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Case studies

Clarion Events

How Flow State helped Clarion Events level up their sales skill

Clarion Events is one of the world’s leading event organisers, putting together innovative and market-leading events in a wide selection of industries, from fashion and technology to public safety and security. 

Nick Pratt has been with the business for over 12 years, during which time he’s worked on popular events including Top Gear Live and the Classic Motor Show. He now serves as the business’s head of sales enablement, ensuring that the sales team has all the data and training they need to do their job effectively. 

Essentially there are two levers you can use to increase revenue; you can either sell more units or sell those units at a higher price. As a result, a large part of Nick’s role is enabling Clarion’s salespeople to pull those levers successfully and ensure they increase their volume and/or yields. 

The return of in-person events

Selling in-person events suddenly became a lot harder in 2020. The pandemic affected everyone, but the events industry was hit especially hard. Live events — the backbone of Clarion’s business — were off the table. 

While the company pivoted into digital markets and grew that side of the business, in-person events were always going to be the main focus. As a result, Nick viewed this as an opportunity to press the reset button and ensure the sales teams had all the skills they needed to come back stronger than ever.

“Our NPS scores went through the roof when we started running events again,” explains Nick. “People were just so happy to be back in those environments. Being able to shake hands or fist bump with somebody and to have those conversations in real time with real people… it’s just phenomenal.” 

Part of Nick’s plan involved targeted training for the sales team. While virtual training and online portals were fine when that was the only option, he wanted to take advantage of in-person training. “Having people in the same room is really engaging. You get better conversations, you get engagement. You see results!”

Nick was also keen to avoid generic sales training. Clarion Events has hundreds of salespeople, ranging from junior reps to talent directors with decades of experience. To get the best results, any training had to be tailored to their needs.

Tailored sales training 

The first step in the process was to assess all of the salespeople and identify their strengths and weaknesses in core competencies such as negotiating, creating value, engaging with the C-suite and so on. This revealed trends across the business, verifying the skills where training would have the biggest impact. 

Having identified the key areas for improvement, Nick got in touch with Aaron and Raff at Flow State. This wasn’t the first time they’d crossed paths; Clarion Events had previously arranged for them to speak at a conference, where they received positive feedback. 

“They were great, they were very inspiring,” says Nick. “People came out of the session saying how nice it was to be spoken to like a normal human being, rather than just a number. They’re not up there wearing a suit and a tie, they’re just normal guys.”

Nick explained what they were looking for and asked if Flow State would be able to provide the required training. A few days later, Aaron and Raff came back with a bespoke training programme designed to take place over one day and cover the three requested skills. 

Breaking away from the boring

Rather than sitting around in a classroom with a whiteboard, Flow State’s training was designed to be engaging and interactive. For example, the day included role-playing exercises and mini-breakout sessions, with plenty of opportunities to discuss what was being taught. 

“There’s nothing worse if you’re sitting in the training session and you feel like you’re back at school,” says Nick. “We will sit there and we want to learn something, but you still want to be treated like an adult. That’s what we got with Flow State.”

“Trainers were very engaging and personable, makes it a lot more enjoyable!” – Attendee feedback

This was particularly important with the attendees’ varying experience levels. For one attendee, this was literally his first day on the job and he had never sold anything before. Others in the room had been selling for 25 years. Yet Aaron and Raff were able to draw out both groups and keep them engaged. By getting buy-in from the more experienced salespeople, they were able to show the less experienced attendees how they should be selling. 

Acknowledging and handling objections was also an important part of the training, as Nick explains. “Lots of salespeople can be quite strong in their opinions, so there is inevitably going to be some pushback, some disagreements. Aaron and Raff handled those objections like a salesperson, clearly showing their reasoning and manoeuvring those people around to their way of thinking, which was really smart.” 

The training was a big hit with the attendees, with plenty of positive feedback from the attendees too. While salespeople would usually rather be selling than training, people who attended that first session are now much more open to further training sessions.

“Aaron and Raff were incredibly passionate and backed up their enthusiasm with real-world experience and practical application. This training should be mandatory for all salespeople in the company whether you’re a new starter or seasoned seller” – Attendee feedback

Putting the training into practice

Nick has seen a discernible impact on the team’s sales process since the training session. For example, reaffirming their negotiation skills helped the team successfully rebook at one of their big events, despite the price increase. “I was with the team last week and I could see that they were utilising those skills, uncovering the pain that an exhibitor or a client might be going through and clearly explaining how they could fix that pain and help them.” 

Looking back on the training, Nick was particularly impressed with Flow State’s ability to engage their audience. “Somebody can have all the knowledge in the world; it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at transferring that knowledge, but Flow State can. They used real-life scenarios and role-plays while keeping it light and fun, which is really important.” 

Nick recommends Flow State to anyone looking to improve their team’s sales processes, and has already shared their details with other departments within Clarion. “They got what we were trying to do, they understood our business and they were keen to have those conversations before we ran the session to really understand what it is that we do and what we’re trying to do.”

Looking to the future, Nick plans to further analyse the results of the training and identify additional areas that can be optimised. “We addressed the competencies where we needed the most help, now we want to start looking at others. If we can increase the level of our overall sales skills, it’s going to have a positive effect on our business.”

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