It would make for a great story if we wrote that the Charter Business sales team performs daily magic, sprinkling pixie dust to enhance sales of voice, video and high-speed access to business customers. Unfortunately, as with many things in business and life, the reality is far less exciting, but no less important.
Certainly the numbers are magical. Last year Charter Business generated $341 million in revenue, a 14% increase over ’06. Sales of the bundle — what Charter calls the Business Bundle sell-in — were up by a factor of 3.5. And despite the sluggish economy, 2008 has the potential to be a terrific year now that Charter’s telephone service is available in all the MSO’s markets, and its voice and data bundle typically sells for 20% less than local exchange carriers’ price.
OK, so the key to success for this team of 250 salespeople isn’t magic. The reality, says VP/GM Jim McGann, is garden-variety focus. "I know that [word] is overused," but it’s critical, he says. "We have to sell based on where our best opportunities are. So we’ve created tools and structures so our sales force could best focus on small and medium-size businesses in our footprint."
That’s not just McGann’s view. Talk to other members of the team and they’ll mention the word focus often, too. "We used to have people selling all verticals, from coax to fiber, small business to large business, an all-in-one sales person," says East division VP Joe Romano, a 13-year Charter veteran. "Now we have people with a specific vertical focus [on] small business, inbound calls, education and perhaps health care, rather than one person doing it all."
Beyond that, Charter Business also has multiple sales channels, augmenting the traditional feet-on-the-street/knock-on-the-door approach to small business with avenues like inside sales — where customers approach Charter Business, often via phone calls. There are also sales affiliates, IT companies that receive incentives to recommend Charter Business to their clients.
For medium-size, multi-located businesses, like school districts, hospitals and local governments, there are other flavors of partners, such as IT companies that integrate Charter Business into their solution, "so they are really selling our services…to the end customer," McGann says.
But even with multiple channels there’s a premium on focus. No matter how simple or complex the sales channel, "We’ve had to decide where each of those would focus," McGann says.
As any good sales exec knows, the act of selling alone does not insure success. With Charter Business and other cable business units, marketing, advertising, support and installation are vital parts of the sales tree. Romano points to preparation. "We’ve spent a lot of time and money on training, growing [the sales team’s] knowledge." A new recruit receives two to three weeks of training, including classroom work and role playing, he says.
Of course some Charter Business customers know Charter from their homes. This makes it crucial that Charter Communications performs well in the living room. "It gives us a degree of brand awareness," Romano admits. No magic there, just good business.