Are You Watching Your TED Spread

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“It’s funny how financial crises can turn niche data points into matters of national obsession.”

So began Times columnist Harry Wilson, chewing over merits of the TED spread recently.

What it is hardly seems relevant. A difference in borrowing costs between short-term US government and interbank markets. As August 2016 ends, it appears widening perilously close to 2008 crash levels.

Take a little known measure. When it hits a certain mark, supposedly knowledgeable murmurs become audible in the mainstream. Does disaster loom?

I’m not a big one for numbers for the sake of them. Yet I am all over process above outcome. And one great way of monitoring (improving) your sales process is to track a key number. Quantum of Progress, anyone?

Is there one highlighted across your sales efforts?

Which everyone knows. At any time.

I’m not talking about deals done, margin made or revenue written.

Outcomes, one and all.

What underpins any success you secure?

Bring it to the fore and watch it become more.

How about getting a touch cleverer. Think spread. Be Better Off Ted. What two marks collide to ensure a win? And the farther (or nearer) they become, the likely sale gets closer.

Understand it, track it, push it.


Which Jargon Puts Off Your Prospects?

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hatedjargon 300x654

I was involved in a discussion recently where an industry insider was frustrated with the accepted term for a key offering.

He detested the phrase Managed Print Services. Abbreviated in his sector to the even more irksome initials MPS. He was clearly annoyed that, first, it failed to get across the true wonder of what he was seeking to provide, and second, that it didn’t really mean anything anyway.

Above is share-bait from London’s Telegraph newspaper reporting the top ten most hated business bingo nonsense.

I’ve sat through many a meeting where thankfully the attendees can laugh and joke about such lyrical pratfalls.

By the same token, I’ve witnessed countless sales people use them unaware of the induced prospect wincing. Duly prompted to move away from thinking about what’s being said, minds drifting towards lunch or their next meeting or anything else but you.

So, in the spirit of summer sunshine, a thought shower of my own. What could you throw into your selling jargon bargain?

if a prospect likes to use it, then you can – but beware who truly ‘owns’ the language, as if it’s a competitor, you’re likely in trouble

if a piece of “research” suggests it is the next big thing, then it probably is not

if a six-year old you know raises an eyebrow when you test it out on them, that’s all the indication you need to avoid dropping it in a room of grown-ups

if a cubicle dweller in your pod keeps repeating it, then best to keep it inside your office walls

if a self-selected industry parasite body uses it, you do not

if a deliberate, mocking use produces a titter or knowing nod then find a winning alternative, as you’ve had you one allowed usage

if a debate can genuinely be triggered both engaging and opening up your prospect from its use, then a jargon grenade is permitted


Flatten Devastating Deal Flutter

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From their page on aeroelasticity the wiki definition for “flutter” – so toss that coin – is “a dynamic instability of an elastic structure in a fluid flow, caused by positive feedback between the body’s deflection and the force exerted by the fluid flow”.

I came across this from a way easier to understand the concept. Where an aeroplane wing starts vibrating out of control and snaps into several pieces.

I saw pictures of it, both simulated and real, in a documentary on Boeing’s late-60s ridiculously swift 30-month development of their 747 jumbo jet.

Reminiscent of grainy footage where a suspension bridge sways to smithereens in wild oscillations during a storm.

The problem arose with this new plane being way bigger (2½ times) than any gone before. Which when combined with going so fast (just 8mph shy of the speed of sound) meant disaster struck.

With time almost up, wing designers finally licked the issue by placing certain weights at the wing tip.

So flutter was prevented.

Flying too fast so your wings shatter? Sounds like many a deal crash.

Perhaps then a flutter test is worthwhile across your forecast.

Your own Sales Pulse, or Sales Sweep, if you like.

When your haste to make that deal is unmatched by your prospect, there’s rarely a soft landing.

It can happen the other way around. But let’s not kid ourselves. Waiting for buyer’s urgency outpacing yours is like looking forward to the next supersonic passenger flight. Maybe in a generation’s time, and certainly not in this current sales period.

Here’s a flight-pack of sample questions to assess whether you’re headed for the dreaded flutter. Give yourself time to pull up before any fatal selling incident;

Are the resources you’re throwing at this reflected prospectside?

How mobilised are their post-sale acceptance/delivery team?

Which way do they tilt; talking value or cost?

When meetings take place are they on-time or pushed back?

What true access have you to senior execs?

Do they really think the sky will fall in if they don’t buy?

How deep have they moved into the details?


Draw Your Way To Sales Success The Rio Olympic Team GB Way

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Drawing is a skill I’m always keen to (re)introduce to salespeople.

Counter-intuitively, sellers tend to shy away from leaping up in front of a prospect and let their marker pen do the talking.

I was delighted to see these 90 seconds where Team GB achievers were asked to quickly scribble their artwork of the experience, “to show how they are feeling after success at Rio 2016”.

The Team became the first ever nation to increase their medal haul in the next Games after hosting. Indeed, the first nation to improve over each of five successive Olympics. And smashed their target of 48 medals by winning 67. 129 of 366 competitors gained a medal. An impressive 35%.

Understandable then that such scribbles included double (now four-time overall) Gold medal cyclist Laura Trott’s “very happy me” self-portrait (top-left above).

There’s plenty to take from this exercise for your next team get-together.

How do your customers feel once bought from you? What’s the best thing about what you sell? Which part of your offer truly sets you apart?

Then draw it.

The olympian sample here were each given their own A3 natty branded Rio Postcard. Something you could adapt and self-message for your own sales shindig.

bbc rio postcard for drawing on

Then you sense that when a pair of medallists sketch side by side, there’s potential for similar output. So avoid such influence if you can.

You’ve got to admire triathlon champ Alistair Brownlee for his flip ‘reveal’, ensuring he sneaked limelight from younger brother Jonny.

brownleebrothers drawings

Finally, here’s 200m breaststroke world record holding swimmer Adam Peaty and what he’d been dreaming about since childhood; his Gold.

adampeaty goldmedal


Thinking Thursdays

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The Rio Olympics. Team GB win women’s hockey Gold.

I avidly watched the entirety of their knock-out matches.

Forget the fact that in both semi and final, vanquished opponents Kiwi then Dutch had all the play. Our girls never knew they were beaten. An incredible belief coursed through their collective spirit. Right through to the remarkable “shuffles” penalties clincher.

England and GB coach Danny Kerry is widely praised. Players state that he is head and shoulders the best tactician they’ve ever worked with.

One of his popular and telling coaching innovations seems to be a session entitled Thinking Thursdays.

Players are given certain game situations and asked to talk through what they’d do.

This kind of approach is all to rare in selling rooms across the land.

Face-to-face you encounter a blocker. Competitive trap. Sticky objection. Chief Exec walks in. A possible showstopper. A Revanchist.

There’s an exhausting array of potential attack.

Maybe it’s ripe to make time for your own Thinking hour.


Sales Cycle Dominance From The Rio Velodrome

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The vaunted “marginal gains” philosophy pioneered by all-conquering British cyclists once more produces peak performance in Olympic arenas.

Continuous improvement has moved far beyond American-reject fed Japanese total quality management to underpin stellar sport success.

At every turn during the Rio Games, there’s a story of how such forensic component disassembly fuels glory.

From rowing boats with their McLaren F1 designed dorsal fin to hockey Thinking Thursday training sessions to swimmers modifying traditional stroke patterns that sharpen angles of propulsion.

I’ve blogged on this over the years, especially referencing its professorial exponent, the quite brilliant Dave Brailsford.

The rest of the world know they’re already beaten inside an olympic velodrome right now. When they moan about it being all about the superior Brit funding, somehow trying to suggest we’re no better than the freedom-denying Russians or Chinese, their pettiness exposes the truth. Money thrown at something never works. It is a resource like any other, and our medal factory optimises it just as relentlessly as any other resource.

So here’s a half-dozen Rio trackside ways you too could make your sales wheels turn faster.


The latest aerodynamic suits – “magic chevrons everywhere” – have all manner of bumps and bobbles that ease the flow of air around the rider. Newly created spray-paint-tight second skins thought to easily deliver their fabled 1% gain. The drive to decrease resistance to forward motion is one we can follow. Even down to knowing about a “trip”. Something that appears an obstacle, yet actually smooths the path of what follows.

Your Own Room X

An early innovation was nicknamed the Secret Squirrel Club. A unit specifically tasked with finding those one-percent improvements. Currently labelled Room X, I think this is probably the biggest single area awaiting mass salesteam adoption. Yes, a few places have Sales Ops. But sadly these are mired in crm adoption or compensating for marketing slack to the exclusion of proper propulsion.


Even the medical staff get involved. Many sports analyse realtime activity to spot when a cliff is about to be dropped over. From racing car tyres to athletic muscle tensing. The Team GB cycling mantra is “prehab not rehab”. And as you’d expect, they’ve taken it to a whole level higher. A movement all about treating causes, not symptons. The most headlining of which from the Rio cycle being the ladies’ ban on, ahem, bikini waxing.

Zero Compromise

If you’re not improving, you’re not working.  Much has been made of the oppressive cultural leanings that can take hold in pursuit of winning which appears to have left those ejected from the squad very bitter. Is one man’s blunt honest truth another woman’s sexist bullying? Yet the elevation of process above outcome is critical.

Time Horizon

Widely adopted across UK sports now, funding allocation switched from a 4 to 8-yr cycle. Nearly every salesforce falls into the trap of being current FY focused alone. Whether driven by bean counters, shareholder ego or the ever-diminishing management tenure, it remains an asphyxiating flaw. Sustainable success cannot come from a revolving year-end fixation.

What’s Next?

Touring studios in the aftermath of another big victory, Brailsford revealed he’d a dozen projects on the go, “from handlebars to hydration”. A dozen. Can you name any projects your team has running aimed at lifting the bar? Their ambition never stands still. And nor should ours.


Have You A Final Thought?

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In between Olympiad sessions, I caught some good selling on telly.

There’s a “supervet“. An Irishman, he talks quickly with much indignation. He feels patients suffer at the hands of the medical establishment.

Practically anyone that’s dealt with the NHS over several disappointing years will know that feeling.

The half-life of facts of this “profession” – supposedly 49 years – is surely shrinking. In just a handful of years, how we treat disease today will be seen in similar light to our current view of medieval leeches.

His ire is aimed directly at the authorities. He saves animals from amputation with his bionic inventions. Proven for eight years and counting. Yet not a single person has been permitted to benefit from his breakthrough technology.

He has a lot to say. With the fervour you’d expect of an activist. His rapid-fire verbal delivery can be slightly bewildering. So when trailing his latest show on the weekend sofas he was hurried towards an ad break by a transfixed interviewer.

Rather than rush, he paused. His next words;

Final thought.

Another brief pause. Then two sentences on what he wanted the viewer to remember if nothing else from his pr stint. The one thing, singular; thought, not thoughts

This so brought to mind the closing of a sales presentation.

So innumerous are the ones I’ve heard that you can forget the ending appears the least planned aspect.

Such attention is paid to the slide artwork and messaging that scant time gets left for the vital finishing punch.

I remember my big lesson in this twenty five years ago.

A veteran sales manager named Alistair Masters. He sold HP. How he spoke after his last slide was immaculate.

It was natural and precise. There was no escape. He summed up succinctly. Beautifully. Then closed with the simplest of questions.

He knew exactly what he was going to say. He never used a phrase as cumbersome as “in conclusion”. He knew his pitch had a beginning, middle and end. And he was note-perfect in his highly practised, polished ending remarks.

Just like supervet. And we should be too.


Are Your Prospects Following A Collaborative Model With You?

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futurecapetown collaborative model

I knew a good friend at uni reading Town Planning. His favourite joke involved the sewage farm adjacent to the pleasure park. Ahem.

Perhaps I follow Cape Town’s urbanistas in part to prove we’ve moved on this past three decades.

Above is a gem they recently posted. Chiefly bemoaning specification in isolation. Something we in solution selling too frequently encounter.

There’s a thrup of Sales pointers here.

First, when a potential buyer is thinking of sculpting any doc of requirements. They start from their Dilemma. When the Solution seems a long way off. This presents a winning map. They want Increasing Capacity and we can happily provide this through Increasing Trust.

Second, when the deal is in progress and you feel it is a one-way street. What benefit builds from aligning Appreciative Mindsets with Deliberative Processes? Which Checkpoint is missed? There’s plenty of Co- steps here: Commit to collaboration, Co-define dilemma, Co-define process, Co-create solution & lastly Co-deliver solution.

Third, where does this feed into your winning sales process? If you succeed when such teamwork occurs, then how do you ensure it truly begins? How do you measure the extent to which it takes shape? When do you pull out if it does not materialise?


Which Bids Make Your Olympic Podium?

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During the electric quarter-finals session of the Rio rugby 7s, it was suggested to the Englishman coaching the much fancied Fijians that his first goal must have been achieved by qualifying for a medal match. After a dismissive but polite sigh, he shrugged, “the only goal is the Gold”.

For some it is merely the “taking part”. For others it’s “to medal”. For a select few, like Fiji here, only Gold will do.

There are plenty of similar examples I could have plucked from competitors’ thoughts. A microphone thrust up their nose by a mainly incompetent questioner. The glow, mind and adrenalin still pumping. Their determination and focus naked.

I read one of the broadsheets award their mock medal grades to BBC presenters and analysts at the Games. They were surprisingly (and inaccurately) generous. Yet a stark parallel struck me with Sales.

Notably when it comes to assessing deal performance.

I am constantly amazed how so many salespeople pursue deals that they should have long ditched.

Can you objectively look at what’s on your forecast?

Take trusted criteria. Are they truly in your sweet spot? Do they snugly fit with where your business seeks to go? Will any promising portents really deliver?

Which deals would not medal?

Then what about the Gold, Silver, Bronze?

Why are you working on anything less than Gold?

And how did Fiji fare? Yes. The Big G.



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bangkok liverpool preseason

With the bi-annual failure fest for an Englishman that is each international football tournament done, taking stock of the club season just completed there is only one real story.

Yet in the wings perhaps this next coming season’s fairytale is already taking shape.

Twelve months ago I was privileged to be a guest of the team concerned as they played a friendly in Thailand.

Today they approach the new campaign re-invogirated by the box office that is their German coach, Jurgen Klopp. Sample mindset; “I don’t feel pressure. I feel opportunity.”

From his time performing wonders with Borussia Dortmund, he become renowned for his ‘original’ tactical take; gegenpressing.

Literally meaning counter-pressing,  it’s considered to represent the drive for ‘immediate ball recovery’ once possession is lost. Also referred to by observers as ‘the high press’. Never letting opponents settle on the ball. In particular stopping them partake in that blight on the modern game, the endless, mindless passing across the back four; “tippy tappy“.

Fans and pundits alike applaud the style. Attractive and high-tempo. Anticipation of it working a Merseyside miracle is high.

I couldn’t help but think of a selling parallel.

Many a solution salesforce pride themselves on being proactive. Always trying to make things happen. Indeed, many feel that you can never be too pushy.

There are two aspects to the gegenpress sell.

Firstly, you push up with a high line. That is, you strive to be as close to your prospect as possible. Nothing new in that. Yet how do you accomplish it? I myself have in the past held my own ‘hot desk’ at a client premises. Arranged a string of successive prospect events so that I am a semi-permanent office presence. Sought to maintain motion – customers love seeing motion – by constant activity that generates output from their side. All whilst keeping in tune with the cadence of the deal.

Secondly, there’s winning the ball back quick quick. (Barcelona this past decade are also awesome at this as part of “tiki taka“.) A little more tricky sales-wise. How do you know when you’ve ‘lost the ball’? So maybe the first step is to have a plan for finding out the precise moment when any opponent may have dispossessed you.

No-one appreciates being hounded in the way footballers may stream forward as a pack and close down a defender. But if you have each member of the department (or decision-making unit) covered, you’re more likely to counter a rogue waverer.

Time to deploy your own gegensell on a bid?



My selling blogs this time last year