Hitting the headlines

Alain Charles Publishing was facing a major conundrum: how to boost global revenues in an incredibly tough media climate.

Alain Charles Publishing was facing a major conundrum: how to boost global revenues in an incredibly tough media climate.


When Nick Fordham surveyed his global publishing business in 2010, he saw a strong portfolio of titles run by an energetic and committed team. With bases in the UK, Dubai and India, Alain Charles Publishing (ACP) was well positioned to negotiate the global financial crisis successfully. However, there was a major concern for Fordham that could undermine the business if unchecked – sales revenues simply weren’t strong enough.

Fordham felt the need for extra help and, through a recommendation, contacted sales consultancy Vertical Sales. He met the company’s Cathy Bennett in July 2010 to discuss the situation. “We initially brought Cathy in to work with the UK management team to improve sales performance,” Fordham explains. “However, we soon found that she could benefit the business in other important areas too.”

First, Bennett was keen to get to know ACP. “I wanted to get under the skin of the business to find out what approach would be most effective in growing revenues,” she explains.

Following a thorough assessment of the company, where she gauged its overall strategy and worked with Fordham, sales director Pallavi Pandey and UK sales manager Steve to identify specific success criteria for the sales team, Bennett began working directly with them in September 2010. Although she immediately focused on improving performance, she had one eye on the future. It was one thing boosting revenues, but to keep the momentum going Bennett identified three other areas ACP needed to address:

  1. Recruiting and retaining the right salespeople
  2. Effectively introducing new starters (onboarding)
  3. Managing the sales team effectively


Honing talent

To get to know the sales team better, Bennett carried out the Vertical ACE Audit, involving individual meetings with each member to examine their Attitude, Competencies and Experience using the success criteria Bennett had previously drawn up. It also helped identify any skills gaps, informing the business’s recruitment needs and specifying the attributes of the right candidates. After all, bringing key people into the team could significantly boost sales. However, Bennett saw real potential in the existing team.

“Effective recruitment is vital, but it’s much quicker and cheaper to boost sales – and more motivational – to get the best out of your existing team,” she explains. “ACP’s UK sales staff had many strengths, so I began working with them to bring these to the fore. Due to the niche nature of the business, the frequent use of phone selling, and the varied levels of development of ACP’s team, I used one-to-one sales call listening rather than group training. I then gave coaching feedback based around the live calls. I also ran targeted group sessions to hone the team’s skills in critical areas, such as email proposals, to make them more effective.”

Bennett also oversaw ACP’s first global sales conference in February 2011, bringing the entire team together in Dubai. It gave her the chance to accelerate the process of improving revenues. The key objectives focused on communication and teamwork, as well as providing training and motivation. And it had the desired effect, with one team member commenting: “Now I can go out more confident about my presentations and pitches because my understanding is 80% better than before.”

Fordham was certainly impressed. “It was a very useful glimpse of the future,” he recalls. “It showed what we needed to do as an organisation.”


Strong results

The fruits of Bennett’s work were impressive. In the first calendar year, the UK team achieved a 30% increase in sales revenue. Clearly her tailored approach was paying dividends. One individual, an experienced and valued member of the team whose performance had been suffering, delivered nearly as much business in three months as he had in the previous 12.

With the UK sales team moving in the right direction, Bennett turned her attention to ACP’s overseas operations. “It was vital to make the improvements I’d made sustainable across the business,” she says. “So I set about ensuring the sales managers could continue my work by involving them in the one-to-one call listening and coaching, and performance and pipeline management, along with effective recruitment and onboarding.”

UK sales manager Steve believes Bennett has been instrumental in honing his approach. “Cathy has given me the tools to assess what needs to be done and the confidence to put it in place effectively,” he says.

With the foundations laid for a successful and sustainable sales operation, Fordham is delighted his decision to bring Bennett into the business has been such a success.

“Cathy has helped galvanise and focus the sales operation with respect to both the existing team and recruitment,” he says. “She has also brought our global team closer together and helped us get through a very tough economic period. The fact is that we have out-performed our competitors.”

Although ACP is still operating in a tough marketplace, Fordham and his team are facing the future with confidence. “We have far better key performance indicators,” he says, “are much better at spelling out what we require from people, and our onboarding process.