• Tom Ritchie, Managing Director Sales Academy 

    'The whole team at Phoenix really delivered for us - the ROI speaks for itself. Immediately post the initial programme we had our best month on record – with the retention team hitting over 125% of their target – and 11 out of 12 months post-training have shown significant gains, with an overall net growth of more than 30% since we started working with them.’



Cision came to Phoenix as a referral from our mutual friends at Wilmington plc, where we had been delivering some very well received sales training. Cision, a global company, was emerging from several years of turbulence and a major restructuring in a rapidly evolving PR tools marketplace. However, they had arrived at a place where they knew that in terms of product theirs was the best integrated PR Workflow software on the market, and armed with this competitive edge they were looking to reestablish the company in terms of prominence and market share.

Practically speaking, they were initially looking to establish a uniform and fit-for-purpose sales function at Cision, with a consultative methodology that would be effective for selling software-as-a-service to new, repeat, and returning customers. Negotiation was to be a key component also.

Additionally, they asked for help from the outset with planning for effective implementation of the new skills – in other words, what could they do to ensure that behaviours really changed for the better, and that improvements were sustained and not simply a flash in the pan.

Our Approach

Because we are based less than 2 miles away from Cision’s UK offices, we were able from the outset to work with them as partners, offering scoping meetings face-to-face, and taking time to truly understand the business proposition and how the Sales Director and MD wanted the sales team to be presenting it.

Taking a joined-up view of the requirements, following consultancy we put together a proposal for a Sales Academy, which addressed all the key skills they needed, including Consultative Telephone Sales Skills, Negotiation Skills, Objection Handling, and Closing. Groups were kept small, a maximum of six, to allow for in-depth understanding, plenty of personal attention from our Learning Consultant, and practice throughout.

Of particular encouragement was the fact that Senior Management were willing to embrace the project. Directors involved themselves with enthusiasm in the initial stages, attending the core training personally so that they could understand exactly what the new approach entailed, and how it differed from what they had before, before we rolled it out to the sales staff.

And this was what really set Cision apart from the outset: that they had an appreciation of the need for a joined-up approach in which they as a company, we as expert resource, and the participants themselves should work together in pursuit of the desired results.

The Results

The results achieved at Cision were very gratifying for everyone involved. Immediately post-training they achieved their best month on record in the Retention team, and in the 10 months from when we started working with them the company saw a 30% net growth in overall revenue.

The fact that this was achieved is down to a truly collaborative effort, and the credit goes to all parties – training company, individuals trained, and Cision’s enlightened management.

It’s worth exploring that this is what has really impressed us at Cision: the fact that the Directors took responsibility for their side of our partnership, and came up with a truly interconnected approach to implementation of the learning they invested in with us.

By implementation we mean what happens internally in an organisation after training. It's the process by which learning is embedded into the team or the company once the training delivery is over, and it's absolutely critical to the success of any training initiative, for without it the learning will not take hold systematically and sustain its effects.

The key people when it comes to implementation of Sales Training are the line managers who have responsibility for the day-to-day supervision of the sales team. They need to recognise their paramount role in supporting the learning and providing the environment in which it can take hold – if they do that then this month's innovation will easily become next month's habit. It’s often cited that a new habit forms in roughly 21 days; so you can see how it's essential to keep the team on-track and practising what they've learned daily within that initial period until new best-practice techniques are embedded.

Cision’s Sales Director, Tom Ritchie, as soon as he understood what our expert sales trainers were going to be delivering to his people, put enormous energy and thought into designing, with Phoenix’s help, processes that enshrined the new sales methodology at the heart of everything his team did. For example, he committed to take the time each month to listen to half a dozen sales calls made by every one of the team, noting evidence on the key elements of the sale (attitude, knowledge, structure, and questioning) and giving a 'score' for each accordingly. He then gave feedback and coaching off the back of these observations, in order to keep the sales people focusing on what would make the greatest difference to their results in the long term. In addition, he oversaw the creation of Product Sheets that laid out information for the sales team to reference, all reflecting the language & structure of the training. Negotiation grids were created which made clear which variables were preferable to use when striking a deal for each product. And the team were helped and incentivized on a daily basis to apply all the learning, with a newly formulated commission structure that rewarded 50% on the right behaviours, not simply on results.

As a result Cision created a powerful consistency of approach which acted like a virtuous circle, with each sales person constantly reminded of best practice by simply hearing their peers around them.

But there's another element to this too, and it is that the organisation as a whole has embraced the new approach, and decided to weave it into the DNA of the company: from marketing materials to product discussions to customer service, the language and structure of their new sales method is constantly reflected and reinforced. Thus, everything is pointed in the same direction, and there is very little friction or dissonance.

Since the initial Sales Academy, our partnership with Cision has gone from strength to strength, with further sales training as they have restructured and brought new people in; training for the entire Customer Service function; executive coaching for key senior personnel; courses for their German sister company, and now a modular Leadership programme.

I had not previously worked with Phoenix and it was a big step for Cision to entrust them with building the skills of its Sales personnel. The fact our relationship has since gone from strength to strength is testament to the quality of training and level of support Phoenix provides.
What impresses me about the Phoenix Team is that they really listen to you, and strive to deliver more than what is simply asked of them. They take time to understand the business culture and care about building that understanding into the structure of the training. They don’t just appoint anyone to deliver training; they appoint the person with the best fit for your organisation. It makes a positive difference to the way learning is imparted and how it is received by delegates.
Cision will continue to work with Phoenix to build the skills of its customer facing personnel, as well as collaborating with them to develop leadership capability, both now and in the future.
Mark Slater, Head of HR