Can You Rebalance?

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This week the world’s bourse chaos saw unprecedented stock market volatility.

Whether you think it’s all down to the rise of the pricebots meaning algorithms are all programmed to sell or buy at the same triggers and so creating havoc, or that buyers are bullish like never before about a glistening corporate future, is not the point here.

Rather, allow me to introduce a talking head from across the American airwaves this week.

Art Hogan is grandly billed as “chief market strategist with B. Riley FBR”.

In one typical rapidfire exchange (where both parties spoke quicker and almost as incomprehensibly as a cattle auctioneer in a particular hurry to finish extra-early) he offered a trio of tips when asked how ‘we’ should handle this ‘mayhem’.

His ending pair could have applied to practically anything where advice swings wildly between two poles.

They were basically to be creative and innovate, then don’t follow (in this case) the retail market – or more generally, stick to your own path rather than slavishly going with the herd.

His initial words were what more intrigued my Sales antennae.

Don’t panic. Have a plan. Have a plan to rebalance to that plan.

The last time I think I had to double-take when hearing the word ‘rebalance’ in a context new to me was during an enforced viewing of chickflick Eat Pray Love1. The memoir’s protagonist travelling the world in search of her potentially elusive, mystical, own perfect ‘balance’.

Ask google what the first victim of war is. You’ll get a list of choices. Truth, innocence, information, the plan.

It is that last one which is my personal favourite.

Many a military sage will tell you that no plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy.

Having scenarios all laid out – like some 1970s multinational central policy unit tree diagram – is hardly an attractive idea.

Yet having a plan to know that your initial one will be amended, adapted, added to? Well, that is possible.

Don’t Panic. Keep Calm. Level heads keep the Sale on track. Especially, I suspect, when they know how they’ll “rebalance” the deal.

Incidentally, I loved that many reviewers of this 2010 Julia Roberts-starring movie (not quite as bad as all the critics made out, but still…) tried to create their own such ‘tricolon’, or perhaps more accurately in this case, ‘hendiatris’. Such as Peter Bradshaw’s “Yawn, Fidget, Stretch. Seethe, Growl, Rage.”

And around six months back I blogged about similar via this Gmail app ad pitch & also twelve months ago on reading this blind-date appraisal.


How Often Does The Fire Bell Ring In Your Sales Office?

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A food wholesaler to the pub and restaurant trade hired an English Sales Consultant.

They sought more new client acquisition.

He decided to bring an “American” touch into the office.

An old-school bell.

Each time someone landed a new customer, they must ring the bell.

No matter what anyone else was doing, meeting, phoning.


They office seemed to like the addition.

I heard that at one point a buyer down the line even commented, “the fire alarm sure does ring a lot in your office there!”

It brought to mind one of those early business reality telly shows. A second-hand car dealership swapped managers. An American – self-styled as the USA’s best car salesman (but sadly not Don Ready) – arrived to much bewilderment at a provincial English showroom.

Practically the only item he instigated that stayed in place after he’d gone was the exact same.

A bell on reception that after each sale, the salesperson went and rang.

For them, it seemed that both customers and sellers enjoyed the experience.

Many a sales floor has something similar.

It’s better suited to some sectors more than others.

Is it a fit for yours?


Your 30 Second Bio, Go!

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Local band on a city-based radio station (remember them?) being interviewed. Flush with a touch of early success, latest song to plug (vid above).

The presenter channelled his inner children’s tv presenter to put the youngsters on the spot;

So, your thirty-second bio…!

One of the trio gave it a go. Stuttering, giggling, he began along the lines of ‘well, the other two are brothers so I met them and we made music and been to a load of cool places…’.

The DJ had placed a tick-tock sound effect underneath, which the musician commented on. As in, piling on the comedy pressure. Before you knew it, his 30 secs was up. And you were not really any the wiser.

Such a commonplace style of question.

I’ve many times before blogged on the old favourite Sales stumper, “what do you do?” (For instance, with a water innovation & new media agency as well as the wonderful table-turner from Derren Brown.)

Other flavours figure. Way back in the Nineties I once got mis-introduced as a “marketing expert” (I know). Straight back, the prospect piped, “what’s been your best marketing idea then?” Ouch.

This backstory-journey-history question is different but similarly deadly for the unwary.

The very term “bio” may be a touch media luvvy, but answers that work likely revolve around milestones.

A durable startup may well talk about when they were founded, their client volume landmarks, secondary product releases. Perhaps even adding the problem they uniquely resolve and sweet spot customer profile. What many miss is that classic “ingredient x”, when you discovered the (as kind of termed by Guy Kawasaki) “underlying magic”. One that perhaps also truly ‘enchants’ customers.

Half-a-minute doesn’t give much room for manoeuvre. Probably less than 100 words to play with. Yet this remains a vital response to prepare for in the field.


The Bagel Quandary

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One of my favourite snack stops. As I grabbed an elevenses coffee, there was a German ahead of me.

He liked the look of the bagels. Yet the half-dozen or so fillings on offer made from scratch that morning left him hankering after one not there.

He wanted Emmental cheese. Then suggested they ought pair it with sauerkraut to then make a Reuben.

I chuckled to the boss that he must get told to do new bagels every day. The reply, “every two hours, mate”.

Yet this is an age-old solution sell conundrum.

To bespoke or not bespoke?

Can you charge more?

Is sales substitution likely (one product negatively taking sales from another)?

What about lengthened lead times?

Stock costs?

Extra staff costs?

Would it actually equate to greater profit?

There are plenty of sharp horns lurking atop this dilemma.

This little deli bar have made their choice.

Standard product, done well, fair price, ‘as is’.

If you do bespoke, make totally sure you charge for it.


Project Logos Can Be Tricky

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This widely mocked piece of “hideous” work is said to put the graphic design industry to shame. The newly announced Malaysia 2020 tourism logo considered so bad, several netizens flocked to offer alternatives.

One outlet went on to produce a rogues gallery of equally baffling location-promoting “design”. Of these, perhaps my favourite #epicfail was this piece of re-branding for a Northern English town, supposedly costing and eye-popping £110.000.

As one commentor noted, “well the sign sums Burnley council right up…keep going round in circles and end up in a right mess”.

I often try and make a kind of marque for a sales project.

It is something I would often recommend you do.

A visual cue unique to you can work wonders.

Yet as you can judge from the above pair, when even the so-called pros run into trouble, then for us the task is fraught with danger.

It can be relatively easy to make a silhouette of a specific piece of kit. Then say, apply a particular and relevant colour scheme to it.

Take a number that means something to your prospect and your slant on the deal. Then perhaps put it inside an outline of an existing logo.

Use a data graphic, recognised as depicting glory. Shorn of its legend and any ‘chartjunk’, it can be a signal you can utilise.

These are entry-level options.

Which should also be tested in advance of any serious broadcast too.

Happily introducing another way to see exactly who you friends are buyerside.


5 Es of … Plastic Lawn Provider

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You may have read my recent musings on what I consider a great little tactic. Framing yourself by 5 words, all beginning with the same letter.

Well. I riffed with a pal of mine, in the midst of beefing up his website, about being able to answer the typical, yet unassumingly dastardly, question, ‘what do you guys do then?’.

He sells artificial grass. Over six years he’s developed considerable credibilty, expertise and a fine growing business.

The pic above is our quickfire brainstorm to select 5 words that sum up why he does what he does, and furthermore, where he feels set apart from alternative providers on his, ahem, turf.

They begin with ‘E’ as that’s what his company’s name starts with.

Aligned with this, I also showed him the recent Twitter PR site with a terrific approach to testimonials.

How he intended to use all this, was to list his five words, and tell a story about each one.

Take ‘Essence’. He loved this particular word because it evokes the calming and cool effect his greenery can have on a previously desolate space.

He takes ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of his installations. The two examples he gave about this were wonderful.

The first, was at the grey, dark and unwelcoming exit of a world famous tourist attraction.

Those running the show were irritated they never sold anything in this area.

Once they put in the synthetic grass, sales soared (…be great to know by how much). They found people felt relaxed and happy to hang around and browse in the newly feel-good space.

The second, concerned an outdoor jungle gym and playground at a renowned shopping and leisure destination.

Previously, all the parents would frustratedly stand around the sidelines. It was tarmac all over. The children played on their own, and not for very long.

Once the astroturf went down, the whole atmosphere changed dramatically. People lingered longer, parents joined in with their kids, smiles were everywhere.

He went further. About to have new business cards printed, he wanted to have his ‘5 Es’ on the back, with a brief strapline for each.

Once you nail your five, they’re so simple to remember and great to recite when someone asks about your business.

We both had a lot of  fun doing this exercise and you could also feel the vibe was one of being pleasantly energised.

To truly succeed with this, I reckon he should go further. Think of 5 words for his chosen market sector. Imagine, for instance, if he could ‘own’ the five Xs of No Maintenance Greenery. He could mow down the competition…


Selling Water Restrictions

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Will Cape Town run dry?

As I blog today, Day Zero – when in what could be an unwanted global first the city’s water supply is set to disappear – is a little over two months away.

The worst drought since 1904 has come after three years with no rain. Residents were first urged to keep personal daily use inside 87 litres. That’s now slashed, down to just 50.

South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ international airport greets arrivals with all manner of visuals educating on the plight.

Above you can see some of the 87 single litre bottles of water dangling across the passageway, just after clearing customs, heading for the exit atrium.

They deploy posters too.

Yet these, whilst striking, are I sense ineffective without context.

How many people know how much water brushing teeth takes? Washing the dishes? Flushing the loo?

The amount of ’87’ certainly dangles in the air.

Here’s how a luxury hotel, The Radisson, get the point across to guests. First the practical;

Then the shocking pictorial;

A much better visual explanation.

Comparison is everything.

A good example of what’s often missing from a solution Sale slidedeck to get your before/after magic across.


Quest Suffers Fracture At Davos

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Another year at the One Percenters Club in Davos, another Richard Quest whiteboard (here’s last year’s flipchart).

He trampolined on the WEF’s pitiful 2018 theme, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”.

Above you can see what five days of The Elite scrawling their wisdom looks like.

A ‘fracture’ line down the middle. Your left-sided mark denotes a world not so fractured, one on the right more so. Arrows show their perceived direction of travel.

One man who didn’t seem to see the CNN internal memo was their Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen. His summary?

I think people will go back from here feeling a little less fractured.

And with that, Leftists shed a tear. Although salvation came perhaps from Richard’s own closing thoughts;

And you make of this what you will. I think overall what you get from it is where people sort of in [the fractured] area. But it’s the arrows there also were most fascinating. And by and large when you try and count them all up, more arrows do suggest that [more fractured] direction. But the fracture board has well and truly served its purpose.

I flicked through the show’s transcripts. I counted 21 luminaries leaving their mark. They all embraced the task. Smiles all round. They liked choosing (and explaining their) pen colours. In some cases, sticking to type maybe, even two. They drew shapes, arrows, circles, squiggles. Happy to talk through their thoughts.

Whiteboarding works. All solution salespeople must deploy this kind of exercise.

Regardless of how ridiculous I might personally find the majority of contributors in this particular case, once again Quest shows how to achieve great engagement and find out intel you’d otherwise not be shown. I hope you’re doing the same with your prospects.


Freedom Figure Fix

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I endured once working for a maleficent chief exec. One of the many examples of this unwelcome trait emerged from his views on hidden drivers.

He’d encourage all salespeople to mortgage themselves up to the hilt. Whatever house they were thinking of living in, he’d batter them to get a bigger one.

He’d even revel in intrusive interview questions where candidates were forced to divulge monthly outgoings so he could gauge ‘hunger’ (or desperation).

He believed that with such a large monetary noose around their necks they’d be super-determined to hit ever-ludicrously enormous sales targets.

I was reminded of this when a medical therapist asked me to write down personal goals for activity once treatment succeeded.

On vision and dreamboards and the like (for instance, blogged on here), many a seller pins up a postcard of the idyllic holiday destination. Where they’d whisk their partner off to on quota-busting commission. Or the car of their petrolhead fantasy. Or any of the myriad status symbols or material desires that they hope will make them happy. All intended to be a daily visual motivational reminder.

I’ve regularly had chats with salespeople (especially on motorways heading to meetings a fair lick away) where what they’re hoping to spend their commission on crops up. And one-on-one you can refer to this throughout the year.

But I’ve never asked everyone at a team forum to detail what the number one item they’ll be earning commission for would be. I struggle to imagine any of the salesteams I’ve worked with liking this as a public exercise. Even the American ones.

So I was intrigued to learn about your Freedom Figure.

It sounds similar to the Breaking Bad Calculation.

What is the cash you need to accumulate to set you free?

In Sales in a sense making 100% of your allotted number gives you freedom.

So you should know yours.

In which case, the two pillars you must get to grips with are how you’ll get there and what you’ll do once you land.

I often like to use different, more tailored words to gain extra recognition. Alternatives for ‘quota’ and ‘target’ are thin on the ground. I’m not sure freedom figure is the right vibe on its own. Yet what you seek freedom for, now that could make a good image that sticks…


Never Be Shameless About From Where An Idea Hails

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I caught a South African rolling news show called Tech Report the other day. One segment had a countdown of the presenter’s favourite all-time geek quotes. Here’s her number one;

we’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas

It was attributed to Apple’s Steve Jobs. Stifle that yawn please.

Well, first off, theft is theft, right. It is not to be condoned.

With all the patent wars going on in courtrooms across the globe, you sense no one vendor can claim the moral high ground.

The first time I consciously became aware of this kind of thing was when learning about Microsoft. A company that I struggle to think of ever having an original idea of their own. And yet made billions.

It was about how they started. Accurate or otherwise, they way it was taught me at b-school was thus;

IBM wanted an operating system for their new fangled small computer. Their engineers had developed something they named qdos. Fiendishly nicknamed by detractors, the ‘quick and dirty operating system’.

Yet it was considered a tad pricey. Bill Gates got wind of this. So he “copied” it and relabelled it as his ‘dos’. And cheaper.

Of course, he couldn’t ‘copy’ it, exactly. So the story ran that he looked at it, then handed out a brief, locked coders in a darkened room and waited to see what they came up with. This way, there was no ‘copying’.

And a billion dollar empire was on its way.

(You can read another view on this within Stephen Fry‘s excellent Apple Mac 30th birthday tribute essay.)

When I read the oft-referenced Good To Great; Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, I was struck by how many of the so-called ‘leaders’ were second into a market. They were not the original innovators. They built on the ‘inventor’s’ discoveries and outpaced them.

There’s even a whole web meme on ‘remixers’. Its disciples preach that, rather than think stuff up for yourself from scratch, the real fortunes are made taking what someone else has done and tweaking it.

Perhaps it is this approach that more correctly defines what Jobs meant?

In my academic days, this was termed “appropriation”. It is somewhere within the scale which at the poles has either slavish ‘imitation’ or pure ‘innovation’.

This applies to Sales too.

On a number of occasions, my customer has passed me the competition’s proposal. It’s happened both pre- and post-signup.

I can recall once or twice flicking through and seeing something presented really well.

So what did I do?

I ‘borrowed’ it.

That is to say, I took the idea, added or took away elements, and improved upon it for my own future use.

As individual sellers, we can’t be expected to come up with every great idea ourselves, can we? So there’s no harm in cheekily “standing on the shoulders” of others when the chance arises, is there?