Welcome to the new age of advertising, where digital is eating up a continually larger share of the pie and massive sales organizations are undergoing foundational shifts to match the new landscape.
411.ca is one of those organizations, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, connecting 20 million visitors to local businesses every year. 411.ca is Canada's #1 exclusively online directory service, but as the digital landscape continues to evolve, it became increasingly clear that they needed to undergo a fundamental shift in their solutions to continue providing value to local Canadian businesses.
Here's how they found success with the diversification of their solutions, adoption of an MRR model, and new consultative sales approach to serve their 400-700 monthly new clients.
Vice President of Strategy, Mike Giamprini, recently sat down with Vendasta's CRO George Leith to discuss how 411.ca found success with their shift.
Making the Product Shift
1. Identifying the need for change
The very first step in undergoing a massive shift is to identify the need for change.
411.ca identified that the directory space was not growing as rapidly as digital.
As 411.ca, our business model really revolves around selling and advertising product, if you will, in our directory. We get about 20 million visitors to our website a year so that in and of itself is a way to provide value to an advertiser.
But the directory space is difficult and it continues to be difficult and more and more difficult every day to show value in those products. And so we’ve decided that we have to also start to sell services that are going to support our customers’ businesses if we’re going to be part of their growth patterns as well. So this is why we’ve launched. Today we’ve pivoted our business into becoming a service provider as well as a media through our directory.Mike Giamprini
Steps to diversify their product line were needed to stay competitive and continue to provide value to their clients.
2. Thinking client-first with products and packages
When building out their new digital solutions, 411.ca took a client-first approach and based their packages on solving client pain points.
In a digital-first world, local businesses need to ensure that their online visibility through listings, social, and reputation is clean and optimized for generating new sales.
We’ve branded all of the [new] products and we have put them into relevant packages that make sense for small businesses.Mike Giamprini
The packages are built to fit different business budgets, but all geared towards optimizing their virtual doorway.
3. Training the sales team
A huge part of the shift and addition of new solutions is making sure that your sales team (and the rest of the company) can speak intelligently about them to prospects and clients.
411.ca prioritizes training, learning material, and the proper collateral associated with the new products.
When [the sales reps] come off the elevator this morning...when they hit the floor and their desk, they had all the knowledge material that they need and a few kind of branded items to help generate some activity, and some interest.
Everybody from obviously our sales team and our customer service team, but also our IT folks, our marketing folks, our admin folks, everybody is going through the training. It’s in our culture. Pretty much the way we service our customers, you know, and the entire customer journey when someone’s doing business with us, there are so many people and so many departments that have to contribute to making that a successful relationship that we thought it was really worth making sure the entire organization was aware and familiar with the new products. So everybody is involved in what we’re calling these festivities that are happening all week.Mike Giamprini
Adopting A Consultative Sales Approach
With the shift to digital comes not only the new products but also the new sales approach.
Sales is really moving away from that person with a bag showing up and giving the one-sheeter, and saying, “Here’s my product. Are you interested in buying?"George Leith
1. Adopting an MRR model
At 411.ca, they run on an MRR based model, focusing on selling as much as possible at the kick off of a new year to enjoy the benefit of the business as long as possible through the year.
With consultative sales, business relationships are ongoing and sales relationships are nurtured through the entire client lifecycle. Now, instead of selling a single solution or single ad spot, it's subscription-based and the relationship becomes very key in continuing to grow your revenue.
As our CRO George Leith states, making the sales is just where the relationship starts, and the relationship and business of the customer is grown from there.
Our whole model is built on every new sale creates an opportunity for another sale. Whether it’s a follow up sale in the welcome call that the customer gets, which is usually 24 to 48 hours after the initial sale is made, if it’s just an online presence products that’s sold, we’ll spend a good 90 days proving to the customer that we can impact their online presence positively, and we can sort of make them look better, appear relevant, appear more often, appear consistently online, and get them ready to then drive eyeballs to their businesses. So 90 days later, we’ll create an opportunity to sell some paid search to the customer, if it’s relevant, if it makes sense for them.
But, you know, if it’s an online presence tool that we’ve sold them, then we can upsell them to a review management, or a social posting type of product as well. As long as we are able to provide value, the thing that we are moving into very aggressively is that, as you mentioned, that more consultative selling approach where we commit to provide value and show them value, and very, very high touch, very frequent touch with the customers.Mike Giamprini
2. Communicating with the business on their own terms
When adopting a more consultative approach to sales, it's important to be communicating with that prospect or client on their own terms. Part of how 411.ca has approached this is by making their sales reps available through any means of communication—whether that's text, email, or phone call.
[Our customer service reps] have a total contact strategy that they develop with the customer so that we’re talking to them when they want to be spoken to, how they want to be spoken to: it it text SMS? Is it email? Is it phone calls?
We did some research and we found, you know, what we were delighting our clients about and what the clients were less than enthused about. And out of that research came the theory, the knowledge that we had to build this contact strategy with each and every customer. And text, I believe is going to play a big part of that strategy.Mike Giamprini
3. Cultivating a high-performing sales team
Finding success in a consultative sales approach relies heavily on the performance of your sales reps. Your sales and success teams are the ones in the trenches building and nurturing these client relationships.
So, with consultative sales, you need to keep your sales team motivated and engaged in nurturing that vital client relationship. Especially at large organizations like 411.ca where reps are making a whopping 200,000 calls per month.
411.ca has their sales team engagement on lockdown with the right incentives, contests, training, and benefits.
The first step in creating a great sales team is the hiring of great people. 411.ca is constantly recruiting new reps that undergo intensive training to bring them up-to-speed and quality.
We have, I guess you’d call it somewhat of a farm team approach. We are constantly, constantly, recruiting for new sales reps. Every 6 or 8 weeks, we conduct a week-long classroom training session where we bring in anywhere from 12 to 15, kind of what we call new recruits, or candidates. Then they get put through a pretty intensive week of training in the first couple of days, and then the last two days of that week they actually hit the phones and they start actually doing some work.
And then we kind of evaluate who’s kinda made the first cut. Those who make the first cut move on to the second week, third week, fourth week, etc. We might enjoy two or three of those candidates sort of six weeks into the burn until we start another group who come in. So we’re constantly refreshing our team.Mike Giamprini
Great reps need great management. How you structure your internal sales organization will play a lot into the overall success of the business.
We have 3 sales managers who manage their own teams of anywhere from 15 to 20 reps per team, and they are just working with those teams every single day. Their job is to manufacture reps. To really just develop really, really good reps. We have an operations team who take care of all the details so that we can unencumber our sales managers to do nothing but focus on their people every single day. And their job is to drive performance out of those people.Mike Giamprini
Additionally, 411.ca makes an effort to promote sales managers from within so they are already intimately familiar with the culture, processes, and people.
You got to come up through the ranks. We try to promote from within whenever possible. Our current team of sales leaders right now have done exactly that, and so they are really effective because, you know, they’ve been there. They’ve been on the phone for many, many years, they have made literally hundreds of thousands of calls, and they’ve made tens of thousands of sales. And so that is really what makes them effective. They’ve started from scratch and they’ve earned their way up to their leadership roles.l the details so that we can unencumber our sales managers to do nothing but focus on their people every single day. And their job is to drive performance out of those people.Mike Giamprini
Salespeople are often competitive by nature, which means that they're motivated by the results they can drive for themselves through their own hard-earned success. 411.ca identifies that and rewards their sales team heavily to encourage their continued performance.
Through their shift and product relaunch, they've also attached new incentives to drive new business right off the bat.
[Through the relaunch] we’ve got contests and sales promotions going on all week for them. And we’re also doing the same thing with our customer service team.
We work really hard to understand what it is that motivates [our sales reps]. At the end of the day they are salespeople, and they are motivated by the success they enjoy through their commission, through their comp plans.
We’re launching new comp plans to go along with the new product launches as well, but we really, really focus on a lot of instant gratification. We run a lot of daily contests and promotions. We run an annual sales incentive trip for all our high performers across the company. A bunch of them just got back two weeks ago from a week in Cancun. We took about 35 people down to Cancun for a week.
So we’re constantly incenting, constantly rewarding them. They thrive on that. You know, they’re happy to make a sale, they’re happy to delight a customer, but at the end of the day, it’s good for them to know that there’s something a little extra in there for them. So they have very, very aggressive comp plans here.
Everybody in the sales teams have a cash card basically, and if they kinda go above and beyond, or if their sales manager wants to reward them or congratulate them, we can just load some cash onto their card. Again, just kind of a way to keep them excited, to keep them interested.Mike Giamprini