Engaging talent and culture, the keys to merger success
With digital disruption, the war for talent, cost pressures, and constantly evolving customer needs, the Australian Media industry represents a rapidly changing landscape. As a consequence of growth through targeted acquisitions over the last decade, a large media client of Blue Seed’s built a significant market presence, with a variety of brands and platforms addressing diverse customer needs. The challenge however, became a question of “how do we maintain the strength and diverse nature of our brands and the markets they serve, without them directly competing with each other?”
Advertising sales teams from different brands found themselves working on competing bids for the same clients. Instead of having access to cross-brand campaigns through one point-of-contact, they were forced to shift between competing advertising solutions, proposed in isolation.
To address this challenge, our client made a bold move to merge the competing sales teams into a single sales division working across multiple newspapers, digital and magazine brands. This not only eliminated competition between brands but enabled greater collaboration for customer-centred campaign solutions. Ad sale pitches, now leverage all brands to give their customers’ businesses greater reach and depth of engagement with their customers. The collaboration that ensued as a result of being co-located and integrated, also meant that every pitch leveraged the brand and customer knowledge of a more diverse workforce, generating creative, cohesive ideas and strategies more closely aligned to customer needs.
To further drive collaboration and leverage their multi-skilled workforce, the Chief Commercial Officer implemented an entirely team-based variable remuneration framework, to ensure sales people were rewarded for customer and team input and outcomes, rather than independent efforts alone.
Blue Seed was chosen to identify and manage impacts and risks associated with transitioning to the new operating model. For each aspect, Blue Seed recommended and delivered a variety of actions to develop and reinforce the bridge from old to the new organisation, including:
- Talent retention: high performing sales people see change as a risk to their status and rewards and they often vote with their feet. To mitigate this, we designed and delivered a communication plan to emphasise the “what’s in it for me” as well as the overall customer and business benefits. In addition, we ensured key leaders hosted open forums as well as anonymous Q&A sessions to draw out and address any individual concerns early.
- Leadership Alignment: one of Blue Seed’s Principal Consultants led weekly, action-driven steering committees to align the leadership team to the change plan, creating a powerful guiding coalition able to address staff concerns with precision timing and accuracy.
- Culture Committee: Blue Seed designed and established an ongoing (BAU) cross-team committee tasked with generating ideas to enhance collaboration across teams and to build knowledge, skills and engagement of all sales people. We also appointed a leadership sponsor to lead the committee and share their feedback with the Chief Commercial Officer’s leadership team, further ensuring alignment between leaders, organisation, strategy and frontline.
- Maintaining Revenue Focus through Change: uncoordinated attempts to change sales organisations inevitably result in distracted sales people, less time in the market, less customer focus and drops in revenue (especially when the best sales people resign). Having a Blue Seed Principal Consultant lead the initiative with visible sponsorship from the chief commercial officer meant that all people knew what was happening when, who was impacted and how, as well as what support was available.
The sales team merger was regarded as highly successful with sales revenue exceeding targets through the transitional months despite the change process and talent retention rates remaining consistent with other months. Customer and market feedback on the new model was highly positive. Several leaders attributed this success to the impact of Blue Seed partnering with them to coordinate the change in a structured and sensible manner.