Taming Transmogriphobes

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Alright, so I love the vibe to transmog.

There’s a widely used, now debunked as a myth, Aussie “survey” finding that when current students enter the workforce, two-thirds of them will do jobs that don’t exist today. Despite the absence of any such original study Down Under, the perception persists that brand new jobs appear at an ever faster rate.

This week, London’s Times reported the latest wave. These include their headline grabbers; drone photographer, brexit planner and gaming shoutcaster. As well as growth from recently established newfangulations; social media managers, Influencers, data protection advisers (aka GDPR), big data miners and machine learning engineers.

A couple of years ago, my 2,000th post reflected on changes in Sales during my decade of blogging from inside selling. I cited Deloitte numbers that half of jobs then did not exist ten years prior.

I rail against inertians so much that it was one of my selling words of the year for 2017.

Back when I was deep in enterprise software I recall a conversation among peers about our most reviled job roles. Stereotypes encountered daily. From the Luddite to those welded so firmly to their status quo you wondered how we ever made it beyond our species-birthing swampland.

Financial Controller, Design Engineer, IT Manager.

The frighteningly change-averse whom if you ever had the misfortune to contact would respond akin to the famed cartoon of the trolley-pushing tea-lady rebuffing someone offering her any beverage-vending mechanism.

So how do you connect with and mobilise those who feel threatened by the march of progress?

Change is coming. As sure as Night follows Day. Automation, social media, bots, outsource, gig economy. There’s a long list of imminent disruptive buzzwords. We might not have the previously promised jetpacks, but our transport will – very soon – have neither steering wheel, internal combustion engine nor stress. How will this be for Sales?

Twenty years ago I saw a then selling-tech doyen Tom Siebel conference keynote in Chicago. It was sadly underwhelming. Its main thrust was what he labelled automatic sales agents. Possibly cementing the kind of closed-system proprietary madness that prevailed with airline seat (over)booking back then and what right now we’d term as bots making ordering decisions between stockist and client. Given the then path of EDI, hardly guruesque prescience.

Yet if you asked anyone who’s been in their role a fair while, what changes have they seen over their past, say, five years, I’m pretty sure you’d get a long or significant answer. You can even switch that dreaded word ‘change’ for something disarming. Developments, improvements, progress, innovations, frying pan in the face like Jerry-chasing poor old Tom.

You might even tee this idea up by asking when the last period of settled, quiet, unaffected, humdrum, steady-as-she-goes operation existed in their world before or since any geologic-style plate shift.

The different types of job titles appearing are but one simple indicator across any sector.

If such shifting has slid through over the years just gone, imagine what’ll happen over the next few. Forget few. How about next twelve months. And how are you, mister prospect, making plans to handle the next bang…?


Can You Sense Your Prospect’s V1 Speed?

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Here’s an interesting concept from aviation.

The speed reached by a plane on a runway at which it is not possible to abort the take-off is called V1.

It’s a critical moment. Known as the “commit to fly” speed.

This whole area holds a quiet fascination. Wikipedia alone at my time of blogging here defines 73 separate V-speeds. All manner of alphanumeric subscripts after each V.

Prospects definitely have their own V1 measure.

The point at which momentum is irreversible. The Deal Is Go. Funds will duly flow. It’s up to us to make sure there’s a proper win-win fit, then secure those funds in our favour.


Performance = Capability x Behaviour

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What a Series from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Rugby – sport – at its compelling best.

In the aftermath of the strangely anticlimactic – and now perhaps never to be repeated – shared spoils, many words are spilled of vincible double world champions and Legend Lions.

Yet the thwarted New Zealanders have, for all but a two-decade blip around the dawn of (transition to) global professionalism, played a different game to the rest.

Yes, there’s thievery of nearby island schoolyard talent, the blatant breakdown transgressions that somehow stay largely unchecked and the disgrace to world sport that is the pre-kick-off haka. But there’s also the permanent fearlessness of their forwards, scintillating backs, incredible handling, ferocious momentum and breathtaking speed that all often goes completely unmatched.

I was intrigued to read how their mental skills coach (“stretch” rather than ‘shrink’), Gilbert Enoka, approaches life as captured by Legacy author, James Kerr, pictured above at a Northern Irish charity leaders conference.

And how his way of speaking permeates throughout the Kiwi players.

When interviewed they talk of their walk towards pressure and the wish to express themselves.

(As an aside in such regard, it was interesting to note Lions skipper Sam Warburton quote from an American basketballer, Michael Johnson; “pressure is the shadow of a great opportunity”.)

A couple of years ago I happened across a coaching framework known as P=p-i.

This team appear to heed a different take on this;

Performance = Capability x Behaviour

Pieces on this abound around the web;

Everyone has a degree of ‘talent’. What ‘behaviour’ brings this out to farther where it would otherwise go?

I suspect many a salesteam around the rugby playing world and beyond will be rightly discussing this at length this week to lay down the deep cultural foundations that support the heights to which they aspire. Is yours one of them?


Do Your Calls Pursue Race Words Focus

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bangers and smash, surely not Andy Murray’s “race words”?

Wimbledon Fortnight. Pimms, strawberries and bendy deadlines.

As an Englishmen whom appreciates tennis but laments the inordinate time commitment it commands, like my compatriots I couldn’t help but be aware of tabloid editor catnip, wild card Katie Boulter.

She may well have lost her first round bow, yet exhibited qualities that will long remain implanted upon the nation. I refer, naturally, to her motivational messages read between games. The one leading the headlines;


The purpose of many such sporting mantra is to keep, or bring, the player to “the now”. Defeat often follows a failure to “stay in the present” (cf 2008, 2009, 2015).

Crushing distraction results from either an inability to move on from a mistake just made, or getting too far ahead of yourself by contemplating the riches tantalisingly within reach and thinking (misguidedly) victory is in the bag.

I was pleased to learn one discipline (sailing) terms these “race words”. Also that cyclists the world over shout inner screams of “shut up, legs”. Although I do note the modern iteration of “Keep It Super Simple”.

In this respect, young Katie’s main written chant does feel in need of slight a change-up. Nobody “deserves” anything just because they feel they ought to.

Our parallel is that in the sometimes (sadly oftentimes) gladiatorial Sales arena, any mis-step, mishap or misfire, no matter how sleight or severe, can precede sudden selling collapse.

Eye taken off the ball.

We might dwell on a casual prospect remark that appears less than doting and feverishly try to generate a back-on-track chuckle from them. We catch ourselves sitting on the new yacht/beach/bike/hammock/cushion that we’ve promised the commission to in our fleeting daydream. We get a better than expected response on an issue and start chasing down an ultimate approval way, way too soon.

We all know what the prize is. The eventual goal is a given.

What about the everyday, every-minute minutiae that leads up to it?

Conversation. Commitment. Cause. Progress. Process.

There’s an entire lexicon of buying buttons.

Where’s yours to hand? Can you view on each call?


Maybe Your Prospect Is A Neophyte

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John McEnroe get his neos mixed up.

I made the mistake of watching a live match from the London leg of the tennis Grand Slams.

The one-time superbrat was on the mic and passed comment on when the authorities (thankfully, belatedly) reacted to the step-change increased athletic and technological power of the late-80s, early-90s by down-specing the balls.

When testing them once with his doubles partner compared to a previous year’s batch he appeared convinced that the unwelcome fresh crop were definitely heavier.

He self-described the pair of them as neophytes.

When what he meant, I suspect, was not that they were newbies, but neophobes.

As opposed to neophiles. They were established veterans that were quite happy with the ways things were. They feared, rather than embraced, the new.

This injection of humour from the broadcasting New Yorker reminded me of many new product selling conversations.

From the statistical belief that roughly one-in-six [insert your own preferred measure too] you pitch will be receptive to all labelled as ‘new’, through to cunning ways of shortening such odds by weeding out those that will never countenance anything remotely near said “new”.

I realised there’s other words beginning with neo- that a seller of the latest update, upgrade or wholly quantum-leaped invention ought have up their sleeve. Here’s a trio;

neoblastic – new growth

neolatry – new or novelty put on pedestal

neoteric – new ideas advocate

Originally coined for uses far away from Sales, for sure. Yet can help add a winning nuance to what you’re hoping to cultivate in the fields of newness.


Catch Kittenfishing Competitors

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Forever one to marvel at the perils of online life, who knew a milder version of catfishing was a current hot trend.

The world rightly brays at this original concept of someone hiding behind a completely made-up, misleading and often malevolent cyber persona. Especially when created to lure and harm the unsuspecting and vulnerable.

So surely the emergent dating phenom of kittenfishing requires similar scorn. Regardless of whether it be at a less deceptive place, slightly warmer than polar, on the spectrum.

It is where, rather than create a dangerous untruth, more like little white lies are told.

The flaws are glossed over. Slight niceties embellished. A halo glows over apparent perfection.

But where will it end?

I am tall. I am young. I am thin. I am interesting. I am rich. I am single. I am honest.

Anyone who displays such fibsterrhea is surely a no-gooder.

You cannot help but compare these people vying through lying to attract that treasured ‘date’ with unscrupulous vendors that provide fictitious claims for their wares, opaque accolades and bogus testimonials.

I was further reminded of the industry surrounding film poster quotes. In particular, this wonderfully recounted tale around Tom Hardy 2015 Sixties London gangster flick, ‘Legend‘;

“A film poster tends to exist in a shiny, happy universe where people say lovely things about lovely people who have done lovely things on a lovely set.”

So it is in selling.

Any customer reference offered can only ever be gushing. Any sector review shown can only ever lavish high praise. Any unusual behind the scenes employee allowed out their darkened room only ever reports everything works. Always. Brilliantly.

A most hateful being the insistence that a piece of our wizardry sadly currently lacking in their proposal is due for miraculous inclusion in their next revision. Which also happens to be imminent.

It never appears.

Yet the stringing along wreaks severe damage on our bid.

Knowing such vacuous boasts will occur is half the battle. So you can surreptitiously lay traps for them ahead of time. Avoiding direct reference to them is key.

Seeking commitment for where effort is required clientside is also a winner.

If an opponent suggests success is as simple as pushing a button, which you know is far from the case, then you can shine by stressing the resource to put in place. An old-school, ‘You get out what you put in, mister prospect…’ so that they’ll realise not only what will happen, but also embrace how it will be made so.

Who knows, pretty soon you may even be able to say, ‘I’m not kittenfishing here…‘ and get the point firmly across. And ensure the prospect doesn’t ghost, moon or leave breadcrumbs for you.


5 Objection Scuttlers From Disastrous UK Navy Aircraft Carriers

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As sea trials began of the largest ever ship built for the British Navy, Big Lizzie to her friends, seasoned war correspondent Max Hastings was among many informed observers decrying the “£6billion blunder that should be scuttled“.

I’ve blogged before on solution selling lessons from the almost endless bizarrerie that envelops some of the world’s largest procurement follies in the form of military spend. Here we can hopefully take heed from five more such buyer pains:

Zero Utility

This instantly brought to mind tortuous economics lectures discussing that discipline’s construct of “utility“.

Applying to both preference and usefulness, if there is zero of it, then there really can be nothing good to be said of it. (As Wimbledon – I cannot believe #wimby is now a thing – begins could you say Love Utility, or even Bagel Utility?)

The idea of marginal utility also has legs in a deal context. Where having more of something would bring even better ‘value’.

Identifying the positive utility of a purchased project from you (or the negative utility of continuing with some other, current way) could add significant punch to your argument.

Fighting Last War, Not The Next

A definite no-no. Even the long-delayed Top Gun sequel supposedly involves home-based videogamer permateen remote drone operators rather than globe-trotting adrenaline-buzzer permatanned thrillseeking pilots.

A slightly different point, the classic Sales cartoon springs to mind which every 80s sales trainer showed on a slide. Where the infantry general with the huge sword refuses to see the rep selling a machine gun because he’s too busy walking into battle.

Back at sea, it seems smaller, nimbler vessels are more vital for tomorrow’s Defence rather than more giant proto-helicarriers of the past. Not to mention investment in cyber, extremism and escalating espionage. Is future-proof in reality simply tonight-proof?

Ballooning Costs

Any bid must be wary of the chances of costs spiralling sky-high. Post-sale firefighting being a career killer.

Closely aligned are huge wastes on incompatible essential accessories. Backward compatibility, legacy re-use and smooth upgrades are enormous solution levers.

This ship runs on xp. At the time of smashing the champers on the bow a positively Jurassic 15 years old. Unsupported now for three. The Harrier jump-jet for which it’d be ideal are long scrapped with a US F-35 fighter so out of control even the Americans are trying to ditch it the only option on the table.

I’ve seen buyer surveys suggesting a ‘typical project overrun‘ can be double-digit percentage points. Indeed, one such IT stat that gets frequent corporate airings cites (perhaps) an HBR finding that “the average cost overrun of all projects is 27%” . Get on the right side of these inevitabilities and you can enjoy a safer, ahem, sail.

Vanity Project

Maybe the trickiest. Rockstar execs, Founder egos, empire-builders. Purse strings can get loosened when only the biggest, brightest or boldest will do, regardless of applicability.

Here’s such a scathing para; “How much smarter it would have been to build a couple of cheap ’n’ cheerful naval platforms from which to launch drones and low-tech aircraft. For that, one could almost have welded steel plates on top of tanker hulls, to create acceptable flight decks.” But no. Woollen tunics in the tropics it is.

Standing Into Danger

Columnist colleague Peter Hitchens adds this fifth. I love especially that it is the meaning of the international signal flag for the letter U.

I also like its connection with the business maxim to stay still, is to actually go backwards. Stand in the old naval sense differs from on land. It’s more the unwelcome destination where you’re headed or what’s about to hit you if you do nothing. So many an incumbent oust or brand new product sell can be quickened through this angle.


Lions Laws

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What a series. The mouth-watering decider comes Saturday.

The combined British & Irish Lions are in New Zealand. Where rugby is life. Building up to this toughest of tours, once again fans hear about that wonderfully triumphant trip against another team of imposing World Champs, S Africa, from twenty years back.

Like any typical sales off-site retreat, the dreaded faceless walls of a (here, Weybridge) conference room contained the team-bonding efforts of the 1997 pre-tour Lions rugby squad.

When the then world cup holding Springboks were beaten on their own turf, those earlier events were credited as building the vital platform for the eventual stunning success.

Players split in groups to write down on flipcharts what they were about, what they wanted to do, and how they wanted to be managed. Then these ten were chosen as their rules of behaviour which became famously known as the Lions’ Laws.

  1. non selected players should congratulate the players selected in their position
  2. selected players should publicly acknowledge the role of non-players
  3. any selection queries are taken to the coach, not discussed with other players
  4. before Tests, on a strictly confidential basis non-selected players should be forewarned by the management – for other games selection is announced at meetings only
  5. focus must be maintained by all 45 coaches and players for all the games especially the final two midweek games
  6. make a concerted effort to get to know all members of the party
  7. make the team room the focus of the party, not the bedrooms
  8. once a week to go off-site from the hotel to go out together
  9. have one daily meal together as a squad
  10. entertainment for people through non-rugby related events

Coach Ian McGeechan apparently documented these in his subsequent book (& at 22 to 25 minutes here). In general such are now commonplace in sport, yet back then was revolutionary.

He sought to create a collective responsibility, knowing the environment gets stronger when everyone buys in. Wherever you add to or change, it doesn’t matter, as they still reflect the group and their ambitions.

It takes a ballsy sales team leader, but if you can create such an environment, then you must try.

If you believe people want to come to work, want to enjoy it and want to do their best – not gimmes I know – then at an apt point, such as annual kick-off or new restructure or key launch, you can give this deceptively simple idea a run.

The Lions coach geared efforts towards what he considered the Tour’s “critical” time; Week Five, Test Week. A kind of final quarter push.

There could be nine ‘laws’, could be a dozen. But how worth it? Career-defining, that’s how.


NYT Trump #FakeNews Visuals

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My Boy Donald. Takes daily blows from myriad media nemeses. Including here on 23 June 2017, the New York Times. Here’s the original tweet from their graphics director of a wonderfully presented full-page opinion piece spread. Entitled Trump’s Lies, and promoted online as, “the Definitive List. We have catalogued nearly every outright lie the president has told publicly since taking the oath of office”.

My screengrab above is from the top of their web version. Improving the print edition text due to the reddened dates and more distinct blackened quote from greyed reasoning.

There’s a lot to like about the presentation. Not least because, no matter whether you may shout against/for its bias/truth, it shaped the debate for a news cycle or two.

The continual word-wrapped prose as opposed bullet listings. The simple format of date-“claim“-(“challenge“). Space left in the middle for imagery.

And it is the central area that sets the print visual apart. The way it’s framed by the “detail” is a real winner. I can definitely see a sales slide in this style. Any longitudinal data series pic with a border of quotes or chronological events written up that mean something for your audience.

Their first image, here shorn of labelling, of chosen occurrences by calendar;

Then later there’s this kind of timeline;

I’m sure by the time I post this, rebuttals will have sprung up online (“The New York Times has never published a “definitive list” of President Barack Obama’s lies.”). Whenever, they’ll need to go some to match both the art and impact of this first-in piece. Let your infodoc-ing enjoy the same.


How Many Conditions Do You Encounter Each Year

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In the UK, it is said that a general practice doctor sees on average 400 different ailments each year present to them.

A contentious figure. Tenuously stretching out as many conditions as possible which are so close they’d be better grouped as one.

I note their spokesperson I heard also said “see” rather than “treat”.

Then there’s the application of the 80/20 rule. I wonder what such split is in health? You often hear unsubstantiated claims when a particular affliction vies for airtime (“one in four visits concern mental health”, that kind of thing).

So this supposed number of 400 struck me with a touch of the Zeno’s Paradox.

When you break something down you can easily drift off into an infinite amount of sub-parts.

Pretty much every single prospect throughout my career has told me in all seriousness that they and their issue is “unique”.

That would certainly total a massive number of separate conditions.

I currently provide an extra exec pair of hands for salesteams.

Thinking about such b2b environment issues, there’s not that many prevalent. Lately I’ve heard these general six for example;

  1. we must be on more deals
  2. we must close more of what we work on
  3. we must add more onto deals
  4. we must keep a key competitive threat at bay
  5. we must break into a new market
  6. we must sell our new product

A simplified summary, for sure, but ’twas forever thus. From 400 to six?

I’m also reminded of objection handling workshops. You ask the team to jot down the ones they face. You’ll not find more than a dozen. And even then some (most?) are so leftfield, minor or duplicated as to be rendered irrelevant.

So my point is that like the frontline doctor, there’s only a limited number of situations you need be all over. Ones you’re expected to address then and there, without need to consult. Do you know what they are? And how hot on them are you? For only when you can nail them on the spot will you catch your ‘tortoise‘.