Remploy Managed Services called in an Interim Sales Executive and coach to give impetus to a new venture.
50 year-old Mark Linnell trained as a soldier before moving into the wholesale and retail food sectors with 7-Eleven and then Wal-Mart’s food wholesaler, becoming sales director of Wal-Mart wholesale company McLane & Co in the UK. He then set up his own sales consultancy that brokered strategic alliances. His clients included Securicor, Siemens, Exel Logistics, Hays, Conoco, Statoil, Q8 and Budgens. A growing interest in business development led him to specialise in sales and sales coaching consultancy, as an interim manager.
Getting its foot in potential clients’ doors was not a problem that Remploy Managed Services faced when it was set up in 2003. Because of the organisation’s expertise in the disability field, most companies are receptive to approaches. “It’s a way of ticking the ‘diversity’ or ‘corporate social responsibility’ box,” says general manager Roy Easthope.
Unfortunately, however, as the organisation found to its cost, just because prospects don’t tell you to “get lost” doesn’t mean that they are genuinely interested. “You get lots of procrastination before you realise that most companies just don’t understand the inherent benefits,” says Easthope.
Remploy, a not-for-profit organisation and the largest employer of disabled people in Europe, established Remploy Managed Services to increase the employment opportunities of disabled people by providing fully supported and managed teams of Remploy employees to work at clients’ sites.
It applied this outsourcing proposition first to the monitoring of town centre CCTV systems, and became market leader in less than two years by changing the rules in the sector to provide better career development for workers and thereby increasing overall operating performance.
It then turned its attention to industry growth areas such as distribution, food and drink, where market tests had indicated considerable labour problems such as high absenteeism, high staff turnover, poor performance and low morale. It developed its ‘Enterprise’ proposition and formed a business development team to take it to market.
By acting as an honest objective broker Mark was able to upskill the sales force far more effectively through coaching than any sheep-dip-type training courses could have done
The proposition seemed persuasive. As Mark Linnell, the Impact Executives interim Easthope recruited in May 2004 to give structure and added momentum to the initiative, puts it: “Why wouldn’t a company like Next, for instance, take on five to ten people who are fully supported and managed, without incurring any recruitment or selection costs, and at no risk to themselves?”
But early progress was slow, and Easthope admits: “We probably focused so much of our energy and activity on setting the business up and developing the proposition that we failed to address the issue of whether or not we had the appropriate level of sales expertise.”
But with a hungry board, they couldn’t afford to sit around, and as Remploy was already a sophisticated user of interim executive expertise, Easthope had no hesitation in contacting Impact Executives who fielded Linnell, a sales and business development expert-cumexecutive coach, to help the organisation “shorten its learning curve,” as Easthope puts it.
Linnell first helped the business development team hone the unique selling proposition of Remploy Managed Services and then refined the sales process accordingly. One of his first objectives was to help devise a system that actively disqualified the time wasters. He then worked on his own for three months as a ‘super sub’, to prove to Easthope that the concept worked, and developed several new contracts.
Linnell then began to coach the three business development managers. “I encouraged them to work at this as though it was their own business, because without that they would not have been hungry enough to be successful,” says Linnell. “They have moved from a position where they were having six or eight meetings a month to arranging 20 meetings a month.
The Business Development Managers also ensure they talk to the person with the key decision-making authority, and that that person demonstrably needs, wants and can afford what Remploy Managed Services is offering. And the results are coming through.”
Linnell has also helped the team identify and recruit a senior business development manager and helped coach him into his role.
“By acting as an honest objective broker Mark was able to upskill the sales force far more effectively through coaching than any sheep-dip-type training courses could have done,” says Easthope. But he claims the coaching has been “200% more effective” as a result of Linnell’s having proved that the concept sells. “When a guru is seen to get his hands dirty, that is a very powerful motivator,” he concludes.