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B2B Sales Turnaround Case Study: Print & Digital Media Advertising - Multi-Division

Print & Digital Media Advertising – Multi-Division




The difference between an advisory consultancy and an implementation consultancy is that the former identifies problems and makes recommendations to management who will implement those recommendations as they see fit. An implementation consultancy, on the other hand, identifies problems, makes recommendations, and implements those recommendations in an interim management capacity. While advisory firms typically make sound recommendations, the message sometimes becomes encrypted between the boardroom and the field; often resulting in less than desirable impact. Sage Warfield is a sales implementation consultancy that orchestrates its recommendations in the field until the targeted result is obtained. We work with one division at a time, and maintain our focus on each sales group before advancing to the next challenge. This is the situation presented in this multi-division turnaround case study.


Division #1




This sales division of a Fortune 500 company sells print advertising to small businesses in a four state area. The 50+ person team consists of both inside and outside sales reps and managers who sell directly to decision-makers in a simple sales environment throughout a four-state territory. The division is currently the worst performing division in the US.




Division sales personnel turnover exceeds 80%, however, none of that turnover is in sales management. The negative attitudes and frustration in the office atmosphere is palpable. The sales force does not fully understand the buyer’s value proposition, and lacks an understanding of the sales process. Although capable and experienced, the sales management team lacks a sense of urgency toward the situation; functioning as passengers aboard a cruise ship instead of captains aboard a battleship. Although sales management spends most of its time conducting administrative tasks, there are few sales management systems or processes in place. Top line sales results are dismal, and threaten to worsen if turnover cannot quickly be throttled down. With the average rep being paid at just 25% to objective on a rolling twelve-week compensation plan, this is a significant challenge.




Since the company depends on top-line sales results, the turnover must be drastically reduced immediately. To do this, we will focus on: 1.) Physical & psychological environment to change attitude and behavior; 2.) The sales process; 3.) Financial incentives; 4.) Sales management leadership.


For the launch, the office is decorated with over five hundred balloons and multi-colored streamers to create a celebratory atmosphere. Reps are advised that the job they had yesterday is no longer here; however, we are offering them the opportunity to have a new job filled with fun, excitement, recognition, financial rewards, and personal success. We create a vision of becoming a championship team, and show them how we are going to accomplish this goal. We sell them on their importance to the buyer, and the significant role that they play in their lives. The sales process is presented, and the “why” factor is explained for each step of the sale. Bridges and transitions are explained and implemented to carry them from point A to point B throughout the process.

At the sales manager’s kickoff meeting, priorities are clarified: Stop turnover, develop talent, coach to the process, raise performance expectations, and provide an environment conducive to a high performance sales team. In essence, the message is delivered to “make your team better because you are their leader”. A binder-driven sales management system is implemented and sales rep field coaching is mandated between 9AM – 4 PM. All administrative tasks are completed either before or after field coaching.


Since we cannot usurp the company’s national sales compensation plan for this one division, we need to be creative in order to get reps paid quickly before turnover threatens to dismantle the entire division. We will cut the sales objectives in half so that reps can quickly flip their twelve-week compensation average into positive income to sustain the reps family survival needs. Additionally, we implement daily and weekly sales contests in the form of prizes to create energy and positive behavioral change. A lighted message board is installed at the entry to the inside sales floor featuring daily sales successes as well as previous reporting period top performers.




The sales results increased by over 500% in the first eleven weeks together, and the team was the top performing team in the nation for the remainder of the year. The following year, the team led the nation in sales results for the entire year, and was crowned as company's national champions. Turnover was reduced to 8%. Due to its newly established reputation as an exciting job with excellent compensation, this became the premier sales position in the area with hundreds of highly qualified resumes flooding into the office. The worst-to-first sales turnaround was complete.


Division #2




This division consists of 60+ inside and outside sales reps with a responsibility for only the metropolitan area of this top twenty US city. The sales force is responsible for both print and digital advertising sales directly to small businesses in a simple sales environment. The division is located a few miles from the company’s world headquarters, and is currently performing near the middle of the pack when ranked against the other sales divisions nationally. However, in its third year as a sales division, it is yet to hit its business plan objective.




Since this division is located near the world headquarters, the sales reps and managers are often used for a variety of corporate initiatives such as focus groups, test pilot studies, and other various non-sales related agendas. This has reduced the actual selling time for the sales force by at least 20%. Sales revenue is currently 12% to objective, with 40% of the sales charge-days complete. The average sales rep compensation is currently less than 65% to objective; meaning that the division is in jeopardy of losing a significant number of key sales reps. Since we are nearing the mid-point of the sales canvass and still needing to bring in 90% of the revenue, we need to insure that turnover is reduced to a minimum. There is not enough time left in the canvass to bring in new reps and have them make meaningful contributions in the final five months


Rolling twelve month turnover is more than 20%, and most of that is within the first six months of employment. The management team is experienced, but once again spends most of their time either on administrative duties or corporate initiatives. There is little cooperation or collaboration between the managers and this has created dissension between the reps throughout the division. While the sales reps are talented, the sales managers are not providing the vision or direction necessary to maximize their talent.




We need to get the reps away from corporate activities and in front of the customer more often. An email is sent to all corporate departments during the first week letting them know that the sales division is closed for all non-sales related activities without approval from the division sales executive. Binder-driven sales management systems are established to allow managers to better administrate their business and also to drive sales more effectively. Sales managers are advised that sales coaching is the #1 priority, and that they are not allowed to perform any administrative tasks between 9AM-4PM any longer.


Sales performance shifting is established to raise the sales goals and accelerate sales results. A large sales board with spotlights on each side is constructed in the middle of the sales area. Sales results are posted each day (by each sales rep) with their results measured against the performance shifted standard. Division awards are established to recognize significant achievements and to raise the bar for all. With the Christmas season approaching and commissions low, we invest heavily in a wide range of daily prizes to artificially supplement sales rep income. This creates a sense of immediate sales urgency, and will help create a high-energy atmosphere with improved attitudes which will prevent additional turnover.  




Potential turnover problems were averted and sales results accelerated. The division hit its business plan objective for the first time in its history. It finished the year #2 in the nation in overall sales…only behind the first sales division mentioned in this multi-division turnaround. The division was recognized as the #1 digital media sales team in the nation.





Our sales case studies are designed to provide you with a "big picture" snapshot of sales problems faced by various companies, the broad strategies used to guide the sales turnaround, and the subsequent results. Certainly there are many strategies that can accomplish a single desired result, however, the key to the success of any sales strategy resides within the implementation.


We pride ourselves on being experts in sales force turnaround implementation, and many of the specific tools and processes we use to accelerate sales are proprietary to Sage Warfield. While our website provides a plethora of tools, tips, and strategies for you to use on your own, our case studies do not contain an "IMPLEMENTATION" section in order to protect Sage Warfield's intellectual property. However, we welcome you to contact us directly if you have specific questions regarding implementation. We would love to hear from you, and will do our best to help.




Please be advised that all sales case studies published on this website are the property of Sage Warfield, and protected by federal copyright law. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of Sage Warfield.

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