MB: What has been your biggest challenge in building a b-to-b media company from scratch?
Giesea: One of the biggest challenges has been hiring good salespeople. Early on, we had a success rate of less than 50% when hiring new salespeople, based on their ability to hit a certain cost-of-sale threshold within six months. We've since increased that to more than 65%.
MB: How did you build your sales operation once you found the right people?
Giesea: We've invested in creating a lot more structure to help people succeed—training programs, mentoring, sales tools. About two years ago, we realized that the Wild West sales approach from our early days couldn't grow, so we made a number of changes.
First, we implemented a new territory and quota structure. Rather than assigning accounts based on geography or by publication, we aligned our sales team around specific buyer segments. Some buyer segments are industry-specific, such as Health IT vendors. Others cut across multiple markets, such as Conference & Event companies. We also did a full CRM (customer relationship management) implementation using SalesForce.com, which has allowed us to track activity metrics throughout the sales process and to be much more numbers-driven in our management.