As 2009 draws to a close and the minds of sales professionals up and down the UK begin to focus on what lies ahead in 2010, we go back to ten of the people we’ve spoken to over the past year to find out how the past 12 months were for them and what they are expecting from the year ahead.
1) Kevin Dougall, MD of AP HR Solutions
“Possibly the greatest challenge that I faced in 2009 was in my work as a coach. A lot of people were extremely despondent, some possibly even clinically depressed, about what was happening around them. “Survival” was the most frequently used word and they generally felt out of control.
It was extremely hard work helping them to see that, if they viewed it in a different context, the recession would actually present many opportunities, both commercial and cultural. I’m glad to say though that I did have many successes, and I’d say my most significant success in 2009 was to help those people identify, and then benefit from, the many opportunities that have existed in this difficult economy.
I’m really not sure what to expect from 2010. However I do know that whatever does happen, by viewing it in the right context, I will be able to turn it into an opportunity.”
2) Richard White, founder of TheAccidentalSalesman.com
“My sales went up by 32% in 2009. This presented me with the challenge of balancing the demands of one major client with ensuring ongoing lead generation. It’s so easy to fall into the feast-or-famine trap.
In 2009 I won my first two well-paid keynote speaking engagements under my
Accidental Salesman brand. It was a small but very significant step and I’m very optimistic about the year ahead. Launching my book on Soft Selling will lead to lots more keynote speaking engagements and make it easier to sell into bigger technical services firms.
By the end of 2010 I aim to be billing £25,000 a month from a mixture of keynote speaking, consulting, and training/coaching. I will have taken on at least two licensees under The Accidental Salesman brand and have started to develop five new major accounts.”
3) Nadeem Hussain, Sales Director at Veritape
“In 2009 we faced the problem of how to maintain forward momentum in new business whilst addressing the account management requirements of an economic downturn. We managed it pretty well though and our sales rose by 18%. A large part of that success was down to successful positioning in a precarious market and the resultant wins in niche areas.
Recent coverage in The Times, Daily Mail and some industry specific publications has put us firmly on the map and I am confident that in 2010 we will be able to challenge the larger players for business at all levels.
We’re aiming for 30% growth, and we will continue to adapt to the changing market whilst maintaining a strategic focus on establishing ourselves as a key player in the industry. In the technology sector, business development is always about staying in tune with new technologies and how they are being used.”
4) Simon Thompson, Head of Design at API Laminates
“We trade in the tobacco, drinks, multimedia, cosmetics and confectionery markets and sales are down across all sectors by an average of 25%. In 2009 our clients were reluctant to spend money on re-branding and product launches. This left us with a base line of work that is largely commoditised.
However, we learnt to cope. We might have suffered our lowest sales value month in recent history, but in that month we remained profitable. This suggests that costs are under control and that the business is in good shape to handle the downturn in sales.
I think 2010 will be better. As budgetary restrictions are eased and brand owners realise that the customer demand is recovering, they will look to support their product ranges, and we’ll start picking up work again.”
5) Kevin Dunbar, National Business Development Manager at Hays
“We have seen a welcome improvement in the recruitment of sales professionals throughout 2009. At the beginning of the year we faced reluctance from professionals to move, which created challenges for us; the jobs existed but professionals viewed it as too risky. As the months have passed, confidence has started to return to the market and we are increasingly seeing candidates - both those in and out of work – seeking new employment.
We expect further growth for 2010, particularly within business services, IT, telecoms and the construction & property sectors. We also anticipate that the senior end of the market will pick up next year. For us, maintaining customer service levels will be key in 2010, as more and more sales professionals seek advice on their next career move and look to recruiters who have established links with employers.”
6) Craig Hepburn, Director of Social Strategy for Open Text
“The global economic slowdown presented a significant challenge with organisations scrutinising their spending and delaying or cancelling projects. However, our financial year ends on June 30th and revenues then were up by 8% on the previous fiscal year.
Open Text expects the market for enterprise content management systems to continue to grow in 2010, with the adoption of social media tools growing as organisations recognise the value that can be delivered through such initiatives.”
7) Steve Thomson, Associate Coach at Unlimited Potential
“Sales are down 30% for the same period last year, which is purely down to
postponed decision-making. We had a lot of proposals in the pipeline, but
the decisions kept getting put off.
It put the emphasis onto cost cutting, but despite this we brought an extra business development person on board. That’s now paying off as 2010 is looking very positive.
Sales are now picking up and by the end of 2010 I would expect to see them slightly up on what we achieved in 2008. This means that we will have had to put back our five year plan of growth by two years.”
8) Chris Sykes, CEO at Volume Group:
“Our sales rose by 21% in 2009 and our greatest success was the global roll-out of our Campaign Builder product for Dell. Looking ahead, we’re planning to increase our headcount by 30% in the next year, and this time next year I expect us to have a major consumer brand on our books. However throughout it all we’ll have to continue to balancing growth of demand and resource with restricted client budgets.”
9) Kerrin McPhie, Sales Director at BT Convention Centre Liverpool
“As the world economy went into recession the corporate meetings market was severely affected. Corporate clients not only tightened their belts but also played safe, not wanting to try new venues for fear of increased costs and unknown reactions from their delegates.
So, I think growing our sales by 2.5% between 2008 and 2009 has been quite an achievement. There are many highlights from the last year. We hosted the NHS Confederation, our biggest event to date, and will host it again next year. The TUC held its congress in Liverpool in September. And last but not least we secured the annual Labour Party Conference for September 2011.
Signs of economic recovery are beginning to show in Liverpool, particularly from the corporate market. Both enquiries and bookings are picking up momentum. We have recently secured an international banking client event for this year, and this, combined with our solid association base, will make for a successful 2010.”
10) Liz Jackson, MD, Great Guns Marketing
“Overall our sales were down by 10% in 2009 but this was mainly due to our new business sales taking a hit in the first six months of the year. Our renewal business has steadily grown throughout the year and in the last three months new business has started to reach the same levels as before the recession started.”
I think our toughest challenge was helping our field sales people acquire the commercial awareness needed to understand the business challenges companies face when trading through a recession. Also we found that budgets were being signed off at much more senior levels and so we have been selling very much at board level. This was a challenge for some of our more junior field representatives.
We have won some of the UK’s leading brands this year and have found that, once businesses acclimatised to the new trading conditions, they became very serious about selling proactively through them and so this has led to us winning some great long term commitments.
We expect to grow through 2010 and have invested a huge amount of our budget on marketing and sales. Our belief is that if we grow market share now when others are battening down the hatches, this will give us a chance to steal an opportunity and take advantage of sleeping lions as it were. We have recruited some amazing talent into our organisation over the last few months, which will ensure that we will retain the business we win.
We have targeted ourselves at 50% growth for 2010.”