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Over the past few months, BIA/Kelsey has been looking at various SMB-focused sales approaches among both traditional media players and digital pure plays. Our objective was to establish a common set of best practices. We discovered early on that the local sales organization that does everything right does not exist, or at least we were not able to find it.

This effort has culminated in the release of the new BIA/Kelsey Insight Paper, “Sales Transformation: Building a Sustainable Model.” The report is now available to clients by BIA/Kelsey’s custom advisory services.

During the course of our research, we discovered that a more productive approach was to highlight best practices among a wide range of companies rather than focus on one clear leader. While none of the companies profiled in the report does everything right, each offers a set of successful practices that are instructive to local media companies trying to improve their sales performance.

This Insight paper features profiles of six local media companies – Deseret Digital Media, Dex One, Eniro, Solocal (formerly PagesJaunes), Trader Media Group and Yodle.

Here are some of our broad takeaway from the report:

* Sales transformation and organizational transformation are difficult, if impossible, to separate. Relatively few companies succeed at total transformation.

* Companies that are making progress in selling digital to SMBs tend to share common traits, which include thoughtful segmentation of sales channels, innovation around training, and a focus on driving the business on customer-centric KPIs.

* Execution is the often overlooked component of transformation. It is much easier to transform a sales organization that sells products that deliver a strong ROI, and is supported by efficient fulfillment and a strong customer service team.

And here are a few examples of the best practices highlighted in the report:

* Deseret Digital Media has invested in its core sales channel while simultaneously building a separate “disruptive” digital business.

* Dex One has shaken up the old sales training model, preferring “short burst” efforts that improve knowledge retention.

* The Nordic search and directory company Eniro has developed a disciplined process of frequent coaching and feedback, and precisely measures the differences in outcomes between those who adhere to the process and those who do not.

* The French publisher Solocal initiates content capture on sales of its digital presence products within a few hours of the close of sale.

* The local search pure play Yodle uses call analytics to determine the optimal profile of a successful sales rep.

* The UK’s Trader Media Group has placed the customer at the center if its business, running the business on key performance indicators like customer satisfaction index.

This Insight Paper is the first in a periodic series from BIA/Kelsey examining different aspects of sales transformation. Future papers will look at compensation, recruitment and training, technology, strategy and other subsets of the sales transformation challenge.

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