404: Reduce Churn, with Josh Glantz

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To reduce churn is an ongoing struggle and will continue to be for however long your company exists. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up the fight.

This week on the Conquer Local Podcast, we have Josh Glantz, former CEO of SinglePlatform which was acquired by Tripadvisor. In this episode, Josh gives us a little bit of everything, so get ready for it. We explore retention strategies, reduce churn, the Do it For Me model, inbound sales strategies, and Josh digs into what he looks for when interviewing a potential employee, if they fit in the culture, and if they have grit.

Josh Glantz has 20+ years of experience scaling teams and businesses. Successfully selling, acquiring, and integrating several during his career, Josh most recently led SinglePlatform through its sale to Tripadvisor. Josh was the CEO at SinglePlatform for more than 4 years and turned around its financial performance making SP a Rule of 40 company. Before SinglePlatform, Josh led the digital business at the iconic marketer Publishers Clearing House. During his 4 years leading that organization, Josh’s team achieved 5x revenue growth to more than $100MM while delivering significant margin contribution to the parent company. Josh is an active fundraiser for cancer research and started an open water fundraising event that has raised more than $20MM for research and treatment.

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George: Welcome to this episode of the “Conquer Local Podcast”, and for the next couple of months we’re gonna be bringing in leaders in the sales discipline, in marketing discipline, in fulfillment and delivery discipline, even billing and invoicing and how you tie it all together to make a successful organization and drive that shareholder value and drive monthly recurring revenue and retain customers, and build raving fans for your organization. Sound great, I’m sure it does. Today, we are gonna kick things off with my favorite topic, which is sales, but more than just sales, the ability to attract new business, we’re gonna talk about the competitors that you’re running up to on a daily basis, and maybe learn a bit about them from the inside scoop on the sales competitors that you’re pitching against and working against, and then how you can build that full life cycle to keep a customer and retain a customer, and what does product market fit really mean to an organization?

We’re gonna learn all about that from Josh Glantz. I met Josh about five years ago when he was the CEO of SinglePlatform. SinglePlatform sells a menu and listing sync solution for restaurants and they do it through channel partner motions. They also have a direct sales team. I had the privilege of meeting Josh on the floor of the SinglePlatform offices in battery park, New York city. And at one time over 200 sellers on that sales floor. I learned a lot in those trips and learned a lot from Josh. He’s a great operator. He definitely is a sales person at heart. You’ll find that out in a few moments. Right now he’s the head of global business development at TripAdvisor is in the past year TripAdvisor acquired SinglePlatform and was working to integrate it into the platform before we had this massive thing called COVID-19 and that dramatically impacted the travel business and impacted hospitality and restaurants. Josh will touch on some of that as well. I’m sure in the upcoming episode. So in a few moments, Josh Glantz the Head of Global Business Development at TripAdvisor, our guest right here on the “Conquer Local Podcast”.

George: Welcome to season four of the “Conquer Local Podcast”, and we are jumping right in with a young gentleman that I met a number of years ago at a company called SinglePlatform, and Mr. Josh Glantz is joining us. Josh, welcome to the podcast.

Josh: Thank you, George, I think I’m older than you but I appreciate the compliment about my age.

George: Well, we’ll compare our driver’s licenses at some point.

George: cause I’m 70!

Josh: I was born on leap day, so I’m only about 14.

George: I think we’re gonna have a very entertaining episode. Josh and I met a number of years back when he was leading the organization on a SinglePlatform, and most recently Josh has been the head of global business development and new initiatives at TripAdvisor. So Josh, if you could give us a bit of a overview of you and your career and how you ended up at SinglePlatform and then how you transitioned to TripAdvisor, would be great for our audience to understand how you got here.

Josh: Let me go, if you don’t mind I’ll go backwards in time,

George: Sure.


Josh: But thank you, thanks for having me here today. TripAdvisor acquired SinglePlatform one year ago, last December, and it was the culmination of the… a really wonderful turnaround of that SinglePlatform business. I led that business for four years, and SinglePlatform was focused on local listings and with a real heavy emphasis on restaurant menus. We integrated our platform with Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Foursquare, Next Door and about a hundred other publishers where consumers search online to find places to eat. I will say we were very fortunate to sell the company in last December before COVID hit, because probably nowhere are people spending as much time looking for places to go out to eat, but instead they’re looking now for places to take out, or have orders delivered. We were actually in the process of testing the system to integrate with DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates and others when we got acquired, and that was a great solution, and our customers were eating it up. Nope, actually pun intended. So- But why don’t I go back to… I’ll go back a little bit further. I’ll tell you how I got to SinglePlatform.

George: Yeah, if you would. That’s a great story. And I’d love for you to articulate to our listeners how you arrived at SinglePlatform.

Josh: Yeah and then I’ll talk about what we did to make SinglePlatform an attractive acquisition target. But so if we go back in time, I ran the digital business at a large direct marketing company in New York called Publishers Clearing House. Those of you in the United States will be familiar with the big sweepstakes that’s advertised on television and online all the time for Publishers Clearing House, and I was running the digital business there. We made a couple of small acquisitions in the four years that I built the digital business there. And one of the investment banks that we worked with was working on selling another company to Constant Contact. So Constant Contact the big email marketing platform that’s based in the Boston area. And this investment bank that I became friendly with had a company that they wanted to sell. Constant Contact told them that they liked the company, but they weren’t sure about the leadership team there. And the investment bank asked me because the company that they were trying to sell was a direct marketing company that had been one of our vendors at Publishers Clearing House. And they asked if I was interested in meeting with the team from Constant Contact and offering to be the leader of this business as they acquired it. And I said, “Sure.” So I go to meet with the corporate development team at Constant Contact. This is in the summer of 2015. And in the first three minutes of the conversation the Corp Dev Team at Constant Contact said, “You know we’re not gonna buy that company.” And I said, “Oh no.” I was really excited about running this company within the Constant Contact family, but in the same breath they said, “But we already own a company that that’s doing really well. And, but it has no leader, and it has not had a leader for more than six months, would you be interested in talking to us about that? So Constant Contact essentially pulled a little bit of a bait and switch on this investment bank that I was, essentially, representing at the point. And they hired me to run this company which was SinglePlatform. They had bought SinglePlatform back in 2012. It had grown quickly, but it had some challenges with customer retention. And they were hoping that I could fix that because they said that they wanted SinglePlatform to operate on its own cashflow, instead of having more investment dollars coming from Constant Contact. And so that’s what we did.

Reducing Churn

George: Let’s talk a little bit just to give the listeners some context. I remember my first day meeting you at the SinglePlatform offices in battery park, in New York. And you come into all the buildings to me look the same, cause I’m not from New York. But you come into this big building and you go up to the 11th floor and you walk off, and you walk into every sales leader’s dream, because you built… That thing, that sales floor when I walked onto it, it was exactly what everybody aspires. It’s busy, you’ve got these teams that you’ve set up, that have their own logos and flags and their own paraphernalia around where their teams are. And some are involved in maybe a standup or maybe there’s an impromptu one-on-one happening, or maybe somebody is coaching. I remember we spent a half an hour, you were coaching me on what the best headset was for the team to wear, so you don’t get crosstalk. You know, you’re a great operator and you’re there as the CEO of SinglePlatform installed by the investment bank, and essentially that thing is a sales machine, I just wanna get that out there, is that a fair assessment?

Josh: It is, from the moment we started interviewing a candidate we would try to impress upon them how important our culture, and our process was, and then when they started, there was roughly five months of on-the-job. There was focus classroom training, on the job training, back into the classroom for more training. And they were constantly exposed to that energy, that buzz, that culture of performance and collaboration, that was really the hallmark of our sales team and sales process.

George: And I, you know, I was sitting on the other side where we had worked a deal out where you would start to use some of our platform and our products. And I got to watch the units grow pretty much on a daily basis, because you were closing business every day. And it was a very, what I do, I found was it was a very scientific approach, it was very data-driven approach, there was a culture, you know, Jason Forrest, one of our alumni here on the “Conquer Local Podcast” talks about sales being a mental game. And, why I wanna really interrogate this with you is because I think that our listeners, wherever they may be need to understand about pure play companies, like SinglePlatform, they’re going after a vertical-like restaurants that’s their niche. And you are deploying every piece of technology, and science, and training. Like this is not a fly-by, this is a very methodical organization. And that is what our reps on the street or whether we’re doing a Zoom call, or a Google meet, or something like that, that’s what you’re competing against. So you need to really understand what the landscape is like. I saw some data Josh, and I know that you’re a data guy and I saw some data the other day that I thought was really interesting as we move into season four. And our mandate always has been with the “Conquer Local Podcast” to help sales professionals and sales leaders understand the space that we’re in and come away with maybe some learnings or some insight but since 2010 to 2020 the B2B software competitive landscape has grown 6X. And I think that’s probably conservative. And why this is important is every one of those B2B software companies has something like what Josh walked into the day he walked into SinglePlatform and the machine that you built out over your time there. So, that’s what we’re competing against when we’re on the street is every single piece of software out there has this scientific data-driven sales engine. So now as we go back to how you built this thing, where did you see the gaps on day one when you walked into SinglePlatform and what did you set out to solve?

Josh: So the first thing that was an issue was that everybody liked to brag about how SinglePlatform was an effective solution for small businesses to publish their content and their local listings then their menus across the internet. And that we could do that by doing all the work for our customers. So that do-it-for-me model was both a strength but ultimately it was really a weakness because we did all the work, and for the most part, our customers never had to interact with our tools, our system, our owner dashboard. And so that out of sight, out of mind aspect of it meant that our customers when we would ask them how much they like the product, they wouldn’t even remember signing up for it. And so that’s really the opposite of what SaaS companies are trying to achieve when they talk about achieving product market fit. And for those of you who don’t know what product market fit is, it means that at least 40% of your customers, when asked, “How do you like the product?” They will say they can’t live without it. And so the first thing we did when I joined was think about what could we do for our customers. What product, service, messaging, et cetera could we provide that would make them aware of what we were providing to them and how important it was for their business. And George, I’m gonna give you some props here because we went into this relationship with Vendasta, not because we wanted to just have another product, but because we needed a product that our customers would be engaged with all the time. And what we started delivering was this reputation management solution that would alert our customers every time they had a new review from a consumer across all of the publishers that we were integrated into. And because they were getting that alert, they realized the value they were getting and that they couldn’t live without it. So that was really critical. And offering a product or having a product doesn’t mean you’re selling it. We had that tailor-made sales process, that was very impactful where we guided our customers through an understanding of the solutions we offered, the value they were gonna get, and the pricing and probably 60% of the time that we had a restaurant owner on the phone, we could close a sale on that very first conversation.

Evolution of Success

George: I’d like to understand how you were able to get that success. Was that the success when you walked in the door or was there an evolution to get to that close rate?

Josh: There was certainly an evolution. I would say that evolution had gone through several cycles before I even arrived at SinglePlatform. If you think about it this way, we had between 60 and 80 sales reps on our sales floor making between 100 and 200 phone calls to restaurants every single day. We had so many opportunities to test and refine our sales pitch. And, I will say that, for better, and sometimes for worse, a lot of the basic techniques had been taken from Jordan Belfort of “Wolf of Wall Street”, renowned, or infamy, if you will. But, the idea was we had a product that our customers needed. They needed to be discovered, our basic platform was all about restaurant discovery, but then keeping them engaged with the product required some additional solutions, and that’s where reputation management came in.

George: So it’s, it’s interesting, I actually took screenshots through the day of a LinkedIn post where somebody had the actual scripts of that movie that was written, so Jordan Belfort, Straight Line sales theory and the way that those scripts were written, I was thinking about that this morning, before I came over to the studio. So when we talk about that level of scripting and that level of messaging, there’s a few learnings here. Number one, you are connecting with lots of customers, potential customers. Number two, you, you have an opportunity to test different messaging, to see what works. And then number three, you utilizing that scripting and that messaging that is the Straight Line sales methodology from Jordan Belfort. But I do wanna highlight one thing, and this is why this episode is so important. You were selling to one of the hardest verticals to retain. You know, restaurant, half of them struggled to stay, and this even before COVID, super demanding, half of them struggled to stay in business ’cause it’s so competitive, and the budgets are up and down like a toilet seat, depending upon how much money they have to spend. Like it’s a tough business, the restaurant business. And yet you were able to have continued success into retaining those customers.

Josh: Yeah, so, when I arrived the customer churn was approaching 4% per month. That’s not a leaky bucket, that’s a bucket with no bottom at all, and there’s no way to drive profitability or sustainability in the business. And so in order to make the business profitable, we had to figure out how to retain our customers. So adding products that had that product market fit concept attached to them was a big part of it. But let’s look at some of the other data that we look like. You talked earlier about how I’m a data person. And so one of the things that we learned very quickly, we had all the data we just weren’t looking at it. We learned that if a customer bought our solution on a sales call, and had an onboarding call within two weeks from our customer support organization. They were far more likely to retain with us for more than a year. And so we looked at every part of the process, both from the closing statements in the sales call, to the email messaging, that confirmation emails that we would send immediately following the sales call, to how we motivated our support reps, to essentially pursue these customers. Because even though we would schedule the onboarding call at the end of the sales pitch, as you say, this is a very notoriously difficult demo to not only to reach once, but try reaching them twice. So, they would schedule this onboarding call and then they wouldn’t show up. And so we worked with our customer success team to really get much more persistent in following up with these customers. And we drove up significantly, the percentage of customers that went through an onboarding call, and that helped dramatically in our retention. For a lot of our other customers, we actually saw that it was not the new restaurant owner who would be an ideal target. You might think that somebody first opening their door that’s when they need us, but people who are opening up their first restaurant, especially, they think that opening their door, turning on the ovens, putting a sign over the door is what’s gonna bring in the restaurant consumer. And so you need them to get a little dose of reality that they need to do something, something so minor, even as minor as a $99 a month subscription to ensuring that their content is out there so that they could be discovered.

Corporate Culture

George: So when we, when we look at the culture, you know, just to paint the picture, we’ve got “Wolf of Wall Street” floating out there in this episode as a mental picture, we have all of those sales reps on their headsets. There’s the picture because we were talking about the headset, and it is really a mental game though because you’re making all those calls, you’re talking to all those restaurants, tough, tough industry to be calling into. How did you keep the culture positive when I’m sure there were a lot more nos than there were yeses?

Josh: Well, again, we would talk about that upfront in the interviewing process we really tried to screen for grit and resilience. People who had never experienced rejection or had not experienced repeated rejection were usually screened out of our hiring process. People who were willing to, you know, for lack of a better term, burn the boats and just think about moving forward. Those were the people who were always going to be successful with us. And so-

George: And it’s, that is an interesting individual when you get them because if you have that personality where you’re very driven, doesn’t matter what anybody tells you, “I’m gonna accomplish the goal.” There also comes some challenges, usually with that type of personality and managing them and coaching them.

Josh: You think that people who… That New York is such a big city, that’s where we were based, that’s where our team was, that New York is full of amazing, like intense, aggressive people that would make great sales reps. One thing to think about though, that we always looked at was, “Yes, there are some, and you can get them and they could be really successful.” But being from New York, sometimes acted against you, because if you were from New York and your parents were from New York and you had a place to go then a little bit of failure was okay, you could throw the book down and walk out and go back home and live with mom and dad. What was, on the other hand, if you had somebody that was moving across the country, right out of college, and had no backstop, and no safety net, they were going to work harder and instinctively be grittier. We had a great story of a young man who was from the central Valley of California. His family owned a cattle ranch, and yet after college he got in his car and drove across the country. He had interviewed with us over Zoom and moved across the country in his car. He actually lived out of his car for the first week or two that he was in New York, and then sold it, and had no way of… He had no safety net, he had nowhere else to go. He had no choice, but to be successful.

George: Please tell me was the top rep six months later and got a nice place.

Josh: He was consistently one of our top 10%.

George: That makes my heart feel better in this time that we’re in to hear that those success stories are still out there. So find somebody, so you were hiring a lotta rookies and just teaching them from the ground up, is that where you found success in building out the organization?

Josh: We found that it was a lot easier to teach people from the ground up. We had some success with people who were coming into their second job, but it had to be somebody who hated their first experience. If you had somebody who came from another sales organization and they had some success and they would talk about how great their previous manager was, it’d be a lot, it actually would be a lot harder to get them to drop their old habits and adopt ours. So, we like people who we could mold from scratch.

George: So one of the questions that I like to ask is how things have changed. So, if we look at the moment that you walked into the doors at SinglePlatform in that new role, that you’d been essentially headhunted for, to today, what do you think the big change in sales has been in that time period?

Changes in Sales

Josh: Well, it depends if you’re talking about an outbound, transactional model like SinglePlatforms, and there are plenty like that, or more enterprise, or inbound, you know, companies that have inbound. I would say the biggest changes are really stemmed from regulatory issues like privacy, do not call lists, the GDPR regulations and your ability to contact your prospects. Those would be the biggest ones. The other one is just purely practical in that if you have a telephone sales business either transactional, like SinglePlatform or enterprise. More people have, do not call lists, they have blocked, you know, spam blockers on their phones, they are getting so many cold calls from salespeople that it is exponentially more difficult to break through. And that’s just talking about phone sales, when you’re about inbound sales, where you have demand generation capabilities, where you have outbound marketing that drives people to you, It is again, an attention-based economy, and your ability to break through is, again, exponentially more difficult.

George: Again going back to some of the data that I was sharing earlier on the B2B software competitive landscape, also inbound traffic has experienced a 39.5% decrease in the last decade. So in 2010, there was 36% inbound traffic. Now, we’re down to 22% in 2020, and part of that also is more competitive. And, all I have to do is open my email and you can see all the inbound that’s that’s coming my way. Here’s piece of content, download this thing, like it’s 50 of them a day, and that’s impacting all sorts of groups. We had a guest, a couple of episodes back that said, that just picking up the phone and trying to get ahold of a customer actually is a competitive advantage. I noticed that you mentioned cold calling in your comments, you know, what was an effective way to get a hold of a customer? Were you using communities, were using think tanks, Were you using like, how were you breaking through that clutter?

Josh: Persistence, more than anything else. We saw our connect rate and actual conversation rate go down consistently over time, and that’s why when I mentioned earlier that we had sales reps making 200 dials a day, that was an effort designed to simply get a hold of, and schedule five or six demos for the next day. It was an incredibly difficult job, and the amount of rejection was incredible. You’d get nos, hanging ups, curses, in your ear, 20, 30, 50 times a day, if anybody picked up the phone. And you asked a question earlier about how we kept people with a positive attitude; beyond just screening for grit and resilience. You made a point of mentioning that the coaching that we did, we had managers who would plug into a phone with our junior sales reps and sit in and coach them while they were actually in the conversation to try to help them break through. And then we had a whole system and continued to look at ways to enhance our motivation and rewards, on top of the cash comp that we were offering our sales reps. So, we would have contests on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. And some of them were really creative. We also had a rewards for being a top five sales rep every month. We would have rewards for hitting 100% of your goal. So there were these many, many layers of rewards that we would build into our financial model overall.

George: And we’ve had guests on the on the podcast talk about this old line that, “Compensation drives behavior.” So you weren’t just putting that comp in there to give money away because margin is important in running a business but it was more around, you’d find a problem and you would put a spiff or compensation incentive against that problem to solve it, is that what I’m hearing?

Josh: That’s exactly what you’re hearing. And the one thing to just keep in mind if you’re a sales leader or where you’re running a company, and you’re looking at ways to create spiff programs, or sales motivation, or incentive programs for your team, sales reps are wildly, there will always be a sales rep who will figure out how to maximize their opportunity and potential with a sales motivation program, and once one of them knows it, they all know it.

George: Oh, it’s a great point. It also is the reason why we want them as salespeople because they’re good problem solvers, they think outside the box, they can think on their feet, right with the customer and deal with an objection. So I’m always blown away by sales leaders that come and say, “Hey, yeah Johnny, figured out a way to gain the comp model.” I’m like, “Oh, is Johnny the top rep?” “Yes, okay, that makes sense.” SinglePlatform sells TripAdvisor, well-timed purchase by the way, congratulations on that. You then move to TripAdvisor in this role, and, you know, I, I feel for any organization that has been displaced by COVID, I don’t think that people at TripAdvisor have run around two years ago going, “Yeah, global pandemic is gonna come and it’s gonna ruin all of the travel.” Which was, you know, nobody saw that coming. I’d love to understand a little bit about what you’ve saw inside that organization as the realization that global pandemic impacted our vertical. It can’t have been fun, and I’d just like to learn a little bit more about that experience.

Josh: TripAdvisor has an extraordinary audience of restaurant owners who go to TripAdvisor every month, and every week to look at consumer reviews. And so they have a captive audience already, and they have the most incredible audience of consumers that go to TripAdvisor to look at restaurants, and look at restaurant menus. And so, we were already partners with TripAdvisor. And it made sense for us to plant SinglePlatform inside that restaurant owner management center, where hundreds of thousands of restaurant owners were already looking at their reviews, and now they could also look at ways to enhance discoverability for their restaurant through SinglePlatform. And so it was a great move, we added a self signup capability which SinglePlatform had never had before. So now restaurant owners could sign up and put down their credit card and they could be on board with SinglePlatform in a matter of minutes.


George: Well, I knew that we would get some great insights from Mr. Josh Glantz and the former CEO of SinglePlatform, leading global business development at TripAdvisor and Josh and I have known each other for a number of years. We probably could talk sales and how to extract value from customers for a long time, but I wanted to get some of those key insights forward to our listeners, as we talk about that sales use case, salespeople, how they’re going to customer. And with the reason why we would wanna talk to somebody like Josh is this is your competitor. The SaaS software companies that are phoning into these clients, doing Zoom meetings, sending emails, LinkedIn messages, those are the folks, and we’ll go through some key takeaways here in a few moments, but we do wanna let our guests go. Josh, I know you gotta run to another call. Thanks for some of your valuable time and good luck as you continue to move through this journey, and we appreciate the insights you’re able to share with our listeners here today on the “Conquer Local Podcast”.

Josh: Thanks again for having me, George.

George: As you can tell Josh and I have sat and had numerous conversations around the science of sales, the science of how do we rip apart a process, and see where the holes are, and increase that retention. And I’d always admired the way that he looked at his customer base and looked at how SinglePlatform could add value to retain those customers, to solve more of their problems, and really to build happier customers. The only way you get an upsell is if you have a customer that trusts you and feels that you’re solving their problems that that really is the key. You know, when we think about the way that things have changed we talk a lot about adding more products which we all know is solving more problems for the end customer. But some of the things that Josh talks about we may be impacted by in the coming years which is this, you know, he mentioned that the GDPR thing which is the European privacy issue. But now it is starting to come, you know worldwide as the defining process around privacy. And it’s going to impact us because you can’t just buy a call list and start hammering the phones, because people can just opt out. It’s harder to impact people through inbound motions because so many people are doing it, it’s a crowded space. And I thought it was really interesting to hear his insights into you know, we just built a culture where you just never give up . And that level of persistence is what’s really defining success where you just expect it’s gonna take 10 calls to get ahold of a customer.

We’re going to really try, over the next 12 months here in season four, to talk to more experts and to understand how important that level of persistence is. And then the other thing is, you heard from Josh, it was easier just to hire people that hadn’t done it before and teach them from the ground up, than go find people that were proficient in this motion and then maybe try to back them out of habits that they have. I’ve heard people say, “Change bad habits.” But I don’t necessarily think that it’s always bad habits, it’s the habits that were created in whatever that sales rep was doing before that might not align to what Josh wanted, you heard, time and time again in the SinglePlatform motion. And you could see that he caught something. And he didn’t really say it, but behind the scenes and you read between the lines, “The bright lights big city of New York, ‘I’m gonna move to New York and I’m gonna change the world.'” And he was able to attract those type of people. And he said, grit seven times in the broadcast. And that grit, and then the rigor to be able to go back to the metrics to see where you’re winning or losing and then to build a culture through either spiffs or comp models, “Compensation drives behavior,” that’s a key takeaway that you can pull from Mr. Josh Glantz.
We appreciate you coming and listening to this episode, where I’m sure you found some value there. If you’d like to continue the conversation with Mr. Glantz or any of our guests that we’ve had over the past four seasons in the “Conquer Local Podcast”, you can do that in the Conquer Local Community. It’s a place where you can have a conversation with our guests, you can ask them questions that maybe I didn’t think of during the broadcast, and where you can give us the team that puts together the “Conquer Local Podcast” ideas on what we might wanna consider in future episodes. Then we’ll help you on your quest to Conquer Local. My name is George Leith, I’ll see you, when I see you.