"Let me begin by saying: Meltwater News – I’ve been to lemonade stands that run a better business. Here is everything you need to know about Meltwater and more. If you are looking to work for this company (or just signed with them) please read everything. If you are a prospect looking to purchase the product, please scroll down to The Business Model section.
My time at Meltwater News started right out of college (clearly, this is how they get everyone. You have sent out application after application and this company approaches you with, “the best job ever”).
The Interview: Held at a local Marriot, the interview was broken over the course of two days. The first day, it’s a group interview. You along with five-ten other interviewers are sitting opposite side of the current Meltwater employees. You sit through a description about the company; how well it’s done, the organic growth structure, the potential, the possibilities for horizontal as well as vertical movement. Then one of the top sales personnel will tell their story of how they became successful so quickly and their favorite client they’ve signed so far (or should I say tricked into sending back a contract).
On the second day, if you make it to the second day, they bring you back for a one vs. five interview. This is where all the people of Meltwater look you in the eyes and try to determine how you will make them money. Bottom line, it’s a pyramid structure where the MD (managing director) makes money off of the SM (Sales managers) who in turn makes money off of you (the sales consultant – aka telemarketer)
Anyways, I guess they thought I could make them some cash, so they hired me.
The Training Period: The first three months you are at Meltwater you are under a microscope. You start out training with the SM’s and MD’s doing “workshops”. These workshops consist of sales training 101. You learn about the product, how to sell and how to sell. Different offices have different methods in training the “newbies” – some offices would call pretending they are calling clients, some sit in a room and go over power points all day, some would go over “cases”. Anyways, I went to school where you read over Harvard case studies about businesses that excelled and analyzed their strategies for success. The typical Meltwater case study was not like those at all. The Meltwater case study was about what to say and how to say it. Let's see what I can remember, being gone from Meltwater 6 months now: “Hi, this is Sarah from Meltwater News – how are you today?...That’s great! I actually wanted to reach out to you because I’ve been reading about (Insert Company name here) and found some great articles on you. Do you have a minute I would love to show you?” Now this could go two ways, they could say yes, and you, as the sales consultant, would “get a login for the day”. Or, they would say no and you’d respond with, “ok – well I suppose I can send them to your email, what’s the best email address to reach you at”. Then, once they give you an email address, you would put them on “Trial” otherwise known as, sending them articles, whether you know if they are relevant or not.
This training period ramps up. So as a sales person you have a $5k quota to reach the first month, $10k the second month and then you are on full quota your third month, $20k. SM’s have to hit $15k a month and the MD needs to hit $10k a month to help their offices. But, unless you hit your quota, you do not get commission. One month I sold $19k and was $1k short of my $20k quota and didn’t get ANY commission from it. (This is something they failed to tell me during both The Interview and The Training Period).
The Day to Day: You are in the office by 8am, with the phone off the ringer by 8:01. Do not think about eating breakfast at your desk, do not check your gmail, do not pass go. In my office, we had a schedule to go by. 8-11 sales block, 11-12 “sparring” (sparring is what they called going over cases – if you did not have any cases from the 8-11 sales block, keep calling people until you do), 12-1 strict one hour lunch break, do not be late for the 1-3 sales block. 3-4 more sparring, 4-6 sales block. (Have you seen a trend yet? This is an all sales job. Where the consultant part comes in, I have yet to figure out). If you do go in for an interview, ask them how much sales there are compared to actually working with the clients. When they actually become clients, they don’t get as much attention. I vividly remember a client wanted me to change their account to follow a list of competitors and my managing director told me I needed to make more calls for the morning and to make the changes during lunch or after work.
The Day to Night: Think the work day is over when you leave? Think again. You’re not motivated if you do not work on the weekends. Each week you are supposed to come in with a fresh new list of prospects to fill your “Pipe” – the pipe is where all the customers that you registered are stored. The start as prospects then you can move them further down the pipe if you get them to log in, put them on trial or give them a contract to sign. The trick is, once you move them from your prospects list to the “login” stage, you then need to register more prospects to keep your numbers up. On average, you need to have 100 new prospects a week in order to hit your weekly goals of 15 logins and 15 trials. But then, if you have 15 new logins and 15 new trials you lose 30 total from your prospect list. Where do you get those 30 new prospects from? After work and Sunday nights; this is the time you spending endless hours finding new prospects. I remember going through lists and lists of companies trying to find one that Meltwater employees hadn’t registered yet. 9 times out of 10 our colleagues have already registered the company and therefore you can not go after it. This is also subject to human error as I was witness to wars started over Meltwater employees “duping” or duplicating an already registered client. This also gets tricky when you deal with companies like SC Johnson that own 5 million subsidiaries. Does the person with SC Johnson get the right of way, or does the person that registered all the subsidiaries like pledge, windex, glade, etc.? There were no clearly written rules on this subject. My sales manager lost $15k over this when her client's company got their subsidiary, which was registered under someone else, to sign for 50% less than they were going to. In addition to this, don’t listen to them when they say “oh, you can go after whatever companies you want” – um, that’s wishful thinking. They should really say “you can go after any company that isn’t registered yet and will talk to you.”
The Management Trainee Growth Structure: My manager was one year older than I was. I was 22. Pulling from an above mentioned statement, the company was said to be “organically grown”. This means that they do not hire from outside the company, they promote within. Sounds like a good gig right? Work long enough and get promoted? Well, this statement or “organically grown” was half true. On one side, you told yourself “well, my manager has only worked here one year and she got promoted.” However, the company was very political. The people that sold the most and new people (if you were Swedish) got to the top first. The other way to reach the top level was being brought in from the outside. At the summer party, they announce the new management who was a new finance director and other VP’s from outside the company. So, they weren’t growing organically. Good one Meltwater, you got me there.
The Managers: As mentioned above, the managers were very young. And although you were a “good seller” it didn’t always translate into being a “good manager”. There are plenty of cases at Meltwater where the top sellers get promoted to manager and their “newbie” can not sell. Why you ask? This is because they don’t know how to manage people. The most common attributes from both my sales manager and my managing director were demanding, frustration and impatience. My managing director managed people through threats. If you don’t meet this, then this is going to happen. When having a one on one with him, it was evident that I had more management skills than he did (and yes, I had a lack of experience, at Meltwater, but I went to school for business management. Something he knew nothing about.) In fact, I should have had my human resource professor give him a talking to, I’m sure he could learn a thing or two, or seven. Over the course of his management our office plummeted. Out of the four employees I was hired with, only one person is still working for Meltwater (poor guy, I feel bad. They pulled the wool over his eyes. All I want to say to him is, “Sorry, but you’re not going anywhere and you’ll be a sales manager the rest of your MW career – I’ll bet money on it”). The office lost two people to other offices and when speaking to both of them before they left (and before I left too) they spoke honestly about the new manager and how everyone in that would suffer from his lack of people skills.
The Business Model: As I described before, you get prospects, log/trial them, give them a proposal and hope they sign before the end of the month. With each new month, comes a new beginning at Meltwater. (Unless you don’t sell for three months in a row – then, then they fire you). Again, I want to mention that it’s a pyramid structure. You get commission for your boss and their boss when you make a sale.
Anyways, with Meltwater News you sell a subscription. You buy a year, two year, and three year contract for as many modules as needed. With each module, the price goes up $5,000. I believe this is the most arbitrary number that sounded good at the time; it has probably increased since I’ve been there. Regardless, NEVER PAY THIS PRICE. If you think car salesmen are bad at haggling, you haven’t met a Meltwater “consultant”. One of the people I was hired with was asked on the phone, “how does this measure ROI?” – He put them on hold, leaned over and asked me, “What is ROI?”
For the “basic package” which included news articles with ability to customize your “morning report” (a report sent to your, as well as four other colleagues’ email every morning with the news you want) ran you $5,000. In addition to that, you can get a “newsfeed”, “analytics” or “newsletter” for an additional $5,000 each. The top package being all four modules for $20,000. The Meltwater consultant will work with you to find what you need at the time, molding the price to the price you need as well. If you think the price is too high, it is. And if you think you can only afford $1,000 then say “If I can get you a signed contract today, can I have the basic package and newsfeed for $1,000?” I guarantee the Meltwater consultant on the phone will put you on hold to “Ask his manager”. All they care about is the sign contract before their month is up. Another good question to ask is “how much money do you need to hit your quota?”. If it's $4,000 then I guarantee if you go: “OK – give me all four modules, for two years at $4,000 (which should be $40,000) and I’ll get you a sign contract today”, they would.
The overall product is not worth the money they say it is. Bottom Line: One huge thing that they didn’t mention during our training period was the competition. Who else was out there? Here are some names for you to check out: Burrelles Luce, Vocus, Google News. Here are some facts that the Meltwater Consultant will tell you and the truth:
Burrelles Luce: They are mainly a “clipping” agency. They actually use scissors to take clips and print them, then mail them to you via snail mail. Truth is: Yes, Burrelles does do this, but a lot of fashion magazines, etc. need the actual clip. Secondly, their Imonitor is catching up to Meltwater.
Vocus: They are so expensive and only focus on PR people. Truth is: they have great media lists. They have positioned themselves to be a one-stop shop. Meltwater has looked into them because they are great at what they do. Yes, their prices are expensive but they are worth it.
Google News: They don’t have the source base that Meltwater does. Truth is: At least their source base is from credible sources. Meltwater follows anything and doesn’t have the capability to scan articles that are multiple pages like Google can (i.e. if you are mentioned on newyorktimes.com and the article is broken over two pages, it won’t be able to pick up your “keyword” unless you are on that first page).
The problem with Meltwater is that is pawns itself off to be the best media monitoring system. However, it only follows Online Media Monitoring and it does this very poorly. They have a long way to go before they get the product to a place it should be. Wake up Meltwater. You’re not the best. And your personal consulting will end once I sign on the dotted line. Also – there is an automatic renewal clause in the contract; have them remove this before purchasing if you are a prospect.
The Company: The Company is failing to see its own demise as they are breaking up and expanding horizontally. When I left, MTalent was just starting out. Staying in touch with a representative who got transferred over to that section of Meltwater “petal” said it was the biggest mistake of her life. The human resource software sounded great but a huge mishap on their part was sizing up the competitors. She now spends her days calling and calling and calling with little traction on the sales front. Because she was such a good seller in MNews, they moved her there. (My guess, they didn’t want to keep paying her the commission).
The End Result: I got another job before they could fire me. I did well there, sold a lot and was on their good side. But that being said, there were a lot of politics at Meltwater News. People dating, getting fired/asked to leave/didn’t fit, people getting the approval on certain packages and not others, arriving a minute late/leaving a minute early, doing prospecting during company hours.
My advice to anyone looking at this company is to not waste your time. If you are already there, find a way out. Chances are you are in the Management Trainee role and many of the companies have already been registered. Then, when you sign them as clients their account will transfer into client relations for them to resign. So you never get commission on the clients you worked so hard for when it comes down to resigning the subscription. And, after reading another post on yahoo, if you are interviewing elsewhere and they are asking why you left/got asked to leave say this: “Meltwater promised a lot of things and failed to deliver. They claim to hire the best of the best, which I am and still believe to be true however they only promote the people that can sell. I looked at my sales manager and after being there for three years, she had a lot more selling to do before she ever got promoted again. My sales manager didn’t have any new challenges within her day to day routine; she had the exact same one from the day that I started to the day that I left. In fact, I guarantee she is still doing the same thing now. What time is it? 3 – She is wrapping up her afternoon sales block. To me, that’s not challenging, it’s mediocre at best. I know now that everyone’s got to start somewhere. I learned a lot from this position, including what not to do, which I find equally important in learning and personal growth. Overall, I think Meltwater News was a great company for a naïve college graduate but if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t. I would have been more patient.”
OK – well I hope everyone learned a little something from this post. It’s amazing, but I could definitely go on. I didn’t even mention the Kick-off party, not taking any time off (or not being allowed to take a day off) and all the things I appreciate working for a normal company now that I’m not with Meltwater News.