Project Names & Background Management

In the daunting surrounds of a Canary Wharf boardroom, the latest London-based Apprentice won through last night.  One of the post-match analysts was Cobra Beer founder Karan Bilimoria.  His is an entrepreneur’s story with a strong message that all too often gets overlooked.  It took him a decade to truly ‘make it’, and a significant landmark (achieving £1m in sales) took the first five years.

He offered a pair of insights I’d not heard from him before.  The first along the lines we all know, namely the name of your offering is unbelievably important.  What I didn’t know was that his original choice, Panther, was given a resounding thumbs-down by potential consumers, and that he managed to switch to Cobra only at the last, pre-launch minute.  As a salesperson this is interesting for two reasons.  

  1. I often got at least peripheral involvement in the new product naming process, and I reckon taking the responsibility to ask a few of your customers about your own ideas and making your marketing colleagues think it was all their idea may well score you huge brownie points and avoid the shackle of your own ‘Panther’.
  2. It intrigues me how the Police assign random Operation names from a pre-cleared sterile list.  The occasional winner emerges (Blunt for knife crime, Trident for gangs) which stays in your mind like any good brand name should.  And most of us can surely recall the names of the US Iraqi operations.  Creating a project name for a specific activity with a prospect can also be a winner.  I’ve done this a few times at the point of sign-up.  Some real successes for me when dealing with different sales knowledge share programmes included Reloaded, Excelerator, Virtus, Interstellar, Streetsmart & Optimise.  So to create a project name, especially pre-sale, helps to distinguish you from competition, and identifies Champions I bet.

The other is his view of what makes a good manager.  He roughly says that the best managers “let you take the praise when you do well, and take the blame when you don’t”.  As a Sales Manager, creating such a culture in your team should therefore produce high loyalty and better results.

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