Adrian Blake, publisher of Progressive Farmer, is also a VP at the title's parent company, Omaha-based DTN Media Group, which focuses on agricultural, energy and weather business markets. Blake joined DTN in January 2003. Previously, he spent six years as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co.
MB: What is one tactic you are using with your salespeople that's a little unusual and yet successful?
Blake: For the past year, we've been tracking what's going on with our top clients in more ways. For example, I've set up RSS feeds so that I get all the press releases and other statements issued by our top 25 clients, who make up a big percentage of our revenue collectively. I cut and paste this information and e-mail it to the salespeople so that they develop an evolving picture of their clients over time. Then I hold them to a certain level of knowledge for their top five customers.
I supplement the client-specific messages with other sources of information that may apply. For example, I get statistics that show a slowdown in residential building. This becomes a reason to call a client that manufacturers light trucks to say, “We can help you offset the decline in the construction market with a marketing program to farmers.”
MB: How do salespeople use this information in selling?
Blake: Their job is to solve a business problem, not sell a page or an online ad. Now the salespeople are armed with something new to say during every call—something that applies specifically to that client.