Stand Out By Changing Up Your Meeting Venues

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A deservedly popular independent café owner was busy telling me how important ‘change’ was. Specifically, change in the sense of re-vitalising or altering. A refresh in her space of decor, menu, environment.

People visit in their droves in part because the cottage in which she operates is amazingly curated. Nothing is false, everything is authentic. There’s no hipster over-styling, only a wonderful natural ‘thoughtful nonchalance’ that beautifully reflects the personality of she who puts it all together.

She recounted how customers were always telling her they really appreciate how something’s always changing. From delicious new menu items, to taking down all the pictures on the walls to paint them a dazzling Summer white, to creating the most marvellous marble top counter for communal coffee chatting.

One latest idea a while back was the above pictured wall installation. Opposite a massive full-wall mirror. Loads of instagram polaroids of her customers, their delightful clothing, accessories and smiles, printed out and and fixed in a huge heart shape.

People are apparently always stopping to examine and take their own photo of it as they leave the shop.

In this case, change is truly inspiration.

I remember I blogged a couple of years ago that ‘customers love motion’. That was in the context of anti-procrastination.

This kind of heart-shaped change-up though ought be readily applied by us on our solution endeavours. One parallel immediately struck me; Meetings.

We may have little control over marketing collateral or product tweaks, yet we can influence how we engage in person with our prospects.

Part of the problem I know buyers bemoan with our kind is that every face-to-face forum is same old same old. Various studies into typical meetings per deal are tricky to assign across the board. You know how many times you need to see the whites of the eyes. Yet the format will remain obvious.

Rock up at the office or site, stride aside a familiar conference table or desk, the usual offerings of standard drinks. Someone forgets to set an agenda, you fall into shooting the breeze, then shake hands later not fully knowing what’s going to happen next.

I sense there’s great scope to inject differentiating vitality here.

It made me think of a time when I’ve borrowed space at a client. It was because I was there all day on a gig, but they were happy for me to entertain a prospect at theirs. After all, the more clients I had the better for them too, right. And whilst never proposed as a reference visit, it did have the power of a successful one in its impact.

I also had success leaning on the so-called foyer market. Rather than meet in a hotel lobby, or indeed coffee store, someone I once pitched was a mad Man United fan. When they opened their Red Café inside their Old Trafford site, it was a no-brainer to suggest.

I’ve also jumped on when a prospect has been visiting sister corporate facilities. It can make such a difference if you go meet them there too. They can bask in the glow of looking more important, and you gain the tried and tested ‘tour’ treatment as well.

The marketplace for rented meeting space has exploded over the past two decades. Pretty much everywhere has manifold cool options. I’m chuckling as I tap thinking of renting a room deliberately opposite a prospect’s largest competitor.

There’s plenty of options for shaking this potentially dull routine a little. And that’s before we even get to how you run such meetings too…


Cue Card Caught Out

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The rest of the world looks on bewildered. The absurd right to own a gun is now enshrined in America. Kids in school continue to get mown down. Nothing changes. So the gun debate is over. Carry whatever you want.

Yesterday My Boy Donny met survivors from the latest mass shooting (in Florida’s Parkland; 17 dead) and campaigners at his official residence.

It was extremely unsettling viewing.

The so-called optics weren’t good.

The grieving vented. And who would ever blame them. One after another.

And all The President could really do was sit there. And listen.

Yet he struggled to look presidential.

That body language problem resurfaced.

What do you think when buyers sit through your pitch generally restless, and often with their arms folded tightly across their chest?

Then there was the cue card.

Widely reported, Leftists seized upon it. Especially that prompt to say, “I hear you”.

A President is supposed to be beyond such flashcards, right?

Well. Maybe not. You want people to get things spot on, not wing it. Can anybody really remember everything? Yes, you’d expect some level of prep and ability to recall, but sometimes, just like the greatest actors on stage, we all need a little help. And so it is with us when we present.

Perhaps the problem here was that they were all words. No shorthand (the single word prompts aren’t so), no acronyms, and certainly no iconography.

Then there was the medium. White House notepaper. I actually quite like the informality this brings. But I can see how detractors will dismiss them as just a few remarks grabbed quickly on the way into the meeting. Possibly handed over at the door, unannounced, unread, unbriefed.

I was reminded of four years ago and how broadcasters marked the (still) missing Malaysian airliner MH370. The tribute backdrop of victims portraits.

What if instead of a scribblepad, in his hand was a small printed sheet of similar pics, with his notes then shielded on the reverse? Or the same done with a selection of loved ones tweets. The media would have loved that.

Don’t let this example shy you away from prompt cards. They can be an essential – and acceptable – part of a complex pitch. Just make sure you consider them as their whole package.


How Many Times Can You Try Upsell?

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“DIY Breakfast”. Newly opened spot of rapidly expanding coffee shop chain. This one, unlike all others, inexplicably bars itself from selling bacon and alcohol. It will not be seeing my further patronage.

The waitrons, all super-keen, have clearly been through their Corporate training wringer.

A pretty sound it is not.

The options here being half-dozen categories of items, each with a different price band.

You start with the style of bread toasted you select from four. Then an “egg to your liking”.

You quickly see what’s coming with these pair;

How many slices? Just the one? How many eggs? Not two?

On the bombardment thunders. They hoping you choose more than you planned. Through the assortments of cheese, carbs, veg and extra proteins.


I kept count of the upsell batterings. Then just when I thought it was over, a seventh;

You look like a man that likes his coffee, want another…?


Don’t get me wrong.

To upsell is human.

It can be a noble pursuit.

But in this manner, the relentless nature of the questions to take an extra something or other is plain misguided.

Machine gunning your way through an HQ stipulated semi-script does nothing in the long run for your bottom line. I doubt I’m the only person who after Visit One will now walk past rather than pop in. Not due to the porcine or tot absence alone either.

I recall a New York experience in an enormous Downtown sports bar. The server just did not stop pushing for more lines. To the extent that it became a performance joke for my table. When the last lad whispered to me boasting that he could order without eliciting a barrage of further options, he thought he’d nailed it; “I’ll have exactly what my mate just ordered”. But no! Still more pitches somehow flowed forth.

When the tiresome became comic.

I did ponder in my brekkie instance how he could have been smoother. Save up the extras all for one go at the end? Pick a sole option to promote, or maybe just a couple? Matter-of-factly say something else goes really well with the so-far ordered?

It’s a fine line between good selling and antagonising the customer. Whether in retail or our solution sphere. Make sure you don’t fall foul in this regard, whilst still asking for that little extra.


Why You Must Think Of Your Proto-Pitch

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A good pitch can be in development for quite a while.

Many early attempts should be considered prototype pitches.

A beautiful way to think of your pitch when launching a new product.

There’s a Sales paradox here. Everyone seller I know loves the concept of prototyping. Yet permit use on their deal only of the fully-formed.

Your first stabs are like our human ancestors creating implements from rocks and flint. Those proto-human tools which helped our species grow took a fair while. Cultivating your protopitch that can help your sales grow may well do too.

Even then, what you may think of as a polished, finished pitch probably remains a model in primitive form.

One (of sadly many a) preaching that troubles me greatly when I see new product sessions in Sales Conferences, is the lack of nuance in the taught “pitch”.

For starters, it is never ‘one-size-fits-all’.

You need different pitches for different delivery.

The ‘what’s new?’ and “what you selling today?” queries require separate treatment for instance.

I thought on this after recently listing a dozen micro-pitches.

There needs to be an accepted, explicit recognition that from first use, a new product pitch remains “on the benches”.

As management guru Chandler is rightly lauded for saying, the winners are those that not only learn, but apply what they learn.

It’s not just about the workshop frolic of crafting pitches that progressively use an extra word.

It is the circumstance in which they are deployed.

Nobody likes a smartie-pants, trying to be clever through some verbal sleight of word.

So do you know when to set up a teaser? Properly encourage a follow-up that starts genuine conversation? From either a dab of mystery, or nailing the problem which the listener may well acknowledge?

More importantly, have you got emerging protopitches for each scene?


Netanyahu Revisits Cartoony Trick

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The colourful Israeli leader is at it again. Back in 2012 he showed the UN Assembly his Bibi Bomb cartoon graphic. Now he repeats his tactic of using a presentation prop at this year’s Munich Security Conference.

Coincidentally, also dismissed today by his critics (sworn enemies) as “cartoony”.

As seen above, he brandishes what he says is debris from an Iranian drone. One that apparently violated his country’s airspace.

He is not the first world statesman to deploy this tactic.

We fondly remember Ukraine’s ‘Petro’ in 2015. First with wreckage then captured Russians’ passports.

Yet consider its impact.

No other speaker at this event garnered coverage.

The image above sat atop newsfeeds across the globe.

His message, his spin, his stance was the sole noise that sounded from the meeting.

Props work. Cartoonish or otherwise, when there’s a true and relevant meaning, a similar one could help you own the debate on that bid.


Cui Bono?

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The favourite phrase of conspiracy theorists. Translated from the original Latin it means ‘who benefits?’

(I was also reminded of this term back in ’14 when blogging on reversion point reversal.) For this is the key question you often must ask yourself when thinking about status quo obstacles.

When something untoward happens to dampen your ambitions it is most likely caused by the person with most to gain from them not being pursued. So goes this theory anyway.

And in many cases it is a concept with merit.

When you propose something requiring change clientside, it can make for a revealing exercise to assess the firmness of your deal footing against this critical criteria.

Who might lose face, career advancement even, by replacing or switching from a previous way of doing things?

Who may be a little too closely tied to an incumbent?

Who could be eager to prove theirs is the number one ego by dismissing an idea they didn’t come up with?

Who doesn’t get touched by the problem you seek to resolve and doesn’t care that others are otherwise constrained when they have their own, although lesser, issues with which to contend?

Who fancies some precious resource to be thrown their way and see a chance to deflect from your project to promote their singular, insular plans?

A good discussion to have internally and with your number one fan in your prospect. The earlier the better.


When Even A Balinese Medicine Man Uses A 2×2 Shouldn’t You?

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Yes, this is a fictionalised account. From a 2010 adapted-from-a-memoir movie starring Julia Roberts; Eat Pray Love. Yet a recent post (around ‘rebalance‘) reminded me to check out this specific scene. It’s around 1hr 42mins in. Ketut Liyer is a Bali ‘healer’ from Ubud. He proceeds to explain his ‘teachings’ to our heroine.

Here’s his chat;

[draws two lines in the typical boardroom manner to make a big plus sign in the middle of his pristine white notebook page]

People in Bali understand in order to stay happy,
must always know where you are every moment.

[draws circle around the origin, where the two lines dissect, going around a number of times]

Right here is perfect balance.
Right at meeting of heaven and earth.

Not too much God,
not too much selfish.

Otherwise, life too crazy.

You lose balance, you lose power.

Pupil duly transfixed.

Whatever the merits of his life coaching, he uses a two-by-two to explain it.

Sometimes, you don’t even need the full box drawn. The pair of axes alone will do.

As in here, where direction of travel is ahead of naming matrix cells.

Pretty much every solution sell can feature this treatment.

Make it unique to showcasing your bid and confidently leave on prominently display on a flipchart once you leave the meeting room.


Project Backronym

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We’ve all done it. Taken a key word. A trendy mot du jour. The boss’s favourite expression. The company initials perhaps. (Even retail bitcoin investors made the news recently with just such a rallying cry; hodl.)

Then spell out winning words – a sentence even – where every word begins with each successive starting letter.

One I still chuckle at from my youth took the nickname of my uni football team. A most clever girl created magic out of Stags;

Strong Tackle Action Guarantees Satisfaction

Duly emblazoned on a club t-shirt, naturally.

Wordsmiths call turning a word into an acronym as making a backronym.

It’s often not a straightforward task, but one that can also provide a spot of levity in the running order of a conference or team sales meeting. A simple 15-minute workshop task might just uncover a little treasure, or at the very least, get the group thinking along the right lines.


One Lovely Word To Tease Out The True Value

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How do you find out about a key number on a deal?

Do you dive right in and ask? However awkward or abstract, do you hear yourself uttering ‘how much is that?’

Whether you’re trying to identify their budget, pinpoint a principle pain or even delve into competitive positions, the brusque is fraught with issues.

Don’t think you dilute your directness with suffixed words like ‘roughly’ or ‘ballpark’.

There is a softer, yet more successful, way.

Ask for a ‘range’.

“What kind of range are we in here?”

That kind of approach.

You might still get the shackles raised, yes, but you will more often than before find a gentle way to ease you into a potentially tricky conversation and isolate the stat you really need.

Gentle synonyms could also apply; band, reach, span.

As a footnote, when prospects are happy to share some data but actually not so sure of it themselves, you can prompt them.

The method I use is to rattle off a trio of options. One way high, another way low, and a third either not far from where I think it may be or more commonly between the middle and the pole most favourable to the bid justification.

It can also lead to a genuinely more productive discussion too.


The Five Stages Of A Bubble & Your Prospect Bid Fervour

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bitcoin schbitcoin

Following on from his latest book promo tour, renowned financial historian Niall Ferguson recently joked about his 15-year old son rinsing him in the cryptocurrency stakes back in late-2014.

What his article went on to suggest, holds interesting parallels for the levels of enthusiasm we solution sellers see rollercoaster (spiral?) during a bid. Even single meeting. Or quick phone call. Let alone a message string.

Here’s his screenshot of the “five stages to most financial bubbles”;

So; displacement, euphoria, mania, distress, revulsion/discredit. The website investopedia likes this cycle as well. Also attributing these ‘five stages in a typical credit cycle’ to our old favourite, Minskym; displacement, boom, euphoria, profit taking & panic.

They both share as stage one ‘displacement’. A chance to profit from change appears. Then rocket their own course through excitement until doom.

The key, surely, is to manage your prospect emotion. The inexperienced will keep on going. Perhaps reminiscent of the wonderful bitcoin “investor” hashtag, #hodl. As in ‘i am hodling‘, from an original (whiskey lovin’) forum post title misspellingh. Now given the backronym treatment, so aka Hold On for Dear Life.

Whereas those who’ve got burned too close to the sun before will know when a peak is almost reached.

End proceedings then and there. Do not over-sell. As the entertainer’s code says, ‘always leave ’em wanting more…’

m from his ‘Minsky Moment’; “when a market fails or falls into crisis after an extended period of market speculation or unsustainable growth”, lately inspiring the ‘Road Runner’ metaphors when Wile E. Coyote speeds by, stops mid-air having gone over the cliff, then crashes down to the ground below beep beep

h this misspelt acronym trope is a wonderful sales device when a key prospect enthuses with a key deal phrase, yet puts it in a different order to the one expected (by way of example, I recently had a prospect refer to an unwanted ‘ivory tower’ with a different colour) – imagine if you get a chief exec deliberately saying something like that to you, grab it, treasure it, use it