Deal Hurricane Spaghetti Models

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As the latest ‘worst ever’ hurricane, Irma, slams through the Caribbean, I saw for the first time the forecast amalgam of the spaghetti model.

The idea is that every weather watcher that suggests where the cyclone is headed has their path plotted. You can see by how much they differ in their (un)glorified guesswork. As each day passed along its 16mph devastation, the spaghetti moved quite considerably. One hour Havana was toast, Miami spared. Only for an hour later, a total reversal.

I show above just a trio of the many such graphical representations various ‘official’ feeds shared.

Yet the one treatment I was most entertained with is less geographic, and more concerned with Mother Nature’s power over time. These people term it an (experimental) Intensity Graph;

I wondered if there’s scope on an ‘account review’ of ‘deep dive’ deal analysis to think in these terms?

I do struggle to think of any sales outfit geared up to devote time to such output. Even those with a traditional supposed second-in-command of Sales Ops Manager. (As they’re sadly in my experience far from the required process gurus, instead focusing – being told to focus? – on elements of compliance.)

Yet if you could jot down your process markers over the bid timeline and work out where deviation, delay and drama might occur, then you could well be onto something. Such as nailing where you accelerate, enjoy “gateway” progression and gain key agreements, or stumble and fall. At the very least you’ll get closer to the tropics of Sales success that refining where your process wins brings.


Slide As Coloured Text Doc

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howtheproductworks seenslide 4-3

This is an abridged replica of a real-life slide. The bouncy Millennial showing it, talked whilst mostly looking at the screen, rather than audience. Repeatedly tasseling her hair, giving an air of indifference.

Although not impossible, it is extremely hard to ever justify a place for such a slide. And certainly never for said delivery.

There’s a total absence of any elements of persuasion or imprint.

The title first. Does your slide even need one? In fact, if you ban titles as a pedantry diktat from your Sales decks it’s remarkable the improvement you’ll unleash.

In this case, it isn’t about your product. It’s about their answer.

Then we come to the text. Just because lengthy prose is shorn of the starting bullet blot doesn’t make them miraculously acceptable. Not even an attempt at headlines here. And why a quartet? Such an ugly number for a list.

I yearned for any form of diagram. If you insist on a foursome, then how about a 2×2 box? A classic triangle, using each vertex or side with middle space or external extra?

Branding. I’m with the school that rails against each slide having your treasured stamp repeated as some misguided badge of pride on every turn. Twitter address included.

This treatment feel familiar? If any of your output looks like the pic up top, then make the time to mix it up. As a priority please.


How You Label People Can Make A Real Difference

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Witnessed on a train I was alighting recently. Here’s a commonly seen style of corporate clothing.

The casual uniform with banner emblazoned on its back.

Team Member

Research abounds that diagnostic labels matter.

Like assigning students into groups by alleged ability, when they were in fact random, yet the results somehow gravitate towards the expected group norm. Like telling people they are winners, and then they become so.

What does being a ‘team member’ even mean?

I remember when I first went clubbing (oh the glory days) and saw bartenders with huge letters spelling STAFF on the backs of their corporate coloured t-shirts. (I recall always preferring to see CREW.)

A bit like when navvies endured orange plastic sewn onto their work overcoats to denote their level.

There must be a better way.

There’s the famous story of how Disney improved both customer relations/experience and employee effectiveness through their ‘relabel’; Cast Members.

If you’re in a team, whether the standard sales operation with different patches or perhaps even a sole rider with assorted support, how are you labelling those around you?

‘Salespeople’ alone is not good enough. How about these informal tones;

Go Getters, Problem Solvers, Client 007s, The Listeners

(When I first tapped that last one, I mistyped it as ‘listenerds’, which I really liked!)

And why not apply the same idea internally to your customers?

The Indispensibles, A-Streamers, Trailblazers, Einsteiners

Better still, incorporate a linguistic nod to their problem that you remove. There’s an endless choice of words that signify how and where both you and your clients make a difference.

Remember, diagnostic labels matter. So why not use a good’un?


So You’re Passionate About Coffee, Meh…

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…we are passionate about coffee

The opening statement of blackboard marketing Bronx-scrawl in another independent coffee shop I happened across lately.

I realised my tendency to zone out when someone mentions to me they are “passionate” about something or other.

I remember my early days of a new venture at the turn of the millennium where I revelled in telling prospects I would not, nor ever likely, have passion for the category description of what they sold.

Perhaps a form of the “provocative sell”, who cares.

What I was deeply interested in though, was how they sold it. The problems they resolved and where they wished to improve.

It is very difficult to understand how people succumb to passion for widget x or package y.

Yet in the context of what they allow, well that’s an entirely different matter.

Coffee shops to me are not about coffee.

The act of supping commoditised to a capsule-pod culture now from your own couch.

Whilst an acceptable calibre of brew is important, it is a mere starting point. Providing a platform. One of several flagstones. It’s surely more how the spending of time in said establishment improves the lot of the paying patron.

Yes, you might express passion for coffee as a proprietor. Starbucks probably say the very same thing. Lucky you.

Ought your passion truly breathe elsewhere? A chillax in a busy day, a slice of The Med, a vibrant meeting place. Or quite the distance removed? Wannapreneurs, the latest scandi-oriental life tonic, an artistic retreat.

You even read that England itself could somehow see astounding growth over the next eight years. A 5th Wave, no less. Requiring an eye-popping extra 40,000 baristas. So many new outlets that pretty soon they’ll *gasp* outnumber pubs. The world is full of people selling coffee. As there are with accounting software, training days, outsourced admin. All manner of b2b products and services.

Your passion isn’t the liquid passed through the roasted bean. It is the sun-filled pleasure surrounding the rainbow sparkling moment of consumption where the unicorn playfully grazes.

Now, how do you get that passion across…?


Spotting Selling Echophenomenon

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Everyone knows that yawning is supposedly contagious, right? Even if I didn’t know its biology term; oscitation. “Supposedly” being the debate, despite some academics ‘supposedly’ proving it to be a real ‘thing’ this week.

Still, I was alert to finding that such unintentional responses are known as echophenomenon.

Similar to the type of involuntary physical micro-expression that give away your true feelings.

I instantly thought back to all the body language and (whisper it) NLP sessions I’ve seen go right in one ear and straight out the other of sales audiences.

Yet there is something in the unknowingly mirrored bodily signals.

Not every buyer can keep up their poker faced non-committal stance throughout each meet.

There are the little tricks the old pros drop to unveil just how onside the prospect really is. The jazz-handed arms in the air and lean-back. The theatrical pen throw-down and fold of arms. The signature semaphore style punchline move. When they get quickly copied in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it way, they hope they’ve a healthy toe in the door.

I’m not so much concerned with these ‘supposed’ psycho-shortcuts. More so, I’m interested in the echoing of our sales process and elements within it. These are the real diviners of future dotted line success.

When you ask for some info, how is it presented? When you suggest an agenda, how do they suggest amendments? When you elicit a piece of documentation, how do they respond?

And perhaps most crucially, when you put forward a timeline, what level of collaborative examination of it occurs?


10 Salescraft Tips Via Bestseller Debut Novelist

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I caught a Kiwi-born Aussie author who’s debut novel became a recent bookworld sensation (The Rosie Project) divulge tips for writerpreneurs. I realised the experience of Graeme Simsion held certain selling parallels. Here’s a ten-point checklist;

1 Experiment Not To Distraction
If you are going to experiment, try something a little different or change-up the standard norms in your pitch, make sure it doesn’t leave the audience wondering more about what on earth is going on rather than marvelling at your memorable innovation. The authoring example worked through included removing quotation marks around speech and the traditional marker ‘, said x’. ‘You don’t want to be drawing attention to something you don’t want the reader to focus on’.

2 Rehearse Vocally
He finds it essential to read aloud to someone else (he and his wife read entire manuscripts to each other). This is so underdone in sales and is unforgivable.

3 Don’t Get Hung Up On The Start
Apparently many writers go big on how they put that first paragraph together. Seeking a killer brilliant first para or line that’ll be seen like a classic opening. His advice is don’t worry about it. Write a brilliant story and come back and polish the very start later. If upfront you find yourself mulling too long on how does the pitch open, then heed his words, “I just say forget it!” He later added, “don’t get it right, get it done”.

4 Keep Testing And Improving
Whilst not all novelist share his view here (he cited Zadie Smith as one who apparently thinks differently), you do admire his mantra, “good writing is re-writing”. A successful pitch is one of constant refinement. Just like a winning process.

5 Selling Is A State Of Mind
Yes, I’m aware of the need to ‘switch off’. Yet as he agreed when another author noted, writing is a state of mind. And so is worldclass selling.

6 Beware Friendly Advice
Getting feedback before sending on a finished work is a writer’s staple. Yet he warns that your friends are not professionals and may well have no idea on how to make what you’ve toiled over better or how to fix it. He quotes Neil Gaiman; ‘editors are almost always right when they tell you there’s a problem and almost always exactly wrong when they tell you what the problem is and always wrong when they tell you how to fix it.’ How this translates to sales is to be wary from whom you seek counsel outside your office. If they can’t ever put their hand in their pocket for you, how valid is their opinion?

7 Constructive Criticism Only
An allied point, he agreed with another author again berating the critical sting of “no mate, that’s no good”. That’s not good enough. At the very least it must be backed up with reasons and suggestions or else dismiss.

8 When Rejected
Every book that finds success is going to have rejections. Not everyone is ever going to like what you do. I did like his idea to look up your favourite book of all time, then read the one-star reviews. For every stellar seller, they all have them. Critiques well-thought out and otherwise will tear a classic to shreds (upon release and later). So even if you’ve got a product seemingly unloved in which you believe, you may well find a foil you can build upon.

9 Think Through Flow
Whilst there are authors that seemingly claim they begin a book not knowing how the characters will traverse the universe created, this slant got short shrift. Get the plot sorted up front and build. Just like how you sculpt a great pitch or presentation.

10 Social Media Schmedia
The question he gets asked far too often is, “what about my social media?” His chastening reply, “think of all that time you spend on twitter and spend that time on writing a better book”. Yes, this needs to be said to all those reps I’ve seen spending useless hours on LinkedIn.


How’s Your Pitch Compare With Pied Piper’s First?

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our only glimpse of the embryonic startup app landing page interface

Hit TV show Silicon Valley. Series One, Episode One; “Minimum Viable Product”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, introvert coder Richard spends his spare time outside working for a tech giant trying to develop an app of his own. He calls it Pied Piper. He thinks of it as solving a particular niche problem. Whereas investors see a game-changing gem hidden inside.

Before he reaches that exalted stage of programmer dreams, the bidding war, we see him deliver his pitch.

Our first encounter of it is hearing how he persuaded an incubator to back him for his “google of music”. Hardly the “rad” label it might have seemed. Here’s how Richard first tells us what his baby does;

Pied Piper will be able to search the whole world of recorded music to find out if there’s a match to see if you’re infringing on any copyrighted material, so if you’re a songwriter or a band, …

Before his ‘backer’ cuts him off. Later, with his plans in tatters, he buttonholes a billionaire leaving his own Ted talk;

Pied Piper is a proprietary site that let’s you know if your music is infringing on any existing copyrights, so imagine you’re a songwriter okay….

He’s cut off again, this time by distraction and then their Assistant; “…it sounds like it would take incredible processing power”, she says. “Yes, yes it does” the billionaire agrees leading Richard to protest as they walk away, “no, no I’ve made an algorithm…” But off they disappear, unsold.

And an award winning showrun begins.

So what of the founder’s initial pitch?

It’s meant to be, if not “wrong”, then certainly for the purpose of dramatic set up, “misfiring”.

Yet the key element is (almost) there.

My immediate thought was of the why-what-how “golden circle” method.

Here, the ‘why’ must come first and is that no songwriter will ever get themselves in trouble for using someone else’s tune again.

The ‘what’ is pretty much that first line of his initial stab.

As for the ‘how’, like saying it’s “proprietary”, well, definitely best left unsaid completely at this stage.

Luck makes its generous intervention meaning Richard’s app is salivated over for what’s under the bonnet and a bidding war erupts. Whilst there’s never a dodgy pitch when the funds flow, best we don’t resort to hope of a magical break when pitching our new product.

as a footnote, I also loved the portrayal of Richard’s pitch to the intolerant, disinterested tech billionaire – note how the pitcher’s eyes were closed for a long while as he got going, desperate to recite how he’d perhaps rehearsed it in his mind;


Broken Telephone Chinese Whispers

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I remember my old junior school dinners fondly. The food was rather good, even if the supervision was not. We sat at octagonal tables and often played a game we called ‘chinese whispers’. I’ve since been told this was named so possibly as a result of the vast distances messages had to travel back across such an unnecessarily large country. And I was intrigued to find the same game apparently has another name too, ‘broken telephone’.

The game starts with someone whispering something to the person next to them. Close to the ear, with cupped hand masking any sound leakage.

The content would often be something jokingly teasing about a fellow diner.

Everyone repeated this in turn until the eighth person. They would then say out loud the message.

And as you can probably guess, the message was never the same as the one that’d started out.

In just eight people, it normally changed out of all recognition.

And this is the same thing that happens in selling.

It occurs in two respects.


You must constantly repeat messages, over and over, to salespeople. Especially about new pitches, products and selling collateral. If they only hear it once, salespeople will not regurgitate it correctly when required.

One example I witnessed with my own ears recently was with a rep pitching me that his company boasted;

60,000 employees and a $11bn war chest

When the reality – one presented at a new-year-kick-off meeting just the very day before – was startlingly different;

40,000 employees and a $3bn war chest

A sizeable discrepancy, and one prospects could easily pick up on in negative light if amplified even farther on other aspects of the bid.


Imagine you pass on a nugget to a person inside a prospect. You want them to use it and spread the word around their organisation. What chance do you now think they have of getting something potentially so prone to mis-quoting correct?

Give them a slide with the fact emblazoned large on it, write it in a tweet-sized soundbite, leave them a message that is just the now-standard tv news 7secs long, or better still, ensure you’re permitted to pass it on yourself, without recourse for a messenger.

As a post-script I did a cool short item on this as a conference-break ‘game’ recently. It works a treat to help hone a key new message.

I invoked the daddy of memes, Richard Dawkins. One of the essential qualities he believes something must have to be accurately passed on (often in today’s terms equating to ‘going viral’) is “copying fidelity”. A message that can be passed on without alteration is what you’re after.


Don’t Come Off Your High-Speed Rails

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HS2 is a shuddering piece of English transport infrastructure. That may or may not host passengers within the next decade.

Global public funded projects of this ilk have such bad press you wonder how any ever got made. For every modern day marvel like Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport Chek Lap Kok replacement there’s a procrastination over a new London runway, a half-century in and counting.

The particular embarrassment of this British trainline spine I’ve mentioned when blogging before (with sales traps on labelling and that classic airport framing).

The public mood (or is that rather the sneer of the metropolitan liberal elite) seems against the project. Despite the twin Crossrail mega-projects given to London for pretty much similar ends. The error was hard-wired into the ‘branding’.

HS1 was pitched as for trains to go as quick as the French to remove the shame of chugging sedately through Kent.

Mass approval. So why not use the same label for the next such plan? HS2 was born.

Every single advocate majored solely on the quickness it’d bring.

The problem was that no-one seemed to care much for reduced travel time between London and Second City Birmingham 100 miles north. Especially as the main connected stations planned were both some way from the town centres. The vast billions price tag derided as folly. A vocal coalition of Stop-HS2 opponents with the refrain “No Business case, No environmental case, No money to pay for it”. Brand now so toxic that the proposed extension up-country re-calibrated by the recipients as Northern Powerhouse Rail instead of official HS3 stamp.

The real benefit of the line is less speed, more capacity. Many are making this renewed case. Yet has the battle been lost? I applauded a latest spokesman this week state;

“HS2 will connect eight out of our 10 biggest cities, increase rail capacity on the current system and reduce journey times, while also creating thousands of jobs and acting as a catalyst for economic growth across the UK.”

Travel time definitely taking a back seat. Further confirmed with the continuation;

“At Euston, our work will triple the number of seats out of the station at peak hours and help to create a gateway to the capital and the nation that the local community and travelling public can rightly call their own.”

They’ve finally realised the precise greater good they should be promoting. But the journey to imprint this on the public won’t end at their desired destination any time soon.

Just because something worked in the past does not mean that it will win when pitched again.


17 Renovation Ideas So Your Work Space Says Your Smart Not Sad

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Who isn’t at least the teeniest obsessed with My Boy Donny? What a wonder democracy is. We get to see how the sanctum most inner of the American Presidential work space, known as the Oval Office, is now renovated.

I was hoping he’d happily follow his penchant for what style guru Peter York gleefully labels Dictator Chic.

Sadly, perhaps with the female members of his family in charge, this has not emerged. Although gold does feature prominently. On lamps, curtains, upholstery and statement rug.

Media commentators anguish over what replacements-stroke-ripouts of the Obama years might mean. Swapping the MLK bust back for Churchill. A mid-repair Lady Liberty picture becomes a portrait of a 19th Century populist predecessor. A pair of flags multiply into at least ten.

Whilst hoping for hygge-infused sushi’d minimalism with an ikea flourish may not quite be the ticket either, this 17-day re-fit does hold Sales relevance.

We too need a productive place to spend most of our modern-day nine-to-five. As well as providing the right vibe when hosting those we hope will fund it.

Scurrying the corporate hamster wheel, we may not get much scope for personalisation. Neither meeting rooms nor cubicles have changed much in the thirty years I’ve known them.

So what can (must) we do?

In the spirit of the days this project took, here’s seventeen little ideas for ensuring your space avoids the soulless replication of the standard and turn it into a ever greater selling den. Starting with what you should get rid of;

  • take down posters put up by Marketing, HR or Corporate Affairs and discard glossies from any external ‘motivation’ firm
  • eschew all departmental scoreboards, although you may have a malleable version of your own personal forecast provided it is not the same as you submit to management, ie; it focuses on progress set against process
  • give away that tie you kept hanging in the office ‘for emergencies’
  • be brutal, channel your inner sales samurai/ninja and embrace extreme Japanese sentiment de-cluttering; take home loved ones portraiture, toddler daubings and team ‘prize’ certificates (a daubing may be acceptable if it’s an attempt to portray mummy’s/daddy’s product with accompanying happy smiling people around/using it)
  • remove presence of brands wherever possible (note one possible exception might – just might – be if included as what success will enable in a visionboard/dreamboard style perhaps)
  • bin any comedy accessory in the mould of a ‘you don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’ mug, stress relieving “executive toy”, mask, permanently in place festive christmas tinsel or picture of anyone resembling a ‘celebrity’
  • ideally, try keeping artefacts to a minimum (although I once had an african thumb piano on my desk to remind me of Cape Town) but you can aim for at least one treasured client’s product on view, preferably in physical, even miniature, form

…moving on to what should be on show;

  • process reminders – undoubtedly the most important
  • maps of deals
  • organagrams of prospect influence
  • winning bid timelines
  • deal-clinching slides
  • card-mounted at least A3 (US: tabloid/ledger) printouts of killer graphs and dataviz wizardry
  • key words you must use liberally in phone calls (especially the key problem you resolve and how to initially pitch)
  • client testimonial that is NOT a cheesy corporate comms sanitised nonsense striped of any real meaning
  • photo-collage of client (or their client) interior/plant where you’ve made big impact
  • logos of your prospects/customers – possibly with their key strategic strapline attached (as stated by the ceo or from their annual report)

Alternatively, you could always have absolutely nothing whatsoever on display at all. Only perhaps a phone. But this is a devilishly tricky feat to pull off.