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How to Build Your Go-To-Market Strategy Around Partnerships with Phillip C Aimé, Chief Revenue Officer at Drivonic
In this episode of the Revenue Insights Podcast, host Lee Bierton connects with Phillip C Aimé, Chief Revenue Officer at Drivonic, the automobile industry’s popular people-based digital platform. Phillip discusses the importance of client retention and how data can help you gather valuable business insights. Phillip also touches on the value of teamwork in achieving business goals, handling peaks and troughs of business performance, and the challenges facing the automotive industry today.
Phillip has over twenty-five years of experience across different verticals in the automotive industry. He has specialized in Automotive Advertising, Marketing, and Digital Media. At Drivonic®, he sees phenomenal potential for dealers to solve digital problems, create increased sales opportunities, and make more money by utilizing the Drivonic® products.
Phillip’s Book Recommendation How to Master The Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins
- 00:37 – 03:23 – Phillip’s backstory
- 03:41 – 05:53 – GTM and revenue drivers at Drivonic
- 06:08 – 08:10 – Using a direct-to-consumer sales approach
- 08:26 – 09:40 – Client retention and low churn rates drive business growth
- 10:05 – 11:20 – Let the data do the talking
- 11:39 – 12:30 – Customer service drives retention
- 12:59 – 14:43 – Break down internal silos for revenue growth
- 15:16 – 16:33 – How to handle peaks and troughs in business performance
- 16:49 – 18:34 – Challenges in the automotive industry
- 21:40 – 23:00 – Building relationships is critical for selling
- 23:35 – 24:50 – The nuts and bolts of committee selling
- 26:23 – 27:15 – Phillip’s book recommendation – How to Master the Art of Selling
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Hello there. You are listening to Revenue Insights. Today I’m speaking with Phil Aimee. He’s the Chief Revenue Officer at Drivonic and has spent the last 25 or so years specialised in automotive advertising and digital media.
Phil, looking forward to picking your brain today. Thank you. Good having you.
Phil, we’ve been chatting beforehand, really interested to dig into a little bit more about your experience, particularly within automotive sales.
But for everyone like me coming at it from a very different perspective, can you give a bit of a summary of your story and your background?
I can. Thanks for asking. I come from an old school TV background and broadcast, large cities from Los Angeles to New York, where I did local and national TV ad sales.
Ended up in small markets in South Carolina where I worked for a big NBC boomer there, transferring into a specialty that I’ve been working on throughout my broadcast career, which was automotive, both tier two and tier three, which is dealer groups and individual dealers. And upon that growing and learning in that space, I got hired by an auto dealer. So I ended up going to work for him for over nine years.
It was a very large store. We bought other stores and I got to learn everything about a dealership, especially a large volume dealership selling over 12, 1300 vehicles a month. And in that I got to do the automotive ad sales. I got to do things in the BBC center sales, F&I, even to the management sections.
So after that, then I transferred and got into cable, which was charter spectrum where they really wanted somebody who could specialize in their largest vertical marketing, which is automotive and their advertising, which took up at least 50 to 60% of all their ad dollars. So they’re looking for specialists to those who had that background coming from automotive and coming from broadcast. It was a great fit.
Whereupon I spent the next 14 years at charter spectrum overseeing all automotive ad sales, basically directing them to educating their sales force, putting them into specialties, helping them understand the dealer’s needs, going out and asking right questions and building collaborative relationships with our clients to build more revenue. Within that span too, I also ran the automotive sports program, which was a sports sponsorship in Indy racing and NASCAR NHRA.
And upon that time we bought Time Warner from, we were a smaller cable company in the country, now the number two cable country with a Time Warner. I worked there for a little while with revenues there and the automotive exceeded 500 million. I transferred then to Comcast after that, the number one cable company in the country.
And I ran their auto division in the Southeast region of the United States for approximately three and a half years. Whereupon then I ended up getting out of corporate America and going to a small automotive data company with media and analytic assets where I found to have a great amount of flexibility using all my knowledge and background to help assist them in helping grow a company.
So it’s been a really good, man, it’s been a really good run. Thank you. Amazing. And I’m really intrigued to understand and kind of dig into a little bit more in the case where you’re at the minute with Trivonik of what the, as I’d call it, kind of go to market function looks like.
So what are the main drivers of revenue for you guys?
Yeah. So our go to market strategy is we’re a wholesale data and media company with analytics.
So we go in and build partnerships for channel partners who are in the light business, who have so many clients that they’re already working with that can fit into that organization without having to feed capital, technology, IT, or extra people so that they can build extra revenue without doing anything but saying, hey, listen, we have Trivonik as our partner that really is an addition to everything that they’re doing.
And because we have proprietary data, it gives us an ability to fit into a lot of these organizations in a way that they’d have to go buy it. And we help supply that as part of their product tool belt per se, as they go back to their clients and build revenue with their existing clients, as well as go pitch new clients, new business. So we are big channel partner drivers.
We do go into dealer groups who have their own internal marketing and advertising that we can talk to because they help drive those decisions. And we will talk to those types of peoples too. And as more consolidation in the automotive industry is happening, there are more and more dealer groups getting bigger and bigger. A lot of that seems to be more and more relevant.
So those are the two channels or two methods in which we go to market and how we grow.
For us, it evades the opportunity for us to get out of buying or spending a lot of capital in buying and managing salespeople across the United States and being in market to market, which is a big endeavor. And a lot of companies have to make that decision from being small to going big. And I still like that method. It’s where I came from.
But at the same time, if you’re going to grow efficiently and you’re going to grow in a steady way, this is a really good way to do so. Strategic partners, channel partners, and dealer groups is our strategic direction. Excellent.
And what was it that kind of helped you to realize that that was the direction to go in?
Was it from kind of previous experience or was it from what you were seeing in the numbers that actually a traditional direct to consumer approach wasn’t going to be the best way to go?
Well, I think the entrepreneur that started the company only, he had many companies and he wanted to start, you know, he made deals to buy other companies. And I think that he just said, Hey, listen, I want you to grow it in a way that’s going to be consistent with the fact that I’m not going to be able to give you a bunch of more capital.
And so how do you do it?
And he said, you know, I just have a few partners, but if I had more, I need partner relationships. And for us, that just made a really big difference. So I developed a plan around that that had executable marketing that we could then be exposed on a speaking circuit as well as in the automotive conference systems.
And it helped give us some exposure to brand and marketing that people have never noticed before so that we were then be able to be more noticed. And then I could be able to have more conversations with more partners across the country. So that was one of the angles or one of the plans as we developed them through too. So it’s been good.
I think that the thing that has to be really important to emphasize, it’s all about team. I can help sell it. I can help bring it to the table, but we have a chief digital officer that’s really important in answering all really technical questions.
I have a director of data services that helps do all the analytics, that helps base all the things that we do on ROI to help our customers and our channel partners. I have to have a great internal team that’s going to be production and client driven to help service those clients so that they all are touched at the same time. So it really is kind of a team effort.
And no matter what client or somebody that I’m speaking, I’m the hunter and the rest of them are gatherers and the rest of them are also nurturers. So that we’re all working together is really kind of an important system.
And it makes us look bigger than life to a customer because we’re bringing a team concept rather than just Phil coming them and taking care of them and saying, hey, what happened this month?
So we feel like that has really been a value in our customers and our channel partners that we bring.
I suppose what would be great to get a perspective on that I feel like you’ve kind of alluded to that in terms of the structure of your team, then is it like very small in terms of the sales side and then far bigger in terms of client success?
Yeah, I think it is. We have a small sales side and I mostly drive that and I have some help there. But really what’s important is we work really hard on client retention so that we have a pretty good back end. So a very good back end data team, a very good back end digital team, as well as customer service team.
And that helps us reduce our churn rate by less than 10% a year, which is phenomenal in an Admark data game. So when you have that, then your growth can be exponential. If I grow 15 or 20% with only a 5 or 10% churn rate, I’m still double digit growing. And we’re growing up more than that. We’re growing in the 20s and 30s. So it’s exciting to be able to be part of a growth model.
Where it came from on cable was not growing. It was stagnant. It was slowing down. Being a video, whether it’s OTT, CTV, linear, just got more and more expensive and more tough to handle when there’s better data and better information and digitally getting to your customer. So that’s a big transition for me as I’ve gone through building this revenue opportunity.
I want to ask you, you mentioned the retention numbers, which are really impressive. Retention is the challenge for so many businesses right now.
So what have you found, perhaps one thing that has been so important to being able to achieve such successful retention rates?
Let the data do the speaking for you. And it’s not about your opinion or my opinion. It’s about what the data says and being able to interpret the data that tells the story that lets them know that their return on their investment is valuable and important. And we manage it.
And when they feel like their money is going to a worthwhile cause and they’re getting a good return on their investment, a lot of people have a hard time saying no to it again. So I think that really is one of our trademarks is that it’s not what I feel or think about your business, although I can look at it and judge it based upon my experience.
But listen, are you going to dispute the data?
Because if you do, you just say, hey, the numbers don’t add up and they’re not working. And if they don’t, then we don’t work. So we really try to play that method that data doesn’t lie. Only people do. So that’s what we try to do.
And I think that comes through because it really takes the emotional side of it out, because we’re trying to be very smart and interpreting data, data strategies and directions by looking at the data so we can give them an intelligent decision on how they’re going to go forward. Is that I’m really curious to understand because when you say it makes so much sense.
So is that something that’s available within your product?
Or is that something that, you know, when it’s coming up to renewal time that you are, you know, presenting back to the client?
I think it’s an ongoing thing. It’s something that we do on a monthly basis to all clients. So it takes data services a couple of weeks, it takes data services quite a bit. If you’re doing several hundred to over a thousand a month or more, it’s a lot of work.
So your earlier question about, you know, you put a lot of people in the back end, you do, because the customer service is everything in retention. And the fact that you can build these reports and have them available at the end of every campaign, which may be every 30 days, then shows them we are looking at it, we’re giving you advice on it, and we’re letting you interpretate the numbers as they are.
But here’s what we see in return for your investment. And I think that that’s a real valuable retention factor as well as one that builds credibility and trust so that we’re able to be referred to more people and grow in that respect also.
Is that how you’re really starting to bring together a lot of your teams?
Because something that we were talking about before was really alignment. And you’ve got a very interesting model where, you know, smaller sales team, far more investment by the sounds of it in terms of the kind of support and success teams that go with it. And so I’m really interested to understand in terms of that model, like how you’re pivoting teams towards what their focus on.
Yeah, that’s a good question. Because when I came from large companies, they had individual siloed departments, they had their account services, they had their digital teams, they had their marketing teams, they had their HR, their finance, and they’re pretty much in silos.
And then there was a sales team, right?
Here, the model is, you know, it’s all about revenue and growing sales.
So then how do you support sales?
Will you support it with your marketing, with your IT, with your data services, with your account coordinations and account managers?
And it all has to be developed under one strategic plan. In larger companies, they all have their own plans for each one of those siloed departments.
Here, what’s unique and what’s really fun is the fact that, boss, here is the sales plan for the year.
Now, how the rest of the departments build plans to support it. That is a really great function.
And that’s that way everybody’s on the same page going, how do we grow together?
So marketing, how do you support sales in the form of lead generation and brand and image management?
Account managers, how then do we build our account management teams to help support the sales objectives and the sales things?
And the same for digital, same for data services, et cetera, so that all of them then are on the same page. And we’re working more as a cooperative team rather than Phil doing his own thing with sales and each one of them are all in a silo. So I think that is a vast difference. I think that builds much better combinations and people identify with teams and pods.
We call it pods, you know, in some of these companies where you work as a pod. And we certainly believe in that. We think that it’s a successful model.
And I suppose the size of the business probably helps that in its current state, right?
I’m interested to know as you grow, how do you anticipate continuing to keep that?
Do you think the solution is, yes, you know, as long as we’ve got everyone’s got their own plan that feeds into the wider kind of strategic plan, is that the answer?
Or is there perhaps going to have to be a different way of adapting, you know, as you say, as you start to get into a significantly bigger organization?
Yeah, well, I think if we grow by, you know, double and triple, I don’t know if it changes dramatically.
You know, I think that it’s just a variation of that.
And that variation is going to be based upon, you know, having department heads then be more accountable to their teams and their teams are going to be much larger, right?
And so we’re going to have to have much better internal communication. You’re going to have to have offsite opportunities where we brainstorm and we understand how we best work together for one common goal.
And that’s how do we grow our revenue line and our company?
If it’s all about how we’re going to build more products and more gadgets, hey, that’s a whole different conversation.
And the sales team has to be brought in because it’s like, okay, how do we monetize it?
So at this point, we’re introducing new products, but it’s all about how then to grow revenue. And that’s a different perspective, because some entrepreneurs don’t think that way. They’re all about product. They’re very genius oriented. They’re very smart. But that doesn’t mean that they know how to go out and sell it. As is always the case for them, I’m afraid.
So to change this into a slightly different gear, then what would you say are the kind of current challenges that you’re facing, perhaps in DriveVonic right now, or a nice way to package it might be in the wider industry right now?
You know, I think the challenges are, you know, that we have to kind of go back to basics and be able to get in front of our people and educate and better those that are our partners, as well as our customers. And as the industry changes, a lot of things such as data becomes much more important to them.
And the interpretations of data and how to build strategies and plans around data is something that they need to be coached on, as well as help them realize what decisions they can make and how they can make a decision based upon data, which they may have to change because the data is not given in the story. So I think that’s part of the challenges of the industry too.
And we don’t spend enough time on education and developing the tools that we have in terms of helping inform people how they really work and what we’re able to really tell them. We’re just anxious to go out and let them know that here we are, it works, you got to try it, rather than really help educating. And that’s more of a partnership model, really.
And that partnering part has to have some components for an executable plan.
How are we going to partner with these people?
What collateral materials can we give them?
What videos can we give them?
How can we be touching them on a regular consistent basis rather than whenever they just need us because they might have a problem?
So I think that our challenge as we go forward, as we grow, is how do we do more of that?
We’re going to have more product development. It’s going to evolve, data evolves.
So how do we do a better job of that?
And who do we have or hire to do that?
So I think that’s probably some of our challenges, some of the challenges I see out there now. Seeing that partner sales really has been a huge part of your strategy up to this point. Do you see that then as a key part moving forwards or do you anticipate that potentially it will reach the point where it’s like, okay, we’ve probably got about as much as we can out of this now.
Now we’re going to have to slightly pivot into different areas.
Yeah, I think that you make a good point. I think we still have a lot of room and a lot of rope to grow on that part of it. And we still want to have more partners. Partners though are unique because you have to really feel like you fit in their culture.
And a partnership is a very much two way street where you have to really know how to work well together and it doesn’t always work that well. So I think that as we grow, our expansion into dealer groups are going to be important for those people who make their decisions internally about their ad marketing. So those relationships with groups will be more and more important.
They have 10, 15, 20, 50 stores and they can dictate the fact that Drivonix is going to be an important part of their growth model as well. And so I see that as a real growth opportunity for us.
For us, we’re just basically in the tier three world mostly. We have a lot of ways to go in the tier two world where we can help major advertisers and ad agencies help people in their tier two growth in different parts of the segments from Toyota to General Motors to Ford, et cetera. So that’s another area. So we have a lot of room for this company to grow.
We have a lot of areas in which we can go into. It’s all about how strategic we are in measuring our time and execution versus what model we want to try to grow to or what percent. So some of the other ones I just mentioned like tier two, it’s a longer tail sale cycle. It is more relationship driven. You have to be informed more people and it’s more of a committee sale.
The agency side, those people that are developed partnerships, hey, they make the decisions. They have smaller companies that can be more flexible, mobile quicker, and they can make a decision quicker. So those are the kind of things that we face that we have to prioritize and figure out how to spend our time wisely. Really interesting point there on like committee selling and the importance of relationships.
And I think with how sales have certainly changed, particularly in the last five years or so, there’s definitely been almost a shift towards more in terms of we’ve got to get more activity out there. It’s all about, you know, with cold calling, it’s less about the relationship that you have with the person and instead just getting through as many people as you can as quickly as possible.
But it sounds like in the automotive sales industry, you know, prioritization on having a strong relationship with someone is still very much alive and well.
So to you, how important is it still to have that relationship as part of your sales process?
I think it’s going to be vital going into the next three to five years. I think people still want to, they want to see you, they want to know that you’re a vendor, they want to know how you’re working for them, and they want to see, you know, they want to touch, feel it, and see it, just like, you know, a lot of people do.
And they want to have faith and trust that your company is going to do and say what they’re saying they’re going to do. And they only do that by who, the relationship that they build through either me or somebody in our company. So I think that the relationship is not going away. I think it’s going to be more and more evident.
And I think in places where digital retailing and the opportunities to be programmatic by selling it online is great, but I think that it has to be, it has to be understood that on these larger purchases and things that people buy, they still need some attention. And most people think that they just go online and they research it and think they know what they want.
Most people just don’t know what they, they go to the store and like, I want somebody to help figure out what I want. I need another SUV, I need another car.
What is there?
You know, there’s hundreds of makes and models now to look at, and you’re influenced by your friends, you’re influenced by your area and your surroundings, and you’re influenced by the awareness and consideration you see through ad marketing and media, which is even more prevalent today than it ever has been.
I love the similarities in many ways from the automotive industries to, you know, other areas, anything that’s big ticket, right?
It’s going through a very similar process of, I like the terminology of seeing it, smelling it, touching it, not quite possible with software, but you can certainly see it and touch it, right?
And Phil, I’m intrigued.
What would you say is your approach to committee selling?
Do you take a fairly strategic approach to it, or would you say it’s very much born from experience and know-how?
Well, I think you always start from the bottom up, those that are gatekeepers and people who are influencers in the sales process who can certainly kill your deal. So that’s kind of a bottom up selling approach. And then you also have to go to the top down, those who can make the decision and will make the decision, you need to see them too.
And you need to be able to see them, you need to see them too.
And you need to be able to then, that’s a committee approach because the top guy or top woman is going to say, hey, listen, what do you think?
And they all have to be educated and feel like they’re on the same page. If the decision maker feels like the rest of the committee, the rest of the people who are those people that he or her trusts aren’t on the same page, hey, you’re not going to get the deal. So you have to self in the top down and the bottom up.
And a lot of people simply do it one way. If you just do it from the top down, you piss off all those people at the bottom because you never did go through them in the first place. If you just do it from the bottom up, a lot of them will sometimes never get you to the next phase.
And you want that next step of making sure that the owner or the decision maker has an opportunity to see, touch, feel your product. So I think that that was probably one strategy that’s worked effectively over the years for me on big ticket items that are group sales functions.
Appreciate this question is going to really vary by the deal that you’re working on, but do you have kind of an idea in your head of the number of stakeholders you’d be making sure that you engage with a deal that you’re working on?
Yeah, you always identified those stakeholders and then you appropriately spend the time with each one that you should. Sometimes we get bogged down because we find one that we really communicate with and we want to talk to all the time and we spend all our time with that person when we don’t want to spend time with somebody we may not like.
And that’s going to be the one that we have to work on the hardest because you have to win over that person. So I think you really have to kind of take your emotions a little bit out of it. I’ve learned that over the years because I want to go hang out with people I like.
And sales, you gravitate, which is the easy. We all like the easy. Being smart, you have to go work on all the functions in every aspect of the deal and the relationship. So those things that you don’t find so attractive and so fun to work on, hey, you have to really be disciplined to do a good job.
Check it off your box and say, hey, this happened and we have this call and this person did understand and feel confident that this was going to go forward. You have to get everybody to lean forward. So I think that that’s kind of my best answer on that question. So thanks. Absolutely perfect.
Phil, I want to ask you one final question. You’ve got the perfect backdrop for this one with a lovely bookcase back there.
What is one book that you would recommend to other revenue leaders?
Oh my gosh. I’ve read so many of them. The Art of Selling really is probably an old school book, but it talks about relationships and it talks about the art of sales.
I probably looked at that more than anything and it deals with people, people’s attitudes, their backgrounds, your propensity or are you aggressive?
Are you passivist?
Are you A type?
What kind of personality and understanding just people in general so that you’re able to communicate with everybody in an effective way. We’re all one way and we effectively communicate with somebody else in a different way. So how do you communicate with somebody that’s tougher, stubborner, you don’t like as much, you really need to know how to do that.
So I would say that’s probably one that was influenced by me really early on. One final question. You mentioned before around people like stakeholders that you perhaps don’t get on with. Perhaps they are stubborn, perhaps they are a bit short.
What is one bit of advice you’d give to building a relationship to those people and getting over some of those hurdles?
Going the extra mile and finding out what they really have special interest in outside your conversation and affecting their influence or their group. So go to their best friend, go to something that they like to do, something that they love, be part of it so that you can build a relationship or a bridge with that person. So those are some of the things that I found invaluable.
If they love pets and they’re doing something for save the pets, hey, you know what, give a donation or go there and be part of a group meeting that they might go to and they’re going to be shocked that you’re even showing up because you’re doing it really not for the pets, you’re doing it for that person and they feel like you’re going the extra mile for them, they’ll change their opinion about you immediately.
Love it. Excellent piece of advice. So it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on and to pick your brain a little bit.
For everyone listening, if they perhaps have any questions, follow up, where can they find you?
They can find me at paime at drybonnet.com, D-R-I-V-O-N-I-C and I would be glad to honor or talk to anybody who would like to drop me a note on email and it’s been a pleasure talking with you. I could do this a lot. So I’ve been doing this a little while and it’s been fun to kind of recollect and think through the processes and talk about revenue and sales.
It’s something I love to do. Pleasure is all mine, Phil. Thank you so much. And thank you. Have a fantastic day.
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