B2B Sales Turnaround Case Study: Online Advertising Network
Online Advertising Network Sales Turnaround
This is an online advertising network selling digital media directly to both advertising agencies and companies. The sales team consists of ten inside sales account executives and one sales manager. Although some would consider this a complex sale due to numerous stakeholders being involved, the decision is typically made by the media buyer at the agencies and the online marketing director at the companies. Therefore, it is clearly a simple sale. Sales growth at this early-stage startup has leveled off at about $75,000 per month which is about 50% to the sales objective. The margins are essentially zero, and this is accelerating the company burn-rate.
Sales protocol, in the form of standards, roles, expectations, is limited. While each rep has a performance objective, there is no consequence for falling under 100% to goal. There is no formal corrective counseling or performance plan process to develop under-performing reps. Although the sales team has a pedigree of academic excellence, only a couple have any B2B sales experience…and only one rep has ever sold any form of advertising prior to this position. The average sales rep salary is nearly twice the national average; therefore, most of the sale team is quite pleased with their income regardless of whether they receive any additional compensation in the form of commission or bonuses.
The sales reporting period is one month, and 90% of sales are produced in the final ten days of the month. This sales cycle is too long to create a sense of urgency and accountability for the sales team to give maximum effort each day. Incoming leads are not integrated into the CRM system; instead they are emailed from marketing to the sales manager for later assignment to the reps. Lead tracking and disposition is a manual process; therefore, sales opportunities are often lost and marketing is not getting sufficient data to justify future capital allocation for lead generation. The sales growth has been flat because there has been no additional budget allocated for lead generation, and the sales team has neither the desire nor understanding of how to hunt for business to create new sales opportunities.
The sales manager is adept at analyzing data and sales performance metrics, but lacks the sales leadership experience necessary to grow this team beyond its current level. There is no defined sales process and no differentiation in sales approach between agency buyers and direct B2B. In addition to leadership, vision, and strategy, the sales manager has not earned the respect of their team as a leader nor a closer. The margins are zero because the sales reps are given full autonomy to write deals at whatever price point they choose as long as it is at least equal to the cost of online inventory.
The reps will be trained from the ground up: B2B sales, advertising sales, and advertising agency sales need to be addressed and a buyer-based selling process will be developed and implemented. However, this venture capital funded company cannot afford to slow sales down while the reps are being brought up to speed. Therefore, the training needs must be balanced with the revenue growth objectives. Due to the aggressive growth goals of the company, verticals are being established and the sales reps will be trained on prospecting strategies including research, targeting, cold calling, and account development. In addition to sales force training and development, the existing sales manager will be developed beyond performance analysis in order to successfully lead this team.
The proprietary CRM system needs to be integrated between sales and marketing to allow leads to be tracked from inception to resolution and pipeline management needs to be visible at all levels of the company. Implementation of call center software will provide management with the ability to track and analyze various performance metrics including inbound and outbound call volume, time of calls, length of calls, and recording of calls for coaching purposes.
The sales compensation plan is being amended so that the reps share an equal stake in the profitability of the deals they write. The reporting period will now be twenty-six two week cycles per year to shorten the sales cycle and create more energy on the sales floor. The new sales rep management system provides direction for reps to structure the daily activities and assist in time management. Once the sales process is implemented and the sales strategy is proven, we will ramp-up the sales force by establishing a new world sales headquarters in a top twenty US city. This will allow us to recruit from a larger talent pool and, at the same time, reduce the average base salary by $20,000 per head.
The improved capabilities of the CRM software along with the new call center management system resulted in improved productivity, stronger sales pipeline management, and significant sales rep growth and development. Sales increased by more than 100% each of the first three months. The new world sales headquarters was established and thirty sales reps were added to the team in the fourth month. By the sixth month, the team was generating an annual sales run-rate of over $14 million.
Our sales case studies are designed to provide you with a "big picture" snapshot of sales problems faced by various companies, the broad strategies used to guide the sales turnaround, and the subsequent results. Certainly there are many strategies that can accomplish a single desired result, however, the key to the success of any sales strategy resides within the implementation.
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