do this. It’s going to be a standard. If you’re gonna be on our sales team and you’re gonna win on our sales team, you’re gonna do this, you know, by gosh and there are no ifs, ands, or buts, there no exceptions to it. And you know what that comes back to, that means the managers have to be bought in, and that means the executives of that media company have to champion this. And there can’t be exceptions or it can’t be, “Well, that guy or gal has been in my organization for 10 years and they’re really good at selling TV or they’ve only missed one month.” When you start doing that, you start bending rules, you start making exceptions. You gotta have buy-in at manager level on this. You gotta have buy-in and championing of this at the executive level, and then you have to have process around it.
And the process means, “Okay, who’s doing what here? Is the sales rep doing everything after the sale to go in and look at results and build that report?” Probably not because we want to focus on selling. But we also want them to be the one that has the touch point with the client out in the field. But if they don’t have the time to do all of this, then who is? Well, you better have some sort of dedicated role that does this. Maybe it’s a digital specialist for each product, maybe it’s an account manager, maybe there’s some sort of streamlined quarterback roll on the back end in your sales organization that brings all this together and then builds that report and then sits down with the rep to explain to the rep what’s happening so that the rep is communicating this the right way, because you know there is a break in the chain there too, George. If you leave the reps to their own devices, you can have some mismanaged expectations and miscommunication.
George: Jed, I wanna jump in there, though, let’s talk about the crutch, because what we’ve noticed, and there’s a lot of media people at that are listening to the podcast, what we’ve noticed in these media organizations is if you bring in a digital specialist, that doesn’t mean that the legacy sales reps starts to learn digital, it’s just, “I’m gonna bring Brent along in the call because he’s my digital specialist.”
Jed: Yeah. Well, I’m with you. I totally agree with that and we can’t buy into those crutches because at best, it’s incremental improvement. But it’s not transformative improvement in sales forces. What I’m really talking about, George, is on the back end. After the sale, who owns the customer after the sale or at least who owns the reporting? Who’s building that report? Who’s making sure that’s put together in a consistent fashion that everybody is meeting their responsibilities? I mean, if you’re the social media specialist and you’re the SEM specialists, and you’re the website specialist, how are we making sure that all that data is brought together in the right way? And then who is sitting down with the sales rep and going, “Okay, you know, you don’t gonna get a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Like you got to go out and talk to your customer about this.” You know, you’re responsible for their results and that includes their digital results. But we need to make sure that you’re telling the story the right way and here’s what we found and here’s what to focus on. I’m really getting it. What is that dedicated post-sale role that brings all this together and then gets it back in the hands of the sales people with that expectation of they’re going to go back out and touch the client?
George: Jed, we can go on for days and days and days I’m sure on this and we will get a chance to do that as we head into the convention season and the conference circuit. And you do more of that speaking than anybody I’ve met and I’m looking forward to spending some time face to face. I’m gonna ask you the question that I ask all of our guests. How do you see in the next 12 months is sales transitioning away from a guy or a gal with a bag?
Jed: Well, I mean, we’ve hit on a little bit of this. I think if you are a product peddler and a product pusher in 2019, a year from now, you’re more in danger than ever. So I think, you know, one of the things we talked about, you know, as to how do you get beyond pedaling products and particularly pedaling your own, you know, traditional products or your sales blitz and we’re gonna focus on this this month? I think the answer is you gotta be really serious about consultative selling, and I know that gets talked about a lot. But what I mean is… Let’s talk about that CNA 2.0 that I mentioned a little while ago, George. Are organizations doing that? Are you training relentlessly to that? Are you holding your reps to account for the fact that that is a standard part of their sales process now the minute that they touched that customer or that prospect?
Are you actually tracking? How many of those sort of new age CNAs are being done to make sure that the right questions are being asked and the right inputs are being gleaned to then build the right solutions? I think it starts right there with the redefining the CNA, holding the reps accountable, tracking their every single activity, and then to the other point we made, then being absolutely consistent and present about how you’re, you know, maintaining that cadence with that customer, how you’re calibrating on their needs, how you’re managing their expectations, and then, obviously, how you’re adapting the campaign or the solution to continue to drive the best results for them. It’s the whole sales continuum. And if you’re not doing all of those things, there are people out there that are putting process, and structure, and data, and talent, and leadership in place to do it in your place. So that’s the challenge you’re up against.
George: Jed Williams, Chief Innovation Officer from the LMA, and we’re gonna put all of your links for your LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile. Jed produces a ton of content throughout the year, and we’ll give you some links if you wanna learn more from the awesomeness that is Jed Williams. I really appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us from Austin, Texas. Look forward to seeing you out on the conference circuits this spring.
I’ve worked with Jed for about a year or so and he always says some really good insights, and I actually think his insights are getting even better because you can tell that he’s spending a lot of time in the field working with sales organizations. But let’s just go over what Jed covered here in the last 20 or so minutes. CNA 2.0. You don’t just take out a questionnaire and ask the client questions because everybody is doing that. You’ve got to come up with a better way to do the customer needs analysis. Inside media organizations, you really need to understand what jobs need to be done because after that sale is made, there needs to be somebody that fulfills the sale and then prepares the report to show the client that proof of performance.
So who is on the backend of the sale? Who is the person doing the work to make sure that all the things that the account executive talked about come true? And then we’ve got this 89 number, the 89 people that are calling trying to eat your lunch. It’s way bigger than the number I gave you back in the day when we started the podcast on how many, but it just…I don’t really care what the number is, it’s just there is a lot of people out there that are trying to do the same thing that you’re doing and what’s going to set you apart. So that’s what all this thing is all about. That’s what the podcast is all about is to give you the skills and to dig deep into that what that sales process looks like so you can stand apart.
I did also mention about a blowy thing that does come out of your marketing budget, by the way. Anything that you do to promote a business comes out of the marketing budget, and I love the blowy thing. I always throw that… Put that in a hashtag, that’ll be great. More coming up in the Conquer Local Podcast next week as we continue to make sales great again. I’ll see you when I see you.