Veterans of the big busts of the 80s know that in times of economic gloom one factor above all else is key; the quality of the sales team.
That is why The Scottish Media Awards – celebrating good media sales practice – is perhaps more relevant now than ever before.
As such, the results for the Scottish Media Awards were revealed this week at a Gala dinner at Glasgow Grosvenor Hilton, where hundreds of Scotland’s top media sales people gathered to hear the results.
The judging for this event was split into two parts, looking at both the sales teams themselves as well as the individual initiatives that these teams created for their clients.
In identifying the Media Sales Teams of the Year, The Drum polled a wide-cross section of clients, asking them to rank the sales teams that they work with on five criteria: Customer Service; Creativity; Pro-activity; Market Knowledge; as well as an Overall Service.
This year a broad spectrum of teams were nominated across the categories, culminating in the overall Sales Team of the Year award going to the Daily Record and Sunday Mail. On the following pages we reveal the full results.
Elsewhere, teams were also invited to enter papers in a range of special categories and we publish three of the winning submissions – Promotion of the year, Marketing Campaign of the Year and Innovation – starting on page 23.
Real Radio’s entry for Win A Car A Day in May – a promotion run in conjunction with The Scottish Sun and Arnold Clark – was judged to be the stand-out submission, winning the Paper of the Year accolade.
These papers, which also included Product Launch of the Year and Client Pitch of the Year, were judged by a panel of media experts including Chris Ashworth of Feather Brooksbank, Dominic Geary of Media Vest Leeds, Liz Chaplin of Mediacom North and Gordon Young of The Drum.
First of all, we kick-off with a general review of the current media climate. We invited a number of leading sales teams to describe what they believe are the key issues facing the sales business.
They have been likened to delicate little canaries, being slowing lowered down the dark, dank mines, where the wealth that drive economies is to be found. When they splutter, the rest of the world knows there is something noxious in the air.
Without doubt Scotland’s media sales teams are in the front line, and are the first to notice any downturn.
However, thoughts of cute canaries dissipate when speaking to some of the leading characters in the sales business; particularly the likes of Gavin Bruce, sales director at GMG Radio. In fact the canary analogy does not only end with his appearance. It also ends with the fact that the best sales teams are not passive. They are not going to stand still long enough to see their company’s gassed, no matter what the economic pressures are.
“The market we operate in has always been tough,” says Bruce, “We don’t just open a window and in comes the revenue. I believe our teams work hard to generate business. We are choosing not to take part in any economic downturn – we believe that we have to look for new opportunities, create fresh platforms, come up with bigger, more creative ideas and continue to focus on delivering results for our clients and the media buyers that recommend our brands,” he says.
“Achievement comes on the back of effective effort. I accept that not everybody has the same work ethic as I do, but I do ask all of the staff to work hard in their area of the business and insist that they should be focused on delivering results for advertisers.
“Quite simply, there is no room for passengers in our team. We reward our staff as individuals but add further incentives for team success – this way it is self policing as no-one wants to let their team mates down. Add the fact we believe that great ideas sell – we invest heavily in both our creative services and sponsorship, promotions and interactive teams – and our will to win (you should see how competitive our guys are at our Annual Highland Games!)”
Bruce also believes that Scotland’s sales teams have the opportunity to continue to buck the economic trend.
“If we all continue to focus on doing the right things right, we’ll continue to succeed,” he says. “If sales staff revert to simply doing business for self gain, as I have witnessed in the past, rather than offering solutions that will make a genuine difference to the client’s business, then we are in for a rocky ride.”
The future of the market may be in our hands, but Margaret Scott, agency sales manager at Scottish and Universal Newspapers, says that there have certainly been a number of challenges facing sales teams in Scotland. And despite a busy – and ultimately successful – year, these challenges look set to remain over the next 12 months.
“Growing and maintaining business in the face of ever demanding cost saving structures, have certainly been one of the biggest challenges that we have faced recently,” comments Scott. “Alongside working with decreasing budgets as clients try to split into too many portions.
“We are all having to work harder and smarter to ensure we maintain our market share but of course the economic downturn has brought an immediate slow down over the past few weeks.
“We are now having to face an ever changing world and we can see the consolidation in certain markets begin to really effect our traditional pillars so we are having to adapt along with this. However, we are seeing great results from combining our in print and on-line products, so it could be perhaps viewed more as a changing market rather than just a tougher one.
“Still, we have grown our business year on year after what had been a record year for S&UN. Our customers continue to achieve tangible results by continuing to invest in our strong local titles and products. We have always been proud of our claim that advertisers ‘sell off the page’.
“Yet we need to continue to be innovative, providing the complete package for the customer in print, on-line and direct marketing. It isn’t hard for any sales teams to stand out – they just need to work hard, so for those who go that extra mile for their customers then the future is bright.”
This is something that managing director at MediaLink, Tim Reid agrees with as he claims the biggest challenges that the market has faced this last year have been in its uncertainty. “The uncertainty has made forecasting a nightmare. It has also made
maintaining revenues in a shrinking marketplace very tough indeed. “The market is getting tougher, budgets are under pressure, media options are greater than ever before and buyers are more accountable.
“The good news, however, is that a great proposition will always sell. The never say die attitude of our terrific team has been key to enduring and excelling in the past year and we even managed to finally pick up a piece of business we have been chasing for more years than I care to remember.
“The next 12 months will largely be dictated by the economy but I suspect we will all be aggressively fighting for share of reduced budgets. To ensure that we will have to be out in the market with winning proposals.”
So, if it is the great proposition that sells, how can it be ensured that the very best staff are in place to make that great proposition? In short how do you build – and then keep – good sales staff? A task that is notoriously tricky.
“Well,” says Tim Reid, “firstly your company perception must be good, as good people want to work for good companies. Secondly, trust your gut instinct when hiring. Thirdly, you have to ensure the reality of your company lives up to the perception,
and lastly, you have to give your people autonomy and look after them – not forgetting a generous bonus scheme.”
Victoria Paterson, sales manager at Radio Clyde, believes that while the market is no doubt getting tougher and more competitive, having the right team in place has been central to her team’s achievements over the last 12 months.
“It is more vital than ever before to ensure that you employ the right people from the off and then help maintain their training and development. This becomes more vital still when, on the horizon, the marketplace is only going to get tougher before it
GMG Radio’s Gavin Bruce claims that hiring good sales staff is probably the hardest part of a sales director’s job. “Everybody is so well versed with the interview process now that identifying the right person for the role is tougher than ever.
“There seems to be a load of people who want to be account managers. I have no problem with this – win the account first and then you can manage it! JohnMyers [chief executive of GMG radio] has always said that we should work with people we like and therefore we tend to look more at what candidates are like as people – we get more right than wrong this way.
“I believe that we retain our staff by giving them a great environment to work in, we develop people in line with the business objectives, we focus on strengths whilst working on areas for improvement and, of course, we reward success.
”S&UN’s Scott adds: “We encourage all staff towork towards self improvement through appraisals linked to a personal development plan. “This results in high professional standards which new staff aspire to and existing staff deliver, consistently. ”So, while the testing times look set to continue, Scotland’s sales teams – to revert back to the canary analogy – seem as chirpy as ever.
To see a list of the winners check out the Scottish Media Awards website.