If Sales Leadership Shares Football Manager Brutal Pressure

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This week it is not just red blooded sport billys talking about football.

Everyone it seems, has an opinion on the monopolist Thai-owned Leicester City sacking of 5,000-1 title winning boss Claudio Ranieri.

Universally (almost) thought to be a disgrace.

Dilly ding dilly gone.

From Jose Mourinho to Eddie Jones, the world’s best coaches across all sports felt “sick”.

My own team earlier this season displayed similar (for me even worse, more unjustifiable) judgement.

Our opaque Chinese axe inexplicably fell on Gary Rowett.

With great interest I caught up on his first national radio appearance since.

The most telling stretch featured him discussing the ‘brutal’ pressures football managers face. Notably with how few games someone has to make an impression, or be shown the door in short order. That’s just ten matches.

You can translate all of what he said onto Sales Management.

10 games. “It’s crazy, absolutely crazy”. Around a quarter of a season. Do freshly appointed managers nowadays get only One Quarter to produce visible results? If you don’t think so, then be aware. That day is surely coming.

So how do you make things happen?

His fascinating experience suggested you need two types of management;

One is impact management.

How do you go in there and change things quickly?

Which is not necessarily always tactical.

Sometimes it can be the spirit of the team.

Doing something to get the players on-side.

And then you start to look at the real mechanics of the team and what we need to change.

Impact. Mechanics.

Mixed with consistent, simple messaging;

You go for stability. You go for build from the back. You go to be hard to play against. You try to limit spaces. You pick a style of play that suits the players and doesn’t necessarily just suit your philosophy.

You’ve got to get the payers on your side … You need to get them pushing in the right direction and work incredibly hard. We did a few things. We were very, very simple in the message we got to them. We were consistent.

We didn’t change the side for the fist seven games which gave that little bit of continuity. We didn’t change the style of play that much …

I try to value ‘work hard reward’. I don’t talk about results. You just say, ‘If you work hard enough I’ll reward you. I’ll give you a day off, a little bit of extra bonus’. Whatever it is. Just something to really get the payers working towards you.

Alongside ‘Work Hard Reward’.

Terrific advice for sporting performance of excellence. Readily applicable to any salesteam leadership program.


Chop Fat From Spoken Straps

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slide message inspo from a billboard car ad

For my 2017 solo endeavour I deliberately crafted a (supposedly) snappy response to that most innocent yet devilish question; “…so what d’you do, then?”

In the style of multitudes of workshops I’ve ran for eager salesteams these past two decades (& have frequently blogged on before, as well as aligned tactics too) I chose a response using the seven-word format. I pretty much use the first words that came into my head.

“speed up salespeople selling their latest products”

Self-criticism leads me to feel this isn’t quite “it”. Yet as it provides the required outcome – namely a conversation with the asker going on to enquire further with interest – I’ve not sought to amend. So far.

Then prompted by a number of posts on the subject of succinct pitching recently, my thoughts turned to the three-worder (a tridiom, perhaps?!).

Ought I have a ready-made, shorter, snazzier answer?

Could I nail this one?

I opted for the ‘expression’, rather than trio of ‘values’.

Swift self-brainstorming began generally, progressing to more focused ideas. Which hopefully led to the better specific statements I wanted. Suited to glimpsing the niche I aim to serve. Here’s a sextet selection;

embedded specialised expertise

results above expectation

continual release orders

sustained product uptake

buyers beyond launch

outstripping older launches

I find most salespeople like this type of task. Never as easy as it might first sound. It makes them think in a refined manner. Neatly summing up tricky concepts to get across. And giving them a useful go-to motto.

Designed neither to replace corporate (marketing) sloganeering, nor cement a new mantra for tomorrow, it merely seeks to open prospect ears and minds to the problem you uniquely resolve, in a way that starts an engaged dialogue around it.

When helping sales leadership with their latest new product, one of the major reasons I find they welcome assistance is because they have personally launched before and always suspected there’s got to be better ways of doing so.

Marketing colleagues take it so far, then it’s down to them. And it’s that ongoing effort – all the while subject to distraction and deviation from all the other pressures a salesteam operates under – which requires attention that I can unravel.

In the spirit of the famous wisdom, “the first victim of war is _____” (there’s many an option to fill in that blank), I know that after a raft of prospect meetings, the development that throughout my career has ranged from kaizen to #failfast will ensure anything from a gentle evolution to a full-scale total change of my deployed strap.

At least though, I have my preferred statement – and crucially a second choice to also try as follow up. It takes just a few moments to create your starting point. Time to do so?


Beating Box-Shifters & The ‘Why Buy From You’ Query

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in happier times, a fix that worked

The demise of my travel-Samsung netbook (on which I painfully blogged yesterday) reminded me of notes I made when buying it way back when. In the restricted physical marketplace that is Cape Town.

I ended up with two options. There’s not much choice in, as the losing salesman put it to me, “the arse end of the world”.

The other guy, Nazier, was more forthcoming when I asked him why I should buy from him. At pains to point out he was not knocking the alternative, he gave me this spiel;

It depends where you’re happier buying from.

Let’s say you were after a good, reliable car.

Would you go say to a Toyota dealership, where the staff are knowledgeable and helpful?

Or would you rather go to a Shoprite [that’s a box-shifting entry-level supermarket] where they do cars, but you must make your own way?

I chuckled that he’d attempted such comparisons. Yet the good thing was, he came prepared for such a question.

When selecting my keyboarded companion, I asked the main man, Gavin, what he thought of Nazier’s chat. He clearly quite liked it, even if he hadn’t trained that response in himself. He also went along the generalist versus specialist road and listed the reasons why a laptop was not a commodity purchase.

Still, it is fairly common for someone to ask why they should buy from you over a rival. Most people stutter along a slagging-off route. Never do this. A sizeable minority will give an out-and-out comparison, but plainly putting themselves in the ascendancy.

Hardly anyone won’t mention the opposition at all.

Yet precisely this is the best policy.

Interestingly, as I blog here there’s a pair of by-elections this week in my homeland.

I caught a ‘Town Hall’ with the main candidates grilled by voters from one constituency.

Each got asked for sixty seconds on “why vote for me”.

It was a deflating listen.

As one audience member scathingly summed up, they all talked at length about themselves at the expense of saying what they’d actually do for those living in the city. The pronoun “I” was everywhere. Even where they may have brushed up against ‘what’ they might achieve for the electorate, there was depressingly no attempt at glimpsing the ‘how’ it would be done.

So a double lesson perhaps on beating the big beast, the box-shifter, The Establishment.

The value can be in the detail. Which you can promote in a short sentence. And never trash-talk your opponent.

Are you ready for the ‘why buy from you’ query?

Can you also frame your answer with why you’re the ideal supplier without reference to another firm, whilst enticing with a little after-sale nuts ‘n bolts?


We Charge By The Hour

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So I had a deeply unsatisfying encounter with a techie.

One of those on-call IT troubleshooter gangs.

Long story short, I politely maintained that a diagnosis without recourse to remedy, lasting less time than the chat over something to ‘whet the whistle’, did not merit a full, virtually entirely unused, hour’s fee.

Especially when their hq booker was resolute that said mend would follow. And the engineer turned up late, even after they’d re-arranged the slot to their favour (at some inconvenience to us).

I remained calm throughout. 

All the screwdriver would say was;

We charge by the hour

Like a parrot.

When repeated, it had the air of a pop song refrain. Words the same, notes altered for effect.

They refused to deviate.

It was as if ‘training’ had cemented this Pavlovian brick wall.

When they had the audacity to ask for further work I was aghast.

Absolutely no chance. There is no relationship here. Never.

Win-win is the only basis on which I conduct business.

And they patently aren’t interested in such an approach.

I certainly didn’t expect a freebie. I did expect some common sense leeway landing on a fair trade. Especially as it cannot be as if the exact same situation had not occurred before.

For the sake of a simple few quid, they lose out on future revenue.

Do they even care how much and from where?

Many aspects troubled me about this.

Not least the one where in negotiation, we are told you must stay resolute in the face of buyers bashing you for what represents unmerited margin erosion. Remove personality from the equation. Stand firm to gain respect.

Which is fine advice. Except where one side fails to budge, with the other suffering a sour taste from the affair. One they will not forget. One that will ultimately cost you.

My main gripe was in the pitiful objection handling technique.

I’m all in favour of stick-to-your-guns “the price is the price”. Yet that can only be successfully applied when there is true value, both given and received. Not the case here.

Similarly, the famed old “knowing where to hit” gag does not apply either. Not least because in this instance, no hammer blow chugged my machine back into life.

Forget the fact that in a fluid schedule, such five-minute no-fix callout ought have a separate, lower rate.

No empathy, no reasoning, no dialogue.

No more.

Being so ill-attuned to customer expectations is a recipe for rampant unsustainability.

On the way out, I was regaled with how long they’d been doing their job. “I’ve fixed ten and a half thousand computers”. Who cares, mate. Mine remains broken. The final nail. Make sure you stay well clear of such catastrophe.


The Un-Fake Importance Of Your Snappy Three Word Purpose

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An impromptu press conference. Salivating journalists. Presidential defiance.

Thursday saw the latest, addictive, Donald Trump theatre.

Yet another Sales gem.

This time, courtesy of utter arrogance from the BBC.

They have a man in Washington. A prize posting. Jon Sopel with the plum. 

Picked out then owned by “45”, here’s the painful exchange.

loser: Could I just ask you, thank you very much, Mr President. The trouble…

President Trump: Where are you from?

loser: BBC.

President Trump: Here’s another beauty.

loser: That’s a good line. Impartial, free and fair.

President Trump: Yeah. Sure.

loser: Mr President…

President Trump: Just like CNN…

Not to mention the final nail. A truly reputation-shredding comment spluttered, trying one assumes, to be alpha funny; “… we could banter back and forth.” The bromance thigh slapping surely joshed forth.

The nadir? Sopel dropped the pitching staple of three words to convey his “purpose”.

A total disaster.

Impartial Free Fair

Listen to those again.

Yes, the first and third are too similar.

Yes, the trio eschews depth for shallows.

But a bigger Yes… what on earth is going on in the middle there?




This will be news to the millions forced to pay the archaic tax which allows the Beeb to function.

The Annual Licence Fee.


That is certainly not free.

Do employees believe it to be free though? Brainwashed by the corporation’s spin on this; “just under 40 pence a day”. Nice piece of atomisation, there.

Unsurprisingly, the joker revealed his Twitter feed filled up with viewers asking him for their money back.

He tried to make light of it. Ha ha. With that ‘new job title’ of “another beauty” rubbish. Which only made it worse.

Coincidently I blogged on the crafting of your 3-words – a viable, recommended device – only a few days ago.

And from the East Wing of the White House we hear another sharp lesson.

The reporter in question, a seasoned chap, sought to ‘press’ on the “chaos” surrounding the freshly formed administration.

Yet his revealed core values did more to place him and his news gathering colleagues in turmoil rather than his prey.

He chose to trumpet three words to show his audience – the “Leader of the Free World” no less – that he wasn’t “fake”. (As in ‘fake news’, as per the President’s implication). Yet at least one of his proudly chosen principles is demonstrably, patently, unarguably Fake. 


So innocent sounding. Yet when misfiring, then all the potential power gained ebbs. To the extent you fall.

Three words that sum you up are wonderful to have on the tip of your tongue.

Another reminder here then to check on whether your compelling trio land as real. Or fake.


The Yank-Shake & Your Client Power/Solidarity Imbalance

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Donald Trump. The gift that keeps on giving? Certainly as far as a rabid media is concerned.

I couldn’t quite believe the amount of pixels invading my screens about his method of handshake.

Now known, it seems, as his yankshake.

Rather than refer to place of origin, ‘yank’ tells you how he physically pulls those he greets towards him.

One such commentor (it must be said from an opposed political stance) derides him for using the ceremony to assert his dominance. 

Whoever is top dog also gets the (final) ‘pat’ in. 

So far, so alpha.

What really struck me about the endless analysis, is what the humble handshake reveals about the true intentions of each protagonist.

The only insight I’ve ever had into it, was that anyone who approaches you with their palm facing horizontal and down is to be avoided. They are likely to be out to smother you. Likewise, don’t trust the tight squeezer. Ouch. Better (so I once heard) to offer an open palm, one angled slightly upwards, as a more considerate, caring, collaborative gesture. In a firm yet polite manner.

Here’s the fascinating ”natural, underlying” motivation;

Physical greetings are motivated by two principles: the need to express power relations or the need to express solidarity.

How do you spot which applies to you?


Both parties act the same, then you are indeed ‘equals’. A shared Solidarity.

Actions differ, and one person is making a Power play. Fear asymmetrical times ahead.

This holds clear logic for our selling relationships.

Pop-psychologists would no doubt think back on every such greeting and put each buyer personality in their camp.

This can go deeper though.

There are many more ‘actions of respect’.

Helpful introductions to colleagues. Written replies that go beyond the terse modern-day-message “Eeyore”. Visible preparation for meetings and calls.

Is it possible to go as far as to say: treasure solidarity, qualify out from power?


4 Deal Intel Tips From Secrets Spookmeister

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Following “thirty years of professional condescension and making out like bandits”, and sick and tired of (inaccurate) proclamations of doom, Keith Craig wrote an infamous “suck it up” letter to the FT. Note to their Establishment readership; you’ve messed it up, your time is done, make way for the new breed.

This subsequently led him to the pinnacle of an At Lunch With … Becky Milligan grilling.

As a man spending a long career finding out “secrets”, there’s plenty of juicy wisdom to transfer onto the politics of a solution sell. For starters;

“You don’t find out what’s going on in the whorehouse by talking to the vicar. Well, not normally.”

How often do we think we know what’s going on, yet deep down we realise we’re merely getting it third-hand (at best)?

Next, there was a wonderful lesson in dismissal. Ever suffered the sleepless nights of wondering on the impact of a “supposed”, specific conversation? His message is clear; “if you cant tell if something’s genuine or not, you just discount it”.

Then a top tip emanating from when files came marked in red Top Secret UK Eyes Alpha.

It seems much of the secrecy around intelligence is to protect its source. Top Secret refers to where it came from. It could well be false. ‘The secrecy part is about protecting where it comes from, rather than validation of accuracy’.

This strikes me as a common Sales failing. Far too frequently ‘content’ is wrongly allowed to outweigh ‘source’ (and to a lesser extent, vice versa).

Finally, you’ve got to love his recital of an old intelligence saying;

“people will believe anything if you whisper it to them”

Where’s your volume gauge set for your received messages?


Early Warning Signs Of Bad Business

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It’s been almost impossible to miss across your social media feeds this past week.

A visitor to the US Holocaust Museum tweeted the poster on display there above. With a cascade of retweets and inevitable trad media pick up.

“The list was originally written by political scientist Laurence W. Britt in 2003.”

Whatever this thirteen’s present day prescience or otherwise, there smells like a selling meme to mine here. One thankfully not as destructive as the scourge of fascism. Nonetheless something that can spell commercial devastation.

Early Warning Signs Of Bad Business.

Seeing pics of this list, I was reminded of a sibling affliction I blogged on last year, about broken client relationships.

In the case of writing business that’s ultimately bad for you – and yes, for the superstar salesperson there truly is such a thing as a bad deal – anything that diverges away from your perfect deal profile is a no-no.

Bad business leads to selling time being eaten away through avoidable account management, energy sapped by needless firefighting and fruitless distraction away from deals elsewhere. Bad business means less business. Less commission. Less success.

Desperate sellers chase desperate deals. And end up desperate.

So, any of these states occur, and you seriously need to run a mile. Qualify out. Pursue only the win-winners.

opportunity fails to match stated direction of client/development travel

competitors you ought avoid/never normally clash are all over it

you (or your boss) are all hunch, no demonstrable fact

on-going maintenance/investment scoffed at

no connection with their post-buy personnel

access to big picture execs shut off

prospect decision making opacity

appreciably non-standard spec

you sense no kindred spirit

venal approaches received

prospect displays hubris

buyer fixated on price

no twin reference


Pitch The Full Case Figures Range

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The oft-entertaining Aussie Dr Karl spoke recently about the forever tardy.

I ought set out my stall. I hate people that are always late.

From discovering the phrase “just now” in South African means pretty much the opposite of what it does in England to people who think it’s fine for their lack of adherence to a deadline to become my crisis.

Indeed, the similar ill is with last minute merchants. Proven to precede poorer performance.

Being reliably late gives rise to total unreliability.

Dr Karl quotes American examiner of “self-defeating patterns of … chronic procrastination”, Dr Linda Sapadin, and her quartet of personality types that should be shot; perfectionist, crisis-maker, defier & dreamer.

What caught my Sales eye were differing perceptions of a minute;

We all experience the passage of time in our own way. One study suggested that people who are achievement-oriented and highly strung will perceive a minute as passing in 58 seconds, and not surprisingly, they tend to be punctual. But the more laid-back and relaxed people think that it took a leisurely 77 seconds for that minute to drift by.

I can’t help but think this maps onto a selling display of time. Namely when it’s concerned with money.

Yes. The good old business case.

What delivered in your best conservative business-like tone you may state as a dollar uplift is easily seen as perhaps as much a dollar-ten by your most ardent supporters, yet not even ninety cents and so unworthy a pursuit by your scheming detractors.

You can often be up against in-built cynicism presenting a “returns” spreadsheet. Who’s ever known one to turn out as pitched?

Yet the same discrepancies felt when faced by the clock can be at play when judging numbers on a proposed payback schedule.

What sensitivity bandings are put to use? Where do the go/no-go launch lines lie? Which assumptions can be graded?

We’re not given to provide best-case scenarios with these. Mainly due to the obvious banana skin of worse-case emerging from the disinclined.

In my experience people do not buy solely because of your shiny telephone-numbers T&M study update.

Time and Motion. Now there was a construct. Trick and Manipulation as cynics would moan. Put those stopwatches away and understand true value.

Whichever your stance, put enough holes in it and it becomes less likely to be a crutch to their emotional propulsion to buy.

Factor in from the outset that there will be those that consider your figures as higher, and others who frame them as lower. And if you can spot who does which, then try and isolate them for special, individual number crunching.


Local Focus Can Top Global Boasts

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missinglink joburg clocks

I posted a lovely visual from 1994 film The Paper a while back. I then came across a South African firm from Joburg that had done similar. Exactly how I liked. With a twist.

If you read my earlier post, you’ll know I love the uber-local focus that eschews the typical ego-driven global domination slant.

In my above snap of part of their office – yes, I know, the ping pong is oh so trendy – you’ll see four circular objects on the brick wall.

They are clocks.

And each has a local town’s time.

Joburg Durban Cape Town Welkom.

All South African. All on the same time zone.

Those familiar with the country in question will realise the fourth is tongue in cheek. It reminds me of the famous Trotter’s three wheeler van from Only Fools And Horses, suggesting they were in ‘London Paris Peckham’. Wherever you’re from, think of a couple of the most glamorous places, then slot in one real backwater to the list for comedy effect and you’ll get the drift.

This outfit do presentations for you. In their own words;

We’re Missing Link, we make presentations (In fairness, so can you. It’s just that ours don’t suck)

And without even trying, this local pride approach proves its worth. With significant global attention garnered anyway. From the likes of CNBC and Inc.

Their twist is that even though each town is on the same time, these clocks don’t all show that. Whilst you can never tell if a battery or two has died, my suspicion persists that they’re having a gag at the expense of a place they wish to tease as being ‘behind’ were they are.

missinglink joburg clocks closeup

It’s a small little reminder that we often get carried away. Go global with our slides, case studies and dev plans. Yet it’s often the more local, the more niche, the more downplayed the better when it comes to impressing a prospect.