Getting the sales
channel right has been one of the monumental struggles that post-Internet
directory organizations have faced as they reinvent themselves as "multiple-product"
organizations. Yellow Pages publishers possess one of the great theoretical
advantages: the local sales force. Making good use of it to sell non-print
products operationally has been very difficult.
Yellow Pages sales
managers continue to struggle with finding the right compensation formula
(weighing the carrot vs. the stick), training reps to understand the
Internet or alternative media well enough to explain it to others, and
finding the time in the sales call to do new products justice.
Adding to the strain
is the pressure to add more and more products and features to the sales
rep's bag. Today, reps are carrying bundles that might include Web sites,
coupons, local banner programs, links, e-commerce tools such as lead
generation and real-time online scheduling, and Web infrastructure services
like hosting and broadband access.
The experience of
the past few years has led some organizations to conclude that bundling
doesn't really work. Others continue to make adjustments to bundles
to increase their flexibility and offer more choices to advertisers
- like presenting a menu of options that varies by business category
(or "heading"). The thinking is that dry cleaners have needs that are
different from painting contractors or attorneys or restaurants.
The major Yellow
Pages organizations have not given up on leveraging their local sales
forces. Rather, they are continuously adjusting, tweaking and retraining
in order to find the right formula for unlocking the potential of what
remains their greatest asset.