This week saw Barrett host our third Annual Sales Trends Business Breakfast at The Point, Albert Park in Melbourne. With the venue overlooking the beautiful Albert Park Lake amidst rowers rowing and the sun rising, 90 senior business and sales leaders joined us to explore this year’s Sales Trends theme of “Less is More” and hear from our special guest speakers James Thomson, companies and markets editor of The Australian Financial Review and Grant Blackley, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo.
With this his third year speaking at our event, he reflected that in the previous years he had delivered a more sobering view of the economy which was accurate for the times, and despite his comments about journalists usually being more negative and cynical, this year James titled his presentation “12 Reasons to be Cheerful” – but look out for the fine print, James wanted to assure us he is still a “hard-bitten, negative soul”:
- Interest rates are historically low. Fine print: this hasn’t stimulated the economy in any major way and it sucks for savers
- The Australian election is likely to reset houses of parliament. Fine print: elections hurt business confidence
- Unemployment is low. Fine print: there’s a trend towards under employment (casual work and fewer hours)
- Business conditions rising. Fine print: mining and retail remain weak
- Business confidence improved as well. Fine print: we’re in for tougher times ahead
- Debt is low. Fine print: growth is being driven by cost cutting still
- Technology is offering new possibilities. Fine print: it is also wrecking traditional industries
- It costs next to nothing to move around the place locally or overseas. Fine print: the falling oil prices that cause this are poison for the LNG industry (supposedly, Australia’s next big thing)
- The housing sector rolls on. Fine print: our children will be living with us until their 40s
- Profits are still growing. Fine Print: Last months have been very tough (cost cutting, job cuts)
- We’re living longer and there are many opportunities for new products and services for this stage of people’s lives. Fine print: how are we going to support these elderly citizens in the future?
- We know more than ever with the abundance of information at our fingertips.
Following James, Grant Blackley took to the podium and gave a very engaging, thought provoking presentation that had everyone in the room captivated and wanting more.
Essentially the optimist, Grant talked about many things and focused on the importance of purposeful and decisive leadership:
- Making decisions and executing on those decisions quickly and concisely;
- Knowing what business you are in and doing that very well;
- Communicating clearly to everyone in your team regularly about what it is happening and what they are there to do;
- Not sinking to the lowest common denominator of price discussions, instead creating value;
- Talking straight with teams and clients;
- Walking away from unprofitable business;
- Knowing the importance of scarcity and not flooding the market with inventory that only drives prices down and ruins profitability; and
- Leveraging technology and building a smart business that can sustain itself well into the future.
Sharing stories about his time at Channel Ten and how he is now reshaping Southern Cross Austereo, Grant gave the audience a fantastic up close and personal insight into the changing landscape of media in Australia.
Grant talked about making decisive decisions quickly and showing strong, clear leadership with sales teams, making sure they are well equipped to withstand and know how to handle the pricing pressures thrown at them from major clients.
Walking away from some of the largest businesses in Australia because the business terms were not profitable or sustainable only to win them back on his terms a few years later showed his sales team what good business looks like.
He emphasised that businesses need to be profitable and operating with reasonable margins to be good businesses. He mentioned how the current Australian TV market should look at the European TV model where they are halving the amount of advertising inventory spots on offer in each station which is now driving up the price of the inventory making it more profitable with both advertisers and viewers benefiting as well.
How? Viewers see less ads but the ads they see are more impactful which supports the theme of ‘less in more’ and everyone is happy.
Grant’s Less is More approach to business saw him nearly double the sales turnover of Network Ten in three to four years and be profitable. Since taking the helm of Southern Cross Austereo nine months ago the share price has turned around significantly, sales are growing and the business is forging new pathways forward and leading the way into an ever changing media landscape.
It was a great morning, the feedback was fantastic and it has certainly set the standard for next year’s event.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform www.salesessentials.com. Get to know her further on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.