Pique Technique Disruption

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Even if you were unaware of its precise psychological label, you’ll have probably come across this technique.

It runs that you’re more likely to gain compliance – particularly for a pocket-change fumble of cash – when you ask for an unusual amount.

The classic being the beggar who, rather than asking for ‘any spare coins’, outstrips peers by requesting “17 cents”.

In solution selling, this can extend to wherever possible avoid quoting round numbers.

Termed the pique technique, this effect has longer tentacles.

I recently read on the theory that it works because it “disrupts” the standard “refusal script” of the respondent. Quite a bit to unpack there.

The most stark application is with any cold pitch.

Specifically getting that first, vital toe in the door.

How you can be “dodging underneath the normal means of parrying an unsolicited request”?

What does every other cold caller to your treasured suspect say? Nearly every approach yields the “I’m too busy”, “we’re covered thanks” or “there’s no budget” type pats objection. Pavlovian shutters to get rid quick and wonder how on earth the call got through in the first place. Even though you were genuinely selling gold for the price of silver.

You still might not earn that valued second-hearing, but you can definitely gain engagement through piquing.

I’m a winner, from wonderfulco, with wizardry to show you, that you’ll love, just as all sorts of renowned people do. I can pop by tomorrow…?


I wonder how to pique might work on a cold-call? So here’s three stabs at gimmicky alternatives if you were pitching a Sales function with, say, (urgh) “software”.

  • Could you devote seven uninterrupted minutes each Tuesday afternoon to getting one more sale?
  • Can 84 quid a week be spent upfront to reduce leadtimes?
  • Would you put a rookie in charge of one-ninth of your funnel to open more deals?

Focus on what will sound different. Maintain your professionalism. Test. Test again, and you may well reach peak performance.


Is Your Prospect’s Memory Recall As Bad As Yours From Corporate Training?

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This rather unglamorous drop-off is a Forgetting Curve. Long ago I came across the seed of these kinds of data, the Ebbinghaus effect.

It creates a decay theory for how much info is lost and when, given the passage of time since you first took it in.

As you can see from the above graph, there is a depressingly exponential fade of intake.

Recently, I glimpsed a huge MNC’s attempts to cascade an initiative throughout their organisation.

The aim struck me as noble. The core of the plan spread in a simple video. Under ten minutes in length, it featured a talker alongside gradually revealing flipchart “loops”.

The issue I had, was that how ever worthy the intel, there was simply too much to take in.

A brand new way of thinking. One which took practitioners years to perfect. Proponents surely could not expect viewers to take it all on board and correctly implement straight away. It felt like trying to take your driving test after only reading a car’s manual. And we’re not all like Arnie in the 80s film Twins.

Over the years I’ve certainly found the best ‘training’ sessions deal with a singular behaviour wherever possible with immediate chance to practice, refine and embed once outside the teaching room.

The days of a two-day dedicated program of sessions surely over.

Is this a lesson for ‘educating’ prospects?

How often are we guilty of cramming too much pitch into a single call?

Not only this, but what about the tactics suggested to reverse the collapse to forgetfulness?

One of my favourites is the “booster”.

Training pros advocate a kind of end-of-class quiz. Revisiting the idea again a day or two later. And the biggie, that principle of ‘use it or lose it’, ensuring that continual reinforcement subsequently takes place in the workplace.

It is this last one that is the killer in Sales. It’s really, really tough to make happen.

Let’s deal with one of these concepts for now. The booster.

You’ve probably heard the tip that what you do after the meeting is more important than what you did in the meeting. The same rings true for training. And slightly tangentially, memes abound about the real sales fortune is made in the follow-up.

You simply must have good reason, already established, to carry on dialogue once you’ve left prior the next major meeting.

Checking figures. Confirming stances. Designing collateral. Specing options. Choosing scenarios.

There’s a whole host of roads to travel to “reshape the forgetting curve”.

Whichever you choose, make it one that drums in the key ‘learning’ you want your prospect to adopt.


Which Medium Is What Sales Message

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Let’s consult wikipedia. What could possibly go wrong?

“the medium is the message is an often-debated phrase believed to mean that the medium chosen to relay a message is just as important (if not more so) than the message itself”

On what would have been the 106th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, his image and influence revisited the web. He saw four ages of human (media) history; acoustic, literary, print, electronic. The latter earning him comprehensive plaudits as foreseer of the digital age ‘global village’ we reside in right now.

Sending that prospect a text? Turning up in person? Attaching a thought-through slide with that email?

What is your ‘medium’ saying about your ‘message’?

I do like to map sector development in eras too. I recall merit (mind you, not entirely worthy) in the Davos theme of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I also note bodies mobilising around concepts like our supposedly imminent Fifth Wave of Coffee.

Can you coin anything similar for your industry? Or product arena? Or problem evolution?

Mini-epochs can have many guises. Waves, revolutions, steps, floors, -ics, -cenes.

Your environment should inspire many more a sticking label.

First know where progress can be placed in layers leading up to the present day. Also shape where it’s headed. And how your wonders uniquely enable this. Sum it up like Mcluhan, and prospects will rapidly understand that you are the one to help them get ahead themselves.


Where Best Out-Cycles First

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UK media this week furiously debates why one of its greatest ever sportsmen appears so unloved.

Surmount cycling’s Everest to win the Tour de France, not once, but now four times surely makes any rider one of the all-time greats across all of sport.

Yet this weekend’s coronation on the Champs-Elysées of victor Chris Froome apparently registers a mere murmur.

There’s various bizarrerie put forward. His Kenyan birth. Saffer upbringing and wife. Monaco domicile. Team for which he rides being so mechanical. Attraction secondary to other events culminating the same time (golf – really – and cricket).

Yet perhaps the killer blow is actually that he is the not the first.

After waiting over a century for any success, Britain finally secured a winner in 2012. Bradley Wiggins’ triumph became a national (Olympian) celebration.

His silky style, everyman fashionista appeal and such charm that even our French cousins called him Le Gentlemen were, we are told, a mountain away from the current champion.

One theory goes that he’ll never quite capture the nation’s heart because he follows so soon after King Wiggo.

A touch bewildered by this, I recalled Jim Collins and one of the central pillars of his Good To Great 2001 business blockbuster.

Best Beats First.

He boldly stated.

He listed a slew of industries that had been made by one innovator, yet subsequently owned by the second (or later) entrant.

I distinctly remember when I read the book myself. Much of the data I felt was open to alternative interpretation, founded on flawed foundations such as stock market performance and liable to see his elevated ‘eleven truly great’ firms suffer the fall from grace that befell Peters & Waterman’s similarly lauded In Search Of Excellence dozen two decades prior. (On this score, you have to chuckle reading his millennium-rise hope for AOL.)

That’s not to say it wasn’t a decent read. I recall enjoying chunks of it, determined to press a pointer or two into action in my own work.

Yet this follower-becomes-leader trope irked me. Jim begins his formative (pre-smartphone, note) article with a delicious premise;

Of all the new economy’s supposed “rules,” the notion that nothing is as important as being first to reach scale may be the most widely accepted. It’s also wrong.

Then I remembered the inarguable thoughts of Peter Drucker.

It is that construct of ‘scale’ that is critical, I feel.

“except in rare cases, best beats first, even if it takes a long time”

There’s his lovely dismissal of naysayers as a “greek chorus” of people claiming ‘today is different’. When he suggests it is not nor ever has been.

“It doesn’t really matter who gets there first, so long as you figure out a way to produce a better solution, doggedly persist in bringing that solution to the world, and continually improve.”

Athletes are not tech startups. Even so, I also couldn’t help but admire one analogy put forward. That of Armstrong & Buzz. Even the fact that the first’s surname goes with the second’s first gives a wide hint. One small step for Neil Armstrong looks like the gaint leap of Buzz Aldrin, given time. The moon-landing pioneer withdrew, increasingly worn by his feat, whereas second down the ladder revelled in it all.

I’ve sold both first-in and copycat arrivals. The key to prevailing is not in the pitching of how you see your place, but in how the prospect feels most comfortable sitting.

Positioned right, and you can come through from either stall.

Yes, I’ve always loved Appropriation. Innovation that decides not to simply imitate, but improve, the first-in’s offering. Especially when that market-shaper has primed the prospect space.

But I’ve also had results being number one. Although this is much more tricky. Not everyone will commit their cash to a lone pathfinding creator.

Even so, nestled behind the crest of the wave is often the best sales angle.

If it is the case that the trailblazer “rarely” takes control, then the trick is to still be like Froome. Then your new product can too sparkle long in its own Buzz.


When Sales Happiness Arises From Expectation

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Because sometimes the lure of the planet’s biggest English-language “news” site is just too shiny. Happiness has a formula. Yes, another one. This time, courtesy of a cash-mountained ex-Googler called Mo;

So what is the magic formula, I hear you ask. It’s
H ≥ e – E
Or in other words:
happiness is greater than or equal to the events of life, minus the expectations of life.

Given at how this was arrived at – albeit tragically, yet the Average Jo programmed to baulk at the filthy rich claiming ‘money ≠ happy’ theme – I can see Jimmy Carr doing his fake eye-rubbing boo-hoo.

I can hear readers with grey hairs chant, “Events, dear boy, events”. So what’s striking about this, is that expectations seem to outweigh events by dint of owning the capital E, as opposed to the small e.

The imminent big deal you tell everyone you’ll nail for sure ages beforehand holds less punch than the one you keep fairly coy about. A lesson in that alone perhaps. Always stay just this side of sandbagging, avoid the 100% “must pledge” urge and know (explicitly list) the areas of decision process blancmange when parading a senior exec.

I’ve blogged on the many happiness equations before (like here, for example).

Your deal W is more likely when you follow the process you’ve done for previous success. If it’s early in your Sales “journey”, include here finding the pain, showing the most apt resolution for it and persuading more and pivotal people that there’s a personal and professional win in it for them to sign with you.

That indeed does tend to bring a big fat juicy fun-loving dollop of H.

Here’s a conversation starter; W ≥ a – E. Where W is your win, a actual, E Expectation.

I sense the largest lesson here, is that on expectations.

I’m reminded of one concerning price tag.

Early doors, you say it’ll be reasonable. Only for the cost to the prospect to balloon later. Not as a consequence of spec creep or any other simply explainable influence. But because you knew from the off that you’d never get on the longlist with your standard pricing.

Then you think on the functionality promise.

At the start of my career, I was instructed that in any deal’s initial meeting, whatever the question, my answer was ‘yes’.

Only for later that show-stopping piece of requirement to need pricey, bottomless pit bespoke modifications.

Qualification. I’m tempted to whisper.

You want the long term, repeatable, sustainable success of a stellar selling career, then set your expectations in check and with fine-tuned nice balance.


Your Hollywood Review Bottom Line

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As an Englishmen powerfully brought up on The Dunkirk Spirit, watching this week’s Christopher Nolan cinema treatment of WW2’s 1940 successful evacuation was always bound to strafe my to-do list.

Then the near-universally glowing reviews poured forth, cracking like popcorn from heated kernels.

Of the many I read on one train ride, here’s the start of a (the?) Hollywood Reporter;

“Dunkirk is an impressionist masterpiece”

Clicking through, I found that its opening US weekend was predicted as being unusually high for a war movie (especially one not – in real event nor film – featuring a single American). In part driven by the director’s amassed goodwill and a remarkable 95% Rotten Tomatoes pre-release critic must-see score.

In their review, beneath the video trailer, I see a snappy sum-up. I realised this is used for all reviews. They call it THE BOTTOM LINE. For the three big productions hitting N American screens this week, here’s their one-line takes;

Ladies and gentlemen, your Razzie frontrunner Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets (dir: Luc Besson)
This is how you do an R-rated female comedy Girls Trip (Malcom D Lee)
A stunning victory Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)

Film ads that pop up scrolling through your web feeds have reached a reductive level that surely cannot shrink any further. Save for new emoji development, worldwide evolution of kanji or close-up macro-expression reviewer selfie. Epic, Outstanding, Breathtaking. A single, solitary hyperbolic word is today’s norm. So it feels good to see a different treatment here given a go.

These straplines have a lot of the Marketing about them. Yet when we’re in the furnace of a pitch, it is always a useful safety net to have a few selling, rather than ad/marketing, succinct phrases. If you can encapsulate their problem or your solution with equal brevity, you’ll have a bulging bottom line of your own.


Does ‘Everybody Lies’ Mean Each New Prospect Is Like A First Date?

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Tricky ground here, hey.

This book doing the rounds right now across media sofas comes from an obsessed google trends data explorer.

Knowing the wizened insider axiom, “all buyers are liars”, I couldn’t help but be intrigued.

The mismatches interviewers gravitate towards were unsurprisingly relationship based, in particular what goes on in the bedroom. We apparently tell our friends one thing, then search online on the ‘reality’.

Here’s one such exchange, from The Atlantic. What happens on a first date that makes a second more likely?

For the women, a woman frequently signals interest by talking about herself using the word “I” a lot. A man signals interest by talking in a deep monotone voice. A woman signals disinterest by using hedge words, such as “sort of,” “kind of,” or “probably.” A man can increase the odds of a woman wanting a second date by laughing at her jokes or showing support, such as saying “that must have been difficult” or “that sounds tough.”

Quite a bit to unpack there.

The rabid dangers of drawing business-place parallels perilously discarded, this reminded me first of interviewing. You know you’ve had a good one when the other party does all the talking, kind of thing.

Then that other first-meet minefield, the initial sales call on a brand new prospect.

We’re being shown the politics between a boy and a girl. Where’s the see-saw’s fulcrum? Who may be chasing versus choosing? Dating progress down to much more than the mere ‘said’.

Still, it seems that one side divulges. The other encourage divulgence.

Think back to any first-meet disaster.

One aspect I painfully recognise is those “hedge words”.

Upon hearing them – and there’s a sizeable library of non-commit filler – I always try and dig in. How dare they think they can fob me off? Hoping my shovel will unearth a genuine point of interest, rather than causing a hole for me to be swallowed whole. When you start sounding like a breathless radio or telly reporter, you know that ‘second date’ is unlikely.

Vagueness, detachment, indifference. These from our prospect certainly do kill any fruitful sales process blossoming. So I feel there’s something in being alert to the hedge word alarm.

One final point. A different road completely opens. The author also believes a search engine box to be “digital truth serum”. What have we to hand that’s a selling truth serum…?


World Cup Winning Coach Knows Talent Alone Is Not Enough

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Sir Clive Woodward knows a great deal about preparing both championship teams and individual superstars.

Recently he ‘chaired‘ a BBC broadcast hour with a tearaway footballer. One that doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotype and is currently undertaking a degree in philosophy. (26mb mp3, right-click and save here).

About 41 minutes in to what at times was difficult to stomach although certainly discussion-seeding philosophising from his interviewee, Sir Clive ventured that to be successful,

“talent alone is not enough”

It is an oft-heard refrain. Those that label the ‘natural ability or hard work’ debate in the same frame as ‘nature versus nurture’ are missing the point completely.

He continues;

“Your mindset’s got to be; there’s a lot of people with talent. What else do you need on top of talent? The number one thing, I think, is this thing called ‘knowledge’. Meaning, how much do they really know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it? How much do they study their game?”

To illustrate his thinking, he pondered;

“If you asked a footballer, ‘how do you kick a football?’ How many could really show me in detail? They could take me outside and show me. How many people on a flipchart can actually show me technically how to do it?”

There’s much to admire about this thinking.

I often stand in front of salesteams and talk about how the true selling winners are so in large part because they are ‘self-aware’.

They know what works and why and continually refine it. Crucially, they can explain it.

The blank expressions I typically face when saying so though are usually a worringly large majority.

Sir Clive is right. And so it is with top sellers.

Do you actively pinpoint where you win? Can you articulate why you succeed? Or even more revealingly, can you draw it me?


Unique Units Of Sell

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I read the news today, oh boy
4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

3rd verse, The Beatles – A Day in the Life

Last week’s massive iceberg being described by multiples of Manhattan made me also think about strange units of measure that stick. Especially with selling impact.

After all, one of humanity’s most famous is the skilfully inventive horsepower. The genius behind the British industrial revolution’s finest steam engine, James Watt, showed remarkable sales acumen. Comparing his machine’s power to that of a horse was the critical pitch his new product needed to gain customers new to the entire concept of industrialisation.

Wikipedia keeps pages for both unusual and humorous units of measure. Other opinions also available.

Nanocentury, New York Minute and Nibble … coming soon to a deal near you?

What’s getting prospect airtime that you can put an innovative label of your own on? To call it is to control it. Something a key player notes can glow with their name slapped on it.

Any gain or saving, time or money, resource or ambition can be a ready source of deal-clinching measure.


How Does Change Blindness Afflict Your Buyers?

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Here’s a cheeky concept I came across watching a truly woeful BBC-filler show on brains. To show that our mind shuts things we see out and fills in from memory or guesswork, the viewer was invited to take in everything from a flickering image of two people on baby-bikes. You think you’ve nailed it, piece of cake, until they reveal the details you missed.

This is known as change blindness.

Well. Straight away you can guess where I was headed with this.

How many buyers are similarly afflicted?

And more importantly, how can you produce your own ‘reveal’ that makes them see the unseen?

Asking buyers right out what will change, has changed, is changing, seems a good place to start.

What’s missing, stopped, gone? What’s needed, wanted, essential?

Those open to, and willing to embrace, change are our dear friends…