Your Bordeaux Problem

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In this Remembrance week I was moved to watch a gripping doc on the most “courageous and imaginative” Allied raid of WWII.

Under enormous pressure from the German fleet, we simply had to resolve “The Bordeaux Problem”.

That was the French city the Nazis chose to dock their many worryingly effective Blockade ships. A pretty-much impregnable port. Shielded 70 miles inside Europe’s largest estuary. The ‘problem’ faced was that all conventional means of attacking it wouldn’t work.

As with many situations of the day, Churchill sought plans embracing new thinking. They tended to display three traits; pinprick, innovation and covert.

Step forward the amazing commander, 28-year old Blondie Hasler. Despite the suicide inevitability of the mission, December 1942 saw the resultant Operation Frankton successfully limpet mine enemy boats.

The Sales parallel is knowing when you’re faced with the intractable and must resort to the unconventional.

Traditional approaches are no good.

How do you proceed to avoid failure?

Can you apply Blondie Hasler’s tripod pillars of the small incursion, the inventive manoeuvre and going under the radar?



Your Carluccio MoFMoF

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I was a fan of bubbly Italian telly chef Antonio Carluccio and his eponymous restaurants as soon as they appeared in London around two decades ago.

The large presence who single-handedly sought to improve upon what he dismissed as Britalian restaurant blandness.

With his sad passing aged 80, I heard him share what he considered his cooking motto;


Minimum of Fuss, Maximum of Flavour

I immediately related this to my own endeavours. In their most general sense, enabling salespeople to sell ‘more’. In so doing, simply swapping out that last ‘F’ of Flavour for Footprint.

Practically any sales enterprise could adapt this phrase to winning affect. Surely, as solution sellers, we hope to provide for a clients a minimum of effort for maximum of effect. Although that acronym of moemoe certainly lacks the pleasance of Carluccio’s Piemontese pronounciation of mofmof.

Then you could get clever perhaps. For those wishing to be near the crest of a wave, how about Minimum of Disturbance, Maximum of Disruption? Even more laterally, double-up on the disruption?

This also partly brought to mind the phrase often used in medicine; as much as necessary, as little as possible.

There’s plenty that building on this theme can bring you. Why not try riffing on it in his honour, sipping his favourite tipple. No, not Italian wine, but a single malt!


Where’s Your Before & After Shots

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Kudos to this wonderful artificial lawn supplier.

It’s a lovely example of the classic “before & after” treatment.


I ought disclose that I glow slightly in the pride of suggesting such shots were taken by them in earlier days of their blossoming enterprise.

Their execution happily exceeds the initial concept.

This can be a much maligned trope.

All those faked diet and workout shots of flabby-now-toned bodies haven’t helped.

Yet in the business arena, there are winning alternatives.

I’ve blogged previously on memorable before and after ideas.

(From pop-culture too, remember the stunning Japanese sinkhole repair twelve months ago, even if it did need retouching a little later. And the concept is a staple of the ad/marketing, particularly when improving upon a previous presentation, such as with design. Like a few years ago from a bit of business-reality telly packaging revamp.)

I imagine helping a salesteam to better performance could be smilingly shown first by a snap of an office full of reps-at-desks. Then compared to a later one where only an admin presence remains. Due to the sellers all being busy out at prospects.

A touch of the tv makeover show about it.

So get your thinking caps on. There will be a before/after image pair lurking within what you unleash. How can you show it with similar overcast-to-sunny pictures?


Advancement From Negativity

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Sir Kenneth Branagh anchors and directs the update of the 1974 all-star film Murder on the Orient Express based on the 1934 Agatha Christie novel. Its release came at the time of a horrifying wave of harassment and worse inside Hollywood becoming public. On the pr rounds, he was inevitably asked about his views on the casting couch and worse inside movie-making culture.

He hoped revelations heralded a ‘sea change coming’. Then remarked;

As the Buddhists say, the greatest possibility for advancement occurs at the greatest point of negativity

Which, remarkably, he’s found reason to cite before. The year before(1) to be precise. Referring to a character’s mindset in the 1957 John Osborne ‘state-of-England drama’ The Entertainer, with its iconic role of Archie Rice, written in the wake of ‘national disaster Suez’. A play which he feels “really captures this moment of possibility and change”. So he clearly likes this phrase.

Let’s leave aside the vexed ‘religion or philosophy’ question here(2) and the possibilities of using a koan when selling. Consider rather the solution selling staples of “pain” and “urgency”.

Your suspect’s actually under how much suffering? Life crushing or fleeting irritant?

Who is personally suffering? The absolute big cheese or lowly factotum?

At what stage is the suffering? Easy to nip in the bud or nuclear winter?

If you uncover “the greatest point of negativity”, and you alone can provide “the greatest possibility for advancement”, then your forecast needs updating…

(1)  I note the interesting added Sales insight from this piece; “People are less interested in your best film – they’re interested in your last film and how did it do”. I’m not so sure this translates directly onto our testimonial storytelling. A smash hit is always a great tale. But their glow, however once so bright, can dim with time. There is a worthy advisement here not to stray too far into the distant glories.

(2)  I’m in part reminded here of the French-formed paradox of Buridan’s Ass. Which itself is a wonderful selling weapon to quote when a prospect is caught between two stools. Are they the donkey paralysed between going for hay or water, both equally far away, and so doomed to perish of thirst and hunger? I once bore painful witness to a salesman lose a deal when he summarised a prospect plight with “yes, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place”. The prospect baulked at being labelled in such a cold, negative light and froze the rep out from that very moment. At least with the stuck-midway version, your mule has a way out of their predicament.


Should Your Slides Use Google’s Chart-Topping Popsicle?

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Due to a gooey google glitch well known to the world, a recent query returned unsought image results for ‘powerpoint slide’.

I was set to shake the head disapprovingly then recalibrate the search monster. But couldn’t help check what the monomind came back with.

The image uptop was the Number One. What a lofty summit to scale, you’d think. The anointed top powerpoint dog. Quite the accolade. Powerpointer Andrzej Pach take a bow.

Although you wonder how this particular beach shot got chosen. Although at least it’s better than the image used in their how-to video.

It merits further thought. Particularly from our potential sales deck perspective.

The first point to consider, is that if this really is optimum design, then you’d expect plenty in similar vein to dominate the results. They did not.

Admittedly, there was a notable absence of what you’d label ‘good’ design throughout the results. Many featuring the trad, outdated yet painfully still omnipresent, bullet points. Yet for the next one close to it, you had to scroll through, all the way down to Number 363. Yikes. Here it is.

Eerily alike. Then you spot the internet debate of plagiarism-vs-remix. If you take the dates of each slide’s youtube presence, then Mr Tumey above has allegedly copied Mr Pach’s from the top. His uploaded 24 May 2016. A full seven weeks after the possible ‘original’ appeared, dated 5 April 2016.

For good measure, second-to-the-ball also had the front/insight (*delete as you see fit) to provide a triple progression; name this (the “popsicle” slide), add a few variants of his own and also paste his post to that most cloudy of photocopiers, LinkedIn.

But it doesn’t stop there. Proving things come along in threes, here’s an upload from 12 July 2017. It only came to light when specifically looking to “view more” alongside the initial treatment. The first such “Modern PowerPoint Presentation Slide Design” tip from a “pdfediting”, who began youtubing 9 December 2016;

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. If it’s good, it gets copied. What works, spreads.

blah yadah whatevs

One main impression nags away though.

What kind of world do google say we’re living in for this to be Numero Uno?

This does not strike me as execution of ‘good’ design.

Those “popsicles” are amiss. Not a hit.

The concept though, can be a winner.

Take a recognisable shape. A logo, perhaps. Or silhouette. A relevant audience item or landmark building, say.

And “fill” with an impactful image.

Or as rather seems the case here, more specifically use for the fill the ‘slide background image’.

Then reality check.

Is what you’ve done really better than a full-screen picture with the odd word of text on it?

It likely depends on both the actual shape you’ve filled in along with calibre of photo within it.

Which if you get right, can indeed be a slide of “awesomeness“.


Does Your Recipe Promote Oyster Vocab

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I’m okay with oysters. I don’t actively seek them out. Yet have thoroughly enjoyed them all over the world. From New York’s dedicated Grand Central bar bearing their name, to the buzzing Knysna Festival in their honour, to deep fried in Hong Kong, to memorable days with homegrown Irish Sea Notting Hill gastropub decadence.

So I was fascinated to discover a movement calling itself oyster-veganism. Apparently as they lack a central nervous system (like their snail relative) some who forego meat find them acceptable fuel.

The Oyster Lady got a spot on foodie telly promoting these molluscs as “sustainable, ethical and nutritious” fayre.

In doing so, she quickly showed a pasta dish with them. It looked delicious. Thankfully, she offers the youtube demo (above) for fuller consideration.

We’re well used to working kitchen recipe videos. Whether slick tv productions with nothing left to chance, or the genuine homecook experience.

What struck me about this particular contribution, was how The Lady (Katy Davidson) tried throughout to make-up fresh descriptions. You sense these sought to both set her apart and stick in your mind. Here’s her triple wordy rollcall. Each one has a solution selling mirror we can deploy.


Her first misfires slightly. It’s the title of her dish. Sort-of-perhaps a blend of three (Italian) friends’ names in the trade, giving emotion not  seemingly related to the meal. Attempting to ape carbonara is the right vibe, given the dish’s similarity. Why not say, ‘carbonoyra’? The concept though, is sound. Come up with something creative, to match your original offer that builds on something established and favoured.

verdict: shuking

Stealth Oyster Recipe

What if people squirm about the slithery speciality? Here, she evokes subterfuge to go under the radar. Such sweet medicine.

verdict: pearler

Shipwrecked Mary

Every bit gets used. The darkened frill (gills) gets trimmed away lest it turn the emulsified meat unappetisingly grey. With the snipped off protein then added to omelettes. Even the ‘oyster liquor’ is prized. The juice you encounter inside the opened shell can be an addition to both a Dirty Martini and a maritime take on Bloody Mary. I cannot believe my local seafood bar does not offer one for lunchtime canine revenge.

verdict: another pearler

There’s even oyster emoji. According to buzzfeed, Facebook have a whole bed of sinister ones. With the ‘standard’ shown below they suggest, Use it to say: “I can do anything.”

…which kinda leads us onto secondary points, alternative meanings along with if your deal had an emoji, what would it be…?


Your Zero Coppock Millionaire Prime Buy Time

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whowantstobeamillionaire salespitchfirstquestion player-salespodder

A while back I helped a firm’s large-scale technology sales.

It became apparent that a new way to class suspect buying likelihood existed.

Their target market was turbulent. Lots of M&A activity. Big re-structures aplenty.

To frame this new view, I gave an example of a momentum indicator (I first blogged on these way back in 2009 via the stockbroker world of traders).

The story goes a chap named Coppock wondered about a possible connection between a supposed length of human bereavement and when a bull market starts.

The theory being that investors would be rendered frozen for a certain amount of time after a downturn before being ready to re-enter the market once more.

Disregarding any merits of the mathematics of this (for me it’s 11 and 14 month view is nearer the tea-leaf reading end of the scale, particularly given Harvard psychology Professor Daniel Gilbert’s contention that the impact on our ‘happiness’ of any major positive or negative experience lasts no more than three months), there is a valid discussion point around whether business buyers are likely to leave a fair passage of time following a significant disturbance before any major re-buying.

A commonplace solution objection we face is along the lines of;

‘we’ve just been bought’
‘there’s a big re-org going on’
‘we’re waiting for a new boss’
‘my feet aren’t quite under the table yet’

The seller’s heart sinks a little.

In ‘Coppock’ mode, a six-month call back is duly entered.

Another prospect burned.

There are (at least) two main points here.

The first being the obvious how-long-is-a-piece-of-string. Concerning the time it takes for the dust to settle after such upheaval.

Whatever it is, any repetition of canvassing that lamely asks, ‘how’s the [pick your change] going there?’ goes nowhere.

I can picture a gnarly forecast session where the sales manager hears such plight of woe and snaps back that the funnel simply isn’t big enough. Go out and fill it.

Second, a lead from the birth of one of TV’s biggest ever game show hits; Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? So huge a best picture Oscar even went its way, courtesy of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.

The story of its development and take-up is a cracking Sales tale.

As a concept, its pitch was turned down by every telly exec in England.

A relationship did however exist between the show’s salesperson, Paul Smith (friend of the three creators) and Claudia Rosencrantz (commissioner at Britain’s biggest commercial network, itv).

In fact, it seems she’d become quite the champion. Signalled by her willingness to help craft the show further, even down to coining the eventual name.

Then her boss (a Marcus Plantin) left.

Replaced by a chap called David Liddiment.

Claudia and Paul discussed (at length, back and forth) between them the best time to approach the new guy.

The buyer wanted to wait.

The seller wanted to go in straight away.

He pushed for ‘now’, and asked for trust.

The buyer accepted and teed up the meet.

The resultant 8 April 1998 pitch famously featured a run-through of the game, with real money in cash envelopes.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

You have the solution to a big enough problem, why not become someone’s first purchase too? After all, there has to be one, so why not from you?

footnote: here’s that very first practice/pitch role-play ‘Millionaire…?’ question – at one both way better than the second (What was the length in feet of the Titanic?, which prompted David to shout across the office for answers) as well as a potential lovely tool to get this point across yourself…

What would an Aborigine do with his wurley? Would he:

a) eat it?

b) hunt with it?

c) play it?

d) live in it?


Is Your Smart Reply Better Than Gmail’s?

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Some labour-saving devices change your world. The spork. Spreadsheet auto-sort. A wife.

Others are doomed to the robot-controlled dustbin of failure.

Gmail’s ‘smart reply’ feels like the latter.

It’s invaded my mobile inbox since the Summer. And annoys me each time I see it.

Let’s hope soon you can turn it off outside their prison ecosystem.

Above are four random sets of suggestions google gave me for various snappy email retorts.

I appreciate it may be early days for all this AI. At least unlike Microsoft’s recent efforts, this bot hasn’t turned crazy when encountering real people.

Yet these buttons are so wrong, so lame, so irrelevant.

You wouldn’t whatsapp a close chum with them. Let alone a business correspondent.

It does make the Sales juices flow though.

For instance, given each transaction with a prospect, what are the three responses you endeavour to shape? Or display the good, the bad and the dealkiller? Or are in keeping with your process markers?

And how can you ensure you bring them into being?

Potential buyers often revel in being ornery actioners. A piece of cheese behind the maze wall may not go unnoticed. How can you make it simple to follow your lead?


Dam Busters Spirit

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I watched this movie on a cold, damp and grey Sunday afternoon in England recently. It’s been maybe twenty years since I last saw it, and what a pleasure it was to be refreshed by its inspiration.

I sense a sadness that perhaps more people are unaware of the incredible heroism this film triumphs than ought know of it.

Maybe that’s why a big budget Peter Jackson driven remake has been mooted for some time.

In any case, brilliant inventor Barnes Wallis demonstrates three fundamentals of selling in the first half of the movie.

He’d come up with the idea for a ‘bouncing bomb’. Apparently sparked from Nelson battering the French at the Battle of the Nile a century and a half earlier, when he skimmed cannonballs across the water to reap greater damage to their ships.

When he took the idea to the top brass though, enthusiasm was absent.

Several times he was ignored in the corridors of power.

Despite having model prototype theory proven, bureaucrats in the government dismissed it as too ‘out there’. Despite compelling evidence that all their objections were invalid. Examples included that manufacturing was already producing munitions at their very limit, whereas in reality, using the bouncing bomb would mean overall less bombs would need to be made because of their increased potency.

Frustrated, Wallis opted for a final punt. He went directly to the airforce commander, ‘Bomber’ Harris.

His first barrier was the word that Harris was weary of seeing a succession of madcap pitches. To such an extent, that he longer considered anything ‘new’. The Wallis response was great;

‘everything he uses was new at some point’

Then he beautifully encapsulated the issue he sought to address.

This is about a specific aim, to take out huge dams and render German steel production paralysed.

His approach worked. Bomber Harris went for it.

In selling terms, Barnes Wallis got the go ahead because;

  1. he went to the person who felt the most acute pain, ‘owned’ the need and could make it happen
  2. he got himself in the door by pitching a cast-iron objective
  3. and used a cheekily dismissive ‘false objection’ handle.

Despite looking several times like it was never going to work, the German industrial heartland was duly flooded, and the debt owed to 56 heroes that gave their lives for freedom never forgotten.


Does Your History Lesson Or Key Numbers Slide Pass The Commander-in-Chief Test

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Trumplicants rise up.

This month is notable for reporting in America of an apparent powerpoint page (according to an American armscontrolwonk, possibly like the one up top) almost leading to a renewed nuke arms race.

Here’s the first murmur summary of an alleged 20 July 2017 discussion;

Officials present said that Trump’s comments on a significantly increased arsenal came in response to a briefing slide that outlined America’s nuclear stockpile over the past 70 years.

The president referenced the highest number on the chart — about 32,000 in the late 1960s — and told his team he wanted the U.S. to have that many now, officials said.

The U.S. currently has around 4,000 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

My Boy Donny has since tweeted that this supposed “tenfold” increase desire was “pure fiction”. Later adding “I don’t want more nuclear weapons”.

Let’s see if we can put ourselves in that meeting room.

You’re sitting down with the decision maker.

You have an agenda.

You feel a little background is first required.

So you begin with a history lesson.

The first big mistake.

Your agenda shrinks into the distance. Hijacked. Your hopes bombed. And you could have prevented it so.

I’ve always wondered why sales presenters feel the need for a long exposition of what brings us to this place up front.

It’s hardly ever necessary. It’s nearly always detrimental.

What’s wrong with starting on ‘current state of play’?

Better still, ‘what we’re trying to achieve’.

The Origin stuff – although on the odd (specific) occasion it can have a place such as evidence for your unique expertise growth in this arena or extreme cases of ‘wallowing’ for the deftly experienced  – can stay with Hollywood.

People with attention spans longer than President Trump get bored quickly with ‘background’.

Set the objective. Pose the mystery. Enlighten the answer(s).

Ruthlessly check reaction to any key numbers you present beforehand.

Don’t let one of your early slides allow you to get needlessly blown off course.



My selling blogs this time last year