Wilmington Group plc


  • Polly Avgherinos, Managing Director Sales & Leadership Academies

    ‘Phoenix worked with us to design and implement a sales training programme to suit our business needs at a time of considerable change. We were not surprised that the resulting   programme was delivered with the same energy, enthusiasm and professionalism that impressed us from the outset.'


The Background & Brief - Part 1

Phoenix’s relationship with Wilmington goes back to mid-2010 when their Publishing & Information arm invited us in for discussions around development of sales skills. Wilmington is a company with a wide portfolio of business-to-business media and data products, and Phoenix’s track record in this industry, with several members of the training team having had successful careers in media, made us an ideal potential partner.

With the organisation having undergone lots of changes in the recent past, the Senior Management Team recognised that investment was needed in the people who generate their lifeblood – sales revenue. The sales team across all divisions totalled more than 60.

In particular, Wilmington were keen to establish a benchmark level of skill across all team members, and to get everyone using the same techniques and the same language when in conversation with clients & customers, in a way that places client needs squarely at the heart of what they do.

Our Approach

Phoenix appointed four-time Hobsons ‘Salesperson of the Year’ Rachel Warshow lead consultant for the project, and following initial consultancy meetings, and time spent in the business so that she could see and hear for herself how things were currently functioning, Rachel put together a Sales Academy programme. This kicked off with a mandatory Core Sales Skils Module for all staff, in groups according to their level, followed by Negotiation Skills to address the problem of selling-on-price. Thereafter, the programme comprised of a number of additional specific modules (such as Sales Management, Web Sales, Creating Urgency, Objection Handling, and Sales for Non-Sales Staff) which were targeted at the populations that needed them, with managers nominating candidates to attend.

Wilmington have an admirable openness to learning throughout the hierarchy, and we took a top-down approach together, with the Directors of the business undertaking the key training themselves at the outset, so that they both understood and could support the content of what we rolled out. This increased the likelihood of genuine change for the better in the organisation.

The training was deliberately designed & delivered for small groups of six participants at a time, which allowed for lots of practice and individual feedback from Rachel. Participants completed action plans at the end of each module, committing to take the learning back into work and actually do things differently. Rachel also debriefed managers after the initial modules, to give her observations and recommendations for ensuring implementation and continued progress. Finally, we have always held regular review meetings to discuss the overall programme.

The Results

Participant reaction to learning on the 2010/11 Sales Academy was effusive in its praise, with every group enormously appreciative of the investment in them, and full of praise for the style of delivery and the expertise that Rachel brought to the table. In particular they really appreciated that she knows first-hand their challenges, and could provide practical solutions to every question they had.

Managers showed great buy-in to the programme too on the whole, and a general momentum of positive change started to take hold, which has continued to this day. Interestingly, in some areas implementation of the training actually proved problematic – for example where business processes dictated volumes of calls that militated against application of consultative skills. However, because reviews of the training highlighted this, it was seen as a positive opportunity for the Directors to review the status quo and consider structural/scheduling changes.

and Brief - Parts 2 & 3

Having established our reputation with the Publishing & Information side of the organisation, and achieved a clear Return on Expectation in that inaugural piece of work, we were grateful for personal referrals by senior executives both to companies outside of Wilmington, and inside as well, including to the new HR Director who came into post in late 2010. She and we immediately began discussions about a renewed Sales Academy, and also a suite of Leadership Programmes, to be rolled out in 2012 – in each case to cover all 20 of the businesses across the entire Wilmington Group, including the training and events businesses they own.

The key difference at that time was that Wilmington Group had decided to knit its businesses more closely together behind a unified set of values and an umbrella corporate identity, where previously the individual units had been more loosely associated. Thus, training was to be reflective of this, with mixed-company groupings for sales training wherever possible, and leadership training that would give Managing Directors and Senior Executives a common, aligned approach to their roles that would contribute to the ongoing streamlining of the Group.

In terms of the Sales Academy 2012, the broad aims remained the same, with a 3-day Core Sales Skills module for new starters, and role-appropriate modules for others. The differences were that we spent greater time at the outset ensuring that sales managers were equipped to support implementation of the training internally; and that we agreed to tailor content group by group, and not just course by course.

For the Leadership interventions, these were almost a year in the planning, and ultimately were designed at two levels, one a 4-module programme for Managing Directors, and the other a 3-module course for Senior Leaders. We made use of a variety of tools for each, including PRISM Personal Performance Mapping, Situational Leadership II, and The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership.

At the time of writing, these programmes are all mid-delivery, but the feedback continues to be exemplary.

What The Client Says

Phoenix and Rachel worked with us to design and implement a sales training programme to suit our business needs at a time of considerable change. We were not surprised that the resulting programme was delivered with the same energy, enthusiasm and professionalism that impressed us from the outset.

Polly Avgherinos, Managing Director, Wilmington Business Intelligence – Sales Academy

I had no expectations, but have completely changed my way of approaching every sale now. The trainer was full of energy, interested in everything that was said, helpful & supportive. Thoroughly enjoyed it and really excited to implement everything that I have learned.

Rachel Tredler, Sales Executive, Wilmington Publishing & Information, Core Sales Skills

Absolutely brilliant – full marks! Some of the best sales training I’ve ever had – very current – exactly what I needed!

Jenny Hartill – Wilmington Publishing & Information – Core Sales Skills Refresher

Fantastic interaction, feedback and patience. A positive experience which can be utilised in every aspect of life.

Greg Dagger, Sales Executive, Wilmington Publishing & Information – Core Sales Skills

Very good two-way training course, made relevant to our everyday jobs. Excellent in providing practical solutions to real-life negotiation issues – exceeded expectations

Kerry Mather, Sales Executive, Wilmington Publishing & Information – Negotiation Skills

Very interesting and enjoyable – pass on my sincere thanks to Martin. Thank you for all your work setting up this training and steering us towards some new frontiers

Tim Yeates, Business Development Director, Axco Insurance Information Services – Practical Leadership Excellence Programme

A good day and interesting to take a step back and think about natural behaviours and their appropriateness. PRISM report was certainly food for thought and has influenced my actions already.

Polly Avgherinos, Managing Director, Wilmington Business Intelligence – Inspiring Leadership Programme