Archives: 2012

One Significant Figure

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I was reminded the other day about my attitude to financial deal size. In their baby steps most cubreps I guess could easily get distracted by the “whale of a deal” on their forecast. It’s an affliction that can strangle many a more experienced salesperson too.

I remember when I got going in the very early days that I was happily unburdened by any such bedazzlement. The chief reason was that I was so keen to win deals that I jettisoned any thought about their size and simply went after each and every one in a similar vein.

Colleagues, much older of course, were chasing megabucks wins. Yet in my junior role I pulled in more new business deals than anyone ever had before. And a couple ended up quite sizeable too. So I was proud of my efforts and considered it all a fine grounding and setting me off on the right trajectory.

I started to see the negative impact that the weight of a big deal on someone’s shoulder could be too.

So I began to think of deals in terms of factors that ignored the cash amount. Naturally, these still portrayed some notion of deal size by association, but left the true figure hanging in the air.

In tandem, I formulised the view that all deals were simply valued at one single figure. They just had a different number of zeroes after it.

And that philosophy has stood me in fine stead since.

Appropriate qualification should mean any deal you pursue is worthy. So in that case, why not treat them all with equal respect?

One leader of a new business team I spoke with recently recounted talking to guys doing “the small 5m deals” and how he used to think “wow this is hard, they ask so many more questions than the guys I talk to about 100m deals”.

Many years ago my friend was closing a huge £25m outsourcing deal and we joked how a tiddler of a couple of grander add-on I’d spent some time on was causing me more grief than he was getting from the seven signatories he sought. On a deal that was a staggering twelve thousand, five hundred times larger than mine.

Can it possibly be true that there’s an inverse relationship between deal size and hassle?

I also thought of the time when a tax inspector was viewing a £30m set of books. He was more concerned with whether chocolate biscuits were eaten around the Board table because then they’d be able to claim tax back on them than anything else. A clue that forensic success cannot be side-tracked by telephone numbers.

In short, don’t get blinded by monetary deal size. They’re all just one digit, followed by a random length of zeros.


Rip Up Next Year

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Here’s something I picked up the other day.

Involved chiefly in account management, a chap I know in the knowledge industries is tasked with both keeping revenue streams alive with specific clients, as well as growing them.

He feels that intimacy is his greatest competitor lock-out.

So, before each Christmas, he speaks to his customers along these lines;

Let’s book in a meeting for early in the New Year.

Let’s talk about how you are going to rip up next year. Make it an amazing year.

Let’s get all your high hopes out and see how we can make them happen.

We can also look at what we did well this past year, and what we can do better next.

The main thing is, making sure your top plans can be realised.

Something like that.

And what do you think happens?

All his clients jump on it. They’re desperate to talk about where they want to go. They immediately fix up a full-on meeting for one of those quiet post-New Year blues days. The supplier remains a partner. A valued partner. Intimacy is maintained and both parties flourish.


Beavers Foxes Dolphins Owls

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I realise it is a touch self-indulgent to have so many sport related sales wisdom posts, but it is getting close to crimble. And England were truly magnificent in India.

Here’s the opening para of one recent suitably satisfying cricketing article.

In psychological profiling, the England players are divided into four animal categories.

Beavers – those who like structure and a rigorous daily routine, Foxes – independent, fearless types, Dolphins – sensitive, empathetic souls who like constant reassurance and Owls – who tend to be intense, deliberate and very analytical.

Jonathan Trott would be a beaver, Alastair Cook is a fox and Matt Prior a dolphin. Kevin Pietersen would like to be a fox but is actually a dolphin.

Psychological profiling. Big company HR departments love this stuff.

My curiosity piqued, I surfed to find a consensus that these are well-known;

Beaver – Gold/Responsible/Guardian
Fox – Orange/Adventurous/Artisan
Dolphin – Blue/Harmonious/Idealist
Owl – Green/Curious/Rational

Now, I’m no shrink. I remember studying Belbin and thinking it was useful. This stuff should really only be used by those in the know. Yet there is a fascinating idea inside here.

A few years ago, my (inept and dismissive) mobile phone company introduced four types of contract. They were named after animals. And each had its own ‘personality’. In such a way that they were all positive traits, yet different, so as to ensure that not everyone would stampede towards being the most obviously attractive and aspirational one.

This could be adapted to describe your product’s variants. Or your customer buying ‘pressure’. Or something else relevant entirely. And maybe even linked also with a colour for a secondary slant.

It is all a bit marketingy, I know. But imagine you are with your ‘champion’, deep within clientside. You try and isolate the emotions attached to two or three key elements.

Riff together. Come up with animals to match. It’d be a bit of fun if nothing else. But it could just set you apart when you need to run through that crucial slide deck to explain everything in a nutshell to bigwigs that don’t know you from Adam late in the day. And what could be easier than showing a big image of a cute animal or two and using it as a launch pad to put tricky concepts across in simple English? They might actually remember your presentation…


Pressureless Thinking

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Is there a more intense position in world sport than being India cricket captain?

Rahul Dravid would have an opinion. In the aftermath of the incredible Test series which England just came back to win, there’s plenty of tips for the astute seller.

One was this little gem. When current Indian captain, MS Dhoni, missed a couple of chances to seriously melt England’s batting mettle in the field, Dravid suggested that perhaps it was because he’d forgotten to deploy ‘pressureless thinking‘.

What would you do if everything was running smoothly? If you felt you were coasting? If every decision you made would be a good one? Or if any bad one could be instantly remedied at little consequential loss?

And wasn’t it, according to former captain Dravid, also the job of the coaching staff to help provide an environment, mental and physical, that promoted pressureless thinking?

The implication was clear. Only in such a state can you truly succeed.

Yet this is the polar opposite of atmosphere that many (most?) sales teams create.

Of course, there has to be a bit of quota pressure (similar maybe to cricket’s infamous batting collapse-inducing scoreboard pressure).

But surely it is about handling that, rather than allowing such a vibe to fester and debilitate?

How is pressureless thinking promoted in your sales operation?


Defending Corners Cheat Sheet

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Defending corners. It evokes my auto-responses when a lady asks of me my likes and dislikes. In the style of a glossy mag quizzing a celeb for ever-so-amazing insight into their personality. Right.

You should never concede a goal from a corner kick. so it is doubly galling when you do. And I hate driving behind lorries. People that are all take and no give. Country music. And smokers.

So it was with much interest that I read about how European Champions (that still doesn’t make sense, does it?) Chelsea prepared for their (losing) World Club Cup final in Yokohama just gone.

Two hundred grand a week and you need a sheet of paper with mugshots to tell you your job. Crazy?

At least they got this reminder.

What do most salesreps do before a big call?

Wing it.

On the (excessively rare) occasion that you may take the time for a pre-call run-through, what documentation results? Precious little in my experience.

Imagine if there was a simple few diagrams and pics on a small piece of paper. Handily close by in your daily document wallet or laptop bag.

Reminding you of the key questions to ask. The vital contacts to flag up. The possible biggest elements of the (urgent problem or) desired solution. All the possible options of what you can suggest is done next that have worked so well elsewhere.

In the Chelski case above, whilst the idea can be applauded, its execution seems a touch first-run.

Surely the pics should be of the opposing players (with names underneath), rather than the defenders, who could also be identified simply by their shirt number (as the whole squad will know those).

And the instructions (relating to the short corner watch and instant move up after a clearance) could be bigger and bolder.

Still, it does its job for starters. Shame it didn’t help with the goal they let in. Three defenders all ran to their goal line after a shot was semi-charged down and left a solitary striker to head home from six yards.


Warning Sign Checklist

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I recently saw a fascinating piece on those that promote proper welfare of vulnerable children.

They’d compiled a list of 30 warning signs.

These could suggest that a child was being exploited.

If any three were witnessed by family and friends at one moment in time, action was likely necessary.

The seriousness of this pursuit dwarves our daily selling tasks. Yet there is a definite lesson we can take from these carers that seek to protect.

Take every signal that might suggest you’re not being treated as high a priority by your prosepct as you may wish.

There are apparently two types of signal, those that take place in isolation, and those which flag a change in behaviour.

Unreturned calls. Unanswered emails. No background preparation done by them. Meetings go ahead despite key absentees. Failure to contact a third-party. Little choice in meeting date, venue or topic. Instant response demanded of seemingly inconsequential matters. Access to senior execs restricted. Broken promises.

There’s quite a long possible list.

I sense this is a great addition to deal review procedures. If any three occur within the same small timeframe, then get those qualification alarm bells ringing.


Irreverent Product Placement

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What a story. British humour at its best?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the world’s largest Frankfurt christmas market outside of Germany when I’ve been to it. And this year saw the centrepiece baby doll mischievously replaced with a garden gnome.

There happens to be a garden gnome stall at the festival, and whilst I’m sure they had nothing to do with this incident, I wonder if their sales have soared?

I fear the article linked to above was written by someone who strangely eschewed true objectivity, as the quotes gathered appear suspiciously unrepresentative of true English feeling on the matter.

Spookily though, there was a “second coming“.

Still, it reminded me of the value of a cheeky slide that can help set you apart when pitching.

Whilst I’m not advocating a kind of Madonna-esque iconoclasm (best to leave militant atheism to Dawkins, and not your precious product presentation), there will be a number of culturally renowned images that can be cleverly associated with your wares.

I blogged on this once before in the context of the famous Number 11 Budget pic.

I myself recently took a Matt cartoon (he of London’s Telegraph fame) and adapted one of his drawings by putting my own strapline underneath.

Both memorable and different, and also sticks in the mind of your audience.

Of course, as with any humour, there’s a big health warning. But if you aim not to be disrespectful, and only gently funny, then it can be a real winner.


King Of Corny?

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Personal branding. It’s a minefield. And when it doesn’t quite hit the mark, it can be embarrassing.

Skynews’ Jeff Randall live had on a couple of ‘treps’ – as the Americans seem to be calling people that set up their own business these days – to discuss the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

One was a chap called Will King. The company he founded in 93 initially sold shaving oil. I happened to know a bit about this guy and his wares (*) so stopped what else I was doing in the background to watch.

My first reaction was a touch horrifying, When introduced, he made a deliberate gesture to camera. He took the two forefingers of his right hand and brushed them down his right cheek, from ear to chin, in a kind of shaving motion, ending with a departing flourish. A kind of two-finger wave.

Did he really just do that? I asked myself in astonishment. If I was a live tweeting junkie, OMG would have surely followed. Or something much sharper.

I was torn by this. Given my similar career developments, anyone that starts a business against the odds and makes it grow is a kindred soul. And whenever you see someone try and distinguish themselves in some way, then again, as I preach this stuff I can do nothing but applaud. Usually.

With my mind still shaking – and coming down on the side of it being too much like a footballer’s goal celebrations – he eventually got to speak.

I spontaneously laughed so loud I missed some of it. But what sparked off my involuntary yelp was his describing the troubled economic times as being “stubbled”.

Was he really using a uniquely shaving related lexicon here?!


It reminded me of the France 98 interviews with England’s squad when they secretly competed to get the most film titles into their answers to put one over the country’s media.

This may have been the only such reference here, but taken together these two occurrences were just too much for me!

So, forget the impact on me, what was the aim here?

If it was to gain brand recognition and tempt someone to try the wares, then I’m not sure any of these would really be achieved.

So was it perhaps more of a personal brand attempt?

Oh please I hope not.

The two-finger thang was just too contrived and artificial. If it’d been more light-hearted, with a different motion and a cheeky smile rather than pleased-with-yourself smirk, then it could have been better. Maybe.

And what about the shaving language?

This I like more. Trouble is I struggle to think of many suitable words that go with shaving.

Anyway, if you’re looking at setting yourself apart from the competition, run a cheeky workshop session at your next sales conference for the physical motif. See where you get. Stress it’s for internal eyes only. It could be a humorous way of seeing how your team views the product and their commitment to it. And show things like goal celebrations, Monty after a wicket, Jensen’s ‘w’, even Forsyth’s ridiculous pose and Boris Johnson’s lightbulb lightblub motorbike motorbike Indian tour Bollywood greeting.

Anything that shows in motion a process benefit could well be a winner.

Product education through the medium of mime. Did I really suggest this? Best you do it just before the bar tab opens, hey…?!

* A one-time ‘girlfriend’ got me on to shaving oil before I made a trip to S America in 98 because her brother raved about it and it really did change my shaving life. Somersets became my preferred brand. Although I still keep a small 25ml bottle of oil when travelling, at home it’s now a tub of aqueous cream, as recommended by an x-ray nurse once when shooting my knee, who randomly explained many of its uses as she dabbed a slather on me. I can attest that it’s now my favoured shave method, and for a fraction of the price!


Chief Execs Can Also Need Sales Tuition

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So Radio 4’s flagship Today news show has a feature called Friday Boss. On Friday 30 November, this came on around 0620GMT. It featured Keith Attwood, Chief Exec of a firm now called e2v.

Previously known as the English Electric Valve Company, back in the day they even won an Emmy for services to the broadcast industry (helping very early tv cameras’ imaging technology with something called an ‘orthicon’).

So, the interviewer wanted to know more. He asked;

“Can you describe the company today, what’s the profile of it?”

The Chief Exec, in post by the way for 14 years, then produced this textbook example of how not to answer such a question.

“Fundamentally we’re an international business.

We’re a specialist technology company.

We operate in very high-end imaging, specialist semi-conductors and RF- and micro-wave, that’s the kind of technology basis that we’re working from.”

35 words (disregarding the ‘ums’), 3 sentences. A matter of seconds to spit out.

Oh dear. Me me me. Typical. And he seemed such a genuine chap too.

I know I bang on about mentioning the problem you uniquely resolve, losing jargon, and show some kind of cause. The above spiel was the polar opposite of any of that essential messaging.

Which pole would your answer gravitate towards?


England Hammer New Zealand

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Quite Incredible. What a day out last Saturday. I couldn’t let this week slip by without mentioning this historic Twickenham victory.

Kudos to the Kiwis in defeat though. There’s plenty of banter about the identity of the planet’s most biased commentators (no debate necessary – it is any New Zealander at a rugby match with mic in hand). As well as the international team that profits from the most ‘cheating’ (again, open and shut case, the All Blacks get away with murder at every single breakdown). Yet after Saturday’s game, press, players and coaches were laudably singing the English praises.

One of many articles I insatiably hoovered up caught the next Lions’ coach speaking in the week. Kiwi Warren Gatland. He touched on the difference in approach of the talent production line between the two nations. Here’s a snippet;

“I look at what my son goes through at his school [Hamilton Boys’ High in New Zealand] and it does not compare.

“He’s in at 6am on a Monday doing shuttles, then there’s individual skills and work-ons in the afternoon.

He’ll do weights on Tuesday morning again at six followed by a rugby session in the afternoon.

Wednesday is a day off and then it’ll be more weights on Thursday morning and more skills or teamwork on Thursday afternoon.

Friday lunchtime they’ll have a captain’s run and they play on Saturday.”

That’s a hell of a routine. And it produces uniquely world class product.

It got me thinking about world class sales talent. And world class sales teams.

I wince to say it, but it’s true. Most sales outfits wing it. Their approach to personal development is a million miles away from the Kiwi rugby model. And that’s just the schoolkids.

Where are the run-throughs of key pitches, presentations, objection handles, specific role engagements?

And how is the progress on each of these monitored so as to nudge it higher?

This kind of stuff should be the girders of steel that keep the entire sales effort standing strong in the superstorm. . . So where are they?