Newsnight’s UK Snap Election Graphics

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The day of the snap general election call in Britain. Panicked media excitedly rushed to make sense of it all.

The current go-to telly source for illumination on this kind of thing? An Evan Davis Newsnight. BBC’s late-night round-up wonkery.

I was delighted to see the graphics team working wonders. They provided a couple of neat tips for any solution sell powerpointing. Which mercifully require only a fairly basic understanding of the much-maligned slideware.

The first is how to deal with photos that may not lend themselves perfectly to a landscape portrayal.

Here’s their beautiful drone-style shot of Brighton’s seafront. They quickly move to a cropped view of solely the striking new viewing tower. With now redundant screen edges coloured green – to match the colour of their sitting MP – and greenwash applied through a slightly transparent-ed box over the landmark.

A treatment used across the parties, including for this Wetherspoon’s ad.

Cheers. Next the display of ranking importance. Here with the current lowest voter issue priority highlighted;

Then with the top concern, matched to the personality of the day.

In each case, place a box-shape over your pic, fill with your scheme’s colour given transparency as suits.


Making A Pig’s & Dog’s Breakfast Of Your Competition

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London 2017. Snap Election. Catching opponents on the hop, Prime Minister Theresa May.

In the immediate scramble for opinions, facts and outright gossip that enveloped the Westminster bubble during the first of seven surprise campaign weeks, despite wide ranging attempts to the contrary, one single issue dominates. Brexit.

As the whole world probably knows, the current leadership, with beautiful lyrical flourish, promise “brexit means brexit”.

Sadly the Remoaners sought to hijack the process with their divisive howls about “hard” versus “soft” brexits.

Yet in early skirmishes I noted a number of renewed efforts to reclaim the event by the various sects. In particular, these four did many media rounds.

tyrannosaurus brexit

bargain basement brexit

frictionless brexit

creme brulee brexit

The last one here eluding to “hard on top, soft underneath”.

The thought tantalising all concerned, was that if any such scenario were stipulated in the manifesto, it would not be able to get voted down. There is a significant flipside. Europe would be shown the UK’s hand, with all the likely negotiation drawbacks this produces.

In any case, even this quartet of labels moves ahead of others mentioned post-Referendum last year.

Perhaps the most comical being Pig’s or Dog’s. Uttered mistakenly by politicians who couldn’t unmuddle their mind from confusing the words breakfast and brexit. When you get a senior person saying they can’t see how they’ll get a successful breakfast, you surely know their time has passed.

Still, my previous blog points about the Sales power of owning these kinds of descriptions (as proved by Brexit) continue to run true.

Whatever the headline term your prospect talks of with your project, if you can cement adjoining words you are onto a real winner. The four I mention here new to me on this are all goodies. If you can think of something similarly sticky, wilfully adopted prospect-side, then you’ll be well on the way to make breakfast out of your competition.


Your Deal Great Filter

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Like most people I know, fascination gripped me about Nasa’s Cassini probe findings from Saturn’s moon, Enceladus.

“we have made the first calorie count in an alien ocean … it’s about 300 pizzas an hour … it would be like a candy store for microbes”

The conditions for Life, maybe, could exist in a hydrothermally heated, warm, ice-encrusted ocean a mere 800m miles away. Has the “second genesis” event we crave occurred, and so relatively close to home?

I was instantly reminded of when a remarkably bright, inquisitive chap shared with me once that he fervently believes we live in a Cosmic Zoo.

The Zoo Hypothesis states aliens exist, know we’re here, but leave us alone. Watching on as we pale-blue-dot-dwellers solve problems.

For this to hold true, there must be some creatures, somewhere else, that have already overcome all manner of sticky obstacles. From forming Life at all through to a leap from one significant state to another along a road to interstellar travel. At many a point, an exceptional barrier to progress must be overcome.

The Great Filter idea suggests such development needs nine steps to get from a suitable planet to an interstellar civilization;

1. The right star system (including organics)
2. Reproductive something (e.g. RNA)
3. Simple (prokaryotic) single-cell life
4. Complex (archaeatic & eukaryotic) single-cell life
5. Sexual reproduction
6. Multi-cell life
7. Tool-using animals with big brains
8. Where we are now on Earth
9. Colonization explosion

Current thought suggests at least one of these filters is extremely improbable. From our viewpoint that’ll be the ninth. Just because we’ve accomplished the preceding eight though does not mean any of them are more than a once-in-a-universe event. Perhaps the Great Filter is No.9. Or maybe it’s an earlier one.

My Sales mind jumped onto selling which builds on the Drake Equation process.

Every deal will have its own filtering steps too.

Do you know what they are? In which order they present? And any Great Filter beyond each deal must crucially and uniquely pass before coming home?

Here’s one such potential selling equivalent I quickly thought of, using the time-honoured lens of “need”.

  1. need exists
  2. need acknowledged
  3. need core to personal ambitions
  4. need core to organisational desires
  5. need gains resource allocation
  6. need given urgent priority
  7. need actioned
  8. need delivered
  9. need sated

You can’t help but think of the famous conversation giving rise to The Fermi Paradox. In short, if there are aliens … why haven’t we met them?

In a sales sphere, this may well sound like;

where is every deal?

…they are among us and call themselves ‘not looking at the moment’


How To Keep The Dreaded Long Handled Screwdriver Locked In Its Toolbox

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The Long Handled Screwdriver is the contemporary military manifestation of an age-old, feared ‘leadership’ trait.

The label arises from recent Western interventions. These military campaigns can be prone for people with little to zero allied knowledge or experience to get involved in quite a detailed level on the tactical front.

This issue has grown due to people sitting at desks in cosy faraway offices now watching live video of what’s happening at the battlefront. When they then push the buttons themselves, effectiveness shrinks despite their ego ballooning.

So it was with palpable relief that when the Americans dropped their largest ever non-nuke on a terrorist Afghan cave network, it appeared the President was not involved. The commanders, we learned, had the authorisation to do as they saw right to meet the overall objectives. Without recourse to constantly check back with mummy.

I found fascinating insight to this kind of worry on a British army forum;

“This is the domain of the ‘long handled screwdriver’; the ability of the senior commander, or perhaps more worryingly the government minister, to closely monitor and direct low-level activities in a faraway theatre from his desk in his capital city. In part this issue arises because ‘he can’. Not only does modern IT allow it, but the relatively low level of activity in PSO (Peace Support Operations) (compared with war) gives him a relatively limited range of incidents to get involved with at any one time. Therefore he can involve himself with the one roadblock, the one shooting, the one targeting decision that is happening when his attention falls that way. When conflict becomes more intense his ability to get involved in all such incidents decreases…”

So today it is considered greater success comes with the more discretion people at the sharp-end have to do as they see fit. In combat as it is in Sales.

We’re working a bid. Our heart and soul completely devoured by it. Then a high-ranking officer flies in. Or more accurately, wires in. Via message; do-this do-that. Now.

Too often the quota-owner has to make a plan. Do what they’re told. Quick march.

It hardly ever ends well.

The winning salespeople avoid anything remotely like this malaise. Any tool stays well and truly in the box until they alone open it up and get it out.

Whilst there clearly can be a delicate balance required between what say a cautious elected official and gung-ho general may wish to do, any singular ‘decisive’ action without a plan is likely to be a disaster. There’s a raft of examples littering humanity lately here.

And so to your deal. If you feel the long handled screwdriver is being used on you, simply knowing that once-off, glory-poaching, random micromanagement is a recipe for failure isn’t enough. The surest way to fend off any unwanted diktat from on high is to know your process. Be able to (refine and) stick to it. And demonstrate it’s on the right track.


Must-See TV Sell It To Me

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I caught a TV review slot I would never normally seek. It did not seem one run with any great informative intent. More to display the insouciance of the so-called reviewers in a manner that made me wonder whether I’d be relieved of my lunch money.

Yet the odd rose did bloom from the manured field that is so often BBC Radio 5live.

Especially here with their audience involvement feature (well, it is 2017), “sell it to me”.

The idea being to entice the “pros” to watch what you love. Here’s a warm-up pair (from the all-American output, I note) that came in early as the show progressed;

You guys should be watching Finding Bigfoot on the Discovery Channel. Four people roaming around the Pacific Northwest of America looking for an animal that doesn’t exist.

This Is Us is absolutely amazing. Prepare to have your heart pulled out of your chest then for someone to go back in to check if they’ve missed anything. Cried at just about every episode. The last time I cried at TV was when Take That split.

“Incredible” pitches which the studio loved from “legendary texts”.

Then at the end of the 45 minute show, the official ‘sell it to us’ segment. A thirty second pitch where down the line there’s “three amazing listeners who are going to try and sell it to you … what is an amazing bit of telly that cannot be missed and then we … will be given the job of watching it over the next seven days”;

I want to sell you Thirteen Reasons Why. I didn’t really know anything about the programme before I started watching it. And have spent the last 13 out of 36 hours watching the programme. Completely obsessed by it. Couldn’t stop hitting ‘next episode’. Got a gripping story. The characters are amazing and it builds to an unbelievable finish. So you definitely have to get on it.

House Of Cards I’ve just absolutely binged on and I can’t wait for the new series to come out. It’s really kind of one of those million-dollar Netflix series that have cast Kevin Spacey, and kind of casts him as this really typical dark side of politics. And one of his quotes – if this doesn’t get you watching – he says “the road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties and never regret”. And really plays that dark side of politics [that] I absolutely love. So definitely watch it.

Feud: Bette and Joan. It’s not yet on but I’ve just watched it in America. Amazing story about the legendary rivalry between Bette Davis, Joan Crawford. Done by Ryan Murphy. Got Academy Award winners. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. One of them will win the Emmy. The last episode about the Oscars was just amazing. The twists and turns of what actually happened on that Oscars Night, and the way Ryan Murphy has done [it] is just stunning. And just wait ’til it comes out on British TV.

Cue purrs of excitement. “That’s a good selection”. “See, all of those I’d just watch for pure enjoyment”.

Here’s a trio to tips to take from these for the pitch of a solution seller.

i) no narration

To shine do not fall into the number one commonplace trap of merely reciting the plot. The second (“dark side of politics”) and third (“legendary rivalry”) get a mere index. The first, nothing at all.

People thinking they can inject a wikipedia-style narrative description with enough enthusiasm to create action are deluded. In Arts as it is in Sales.

ii) shared emotion

The moments that stick share something. And I’m not talking about using the word ‘amazing’.A standout element that suggests an emotion. The feeling you’ll experience and maybe share.

The obsession which can’t stop bingeing. The surface futility of searching in vain. Behind the scenes catfight twists and turns.

iii) left-field hook

And finally, I think you get left with a firm sense of an over-riding theme from an unexpected moment with the winners.  There’s a definite left-field hook.

The Spacey character quote is a belter. The 13-from-36 metric. Sobs when Take That split.



Computational Gastronomy Dealonomy

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Lamb & mint sauce goats cheese. Coffee & cream garlic. Roast beef & gravy chocolate.

Established food pairings can be bettered. Say scientists looking for links between chemical compounds. Ones our species’ tastebuds have somehow overlooked. They’ll be putting spaghetti on pizza next.

We all have our own personal delicious combos. Duck & plum. Fish & chips. Anything with fig, naturally.

But also will recognise that moment when a whole new meal of the unlikely happily opens up to us.

Do you have a typical combination that makes for an ideal deal?

Please don’t say simply “budget & need”.

What pairings, which when they appear on your plate, mean you gobble up every single bid?

Pairings that may not be the obvious. Could even be considered bizarre.

Does your prospect show a particular branding character? Allow a specific role to pursue investigations? Use certain software? Sell in a focused way themselves? Invest unusually in labs? Guarantee a singular project manager? Devote exec time to unaligned areas? Let you talk with their clients? Parachute in managers? Don’t dress down Fridays? Dress down all days? Any completely unrelated to traditional outlooks on how what you’re offering gets taken up.

The boffins conjured these ideas assessing 56,498 recipes. Quite the dataset. Yet with any evidenced-based strategy, can you leave the prejudice of hunch and intuition aside for a moment?

You will know many done deals from the past. But can you pinpoint what they may share? In a way which lets you out-target your competition. Then perhaps you can adapt the words of the goggled gastronomes yourself;

‘It’s led to something called computational dealonomy. We can use datasets about buyer compounds to change the way we experience sales success.’


Oil Those Wheels The Ambassador Way

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Today, a princely Machiavelli style tidbit blog.

After bellicose soundbite diplomacy between Russia and America over the latest Syrian astonishments tilts slightly towards seeking ‘trust and progress’, I heard commentary from a former UK Ambassador to Damascus (2000-3), Henry Hogger.

A man with vast experience trying to build and maintain relationships with representatives of governments his paymasters were “very strongly at variance of”, but with whom you wish to “oil those wheels” and “bring on board”.

Consider this context of discussing what could be done to ‘coax someone away from staunch support of an alternative position’. Check out his solution sales nous when noting an “extraordinary contradiction” in a position;

“the usual way to persuade anybody is not to put unbearable pressure on them … but rather to try and persuade them that it’s in their own interest”


Follow Focus Of Eccentric Inventor

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I hope I’m not being too unkind labelling Trevor Baylis as eccentric. Yet having recently seen the chaotic state of his houseboat he does seem to fit the madcap genius inventor stereotype.

I’d heard of him before. When he conjured up the wonderful wind-up radio. Yet it seems he missed out on just rewards. “Thanks to patenting laws, which he says swindled him out of millions in royalty payments.”

He now seeks to help fellow creators avoid similar pitfalls.

He invites inventors to subscribe to his advice.

His initial contractual documentation asks a number of questions about the idea.

After the first – its name – the second shows his thinking clearly;

Problem Solved:

Please say briefly what problem your idea solves

Not what it does. Not what it costs. Not how it looks.

The first real question is on the problem solved.

It’s a salutary lesson to all with a new product in their bag.

Focus on the problem you solve. And that alone.

How are you doing so with your latest fresh item?


Do You Know What A Buyer Really Wants With Your CV?

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Here’s a situation I was party to recently.

Drafting the finalities of a Proposal. Surprisingly then asked by the ‘client collator’ to submit a CV. As is the modern way, it was via a sentence of terse text.

The inexperienced seller grasps hold of such a bone. They rush to comply, hurriedly crafting what they consider the ‘perfect’ response. In this specific case, a stunning resumé.

Sometimes, you get asked for such as part of a formal tender response.

You should already know what works for you here.

It reminded me of my youthful cubrep days.

For a Prop or two in my early days I was asked out of the blue to add one-pager profiles of all the sales and install team in just this way. Standard docs existed for each person to slot in for just such occasion, but I never liked their format.

You should never blindly follow this path though.

When asked for this info without warning, it should ring alarm bells for you.

In the worst case, I found that someone, somewhere is not happy with something. Even in the best case – perhaps where it’s part of an official ITT (invitation to tender) procedure – it reveals there’s a potential hazardous factor at play you need to fully understand which you currently do not.

In this recent scenario, I recommended to the writer a reply that chirpily became;

“you’re kidding, who’s not comfortable with me?!”

A flurry of messages later, it was clear that the requester was pretty much following a business-case-for-dummies style template, was possibly shielding important, relevant buying detail, and couldn’t be bothered to do the graft themselves. All telling findings in the context of the bid.

Salespeople will strain to suggest their resource is a tight, close match to the desired expert of a prospect’s dream colleague.

So are you certain of what track record and traits such a wondrous person would exhibit?

Alerting your prospect formally to the outstanding calibre of your people they’d be working with is a winning idea. Yet top-trump-card, boilerplated LinkedIn-aping CVs are a lazy, misleading, redundant buying device anyway.

Next time you’re asked for your life story in such manner, you’ll know what to do.


Spot Fake Sales The Facebook Way

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Angela rejoice…

In what seems to be roundly dismissed as vacuous pr, everyone’s favourite fake news purveyor, Facebook, this week prompts news feeding users three times to note their ten tips for spotting “false news”. Really.

In the spirit of the Pope’s wife supporting Trump, if I were a sales manager kicking off Q2 around now, I may well channel this cloud of zeitgeist to remind my colleagues of, say, working deals that in reality are not.

So, how about 10 tips for spotting ‘fake sales’, with a facebookily “educational tool”;

Be sceptical of promises. False forecasting follows outrageous personal insistence on holding purse strings. If someone’s claims they hold total clout when they don’t own the building sound unbelievable, they probably are.

Look closely at the history. A phony buying process can have a loud warning sign when they mimic past failed deals.

Investigate the source. Is what you’re being told corroborated? Ensure it’s from a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy.

Watch for unusual patterns. Many fake sales often contain manipulated vendors. Are promises lavish and outlandishly? Are response times random and seldom quick? Are specs fluid with much creep?

Consider the data. Fake sales often contain manipulated numbers. Sometimes they may be authentic, but taken out of context. Be sure to verify where they came from.

Inspect the dates. Fake sales may contain timelines that make no sense, or events that have been altered.

Check the evidence. One person’s urgent problem is another’s inconsequential lower priority routine workaround. Reliance on out-the-loop ‘experts’ may indicate a fake sale.

Look at other options. If no other choice is being seriously pursued, nor other outsiders actively pushing at the same opportunity, it may indicate that the sale is fake.

Is the sale a joke? One that only you don’t ‘get’?

Some sales are intentionally false. Incumbent-baiting, procurement-list-ticking, tyre-kicking. Think critically about the sale you chase, and only bid on sales that you know to be credible.