| Dec 20, 2018 | | 12 min read

10 Lessons Learned from a Year of Conquering Local


From a twinkle in the eye of Vendasta CRO George Leith, all the way to the #3 business show on iTunes—it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty exciting year for the Conquer Local podcast.

Conquer Local is a show for business and sales professionals who work in the B2B space and sell to local business clients. It exists because we recognized the intense challenge most B2B sales reps face when trying to sell solutions to complicated local clients. With that in mind, Conquer Local was created as a resource to help those sales reps better navigate both the personal and business-related aspects of their roles.

From hosting guests like Rand Fishkin and Sandy Lohr, all the way across the spectrum to a standalone educational series, the Conquer Local podcast has captured a little bit of everything.

Here are the paramount lessons that we learned over the past year, or, in the words of George Leith; “you better grab a seat because you’re about to learn some stuff*.”

*We’re paraphrasing the language a little bit.

The Top 10 Lessons Learned

With more than 40 episodes published over the past 12 months, the Conquer Local podcast has grown and prospered into a true thought community for sales leaders.

Take these critical lessons and apply them to your sales and marketing organizations to accelerate your growth and streamline your successes.

1. It’s Hard to Outsell Churn

Account turnover is the single greatest threat to the health and vitality of modern marketing organizations, particularly those serving the local market.

Jeff Folckemer shared stories of an organization where the gross dollar churn per month was 9%. This seems manageable until you realize that it equates to greater than 100% annual churn. How is it even possible for organizations to stay in business when suffering client losses like that?

It isn’t.

And no matter how high performing your sales organization is, you’re only bailing water out of a sinking boat.

Moral of the story is: Your sales organization is only as good as its collaboration and communication with marketing teams, product teams, and all of the other business units that enable operations. Finding a way to merge the lines of artificial intelligence with human intelligence will be a key determiner of your ability to reduce organizational churn.

If you have a superior product that is easy for clients to use and delivers the desired value at a fair price point, then why would a client ever churn?

Check out the full episode here:

2. Use Adversity to Your Advantage

There is a common theme among many success stories, in where individuals tend to hit all time lows in order to realize their true potential. This year on the Conquer Local podcast, we hosted guests who faced varying levels of adversity, and had the opportunity to understand how their challenges inspired growth.

Todd Collins

Todd Collins, COO of Platinum Reputations shared stories of his trials and tribulations over the years. He spoke to his experience in striking absolute rock bottom—when he had lost everything. But, he also spoke to the drive and the strength that his circumstances gave him to rise-up from his circumstances.

There’s great times and there’s bad times. And it’s always gonna happen like that. But the thing is that I don’t think I would be as good as I am if those other things would not have happened to me. Because what drives me is the fact that I don’t want to go back there again.

Todd Collins

COO, Platinum Reputations

Check out the full episode here:

Steve Whittington

Steve Whittington, VP of Marketing at Flaman had a bit of a different take on adversity. Steve is a tremendously successful salesperson and marketer, but he’s also a serial mountain climber. He recently tackled Mount Everest as the lead climber of his group, and Steve describes challenges like this as a means of bringing clarity to his life. There are challenges and consequences when on those mountain faces, but there are challenges and consequences in the day-to-day too.

For Steve, battling adversity is a constant means of bringing perspective back into every moment of his life.

Check out the full episode here:

George Leith

Host George Leith also faced his own type of adversity, in the form of a life-altering surgery. At 46 years old, George’s hips began to fail him. This left him and his quickly deteriorating hips with few options, so he decided to undergo hip replacement surgery. This complicated procedure altered George’s entire lifestyle and gave him the strength, agility and the confidence to start truly living his life to the fullest.

I was full of piss and vinegar before, but now I am super fired up.

George Leith

CRO, Vendasta

George’s personal process of searching for, finding, and selecting the right surgeon for the job also taught George some critical lessons about the modern buyer's journey.

Check out the full episode here:

3. You’ve Gotta Remove Hyper-Masculine Barriers

Earlier this year when we had Rand Fishkin on the show, George and Rand discussed the problems surrounding the hyper-masculinity of both sales and entrepreneurial culture.

There is a hyper-masculinity centric culture in the startup world, especially the tech startup world, that says ‘You are only ever strong, aggressive, crushing it – which I despise. There is no room for weakness, there is no room for vulnerability, there is no room for anxiety, for mental and emotional struggles, for depression. These things are considered unacceptable for leaders to have. These are considered not the qualities that a startup or funded entrepreneur is allowed to talk about or to be open about, and I think that’s crap.

Rand Fishkin

CEO & Founder, SparkToro

Struggle is real, and struggle is normal. Whether you’re starting a business and you’re out ‘pounding the pavement’, or working a new sales position at a digital media company, it’s okay to feel vulnerable at times. The real measure is perseverance, not a perceived invulnerability.

4. Digital Sales Isn’t Dying

Will there be a need for digital salespeople in five years? 10 years? These are questions that are keeping many people up at night, but rest assured—there will still be a need for digital sales reps.

According to Charles Laughlin, the local market is evolving. Baby boomers are retiring and selling their businesses, or handing them down to their children. With this generational shift, new business owners are becoming increasingly technologically savvy. As a result, they are predominantly becoming purchasers rather than being sold to, as their parents/predecessors were. This means that younger business owners are actively seeking out the solutions that they need, rather than waiting for a sales rep to walk in the door to determine need.

Here are the results of a study that was conducted by the Local Search Association to determine the age of decision makers within SMBs that use cloud technology today.

This means that media organizations that are selling to the local market are becoming increasingly reliant on inbound methodology and tactics—elevating the importance of factors such as SEO, listings, reviews, websites, etc, for the agencies and media companies that are trying to reach this market.

These changing purchase behaviors suggest that we might see a reduction in the need for digital sales reps as we transition into the next decade. However, as much as technology might help prospects find a potential solution, there is still going to be a need for personal touch points over the course of the relationship.

Check out the full episode here:

5. Sales Can’t Become a Silo

Why do salespeople and product teams often clash?

Bart van der Heijden of FCR Media, Belgium, addresses how this can be a fatal mistake for organizations of all sizes. The key to product innovation and design success is communication along the value chain. Sales representatives are on the front-lines and have the most direct lines of communication with customers. However, there is often a disconnect between the feedback that is given to front-line reps, and the feedback that actually reaches product innovators.

If you can close the gap between sales, marketing, and product teams, you can communicate a more compelling value proposition and build a more client-centric offering.

6. Traditional Media Companies are Weathering the Storm

Phonebooks are dead, newspapers are withering, telecommunication companies aren’t what they once were—we’ve all heard the gossip, but is it true?

Not always.

Some of these traditional media businesses are navigating changing consumer habits (and changing consumers) by adopting digital marketing solutions to diversify revenue streams and compensate for faltering traditional streams.

Jeff Folckemer

Jeff Folckemer, the former head of digital media for Hearst, joined us on the podcast to share stories from his years employing a massive digital transformation for the traditional media company. The foundation of this transformation? A suite of digital marketing products to offer local business clients who needed them most.

Gary Smith

Earlier in the season, George also recorded an on-location episode with Gary Smith, who is the Vice President of Advertising at The Seattle Times. In this episode, Gary shares insights into how he’s building on “The Seattle Times” brand as they pursue a digital transformation, rather than trying to bury it.


One of the greatest faults of the modern salesperson is a vulnerability to the ‘peaks and valleys’ or ‘booms and busts’ of the sales cycle.

This phenomenon can be captured when you witness top performers hit record-setting months, but follow it up with the worst months of their careers. This happens because salespeople will often get caught up trying to close their hottest deals and neglect to prospect for new leads that might become major deals down the road.

Colleen Francis, one of the top sales trainers in Canada, joined us to give her take on conquering the dreaded boom and bust cycles.

Check out the full episode here:

8. Win the Day, Everyday

George believes that after 30 years of trial and error, he has discovered the formula for the perfect sales day. Are you bold enough to try his recipe for sales success?

Here’s how George proposes that you can win the day, everyday:

  1. Attack the tough* things first.
  2. Remember that the minutes add up.
  3. Get your butt* out of bed early.
  4. Become a chemist.
  5. Determine where your time is best spent.
  6. Use the 60-30-10 rule.
  7. Master the line-by-line.
  8. Focus on your biggest opportunity.

*Again, we’re paraphrasing!

9. The New Marketing Stack is the Key to Unlocking Local

In 2018, local businesses live and die by the modern buyer’s journey. If they aren’t fighting to stay relevant and top-of-mind with their market, then they simply won’t survive. Google calls it the “Zero Moment of Truth,” and it suggests that the purchase decision no longer occurs in-store, but prior to a prospective customer even visiting a local business.

As a result, the buyer’s journey isn’t as simple as it once was.

But, this is the sales funnel that keeps local businesses alive, and it’s important to you because there are products and services (listed above) that directly influence each phase of this journey. By providing products and services across the journey, you can build a stronger relationship with clients.

Towards the end of this year, we started a series on these digital offerings across the buyer journey that we called The New Marketing Stack. In it, we sought to provide greater insight into the various components of this stack by interviewing various subject matter experts.

Sandy Lohr

Sandy Lohr, CEO of MatchCraft, addressed the various elements of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and their role in influencing the awareness stage of the stack.

We need to tell our businesses, "I’m gonna do everything I can for you to make sure it works. And we’re on this road together. And I’m gonna bring in the good news and the bad news. And we’re gonna make the changes with what works and push more in that direction, and what doesn’t work we’re gonna change."
Sandy Lohr

CEO, MatchCraft

Deepak Surana

Deepak Surana, VP of Product Management for OutboundEngine, joined us to share his insights on the future of email marketing. Are we edging towards the end of an era, or is email still the most powerful sales and marketing tool we have?

Todd Collins

Todd Collins, COO of Platinum Reputations addressed the power of online reputation in influencing the final purchase decision, and shared stories of the consequences in neglecting this crucial factor.

We don’t trust the business. None of us do. We always trust the consumer’s opinion.

Todd Collins

COO, Platinum Reputations

10. Sales Permeates Everything

Think of your last job interview. Or the last time you were at a networking event. Or the last presentation you gave. Or the last time you presented an argument in a meeting. Or even your last “first date”. In every one of these instances, you had to sell yourself or your thoughts to other people. This topic was a theme that persisted throughout the entire year, and we really believe it to be true, that sales really does permeate everything.

So whether you’re a numbers-driven accountant, or standing on the front lines for an international media company, there’s something that we all can learn from the art of sales.

Looking Forward

Sales is a complex craft, and not one for the faint of heart.

By focusing on sales, marketing, and product collaboration, removing barriers, overcoming adversity, and dedicating an intense focus to the specific challenges facing the customer, you’ll be well-equipped to conquer all of your objectives in the new year.

We have big plans and aspirations for the 2019 calendar year as we continue our exploration of the new marketing stack and have the foundation set for a massive standout series all about growth. Subscribe to the Conquer Local podcast today on iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play if you want to join the ranks of the top digital sales and marketing minds around the world.

About the Author

Brock is a Former Marketing Analyst at Vendasta with a passion for the more creative things in life. He also answers to Archie - for obvious reasons... And when he's not putting his fingers in paint, or saving Riverdale, he can usually be found asking Google one of the many more embarrassing "how to" questions.

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