Hugo Mahoney was appointed to the position of Sales and Director of Marketing for Lexis Nexis three years ago; he was aware it would be a challenging task. Lexis Nexis had been selling journals, books as well as other documents to legal or tax specialists for more than 200 years. Now, simply put, it was time to make a change.
“We have a great track record in selling these traditional types of information,” Mahoney says. “Our goal over the last three years was to keep up with the best in this area while also advancing our technological offerings. We provide large corporations with data that are integrated into their workflow. This basically means that an accountant, instead of needing to search for the data he needs in our journals, is able to access the information on your PDA.”
These contracts are definitely essential pieces of business and could generate significant revenue over the long term in the long run for Lexis Nexis, so it is clear why they are determined to grow this side of their business. But when Mahoney was hired three years ago, it was evident that it wouldn’t be simple to move to the new location.
“We’ve required a transformation of our entire team,” he says. “We had a group of salespeople who had been involved in transactional selling. They were fantastic at selling books. However, they had a difficult time when it came to interacting with senior corporate decision-makers and understanding their needs, providing appropriate solutions, and establishing the necessary rapport. My mission was to alter the employees, the processes, and the overall culture of the marketing and sales department.”
Life on the rough side
It was a job to which his experience to this point led to Mahoney ideal for. “I’ve always been attracted by sales, which is a tough field,” he claims, and his resume appears to confirm the truth. When he graduated from university twenty years ago, he entered the labor market in a recession that was similar to what we’re experiencing today. He was sure he wanted to be a salesperson; however, the most typical company that hired salespeople in the late 1980s was the pharmaceutical industry.
Then, he began cold calling in the grueling industry of pharmaceutical sales before transferring to Coca-Cola to manage their sales team of an underperforming division located in the South of England. There aren’t many sales jobs that can be more competitive as sales for pharmaceuticals, but in the beverage vending business, Mahoney found one.
He was at Coca-Cola for a few years, shifting to international accounts, and eventually selling to bars, pubs, and restaurants, and then joined Energis. It was a telecommunications service that was in trouble during the dot-com boom, which was when Archie Norman was assembling a turnaround management team. Mahoney was there when he first began to become fascinated by the process of transformation of companies.
The energy was transferred to Cable & Wireless for 2005 shortly after Mahoney was transferred to his current job. Mahoney is now the head of an entire team of 150 salespeople and 150 employees in the areas of PR, marketing, and customer education.
Finding the most suitable people
He is convinced that three years on, even though he isn’t at the ultimate goal of where the future will make his department, however, he is making progress. He states: “We’ve created a fresh, energetic, and vibrant environment and, on every metric, we see significant growth. We are part of Reed Elsevier; we don’t release individual business unit results; however, I can tell you that we’ve increased our activities by 30 percent. This means that people are working 30% more and which means more pipelines as well as input.”
He says he was able to achieve the increase in activity by telling people this was what he was expecting from them. “If you place the bar higher, then people are likely to be able to meet that goal,” he says.
He also has focused his efforts on attracting the best salespeople. “The performance of our salespeople is essential,” he says. “We have a strict selection process and do not just look for formal aspects like knowing the market, an aptitude in networking, and exceptional communication skills, but also certain traits. We seek individuals who are interested in how their clients work and how they earn money, and how we can help them earn more. We are looking for people who are motivated and open to new ways of approaching sales, who are willing to take calculated risks and display an urgency to what they are doing.”
How do you get to the top?
In addition to the traits that, to his mind, define the best salespeople from their regular counterparts as well as those who go from simple transactions to relationship-based sales, He also offers some additional tips for those who wish to rise to the top of the ladder in the sales industry.
“Don’t be afraid of doing a hard job,” he says. “I’m there at 7.20 every day despite being from Oxfordshire. There’s no substitute for the hard work in this sport. I do not believe in lucky breaks.”
He goes on to say: “You should also get yourself a mentor or coach. Find someone with about ten or fifteen years of experience more than you, and talk to them frequently for advice on your current situation as well as the direction you’re supposed to take and the choices you need to make.”
“Remember that the work and life of a professional must be about continuous growth,” says Mahoney. “You will never be successful based on results from last year. So, take advantage of every opportunity to learn and learning that you have the chance to. Also, don’t be afraid to make use of the personal networks you have built up. As I started here, we went around each management and demanded that they write down who they knew who were in management positions within large corporate organizations. It produced a great list of potential employers for us.”
Looking towards the future, Mahoney knows he has plenty of work to complete in Lexis Nexis. The first priority is to get through the recession. “We did not anticipate it,” he admits. “Who did? There’s no way to get away from the fact that it’s a tough job to find. Our clients are looking to achieve more in less, so we must demonstrate the value we provide. In the end, they’re looking for us to convince them to justify their expense for their colleagues. We have to be ready to meet the need.”
He concludes by noting that the recession isn’t a negative thing. “It opens up fresh opportunities,” He explains. “Many agreements that competitors have kept because their customers were unwilling to consider alternatives are now being offered for sale. If and when this happens, we’ll be there ready to demonstrate to our customers that we are knowledgeable about their business and how our array of products will benefit them.”