Sales Team of the Year

By The Drum, Administrator

March 12, 2002 | 16 min read

As much as editors and reporters around the land may deny it, the sales team is a critical component for any publication, radio station or TV channel. It's the age-old gripe that the content-providers of these media have to accept - your editorial could be the most original and gripping ever written or spoken but if the revenue isn't coming in it doesn't matter a jot.

And so the importance of having the right sales team in place cannot be overstressed. They'll be at the front line of promoting your company to potential advertisers, capable of taking unwarranted amounts of abuse in the name of revenue and, most importantly, they'll be able to close the deal at the end of it.

But how, as a budding media owner, do you go about assembling your sales dream-team? And once they're in place, how do you keep them there and keep them motivated?

As the winner of this year's Sales Team of the Year is announced The Marketeer decided to take a look behind the scenes and find out what makes a good sales team tick.

"It's all to do with professionalism at the end of the day," says Mark Walker, regional sales manager of Chrysalis Radio. "And having a team that knows what they're talking about, thinks laterally and works with the agencies to provide clients with what they need."

Viacom Outdoor's Northern sales director, Jason Cotterrell, says: "It's about getting out there and listening to people's needs and coming up with the solution that fits them."

Tim Reid, managing director of Media Link, advises: "Let them concentrate on selling. It's up to you as the MD to keep the politics at bay and to provide the systems to minimise the admin. Don't put unnecessary pressure on them when the market is tough, and remember to praise, and praise publicly, on a job well done."

Julian Carter, regional sales director at Capital Radio, built his regional team up over the last couple of years to become the largest radio sales team outside London. He says: "Three things make a good sales team, I think: passion, enthusiasm and discipline. I think in radio particularly, because it's invisible, if you don't make people passionate about it they won't be able to sell it. Passion, enthusiasm, discipline and a will to win. If you don't have a will to win you never will. You've got to be optimistic rather than pessimistic."

Recruitment is a critical part of the success of a sales team, and selecting the right people is no easy task.

"In recruiting there are several things you have to look for," says Robert Johnstone, MD of Media Sales Network. "Can they do the job? Do they want the job and will they fit into the team? Because if they can't they could mess up the whole team. Would they fit in with other people or do they want glory for themselves? Some people are made for teams and some aren't. When you look at people you have to think about how they will perform as a team player. I've interviewed some very bright individuals, but they couldn't work in a team - they were too 'big' for the team and I can't have that."

Paul Walmsley, the group regional sales director at Regional Independent Media, advises: "They've got to have common sense. They might be the best sales person in the world on paper, but if they don't have common sense then by the time they've run through their presentation to an agency they'll be knackered. They also have to fit into the team. You can't have a big 'superstar', they'll just end up pissing off the rest of the team."

"Recruitment is the hardest job any sales manager will ever do," says Viacom's Cotterrell. "It's my toughest, toughest job. If I knew how to recruit well every time I'd be a multi-multi-millionaire. Let's just say I've kissed a lot of frogs to find some princesses. They've got to be able to work hard and take their knocks."

The more people who were approached about the topic of recruitment, the more the theme of attitude arose. Capital Radio's Carter was another to stress its importance. He said: "If we could all tell how to recruit fantastically right away we'd be making millions as recruitment consultants, but you can generally split it into two things: How skilled are they and what's their attitude like. People with the wrong attitude have no place in my team. Negativity spreads like a cancer and one wrong person can bring the team down."

The challenge doesn't stop with the appointment of the right people, of course. After the sales team has been built up and everyone is in place, a sales manager will face the constant problem of keeping his team motivated. Also, with every media company on the lookout for the best staff for their teams, there's the constant threat of a member of your team being poached by a rival. So how do team leaders keep their teams both loyal and in the right frame of mind to make money? According to the sales heads of the North, there's more to keeping your team in place than a bonus and a company car.

"I suppose you spend a third of your life at work so part of it's making sure your work's fun," says David Downes, Northern sales manager for BBC Magazines. "This is important but at the end of the day nobody lives or dies because of what we do so it's important to keep things in perspective. I think my team feel empowered enough to do their own work." Walmsley, at RIM, agrees that having faith in your team is key to success. He says: "There's no real gimmicky things that I do to motivate the team, it's just things that naturally occur to me because they're the things I liked when I was an executive. It's generally just letting them get on with things themselves though. Once you've got the team set up, and that's really hard to do, they'll play off each other and make each other better. I don't go out to visit agencies with my sales people because what you are saying then, even subconsciously, is, 'I don't trust these guys to deliver the information to the agency.'"

Gary Frielick, display sales manager for the Telegraph Group, cites peer pressure as a great team motivator, playing off people's loyalty and obligation to their team-mates. He states: "Peer pressure is a great motivator. They set themselves very high standards to maintain, and if the standards drop they feel they are letting their colleagues down as much as themselves."

Hugh Walker, the Northern sales manager for JC Decaux, believes in promoting the company as an extended family as a way to motivate his staff. He says: "It's not just money, it's a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging. We don't have a problem with staff turnover, people who work for us work for us for a long time. We allow them to be creative in the way they sell, they're not constricted, which is what people want."

"Sales teams need to be motivated," says MSN's Johnstone. "Off the top of my head, I think we're successful because motivation and team spirit are important to us. It's like football; you can't win all the time, but you have to play for each other. You have to share the ups and downs. If we get involved with a company, we all get involved with it so everyone feels like they're pulling for one aim."

The word from some of the North's success stories is that keeping your team happy is the ultimate key to success. From hiring people who are happy to work together through to having faith in your team and promoting a feeling of ownership of your brand, it's important your team knows their worth and respect each other.

It could be a small price to pay, considering the commercial success of your company comes down to how well they want to do their jobs.

The Results

It doesn't take a genius to realise that 2001 was a year of change. Even before the events of September things, particularly in the media world, were changing. The Government's rules on media ownership started to look as though they were about to change, advertisers changed their priorities as they cut budgets and opinions of the internet changed again as the fallout from the crash began to settle.

In the Northern media scene this time of change has brought about a new Northern Media Sales Team of the Year, though only just, with Chrysalis being named this year's Sales Team of the Year just a whisker ahead of Capital Radio.

In the last twelve months, Galaxy 105, the company's flagship station, has grown to become the largest outside London - with Galaxy 102, Chrysalis' North West station, also continuing a steady growth in both popularity and revenue.

The decision was a close one this year as the review experienced yet another change with its first ever joint top-score. After the research was complete, Chrysalis and Capital Radio Advertising were joint with an overall average rating of 8. For the first time ever The Marketeer had to go to a tie-breaking decision - a straw poll of which team media buyers felt deserved the title this year. To this question Chrysalis received the majority vote, leading them to narrowly pip Capital to the proverbial post and take the title home.

As with last year, buyers from all of the North's top media independents were contacted by Quaestor Research and Marketing and quizzed on their opinions of Northern sales teams. The respondents were asked to rate the teams out of 10 across four categories: Innovation, Helpfulness, Professionalism and Overall Impression. An average score was then taken from all the categories to reveal the score with which the teams would be ranked.

Changes to this year's review include the removal of the Overall Winners' table, decided because of the futility of comparing sales teams in different media, and a change to the Independent Sales House category.

This year it was decided not to ask respondents about Media Sales Network and Media-Link separately, but have them included in all the categories in which they sell.

After the research both teams' scores across all the categories were averaged to provide the Independent Sales House table.

It was also decided that there should be two separate National Press tables this year, crediting the display and classified teams separately.

It should be noted that this review is decided by service to media buyers only, it has nothing to do with a team's revenue or profitability.


This year Portland and Posterscope were removed from the sales team research, due to their status as a 'go-between' rather than an outright sales team. And, in another change from last year's table, the research provided not one winner, but two. The joint winners of this year's Outdoor Sales Team of the Year are JC Decaux and Viacom Outdoor.

The two performed closely across all categories and pushed Adshel into third-place. Adshel has shown a marked improvement since last year's performance when, as More Group, it came bottom of the table.

Last year's winner, Advantage, was pushed down the table this year, due to poor scores in all categories except Professionalism, in which it still scored highly. Forecourt TV, has made an impact with buyers coming fourth in its first year in business.

National Press Display

This year's national press table has seen last year's first and second place teams switch places, as the Telegraph Group deposes the Guardian and Observer to take the top slot.

Strangely, buyers rated the Guardian and Observer team lower in all categories until the Overall Impression - which was a tie. The Telegraph's superior performance across Innovation, Helpfulness and Professionalism, however, deservedly secured it the title of National Press Display Sales Team of the Year.

In joint third place the new entry of Metro pushes some of last year's ranking teams further down the table. The Metro team has certainly made an impression with the North's buyers over the past year, scoring highest in Helpfulness. An improvement in the team's perceived Professionalism would increase the chances of shaking off fellow third-placer the Mail on Sunday, whose performance during 2001 has raised it several places on this year's table.

National Press Classified

A new addition to this year's review, and the Mirror Group classified team outperform its display counterparts to take the title of National Press Classified Sales Team of the Year.

The victory was clean-cut in every category other than Professionalism, which the second-place Daily Mail team narrowly pushed ahead on.

A clear gap has been formed between the Daily Mail in second place and the News International team in third place, with only the NI team's Innovation performing in the same league as the top two teams.

In fourth place the Mail on Sunday team needs to improve across all categories in order to venture higher up next year's table, while in Fifth place the Telegraph Group is let seriously down only by its


Regional Press

Another year and another winner in one of the most hotly contested polls: Regional Press. Last year Regional Independent Media was so close to the top spot the team must have been itching for it. This year RIM has left its closest rivals behind in every performance category apart from Innovation to take the title of Regional Press Sales Team of the Year.

In joint second, independent sales houses Media Link and Media Sales Network wrestle each other for next year's title. Media Link beats RIM in Innovation, but lags in every other category, while MSN is let down only by its Innovation score, beating Media Link across both Professionalism and Overall Impression.


This year's magazine research has revealed a somewhat shocking result, as the newly formed BBC Magazines team outperforms the more established players in a matter of months to take the winning title. Despite only launching in late 2001, the BBC team has seemingly made a firm impression on the North's buyers, performing well over all categories.

Contrastingly, the second place showing is a strong one for MSN, in its first year in the magazines table, while Natmags, as last year's winners, have less to be happy about. Both teams will have to increase their scores in all categories in order to have a shot at first place next year, while the BBC team will have a lot to live up to during 2002.


One of only two teams to retain its winning position from last year, Channel Four is once again the Television Sales Team of the Year.

Although let down slightly by Innovation, the Channel Four team has scored well across all other categories. Nevertheless BSkyB, in second place, is not far behind with an impressive Innovation score and just lagging in Professionalism and Overall Impression.

Carlton is pushed down a position from last year as it inhabits third place on this year's table, lagging badly behind in Innovation but tying Channel 4's score in Professionalism.


2001 was evidently a good year for Chrysalis, certainly in the eyes of the media buyers. This year the team has not only jointly won the Radio Sales Team of the Year title, but been named the overall 2002 Media Sales Team of the Year.

It's an achievement made grander by the fact that Chrysalis has now been the Radio Sales Team of the Year for two years running, highlighting the team's consistent levels of service to buyers.

Chrysalis' success has this year been matched by that of Capital Radio Advertising, which, after a year of continued revenue and staff growth, has moved up to take joint first place on the radio table. If Capital can push slightly forward in any one category it could well be crowned Radio Sales Team of the Year in 2003.

A newcomer to the table, Media Link for Virgin Radio, takes third place, receiving praise for Helpfulness and scores well over other categories.

Another impressive performance on this year's table is Clear Channel, which came last in 2001 and has since enjoyed a meteoric rise up the board to fourth place, scoring well across all categories except Innovation, where it has been held back.

Independent Sales House

Another toughly contested year for the independent sales houses, Media Link and Media Sales Network, this year resulting in a draw between both companies after their scores across all four categories in all the sectors they cover are averaged.

In 2001 Media Link succeeded in impressing buyers with its performance in Regional Press (for the London Evening Standard) and Radio (for Virgin) particularly well, being let down in National Press (for the Independent) and Magazines (the Radio Times). As with a number of teams in this year's review, Media Link's main weakness has been Innovation, while it generally performs well in Helpfulness and Professionalism.

Equally, MSN's teams have performed strongly in most categories other than Innovation, where it too was let down. 2001 marked the first full year's representation of Emap's magazine titles and MSN has clearly turned in a stellar performance, coming from nowhere to snatch joint second place along with Natmags.

Sales Personality of the Year

This year Peter Reilly, regional sales controller at Granada, was the individual voted by the majority of buyers as the Sales Personality of the Year.

Reilly, based in the company's Leeds office, is responsible for Granada's sales throughout Yorkshire and the North East. He was brought up from London in 2000 by regional sales director David Croft and now, with Croft moving to the dual role of regional sales director and MD of Yorkshire TV, looks set to increase his profile even further.

He says: "My job's fairly demanding, which might be surprising for some people, given that we're the market leader. People expect that when you're the market leader business just appears on your doorstep, but you are there to be knocked off. My main aim for the year ahead is to maintain the positive hands-on, approach that we have implemented across our offices and to continue to be as successful as we were in 2001."


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