IPC and Emap Elan have announced plans for central sales functions
and the consequences for individual magazine teams are still being
The news that responsibility for selling the biggest accounts in your
magazine is to be taken from you must come as a shock. So how do
publishers manage the potential for internal conflict and are the title
teams’ concerns valid?
The key to averting such conflicts is ’interdependency’ says Tim Lucas,
corporate business development director at the National Magazine
Company, where a centralised sales unit has been in operation for the
past five years.
’You need to have a collegiate approach which involves both brand
specific and central teams selling the account, otherwise it will fail,’
IPC group ad director Simon Hills agrees and he stresses the importance
of communication between the central and title teams. He’s doing a fair
bit of communicating himself at the moment, trying to reassure nervous
title teams who are asking why he is taking away all their big
’The Connect team might do a pounds 500,000 deal but we’re not going to
take the account away from them because it has reached a certain size,’
says Hills. ’Central sales is not about creaming off all the big
Sales people also need to know their finances are not going to suffer.
At NatMags, commission is earned by both central and title teams on the
same business, irrespective of who sells it. Commission on IPC’s 11
largest accounts will be earned solely by central sales but the bonus
scheme for the title teams is being revised to take account of this and
Hills insists no-one will lose out. ’Our new incentive scheme will
ensure people are only bonused on what they are accountable for,’ he
Both Lucas and Hills stress that title teams still have an important
selling role on the big accounts and, freed from price negotiation, can
spend more time pitching their brands’ strengths and offering innovative
So, apart from negotiating group contracts and prices, what role does
the central sales team have?
’Unlike title teams who are engrossed in closing each monthly issue,
central sales can make a more long-term strategic argument to clients,’
explains Lucas. The role is more comparable to an agency planner and
it’s perhaps no coincidence that both Lucas and his group development
head, Melanie Leathers, have come to central sales from agencies.
However, he stresses the need for a balance.
’If you just had planners in your team, you would sorely miss the sales
discipline,’ says Lucas.
Niall Clarkson has just made the move to IPC’s central sales from the
women’s weeklies team. The chance to make decisions at a strategic level
attracted him. He says: ’At this level, you need to understand the
strengths and weaknesses of all media. A career track from here could
take you to an agency or perhaps other media.’