BUILDING A PIPELINE CULTURE AT USA
USA TODAY, a subsidiary of Gannett is the nation's number one newspaper in print circulation with an average of more than 1.8 million daily1, and USATODAY.com, an award-winning newspaper website reach a combined 5.42 million readers daily. Add to these numbers the fact that USA TODAY is a leader in mobile applications with more than nine million downloads on mobile devices3 and it is not hard to see why USA TODAY is recognized as the industry leader.
NOT ALL GOOD NEWS
In the midst of all of this success, USA TODAY faced the same challenges that all media organizations face today; how to continue to drive revenue and grow business in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving market.
"A little over two years ago, we decided to deploy salesforce.com within our sales organization to help us with opportunity tracking," said Janet Lewis, Director of Sales Development for USA TODAY. "We started with our digital team, which is a smaller group, and then six months later we rolled it out to our brand team. At the time, we didn’t require full CRM functionality, so we didn’t deploy the full package."
According to Lewis, USA TODAY already had a few false starts with CRM deployment over the years, so they took a "walk before you run" approach by focusing at first only on opportunity and pipeline tracking. They knew that having full CRM functionality would deliver important sales and collaboration benefits, so several months later they rolled out activity and account information features. Initially, sales makers resisted using these functions because they had other tools they had previously used for time management and keeping account information. This resistance to change resulted in very low adoption rates.
"Even though we had support at the executive level, sales managers and sales makers were not enthusiastic about the program," explained Lewis. "
Given the fact that most sales managers were not actively supporting CRM adoption, sales makers had no reason to make it a priority."
BAKER COMMUNICATIONS GETS THE CALL
According to Lewis, USA TODAY sales executives met with their contacts at salesforce.com to discuss possible options to solve the adoption issue. Geoff Dodge, SVP of Media Practice for Salesforce.com, pointed USA TODAY towards Baker Communications. He explained that Baker had a track record of success in helping companies put frameworks in place that help sales teams use Salesforce CRM as a sales enablement tool to help build pipeline and drive revenue, which will automatically boost adoptions rates.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, USA TODAY was finalizing a sales team restructure that involved both the digital and brand teams in a cross-platform selling strategy. After meeting with the Baker Communications team earlier in the year as well as in December at Dreamforce, the decision was finalized to engage Baker. The focus of the project was to build a Pipeline Focused Culture while driving CRM adoption.
CREATING A CUSTOM SOLUTION
“When USA TODAY came to us, they made it clear they wanted to leverage sales manager leadership to drive sales team behavior change throughout their sales organization,” said Michael Brichford, Director of Strategic Accounts for Baker Communications. “This was a perfect fit for our solutions because the focus of our CRM adoption practice relies on heavy engagement with the sales managers and sales teams working together as one unit. During a typical engagement, we first brief the sales managers in all the best practices of effective sales management they can achieve by leveraging Salesforce CRM. We then show them how to use the tools and dashboards that support those best practices and track key metrics to effectively coach their sales teams.”
USA TODAY did present some unique challenges.
“Within the media industry, there are a lot of complex account sharing arrangements and sales models that can’t be addressed with out-of-the-box tools,” explained Brichford. “The Go-To-Market strategy is fairly unique. With Salesforce CRM, we are able to customize and modify the tools in a way that fits more intuitively with the way that USA TODAY sales team members engage with prospects.”
ROAD MAP FOR SUCCESS
Baker’s Sales Play Mission was very straightforward -- empower and enable the USA TODAY team to increase sales volume in underpenetrated business units and departments of existing accounts while simultaneously reactivating old accounts. Sales manager and sales leadership participation was a key objective. Six USA Today sales teams took part in the play during a multi-week engagement. Heavy emphasis was placed on integrating Baker’s Coaching in the Cloud™ process within the USA TODAY sales culture by mapping all sales activities back to the tools and dashboards in Salesforce CRM. This discipline provides consistent, clear, and real-time visibility into existing pipeline and opportunities. As the sales play unfolded, the teams were coached on how to drive pipeline by leveraging Salesforce CRM tools and a high performance weekly sales cadence.
NOTHING SELLS LIKE SUCCESS
“I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical at first,” said Tony Hill, sales manager for one of the six teams that participated in the sales play. “It seemed like they were just telling us to do things we all already knew how to do. Of course it will work. We all know it will work. I am a sales guy; this is what I do!”
However, Hill went on to explain that in some ways, things are different now. There was a time sales professionals used to concentrate on selling. Now, in the era of much leaner sales organizations, sales professionals often have to do research, develop marketing intelligence, track down the contact and finally start a sales cycle while fixing billing problems and managing customer issues.
“You can literally spend your whole day reacting to problems and never have any time for cold calling and prospecting,” he observed.
Hill has learned to see Salesforce CRM for what it really is – a powerful system that helps sales professionals be much more effective at what they already want to do…Sell.
Hill described one example of the kind of success his team experienced during the sales play and hopes to replicate many times in the future. As he tells it:
“A lot of the ads we sell in this space skew toward men, so we don’t usually get a lot of packaged goods sales (think breakfast cereals), but we have sales goals to meet, so we took a new look at packaged goods. We created some messaging for brand managers that explains how we upgraded the “Your Life” section with certain content that will appeal more effectively to both men and women. We loaded the messaging into Salesforce CRM and sent out emails to a list of new contacts. This effort yielded a full page ad in only two weeks. When you can send an email and it turns into $150,000 of new business in two weeks, that will sure get your attention.”
Hill says that seasoned sales professionals aren’t always initially enthusiastic with being told what to do and when to do it. However, he is now convinced that the Baker Sales Play strategy, enabled by Salesforce CRM, provides a much-needed framework upon which to build the discipline and the process needed to uncover new prospects and drive more business.
As he explained it, “Once you start getting responses back from those new contacts, suddenly you are very engaged.”
And when sales teams are engaged, CRM adoption begins to climb exponentially, which, for USA TODAY, is very good news, indeed.
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