Newsletter Archive - Sales / Marketing
Is Your Sales Team Focused on the Basics of Yellow Pages Selling?
07/21/2005 - An interview with Tom Baldwin, Principal of Kuk, Baldwin & Associates
Sales is the lifeblood of the Yellow Pages industry, especially at the local level where it is considered as the industry's core strength by industry observers - legions of skilled sales professionals that reach out to local businesses on a daily basis.
But any sales manager will tell you that it's not as easy a sale as it may look. To get some insight into what's happening in the trenches we talked with Tom Baldwin of Kuk, Baldwin & Associates. Tom and his partner Norb Kuk are familiar to many of you in the industry. Together they bring over 70 years of experience in the Yellow Pages business - primarily in sales and management training as well as market development techniques. The rumor that they were around when Yellow Pages was first created is not entirely true. However, in 1993, they did form a partnership with a mission of developing and delivering results-oriented multi-media sales and sales management training programs for Yellow Pages and related industries.
Here's what Tom had to say. It raises some interesting questions about how you work with your sales team.
YPT: You work with publishers all the time. What trends are you seeing in their local sales staffs?
Lots of good things, but high turnover is a major concern. It's disappointing to see some publishers with turnover in their local sales team approaching 100% annually. In fact, a top YP executive recently noted a desire to reduce turnover down to the 35-40% range! I believe he was talking about new markets, but even that level of turnover should be of deep concern.
YPT: What do you think is causing that?
We think some of it is a misdirected mission. For example, Peter Drucker, the noted management expert, says that a company should go through a three-step process:
- Determine what business they are in.
- Write a Mission Statement for that business based on what customers need.
- Focus on the process it takes to accomplish that mission - not the end result, the numbers. When the process is on target, the numbers will happen.
Concerning the second step in Drucker's formula, what is our Mission from the customer's point of view? We think it is ultimately to do one thing and that is to provide PROFIT for our advertisers. That may sound overly simplistic and basic, but we have seen enough evidence that publishers who drift from this basic tenet often have problems retaining salespeople, especially good ones.
YPT: What other factors are influencing the high sales turnover?
Experts in these issues have consistently reported that people do not resign from companies, they resign from managers. They do not mean because of a personality clash, but the problem relates to the way people were managed. To reinforce that, in my time with R.H. Donnelley, we had interviews conducted with over 120 sales people, rated as satisfactory or better, who had left us. Compensation issues ranked second or third as their reason for leaving. The number one cause for resigning was the way they were managed. The specifics focused on the manager not working with them to improve performance, but constantly exhorting them to "sell more" Managers were not coaching them on how to make that happen. It also reflected our observation that managers spend too much time manipulating the numbers as opposed to working on the skills it takes to achieve them. Think about the cost associated with hiring and training a good portion of the sales team every year. More importantly, think about the impact on the churn in relationships with our customers.
YPT: Going back to Drucker's formula, what is the process in Yellow Pages?
In our business, Drucker would identify the sales call, every conversation our reps have with customers, as the process. We feel that is where the focus of management needs to be. Where we have seen managers focusing on their role as a coach, working on the skills and tools it takes to improve the quality of those conversations, the numbers happen, and turnover drops.
That's where we feel we come into play - with products, services, information, and training programs that will help improve the dynamics of the sales call through skills reinforcement and the effective use of customer-specific sales tools. But, the burden then shifts right back to that first line manager. The critical step in the rep's learning curve is that managers need to set standards, review planning and demonstrate, observe and participate in sales calls with the rep - as a coach. In sports, managers and coaches do not tell the team to "go out and win"; instead they work on the skills and techniques it takes to accomplish victory. Without that ongoing coaching, training will rapidly lose its value.
YPT: Do you just train the reps on how to use your products and services?
No! While the actual course and material content is directed at the reps, in each session we spend extra time with managers and review our suggestions on how they can reinforce our approach to a YP sales call.
YPT: Tell us more about the tools, products, and services Kuk, Baldwin and Associates provide.
Probably, our most familiar tools are the Ad Analysis Sheets, or Copy Builders as some people call them. Over the years, we have observed that most reps open the call with a litany of information about their product. We feel the focus in the call should be on the only thing the customer cares about, his, or her business. The Ad Analysis Sheets, available for over 400 YP headings are the most customer-focused tool in a rep's bag. They, along with our other heading-specific tools help the rep start the call with information, news, data, etc. on the advertiser's business - and this takes the call out of the category of "a-once-a-year drive-by shooting", and helps build a relationship on what matters most to the advertiser.
One of our other tools that helps build that kind of relationship is a monthly newsletter called "Marketing Ideas" that provides four pages of heading-specific information, data, news, and trends across a wide range of industries focused on the higher revenue YP headings. Over the years, we have seen that the difference between a great rep and an average rep is really rooted in how effective they are in using data with customers. My partner, Norb Kuk checks over 50 news sources a month to put the newsletter together.
As an example, here are some clips from a recent newsletter:
|MAINSTREAM ACUPUNCTURE. A recent survey found that 5% of US adults - some 9.4 million - have turned to acupuncture for pain relief. Also, a study of chronic pain victims using a real acupuncture group and a control group (given "dummy" needles) concluded that real acupuncture produced a demonstrable physiological effect over and above a simple pinprick. And similar studies have been carried out with specific pain types - lower back, knee, etc. - with similar results. Most treatments take several sessions (at $60 to $90 each), followed up by periodic "boosters." The likely upshot of all this is a burgeoning of new practitioners, and more YP activity (USA Today, 5/10/05; The Week, 5/20/05).|
|COPYING SERVICES. The $30 billion-a-year document and business services market is experiencing a shift in priorities, especially in smaller urban markets. Specifically, many multi-purpose copy, printing, and shipping shops that have bailed out many a last-minute income tax filer or thesis writer are pulling their self-service machines, ending 24-hour service in many cases, and starting to focus on full-service (read: higher revenue) orders, including more commercial work. The major reason is that consumers can so easily send electronic copies, or print extra copies on their own printers. So be ready for some significant changes in a copy service shop's YP advertising (Free Press, 5/31/05).|
|WINDOW REPLACEMENT. The remodeling item on page one says that the average midrange cost of residential window replacement is $9273, which may seem high - except that most replacements are now done with windows that are energy-efficient (low-E glass, etc.) and made with pricier, maintenance-free frame materials such as fiberglass composite, aluminum clad, or pre-stained wood. Vinyl is the lowest cost frame material, and is also maintenance free. The average house has 20 windows, and it takes most contractors two to four days to do the installation - but many jobs are only partial replacements. The average cost per window is $800 to $900, including installation (Smart Homeowner, 6/05).|
YPT: The newsletter sounds unique. What is its scope?
To make the newsletter information more useful, we provide customers with a database that contains the last 4-5 years of newsletter articles and covers some 320 headings and subjects. We also have two applications in Excel that synthesize local demographic data with (1) annual per-household or per-capita expenditures for some 300 products and services that correspond to YP headings; and (2) YPA per-household look-up data on over 350 headings - so that reps can show an advertiser the local opportunity in terms of (1) annual dollars spent locally on his product or service; and (2) the number of look-ups the rep's directory will deliver a year in his heading.
For example, if national data indicates that US households look up the lawyer's heading an average of 3.1 times a year, it would mean there are some 150,000 lawyer look-ups in a 50,000 household directory area. And if a rep's book gets 70% of the YP usage in that market, it will deliver over 100,000 of those look-ups. Now that's a powerful way to kick off a sales call on a lawyer.
YPT: Are the Ad Analysis sheets applicable to IYP/Local Search?
Most definitely. We have several of the larger IYP providers such as Super Pages using the sheets after customizing them to keyword sensitive information to help reps work with the advertiser on developing more effective copy points whether they are for a print or an electronic ad. We are even working with some non-YP IYP providers who are looking at the sheets as a way to help their customers who buy websites to develop effective copy for those sites.
YPT: Are you seeing opportunities in International markets?
We are seeing a lot of growth in our business in international markets. We've recently added customers in markets such as the Philippines, India, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Even with some language obstacles, their needs are not that much different than our US and Canadian clients.
About Kuk, Baldwin & Associates:
Kuk, Baldwin & Associates is a partnership formed in 1993 - with a mission of developing and delivering results-oriented multi-media sales and sales management training programs for Yellow Pages and related industries. Together, Tom Baldwin and Norb Kuk combine over 70 years of experience in the Yellow Pages business - primarily in sales and management training and in the development of market information and sales aids.
Our Yellow Pages clients include:
Ad-Ventures PublishingOther subject areas in which Kuk, Baldwin has developed custom training programs include:
Associated Publishing Co.
Bermuda Yellow Pages
Names & Numbers
Philippines Directory Co
United Yellow Pages
User Friendly Phone Books
Valley Yellow Pages
White Directory ( Hearst )
Yellow Book USA
- Telephone Sales (Business to Business)
- Consumer Credit
- General Selling Skills
- Interactive/Online Training Programs
- How Small Businesses Operate
- Advertising Sales in Trade Publications
- NEW! Selling Co-op
Kuk, Baldwin & Associates offers a wide range of modular Yellow Pages sales training, marketing, and sales management tools - the foremost of which is our widely used interactive multimedia selling skills program, built on our exclusive heading-specific Ad Analysis® system and a tested ROI-based closing sequence. Our online (or intranet) and CD versions add powerful learning technology - and the online version features management benefits such as the ability to identify "hiring mistakes" early. In addition, our sales management training program is process-centered to reinforce specific selling behaviors that drive revenue. Here is a list of our current products:
- K-B Yellow Pages Selling Skills - A self-paced sales training program of seven modules - now available online or in intranet-ready format, as well as on CD and in print with video. The program is built on and packaged with many video examples and proven sales tools like Ad Analysis®, ROI, and local market measurement applications.
- Ad Analysis® - A proven and widely used heading-specific system for sales planning, fact-finding, and copy building - with the latest version of Ad Analysis® sheets covering over 400 YP headings, including many business-to-business headings. Properly used, Ad Analysis® sheets are the ultimate in a customer-specific sales tool.
- Guaranteed Ad Programs - A workshop/training outline that covers (1) developing an effective guaranteed ad program; and (2) training sales reps on how to position and present guaranteed ads in the sales call. Kuk, Baldwin has in-depth experience in both aspects of guaranteed ads.
- Marketing Ideas Newsletter - A four-page monthly filled with current heading-specific facts, figures, and ideas that help YP salespeople sell more and better advertising. With its accompanying manager's training guide, it's an effective vehicle for ongoing sales training.
- Marketing Ideas Database - A heading-by-heading compilation of the last 3 to 4 years of Marketing Ideas newsletter items that makes it quick and easy for reps to access facts, figures, trends, etc. on over 250 top YP headings. The database runs in MS Word®, and individual heading files can be printed out.
- Local Market Potential E-Z Calculator - An application that runs in MS Excel® and converts national per-household or per-capita spending data on nearly 300 headings, product lines, and services to the total annual amount spent in any local directory area for each heading, etc. All you need to do is plug in your local demographics.
- YP References E-Z Calculator - Another way to measure the local market, this application also runs in Excel® and projects the number of Yellow Pages lookups that a given local directory delivers annually and monthly for each of YPA's top 250-300 YP headings, taking into account the directory's percent of usage.
- ROI Data on over 380 YP headings, product lines, and services - including gross profit on an average sale, average number of calls to make one sale (conversion rate), and, in many cases, the average ROI target - plus an easy-to-use worksheet for doing ROI illustrations.
- NEW! Selling Co-op Advertising - A workshop outline and examples for training sales reps on how to plan for, position, and present co-op in the sales call.
- Advertising Smarter and Selling More! - A booklet designed as a giveaway for advertisers to help them: (1) understand the interplay between directional and promotional advertising and why they need to tell "the right story" in their YP ad; (2) measure and evaluate their advertising results; and (3) turn more inquiries into sales.
- Presenting/Highlighting the K-B Selling Skills Program - For trainee groups who have worked through the K-B materials in advance, we will put on a two-day or three-day review and practice session. Most of our program users have taken this option, and immediate sales results have virtually always been better than in situations in which users have simply bought the CD or workbook version. With our new online or intranet delivery, we offer the same option.
- Training Development - Starting with a needs analysis, we develop a complete training program for skills and/or product areas from scratch. Programs may be multimedia, self-instructional, instructor-led, or an effective combination of these methodologies - precisely designed to meet client objectives.
- Customizing of Existing Programs - This service applies to clients whose needs are substantially met by an existing K-B training program (or programs) but who desire some changes related to product differences, etc. For example, we can take a basic UDAC self-instructional program and adapt it to the units a client offers. Or we can revise portions of the Product Story module in our Selling Skills Program to incorporate client product features.
- Seminars and Workshops - K-B is prepared to present and/or develop seminars and workshops in such specialized subject areas as:
- YP Sales Management
- Guaranteed Ad Programs
- Using Ad Analysis®
- How to Use Metered Ads
- Refresher or Advanced Sales Development
- Return on Investment (ROI)
- Developing Effective Ad Headlines and Copy
- Selling Co-op Advertising