The Sales Academy – Nurturing the very best sales talent!
Finding a job in today’s competitive market can be tough, especially without lots of previous work experience to list on your CV, or talk about at interviews.
Sometimes people just need a window of opportunity to prove they’re keen and able, and at Friday Media Group we’ve developed a programme that nurtures raw sales talent and really helps people bridge that vital experience gap.
In the summer of 2013 FMG set up the Sales Academy, today managed by Jo Chubb in Sayers Common and Hannah Tillotson in Preston. The Academy enables Friday Media Group to grow a talent pool of sales professionals, while providing local people with the chance to build a sustainable, rewarding career.
Essentially we try out and train people in sales and promote them quickly if they come through successfully!
How it works
At Sayers Common, job hopefuls are initially hired to work within the Sales Academy where they are set sales related tasks such as appointment setting, offering free trials, and qualifying leads. This is an entry level sales role. People are hired for a three month probationary period and a salary is paid with the chance to earn commission – so there’s a real incentive to meet targets from the outset. The opportunity gives them a solid grounding in techniques such as building rapport on the phone, closing a sale, and working to targets, says Jo Chubb (pictured left). “We are always searching for our next ‘sales stars’ and so we tend to hire people who are energetic, confident and articulate, who will do a good job of setting appointments with local businesses for our busy field sales teams, and respond well in a busy sales environment.”
If new starters hit achieve targets they can progress on to the next stage of training, and as vacancies for account manager roles come up, there’s the chance to complete a full training week at the Pembroke office, and continue their journey to becoming fully-fledged sales professionals.
Those who are committed will ultimately be given a job on the sales team as an account manager or field sales representative, when a suitable vacancy arises. “Of course it’s not for everyone, but we feel that people are given a good chance. If they’re not getting results, people tend to understand and leave as friends,” says Jo. Her view is that if individuals have a good personality, motivation and perseverance the foundations are in place for success in sales. “We can teach everything else.”
Mapping out a sales career path
In Preston the Sales Academy members are offering new clients free trials so that newly launched recruitment websites are filled with content, and client relationships are built up over time. “This has proved a great training ground because new starters are learning how to introduce themselves on the phone, ask questions and build rapport, but because they are dealing with free trials its a relatively easy introduction to sales,” says Hannah Tillotson (pictured left). “The important thing is that, from the start, they are given targets, which helps them learn how to handle a selling environment from day one.”
Preston-based Sales Academy trainees work through a progress chart, to see if they are hitting training expectations and meeting the desired KPIs. They work through three distinct stages of training which together will take 9 months to a year to complete. “By stage three they will take on 30% of the trials that have been set up, to manage these as their own ongoing accounts,” says Hannah. “Graduating from the Sales Academy is a big achievement, but support will continue once people progress onto a job as a sales representative. So far our Sales Academy joiners seem to be enjoying the process, largely because we try hard to make the learning process fun and inclusive. Also they appreciate seeing a career path clearly mapped out.”
At both sites Jo, Hannah and colleagues work closely with the Sales Academy trainees, giving plenty of support and feedback. In Preston, Erik Pollitt will be running a special sales training course on site for Sales Academy members, so that they spend one day a week focusing on learning new skills.
Good for the community
The Sales Academy is building good relationships with local Job Centre Plus offices, so people with the potential for sales are regularly referred on to Friday Media Group. The company is constantly looking out for future sales stars by advertising the Sales Academy and seeking personal recommendations for people who appear to have a natural talent for sales. Friday Media Group is becoming known as a great place to work, where employees are provided with valuable training and genuine career opportunities.
Good for business
The Sales Academy is already proving an efficient way of recruiting and retaining sales talent. While new starters work to set appointments or sell advertising trials, time is freed up for the experienced sales staff to get on with their core tasks. When opportunities arise, there’s in-house talent – fully-trained and familiar with the products and the company culture – ready to take up the reins.
The Sayers Common Appointment Setting team has proved itself to be a successful addition to the company and a useful ‘proving ground’ for new starters from other sales teams. In 2013 alone the Field Sales teams pitched 815 businesses through the appointments that the Sales Academy team made. Seven people will have come through the programme by the end of 2013.
In Preston the first four Sales Academy ‘graduates’ should all progress onto sales rep roles early next year, and there will be four more people coming through the talent pipe by the summer. The expectation is that at least eight newly trained sales professionals will complete the Sales Academy every year, and go on to be real assets to the company, while earning great money for themselves along the way.
Sales Success Case Study
Ryan McShee joined Friday Media Group in June 2012, aged 18, having completed a college course in carpentry, and worked briefly in the construction industry and catering. He was working part-time as an appointment setter for a home improvement sales operation, and liked the idea of working full time in sales, when he spotted an appointment setter job at FMG in the Friday-Ad.
He impressed at interview, and very soon proved his worth as a focused and motivated member of the Sayers Common appointment setting team.
With ongoing training, good incentives and by working closely with the Leadspring and Friday Ad sales reps he was setting appointments for, Ryan achieved excellent booking rates which led to a high percentage of conversions. Seen by managers as a future ‘sales star’, within a year Ryan was offered the role of Account Manager on Farming Ads. He took this up in June 2013, following a week of intensive training in Pembroke with FMG Sales Training Manager, Michael Owen. Here skills such as dealing with objections and rejections, how to open conversations and how to close sales were covered. In his first month in the new role Ryan achieved 140% of the sales target he’d been set.
“He’s a natural salesman, who picks things up very quickly and has the personality and perseverance to do very well in sales,” says Sales Academy manager Jo Chubb.
Ryan enjoys the financial rewards of the job, as well as the teamwork and the satisfaction of closing sales, and hitting and exceeding targets. “The training I’ve had at Friday Media Group has given me the confidence and the skill set to do the job well,” he says. “Starting out can be challenging. Appointment setting is quite intense and you have to make a lot of calls, and get used to rejection. But once you build some confidence and learn to relax and use the right skills, it all falls into place and gets easier.”