Taking the hard out of selling

Taking the hard out of selling

A scheme to help businesses with their sales is paying dividends for at least two companies in the region, as Peter Jackson reports

No business can prosper – or even survive – without sales. Recognising this, the BIC has set up an interim sales director, ISD, programme.

The ISD programme is a mentoring scheme administered by DigitalCity Business and the BIC, designed to help companies form an improved sales strategy.

Working with consultant, David Anderson, the scheme provides a sales specialist to a business which could not afford to sustain such a role full time. It only has to pay the BIC a percentage of any increase in turnover after the first year.

The ISD Programme is designed to encourage self-sufficiency and set established businesses on the path for future growth and success. Focusing on effective business growth strategies and selling skills, the ISD programme was developed by the North East BIC in conjunction with David Anderson and DigitalCity Business.  

SCHEME UNLOCKED FIRM’S POTENTIAL

A Sunderland based legislation consultancy is expanding and creating jobs after taking part in the ISD programme.

Cedrec Information Systems, a 20-year-old company based at the North East BIC has seen both its workforce and client base grow since signing up to the programme.

Cedrec’s team of legal authors help to translate and simplify complex legal requirements, providing expert and relevant information to businesses across the UK, including Heinz and Viridor, one of the UK’s leading recycling, renewable energy and waste management companies.

In June 2012, the company was referred to the ISD Programme by BIC business adviser Louise Hardy who has witnessed the business boom since putting into place recommendations made by their ISD adviser, David Anderson.

Having initially undertaken a detailed review of the current company performance, and made recommendations as to how they could improve or diversify to unlock potential, Anderson worked with Cedrec directors, Steven Armstrong and Gareth Billinghurst to help them consolidate their business plan and to encourage cross selling of services.  Through the ISD Programme, Cedrec has identified how to present its services with greater clarity and client focus.

Armstrong and Billinghurst have also enhanced their ability to monitor
workforce roles and identify where key employment is needed in order to streamline business development.

Billinghurst says: “The ISD programme encouraged the company to take apart and rebuild areas that we feared we were losing focus on and allowed us to identify missed opportunities in the offshore sector. In doing so, we’ve consolidated our services, spotted trends and gained a number of high profile clients.

“In the past year we’ve also taken on four new members of staff, taking us to a 14-strong workforce and the team’s overall confidence in terms of selling our own services has gone from strength to strength.”

Daniel Watson, head of cluster development at DigitalCity Business says: “The ISD programme is not about putting a salesperson into the business but drawing the salesperson out of the business, which in turn, can deliver real benefits for businesses across the North East.

“It’s not about quick fixes, but about helping businesses to put in place sustainable, long-term strategies to improve their sales techniques and ultimately benefit their bottom line.”

SIGN-UP LED TO GROWTH

A North East digital animation company has designs on further expansion, after taking part in a scheme to spot and exploit business opportunities. Animmersion, a Teesside based visualisation business, has enjoyed significant growth since signing up to take part in the ISD programme. The company produces animations and interactives for marketing and training, as well as customer-facing products such as interactive manuals for touch screen devices.

Animmersion, a seven year old business based in Middlesbrough’s Boho building, took part in the programme and has seen business boom since putting into place recommendations made by their mentor.

David Anderson worked with Animmersion owners Dominic Lusardi and Sam Harrison to help them develop their sales plans, segment their markets and begin to put into place a solid growth plan that built upon the business’ strengths and track record.

Through the ISD Programme, Animmersion has identified a number of market specialisms, allowing the team to present its services more effectively. Lusardi and Harrison have also improved their ability to monitor sales and production activity and clarified account management and key personnel activity roles, to streamline business development.

The duo set up the business after studying together at Teesside University for a degree in visualisation. They both gained industry experience before forming Animmersion in 2006.

Lusardi says that signing up to the ISD scheme has delivered real benefits for the business, helping to focus the team’s efforts and deliver significant growth in turnover. The business has enjoyed 50% year-on-year growth over the last three years, and has seen its team expand from four to 12 since 2010.

Lusardi says: “The ISD Programme encouraged an increase in the Animmersion team’s overall confidence in terms of selling our own services.

“Confidence is absolutely priceless whenever a business is selling its products or services, and that’s one of the main things we were able to take from the programme. Improvements made to the way we manage our customers’ journey have been incredibly helpful in ensuring that we’ve retained clients. As a business, we’re now much more customer focused, which in turn increased overall annual turnover.

The programme is not about quick wins – it’s about creating a long term strategy to encourage growth – the results, for us, have been invaluable.”

As well as introducing improved sales techniques, the ISD Programme also helped
to identify opportunities for Animmersion in the healthcare sector.

The business has also landed a lucrative contract with US based Vortex Valves, a manufacturing firm from Kansas, which – along with other contract wins – has allowed it to add to its team with two new recruits.

It is also seeing growth in the oil and gas sector, where animation is used to articulate complex concepts.

Anderson, who has worked with the Animmersion team for the last three years, says he was delighted to have played a part in the growth of the business.

He adds: “Often, it takes someone from outside of a business to go in and really take a critical look at where the gaps are in a business’ sales strategy and what can be
done to improve it.

“The ISD Programme does just this. The impact that is has had for Animmersion shows that, with the right strategic support, businesses can make small changes to really optimise their performance and help them grow.”