Event Prep Like A Sports Commentator

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After catching possibly the only interesting moment to happen in F1 motor racing live this year – the start of the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix (thank you, rain) – when searching for “reaction” after the paint had (maybe) dried (namely hoping for a Vettel penalty) I came across a brief video of the BBC radio commentator showing his pre-match notebook cues.

I feel it only fair to point out my disdain for today’s breed of commentator. What a revelation it was to be able to push a button and have the sound feature only the atmospherics. All voice happily muted.

When listening on the radio, you are though stuck. We’ve got to a stage where radio guys know they can be swapped onto the pictures by viewers at home. So they’ve become telly orientated. But with ever more worthless chat. Meaning the distinctiveness of comment alone is forever lost. Even the cricket suffers from this. Much too often, like their news peers, presenting partial opinion as fact.

So here is the writing of Jack Nicholls.

There’s actually precious little to get excited about here in terms of breakthrough knowledge. Which is kind of a good thing.

I’ve heard football commentators tell that it takes a full working day to ready their notes for the game they’re set to do. As you can judge by the doublepage spread above, such preparation is not a short task. But a whole day?

One of my constant bugbears is the criminally little amount of prep salespeople conduct before key meets. Even those that travel a fair while in the car sitting alongside a colleague can (and all too often do) spend virtually not time at all ‘warming up’ properly.

Of all the salesteams I’ve been privy to, I have never known a pre-call discipline that extends to producing an effective planner sheet. There are several reasons for this. Some valid.

Yet I cannot help but wonder how superb a two-page doc that you unfurl in front of your prospect may in fact become.

Written in shorthand too, it could not be accused of giving your tactics away.

A key schema or two – to both help test understanding and to whiteboard – would be your equivalent of the race track map (top-left of Jack’s work).

Tables of previous meeting outcomes, reminders of your in-house preferred textbook ‘process’ markers and established decision procedures are similar to Jack’s previous qualifying session performances broken down by tyre choice.

Reference stories aplenty could be akin to the day’s full station output listings to trail from the bottom-right of his left-hand page.

Then where the whole of the right-hand sheet is given to stats and mini-bios of ‘interesting facts’ about each driver, our writing could see main players role, achievements, hot buttons, motivations and vital question tests.

Detailed call plans as policy fall by the wayside.

Spending just an hour though – whisper it, even in your own time – setting out vital background and ideas could make all the difference between you and your competition.

One further tip has to be on ‘reusable sales data’. if you are going to drive down this road, then do it in a way that means you won’t be laboriously re-copying out the same text if you come to make a second doc for the same company.


Upside Down Improvement Program Waffle Meister

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What’s your experience of consultant surgeons? If yours is English public sector based, then shockingly bad I’d suspect. In which case, what weight would you give just such (a ‘visiting professor’ too no less) who has quit the infamous NHS in desperate exasperation?

Especially when said transplant specialist freshly embarks on what he sees a better career as … wait for it … a waffle shop franchisee.


Almost a case of going from saving lives, to serving fries…?

With obvious questions over judgement an odious hanging discomfort, I was surprised to warm to this very chap when I caught chirpy Parisien Eric Chemla recount his tale on the radio this weekend.

Given the source was the ever metropolitan liberal elitist BBC – remembering that the numerous expats I’ve met on my travels, to a man and woman, when the issue of what they miss about Blighty inevitably comes up, they all go out of their way to state that not one of them miss in any way the ills of either BBC or NHS – there was concern more for grief porn at the expense of reason and remedy.

Still, a trio of points hit me as relevant to any Sales effort.

Cost Improvement Program:

This omnipresent phrase clearly irked the ex-knife. It is evidently what the organisation calls its constant striving for spending less money. Nothing wrong with that, you initially think. Then he gave a chilling example.

The decision was taken to send post second-class instead of first. The result was that he suffered what he termed 30-40pc missed appointments. With all their devastating knock-on effects. Apparently, admin staff couldn’t make the switch to send these longer-to-arrive letters out earlier than before. Operations went without happening, ambulances despatched only to return without patients, operating theatres and fully prepared staff left empty and unused, people in pain had their lives significantly worsened.

You could unpick so many lessons from this. One among several being if you see the oxymoronic label ‘cost improvement’ in a solution sell arena, then you must tilt the frame investmentwards or suffer malady yourself.

Not Given The Software:

A stunning case of ‘In With The Old’ followed. They had millions adorned on them to get new IT. As a man who sold Enterprise solutions before Y2K’s Millennium Bug and birth of the €uro, I almost regret not being in the Health systems game at that time.

Part of hospitals’ enormous extra expenditure stretched to replacing a whiteboard showing the names of all ward patients written on with a flashy big flat tv screen holding all the info instead.

A problem soon appeared. In his own words, they hadn’t been given the software they needed. Consequently the pricey plasma/lcd kit quickly found a whiteboard leant in front of it carrying on its old role.

The disaster of the unadopted ‘new’ sends shivers through any solution seller. How are you going to make sure this small yet commonplace misfire would not develop to derail your project?

Upside Down Leadership:

The quest to place a medical professional in charge of a health service is as misguided as all those firms that put accountants at the helm of their businesses. Whilst there may well be the odd success, it is absolutely not an automatic recipe for general triumph.

The key is rather in giving those at the ‘coal face’ the chance to both express themselves, then crucially act upon their experience.

It seems they are rarely afforded this opportunity. And when it does arrive his depressing answer quoted was that after he was asked for advice at meetings, years later he’d still see nothing ever got done with suggested resolutions.

A big solution must is avoiding this sorry state.


Shaping Your Prospect’s Reminiscence Bump

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This week I learn that psychologists uncovered their reminiscence bump. It suggests that the older we get, the less well we remember those ‘middling’ years.

Adolescent experiences retain strength, as do many things which are fresh in the mind. Yet our Autumnal reflections find those times in between easily fade.

A pair of selling points struck me here.

For starters, there’s the classic primacy vs recency debate.

When part of a competitive field, should you pitch first or last?

I’ve read a great deal around this. I have to say that despite whichever way wikipedia may lean on any given day, research is not conclusive. I’ve found it tends to be better to frame the debate, rather than follow it.

Then there’s how long may something linger? At what point does the tailing off kick in? Also, which kind sticks more, sweet or sour?

From a separate tidbit the day of blogging this, I saw England’s biggest-selling thriller writer (long since departed for America) return to his childhood home. When standing outside what was his suburban semi, his instant recollection was, ‘this was the place with the phone in the hall on which my first girlfriend dumped me’. With a chuckle recognising the irony of not being a “happy memory” caught on camera as exclamation.

A lot to chew over in relation to a sale. Particularly long-term customer management. Nothing is perhaps more crucial than the experience of delivery.

I’ve met salespeople who believe an implementation disaster can be fine. As being able to put it right can create a way firmer relationship. I’ve never fully bought into this. For me, it wrongly allows catastrophe.

Still, knowing about such a “bump” can be a useful reminder to test what is actually stored away in your prospect’s mind.

What experience(s) with you for them sums up what you’re about? When did you have most impact on their results? Where – when something may have perhaps gone a little awry – was it fixed in a fashion that they’d like to think they would also enact?

Maybe the key to strong and lasting client connections is to smooth any reminiscence bump and check that auto-recall of your best hits are the norm.


Embedding Your Dutch Reach

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I must confess that when I heard we must embrace the Dutch Reach my attention continued with a fair degree of caution.

Then I learned *phew* that it was all about preventing cyclists from crashing into your vehicle to end the feared “car-dooring”.

By learning to open your car door when getting out using your ‘other’ hand to pull the lever, you stop running  the risk of a passing bike crashing into you. As shown in The Times graphic above.

I thought about friends of mine that had suffered this. Then on the more mundane, how after parking in downtown San Francisco, I forever after turn my wheels pavement-wards on any hill around the world..

It also brought to mind how I now eat a banana. Much better off, I might add, after seeing how a monkey does it ‘properly’.

There’s often a singular, small piece of Sales behaviour any such endeavour is trying to switch in for an aged one that has anchored through (bad) habit.. Changing it can be a nightmare.

Not least because of all those psyches that say any such change must be enacted a mountainous number of occasions before it becomes natural behaviour.

I’ve seen sales leaders tear their hair out, struggling to ensure a specific phrase, objection handle or routine takes hold.

Whether it be as matter-of-fact as a piece of instilled vocabulary, ranging right the way through elements of deal orchestration, then evoking the Dutch Reach may well be a gentle way of helping your selling improvement take hold.


Ho Ho Ho Apple New iPhone Big Demo Fail

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Who’s out of a job this morning?

Is it perhaps Craig Federighi? Apple’s bumbling (Senior VP) Software Engineering bigwig? Or whoever promised him his money shot would work like a dream on the big launch demo?

If you haven’t seen the twenty second car crash in its full glory and all the clips have been mysteriously shut down by an illuminati, then here’s the transcript.

He’s trailblazing the supposed leap that is their facial recognition security, FaceID. By way of a live demo at their brand spanking new purpose built $5billion “space ship” head office. Craig’s mug and a phone are soon to be conjoined. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s take a look.

[five second silent amble from centre-stage to podium, stage-right]

Here is iPhone ten.

[smug open palm smile]

Now unlocking it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up.

[agonising dead time]

And., y’know…

[the iphone does not unlock]

Let’s try that again.

Ho Ho Ho!

[it fails again]

Let’s go to back-up here.

And get right in.


Let’s try that again.

The mildest assessment deemed this “rocky patch” a mere “hiccup” and “embarrassing glitch”. As you likely know by now, decency prevents me from any reprint of just about every other description that profanely exclaimed itself open-mouthing WTFed around the world.

Let’s try that again.

Pretty much everything I’ve ever been involved in selling has required a demo. And if it didn’t, I created one.

Computers freeze. All the time. Buttons don’t work. Processing hangs. An unexpected screen appears.

Let’s try that again.

But wait. Craig had a back-up plan. An extra phone was at his lectern. Ready for just such a hitch. And turn to it he did.

Any sales outfit that demos anything – not just tech – must download this clip and show it at your next meet-up. You ought know what could go wrong. And what to do when it does. If such an #epicfail can happen to the world’s first ever trillion-dollar corporation, it can (and will) happen to you.

Let’s try that again.

It seldom suffices.

UPDATE – next day – You cringe at their PR machine attempt to shine a different light on the fail. As reported first by yahoo, they claimed ‘the phone didn’t make an error – the company’s staff did’. A demo fail is a demo fail. And no amount of overpaid post-match spin can make it right. Especially when the back-up plan failed to realise the lack of difference between backstage colleagues and ornery children who sniff biscuits. Let’s try that again. If celebrated cartoonist Matt’s slant at the time was anything to go by, might more sinister forces be at work…

…as a footnote, perhaps I can leave you with one of the most remarkable demos captured on film. From a London hawker on a New York street-corner. A humble veg peeler. His story was amazing. Look and learn from Joe Ades;


How To Better Spend That Year Lost To Snooze

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So it is a true fact. We waste 267 days of our entire life from hitting our alarm clock snooze button. Just imagine what you could do with that precious time back…

I can sense the web’s legion of self-proclaimed lifestyle coaches leaving aside their gooping mandala’d hygge for a moment to pen a new blog. How can I not join in the fun? Especially given the irrefutable first option of Rule 4…

The starter trio are ‘prep’, the following quartet actual actions (which strangely only make fifteen minutes of your ‘lost’ 18). All designed to make sure your Go-Go-Go switch gets hit quick and stays firmly locked down.

Given that I warmly embrace at best only a grand total of 1½ of these, perhaps it’s inevitable I make a anti-soporific Sales analogy.

My first recollection featured all those selling gurus that think about turning the downtime up.

In particular, I’ve always had a soft spot for their suggestions on the very first thing you ought do when you sit at your desk and very last as you reach for your jacket to go home.

Namely, make a cold-call.

Just the one.

Who cares if you get through or not?

They conduct a reversal of atomisation to entice.

Simply multiply those pair of calls by the number of workdays.

Think how your funnel stats would pan out.

Wouldn’t you like to work the prospects that those extra 400 cold-calls a year bring?

The general snooze-and-you-lose formula here appears to focus on “elements to shake up your system”.

Every Sales system could do with the odd shake-up, right? And yours may not even mandate you to sup from a yellow cup to make progress.


There’s Good And There’s Sellable

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A Times of London Friday Arts pullout piece caught my Sales eye. “Top tips” from “theatre impresario Nica Burns”; How to have a hit in the West End: my 10-step guide.

As is sadly the way, the title slightly misleads. Yet her list contained at least one useful selling spotlight; There’s good and there’s sellable.

Behind the paywall, she recounts a particularly painful experience of losing (all her) money on a 2001 production, despite “stunning” reviews and best director/actress gongs.

Her barrier iuncludes the colossal effort required to fill every seat, night after night, running into unobtainable thousands.

This certainly reminded me of countless presentations by Marketing where the latest product is heralded as the new messiah. Only for such revving up to stall in the face of the first real-life prospect encounter of shrugging dismissal.

It makes you think that such fanfare needs Nica’s twin pincers.

Why is this brilliant?

How can you sell it?

They are two distinctly different angles.

Why your clients buy from you is often completely different from why you think you’ve sold it to them.

Has your latest launch stage got both covered?

* Pretty much close to useless in headline form, nevertheless the spine of her how-I-made-it-and-you-can-too memoir would doubtless feature these ten chapters, fairly commonplace across the genre;

  • Learn the business – all of it
  • The buck stops with you
  • It’s all about people
  • Take the initiative
  • Know the value of a big name
  • There’s good and there’s sellable
  • Theatre is a demanding mistress
  • Productions take time: play the long game
  • Hold your nerve
  • Seize the moment

Deal Hurricane Spaghetti Models

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As the latest ‘worst ever’ hurricane, Irma, slams through the Caribbean, I saw for the first time the forecast amalgam of the spaghetti model.

The idea is that every weather watcher that suggests where the cyclone is headed has their path plotted. You can see by how much they differ in their (un)glorified guesswork. As each day passed along its 16mph devastation, the spaghetti moved quite considerably. One hour Havana was toast, Miami spared. Only for an hour later, a total reversal.

I show above just a trio of the many such graphical representations various ‘official’ feeds shared.

Yet the one treatment I was most entertained with is less geographic, and more concerned with Mother Nature’s power over time. These people term it an (experimental) Intensity Graph;

I wondered if there’s scope on an ‘account review’ of ‘deep dive’ deal analysis to think in these terms?

I do struggle to think of any sales outfit geared up to devote time to such output. Even those with a traditional supposed second-in-command of Sales Ops Manager. (As they’re sadly in my experience far from the required process gurus, instead focusing – being told to focus? – on elements of compliance.)

Yet if you could jot down your process markers over the bid timeline and work out where deviation, delay and drama might occur, then you could well be onto something. Such as nailing where you accelerate, enjoy “gateway” progression and gain key agreements, or stumble and fall. At the very least you’ll get closer to the tropics of Sales success that refining where your process wins brings.


Slide As Coloured Text Doc

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howtheproductworks seenslide 4-3

This is an abridged replica of a real-life slide. The bouncy Millennial showing it, talked whilst mostly looking at the screen, rather than audience. Repeatedly tasseling her hair, giving an air of indifference.

Although not impossible, it is extremely hard to ever justify a place for such a slide. And certainly never for said delivery.

There’s a total absence of any elements of persuasion or imprint.

The title first. Does your slide even need one? In fact, if you ban titles as a pedantry diktat from your Sales decks it’s remarkable the improvement you’ll unleash.

In this case, it isn’t about your product. It’s about their answer.

Then we come to the text. Just because lengthy prose is shorn of the starting bullet blot doesn’t make them miraculously acceptable. Not even an attempt at headlines here. And why a quartet? Such an ugly number for a list.

I yearned for any form of diagram. If you insist on a foursome, then how about a 2×2 box? A classic triangle, using each vertex or side with middle space or external extra?

Branding. I’m with the school that rails against each slide having your treasured stamp repeated as some misguided badge of pride on every turn. Twitter address included.

This treatment feel familiar? If any of your output looks like the pic up top, then make the time to mix it up. As a priority please.


How You Label People Can Make A Real Difference

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Witnessed on a train I was alighting recently. Here’s a commonly seen style of corporate clothing.

The casual uniform with banner emblazoned on its back.

Team Member

Research abounds that diagnostic labels matter.

Like assigning students into groups by alleged ability, when they were in fact random, yet the results somehow gravitate towards the expected group norm. Like telling people they are winners, and then they become so.

What does being a ‘team member’ even mean?

I remember when I first went clubbing (oh the glory days) and saw bartenders with huge letters spelling STAFF on the backs of their corporate coloured t-shirts. (I recall always preferring to see CREW.)

A bit like when navvies endured orange plastic sewn onto their work overcoats to denote their level.

There must be a better way.

There’s the famous story of how Disney improved both customer relations/experience and employee effectiveness through their ‘relabel’; Cast Members.

If you’re in a team, whether the standard sales operation with different patches or perhaps even a sole rider with assorted support, how are you labelling those around you?

‘Salespeople’ alone is not good enough. How about these informal tones;

Go Getters, Problem Solvers, Client 007s, The Listeners

(When I first tapped that last one, I mistyped it as ‘listenerds’, which I really liked!)

And why not apply the same idea internally to your customers?

The Indispensibles, A-Streamers, Trailblazers, Einsteiners

Better still, incorporate a linguistic nod to their problem that you remove. There’s an endless choice of words that signify how and where both you and your clients make a difference.

Remember, diagnostic labels matter. So why not use a good’un?