Pitch Placement The Angry Birds Way

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I remember long ago advice on arranging a Board Meeting agenda.

It included the instruction to always have that item for which you most desire to seek agreement immediately follow a previous one which was both contentious and likely to find no agreement reached. The theory being that subconsciously, after a punchy pow-row, people automatically want to take a mental breath, make-up slightly and are more liable to wave the next subject through with a relatively relieved rubber stamp.

Other tips suggested you note to your advantage the inverse relationship between length of discussion time and cost of an agenda item.

Corporate Politicians may well have another arrow in their quiver courtesy of the record-breaking game app and cultural phenomenon origin story for Angry Birds.

You could write a post alone on the persistence message; “Angry Birds was our 52nd game and it started off as a side project.”

Yet here I’m focused on the selling slant of how it first emerged to gain prominence against all other options for committing effort to.

Here’s the key co-founder recollections to The Guardian on a fateful meeting;

“I was sitting in a meeting with our lead designer …
Who presented 10 new game ideas and talked us through a long written document about each one.
Then, right at the end, he showed us this last thing which was only an image –
A sketch of some coloured blocks, a flock of birds and some smoke and dust.
There wasn’t a proper game idea behind it at that moment.
But I fell in love with that image and its energy.
I just got a feeling that this was the game we should develop.”

The idea with seemingly no real prep became the one to ride.

Almost a decade on and the games developer this month floated as a bona fide Unicorn.

The reflections suggested that the original “sketch conveyed a lot of energy”.

Yet there’s another, more telling, interpretation.

You see nine proposals. All delivered in the same format. Each with forensic detail.

You can’t quite remember whether you preferred the third. Or fifth.

Like Eurovision Songs flashing by at their annual glitter fest, they all merge into a single mass.

Primacy versus Recency suggests the early ones have a better chance of getting through.

Yet here that continuum was disrupted.

After nine samey-same, there came a tenth. But presented very differently.

Which happened to be in way that let the imagination run free.

You almost wonder if any of the ideas switched in to that last spot could have gained the room’s approval.

In any case, this method of presenting multiple options seems a winner. Provided you lick how to show that vital, last proposal as seed-ically and informally compared to the rest as possible.


Logo Memory Test Transposed Inside Your Salesteam

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Here’s a lovely little workshop idea. Well suited to just prior a break, during a longer internal conference type shindig.

Inside a fortnight of publication, this Bored Panda piece clocked up an astonishing 11 million Facebook ‘likes’.

They asked 150 Americans to draw – completely from memory – logos of famous consumer brands.

Ten were, in the main, incorrectly recreated. As well as the Ikea treatments shown above, also included were Apple, Adidas, Burger King, Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza, Foot Locker, Target, 7-Eleven & Walmart.

I chose to highlight Ikea above, in part as they were not American, but also because they experienced the best recall. Almost a third were near-perfect (see graphic at foot). Unlike for Starbucks. They suffered only 6% that good. Perhaps a comment on the complication of their ’16th century Nordic siren’ icon of the “twin-tailed mermaid”.

As facilitator, you can pre-select what you’d like your salesteam to quickly draw.

Dependent on numbers, you could choose the logo for each salesperson’s current hottest prospect. With you prepared and ready to summon up the comparisons after the break.

There’s lots of options. Perhaps a better theme though, is to home in on a key selling message. One that may well have a slide diagram depiction. Or better still, a sales scribble shown them beforehand (especially if the previous day) on a whiteboard. This can encompass anything from simplifying the marketplace, to the problem you resolve, to a breakdown of figures.

In any case, what may take up only twenty minutes of actual airtime, could well cement what you know is important knowledge in your collective salesforce mind.


Is Your Comparator Horsepower Or Minicupcakes

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I ran a jovial meeting with a sailing-loving prospect once in the late 90s. Where I revelled in comparing the extra money my then software wonder would make the business owner after they’d bought it. At the end of year one, amounting to around “two-thirds of a yacht”.

It is an excellent tactic to refer the time or money gained or saved to some made-up standard about which a winning picture stays in the prospect mind’s eye.

The classic example is the industrial revolutionaries double-genius of not only inventing the steam engine, but then selling it quoting an equivalent horse-power.

I’ve blogged on this before.

And it springs into the selling psyche this week courtesy of a pr backfire from Google.

Specifically, their Maps app liked to tell you how many calories you’ll burn on a particular walking route you’ve looked at directions for. Nothing especially dodgy with that, you may think. After all, it seems a pretty standard extra feature of similar apps these days.

Their mess-up was rather in how they presented this data to the would-be pedestrian.

The chosen standard was a mini-cupcake.

The emoji pictured at the top of this post would appear, beside which you’d see your potential calorie usage number, followed by how many cupcakes this would enable you to then eat for the same value of energy.

Unsurprisingly, the internet was not happy.

For many reasons.

Within moments, the Do No Evil beast beat a hasty retreat.

Not before the web’s opinion-leaders enjoyed their field day mocking Google ineptitude and general lack of consideration. Such as buzzfeed and the verge.

Still, hopping off the outrage bus for a breather, there remains a good selling meme here.

The more you can frame the benefits (value, cash, time) you unleash in an interesting way – one both meaningful to the prospect and helps set you apart from competition – then you are truly on to a winner.


Know Your Prospect-Universe Zeitgeist Tape

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Thirty years on and the foundation of a former British Prime Minister releases a trove of personal papers. Among them, advice on the pop music trends of the day, alongside a copy of the typed out cribsheet of an ordinary, everyday basket of goods as bought by the common voter.

I recently paid seven-times the amount then given for a pint in a London watering hole.

Although interestingly, an in-store baked “tiger” loaf this week was now only double.

Still, the game is still played. With interviewers desperate to catch out the candidate with an item their advisers have neglected to advise upon. As seen by the more modern-day spreadsheet which David Cameron had to commit to memory.

This practise so necessary that the glorious satire that was The Thick Of It showed us how New Labour ministers needed their weekly Zeitgeist Tape.

Yet we ignore this type of intel on-call at our peril.

Whilst it is good to ask questions of a prospect, there are some – many – things about their world we ought have down off-pat.

How well do you know their universe?

Even worse, I have in my time done a little light ‘test’ for salesteams I’ve been asked to improve.

After a formal conference, one lasting more than a day and usually offsite at a lavish venue, my next session with them has begun with a gentle game asking for answers on details (which I consider vital to better performance as opposed to mere random triv) all presented at the sessions just gone.

The scores tend to be shamefully low.

Please do not let yourself reside in such a bottomest quartile.


Stop Your Digital Greige Pitch

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I wandered through an exhibition of the latest business audio-visual kit. Instantly dazzled by looped kaleidoscopic footage teeming forth from every conceivable size of flatscreen magic.

I discovered the sector’s concept of “digital blindness”. This is the problem of when every vendor or area in a retail space has a shiny tv, what do you actually see?

In a homogenised mass of similar promos, no-one stands out. All that expense, without an edge. Each vendor now looks the same and moan that in fact, ‘digital’ hasn’t helped the sales process one bit.

You can take this a step further. Why bother anyway with the flashy telly screen, if all it displays is a high def triple-colour quadro-soaked still image? How is this an improvement on a (whisper it) good old analogue poster?

An American industry vet called Bob Kronman divulged his own term for this, citing the example of New York’s Time Square.

Digital waterboarding.

You could hear the audience collective sharp intake of breath when he revealed that label. Even the panel moderator commented he wouldn’t forget it.

Despite the possible miscoinage, the topic reminded me of the ubiquitous 90s wall paint shade, magnolia. Which today appears to be born again with the rise of greige.

When the trend becomes the standard, where do you go next?

Are we reaching such a saturation with solution selling?

Is everyone solving the exact same problem? Using slidedecks or social media tempts indistinguishable from one another? Cost of ownership spreadsheets that without the name of the vendor visible could be confused for any or all that bid?

Thankfully for us, there’s plenty of scope for the focused to use each tool in a distinctive way.

Are you doing so? Can you do the greige test to make sure why you’re uniquely suited truly comes across?


Who Falls For The Hot Hand Fallacy

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Lovin’ the fact that rank outsider, Prof Nudge, won this year’s Nobel economics prize. Proving perhaps that economists are as useless at predicting their own winners as they are our future prosperity.

On top of such delicious sales weaponry as friction costs, another of the manifold gifts Dr Richard Thaler also gives us is the basketball term, hot hand fallacy.

I know this because of his cameo in the movie The Big Short. At the casino tables, alongside Selena Gomez. An 87% chance her 21 hand should win …

It’s like the classic forecaster’s error that past performance is the over-riding determinant of the next outcome.

I wonder how close to the general concept of “form” in sport this is.

And if it is, then form has its place in b2b selling too.

Form feels more like a sustained level of performance looked at over a period of time. Where any lesser achievement gets outweighed by more successful ones. Even Bradman got an unusually high number of ducks (7 in 80 innings, or 8¾pc) whereas his career average dwarfs all others, at the famous 99.94 runs.

Whereas ‘hot hands’ seems to me more like a ‘streak’. Successive, unbroken high-performance appearances. And all streaks must end.

There’s always potential for something genuinely beyond your control to can come from nowhere and crush any perfect sales play. Don’t let it blemish your record.

So you likely would prefer your seniors, clients and peers to talk of you on a selling streak, but you remind them you aim rather to show top sales form. And if form dips, well, you can prove that’s temporary can’t you, as class is permanent.


When 20pc Are Away 30pc Of The Time

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Here’s some stats as plastered on the side of a conference wall. Talking about “collaboration” across multiple workplaces.

The salesperson in situ informed me that 20% of workers spend 30% of their time working from home.

I was reminded of another of these many figures, which suggested the happiest employees only spend one day a week with ‘the team’ in their designated office.

They all seem made-up numbers, yet ones with more than a grain of truth to them.

Such as from this NYTimes reporting of a February 2017 Gallup poll into American remote working trends. Which show a trio of interesting graphs;

In 2016, “43% of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to the survey of more than 15,000 adults”.

Whilst these numbers are bandied about to promote tech that lets those in different locations work together, they also have significant impact on that most vexing of funnel activities; getting an appointment in the first place.

If the general out-of-office status is that two in five will be away when you call – and that proportion is matched by your target role sector – then what do you do to get a foot in the door?

I’ve heard salespeople suggest that social media contacts should be included in their cold-call metrics. I’m not a huge fan of that. It’s a bit like including streaming data in music charts over actual download sales. While there is merit in embracing the new way of doing things, it is not necessarily a true measure of consumption. (Take this week’s news that Shape Of You became only the third ever track to be awarded 3m in UK sales, through getting “streamed 224 million times and downloaded nearly 765,000 times”). Similar incongruity goes for LinkedIn requests in our field, I think.

I come back to my old soapbox that seeks to switch the tired cart-before-horse pursuit of “leads” in favour of tracking genuine “conversations”.

This isn’t a new puzzle for us to ponder. For as long as I’ve been around the scourge of permanent voicemail has been in play.

In today’s workflow, as well as pursuing ‘likes’, this means treating gatekeepers differently and booking in telephone or video call slots on the premise of the problem you uniquely resolve as one part of your ‘prospecting mix’. How many elements does yours presently have?


Understanding Friction Costs

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Friction costs are a fascinating subset of a solution selling objection.

I first came across a similar theme in my early career (when selling what today is termed ERP) with the taxing issue of legacy data. Replacing an old system with a new one often gave rise to the daunting task of how and what to do with all the gobbledygook that had been allowed to spring up within the intricacies of a company’s accounts (product, manufacturing, distribution) software but which everyone knew couldn’t possibly be transferred to any new one.

It meant people were scared to buy anything new. Even though they realised they had to. The fact that any replacement system back then was appreciably quicker, simpler, tougher, cheaper, better often could not outweigh the fear of tackling an out of control yet decrepit monster.

I have this week’s freshly anointed Noblista for economics, Mr Nudge, to thank for this extra angle. (On which I first blogged a decade ago). Robert Thaler’s Nobel prize sees the broadsheets list his behavioural insights in action. Here’s one from London, in a government unit wondering why the public weren’t taking up a loft insulation subsidy;

No-one wanted to clear the junk from their loft to allow for installation of energy saving measures.

Once that barrier was removed, uptake increased five-fold.

This successful discovery was labelled as finding out the “friction cost”.

You have to think that many a solution sale has this spectre lurking somewhere in the shadows.

Uncovering it though, that may well be the tricky part.

If you’ve sold your worldbeater before, a good place to start is asking existing clients what perhaps caused them to pause.

If you’re on a more structured deal, such as responding to a tender, then friction in this sense may not be quite the ugly issue, but there still maybe the handling of other “switching” costs that can allow one bid to outscore another.

If you alone created the need then you must make the decision to know every detail of anything that you will impact, and how to mitigate the change they may perceive they’ll experience, or to trust your biggest supporter when they say “trust me”…


When World’s Biggest Advertiser Uses The Autocomplete Slide So Can You

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The autocomplete slide is a tool I’ve blogged on several times (lattermost as a footnote when googling on a heavyweight boxing champ quote).

It can be a slidedeck winner.

So imagine my reaction when I see McDonalds use the tactic.

Here’s a close-up of the meat from my above photo, taken under the glamour of a damp Autumnal suburban English railway bridge;

I long grew out of visiting their “restaurants”. For all manner of reasons that feel fairly widely shared across civilisation. Although I do allow myself the occasional treat from the mushrooming gourmet burger and chips boutiques. I still talk of an incredible find off Whanganui main street at the turn of the century, the scene’s explosion throughout New York in the Noughties and swap notes on the new must-visit places from London to Cape Town and all in between with friends still today.

So Big Fastfood have quite a marketing challenge. Just like Big Tobacco, I hear you scream… How they try and hook new users is no doubt the stuff of advertising textbooks.

Yet there’s plenty of joy to be had from a slide along autocomplete lines.

One of my staples being to start writing the most obvious beginning to the problem you resolve and see your product/brand name appear among the options, sticking out among more natural lexicographical searchbot suggestions.

I’m compelled to help ensure you actually check for what Big Tech AI might actually propose for your idea. Here below is the real google returns from the day I took the above pic.

Not a sandwiched patty vendor in sight. Though thankfully for the protectors of the Golden Arches nor was there anything frighteningly inappropriate.

For an extra idea, I also note that after I screengrabbed this, I went back and did it again. Only this time, the first two results at the top of the box were in purple and in bold type. They seemed to come from my browsing history. Making perhaps yet another angle you can slant into your own slide.


Credit Card Debt Snowball Effect And Your Prospect Priority Acceptance

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The snowball effect as it relates to consumer spending caught my attention due to media highlighting of ballooning personal debt.

Its basis is that when people are confronted by an amount of borrowing that has spun out of control, dazzled in the lights of trying to clear their debts, they choose the wrong ones to pay down first. The impact of which can be devastating, as they can then get saddled with a mountain of owings seemingly never capable of being reduced, let alone eliminated.

The plight can be seen when you have debts with more than one lender. Most typically, say you have three credit cards. The mistake people make is paying off the larger amount first. When in fact, the trick is to pay off first the one for which you’re paying the highest rate of interest (known as APR in the UK).

The dreaded snowball begins to roll because your level of relative debt rises, despite paying off what you assume to be enough of a sum to keep it in check, if not decrease it. And the spiral into the financial (and personal) abyss suffocates.

This term is often generally applied to any situation where an action or event makes an overall situation more perilous. As the random wikipedia page editor of the day noted;

Metaphorically, a snowball effect is a process that starts from an initial state of small significance and builds upon itself, becoming larger (graver, more serious), and also perhaps potentially dangerous or disastrous (a vicious circle)

So thinking of its specific solution selling slant, I wonder how useful a lens this is for you to help your prospects to view their current list of pressing issues.

I’m reminded of the time management favourite of the urgent-versus-important. Where the mistake most make is to focus on the urgent, rather than important task. That discipline’s gurus always say focus on “Important”.

Could it be that where you are feeling your project’s ranking on their to-do list is dropping, you can subtly jump it back up? Particularly, when that which overtakes you in fact can be framed as not being something that’ll mushroom or knock back all sorts in its orbit. Unlike that which you propose.

Could you safely suggest that without prompt attention the problem the project you pitch will resolve will snowball to the detriment of all other hopes and so must surely be Top Priority?

Another way of using this winter analogy, is by successfully showing how the problem concerned might grow. If your prospect thinks things are bad today, just help them shudder at the thought of how if unchecked they may be way worse off tomorrow…