Prospect Pathways To Prosperity

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Pathway is a term that’s reached many a Boardroom these past couple of years.

I first noted it connected to clinical treatment.

Now the word makes headlines courtesy of the moribund institution that is the EU.

Given the tumult shearing through the organisation, one “leader” proposes a response to this unprecedented “change”.

His paper outlines five Pathways To Unity;

  1. carrying on
  2. nothing but the single market
  3. those who want more, do more
  4. doing less more efficiently
  5. doing much more together

It struck me that (subbing in alternatives for those last words on path two) you could pretty much apply this structure to just about any solution sale decision making junction.

Pretty much every experienced salesperson I’ve ever discussed this with, believes you should bring up a worse-case scenario yourself. If you don’t, someone else – your competition, opponents or objectors – will. And that’s not going to end well for you.

So a solution starting off point has many avenues ahead.

Do you know what your prospect thinks they all are?

Have you checked the relative merits and supporters of each?

Where is your preferred route strong and where is it vulnerable?

Change is a-coming.

Better to shape reaction to it than be shaped by it. So why not draft your own survival blueprint for it. Have you thought of your prospect pathways to prosperity?



Act Decisively On Non-Premium Body Language

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There’s an American uni women’s basketball side on a 108-game winning streak.

Their coach hit transatlantic airwaves given a key element of this success being attributed to spotting the obvious body language of players.

Picked up in part due to a leading EPL side dropping a wordclass player who then sat on the bench chuckling his way through a painful hammering.

His proven recruiting philosophy gold isn’t quite open to us at the pre-employment stage. Yet if entering into a new team or trying to improve one, it most certainly is an essential guideline to shape it better.

“…we put a huge premium on body language. And if your body language is bad, you will never get in the game. Ever. I don’t care how good you are.”

He lists several negative traits. Sadly I recognise them from salesrooms of olde. In well rewarded environments too. See anybody…

lack enthusiasm?
act like a 12-yr old?
try get away with whatever?
always think only of themselves?

Then as Coach Geno says, it doesn’t even matter if they’re top dog on the stats. It’s a similar story to you must remove the malcontents. Eject the terrorists.


Local Differences Ignored

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Here’s a not untypical tale I became privy to through a leading light in the electrical market.

US-owned lighting company Thorn decided to unleash (or should we say rather, foist) some new products on their European division.

‘Go sell, no excuses’. The usual kind of MNC story.

After a short while, the American bosses realised that no-one was selling their latest wonder-products. They investigated at once.

The answer came back in uncompromising fashion.

those products are all imperial, when our customers only want metric

I wonder as an aside if in years to come this might be termed in textbooks The NASA Crash? They’ve famously lost (at least?) two spacecraft because of this same measurement mismatch (1999 $125m Mars probe got too close & 2006 ~$50m Dart colliding with a satellite). I believe when relating to any two ‘systems’ incompatibility in general, these are called consistency issues.

Of course, there are two points here.

It is incredible how infrequently a product that works in one space, seamlessly cleans up in another. Even McDonald’s tweak their menu by country.

And it is also worth noting that new products need input from the salesguys. And they so rarely ever do which might well mean more product launch shortcomings that in their own way, are as expensive for salespeople as NASA smash-ups yet could easily be avoided.


Can The World’s Best Selling Buddhist Monk’s Slow Down Quicken A Sale

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Haemin Sunim’s been doing the English telly studio sofa pr rounds.

What a charming chap the Korean is.

The clip I caught saw him get two old cynics meditating through the power of a smile then some ‘chanting’ of similar, positives phrases telling you to feel good about yourself.

Not my thing, yet you can admire the thinking.

Perhaps him shipping an incredible three million units of his book that grew from his tweetings is testimony enough for his mindset.

He has five ideas for ‘seeing more by slowing down’.

Whereas his overall goal is ‘happiness’, you wonder whether such an approach might help with selling’s habitual goal of making sales?

First off, I must point out that I do feel that chasing success for success’s sake is doomed. Bringing to mind the famous biologist saying, “growth for growth’s sake is the methodology of the cancer cell”. So his core of happiness before success strikes a chord.

Maybe also close to the crucial nuance separating results and process. Another cart-before-horse error I encounter.

So let’s take his five headers;

  1. sense the pleasant feeling of deep breathing
  2. leave home ten minutes earlier
  3. really see what is in front of you
  4. close your eyes and savour food
  5. stop multi-tasking and just enjoy music

What, if any, sales siblings exist here?

  1. sense the pleasant feeling of genuine conversation with a prospect
  2. prepare ten minutes earlier
  3. really see what is in front of you
  4. open your ears and savour problem solving
  5. stop multi-tasking and simply enjoy refining your process

Well. I kept his middle tip unchanged. Would this quintet help with “rediscovering joy” when selling. My aim adapting these was to promote the central essentials so often overlooked and thrown aside in the melee of the working pressures whilst ensuring they critically underpin making repeatable, sustainable sales.

If you’re running a salesteam, maybe you can think up your own five. And if you’re running your own patch, then you can always start off yourself, one at a time.

Festina lente.


Cushion Statement

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I explored this nuance definition when talking about building empathy whilst delivering *shudder* an objection handling workshop.

A ‘cushioning statement’ is one aimed at helping make the buyer feel heard.

As it was first described to me; with an empathetic bent you repeat back to the prospect their negative comment using different words.

It was further explained with the example of when you hear the objection “I’m too busy to take sales calls”. The ‘cushion’ being something like “I understand you’re very busy and appreciate your time is very valuable…”

Now for me, anything that helps salespeople think of “empathy” when handling objections is a good thing.

It is indisputable that most sellers stampede towards an immediate “response”. The quota-busters on the other hand, spend most of their time empathising with and exploring said objection.

Adding an empathy stage into routines often works wonders. Even better if you can move beyond the canned feel-felt-found approach. (Did you get an even more thuddering shudder with mention of that?)

If you already demonstrate this as part of your sales dna, then virtually all of us could benefit from extending it. Adding a touch more meaning to show you’re genuinely on the same wavelength will similarly yield great results over time.

Intrigued by the appearance of soft furnishings in a sales context, I surfed for more.

The fact that neither of the only two real results that came back were from salesland portrays the lack of prevalence this thinking suffers. Which is potentially a missed opportunity.

The first was from something I’d never heard of, Model UN.

Apparently “an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate…”. They believe a cushion allows people to “feel like they can trust you or that you care about their questions and opinions”. Examples include;

  • Good question!
  • I’m glad you asked…
  • Interesting point.
  • I haven’t heard that argument made yet.
  • I understand, but…/and…
  • That’s a legitimate concern.

Then the more interesting reading came from an American marriage counsellor from Dallas.

Heather Carlile uses the term to represent “a friendly, validating, assuring, clarifying, explaining or agreeable statement”. Her angle is that you use one “before communicating about a hot topic, a delicate subject, an objection or a complaint“.

It’s structurally reminiscent of the praise sandwich method.

Although there can be elements of empathy, hers are different to the sales slant. Nonetheless, I did like these examples and chuckled at how they’d sound on a cold-call;

I want to tell you something I think is useful… or can help… or is new…
It seems like you have already made up your mind.
I believe that, no matter what, we can find a way through this.
There might be some other options.
Maybe we could discuss this with others.
At times it feels like we are on opposite sides.
I don’t ever want to tell you what to do…
I’d like to share something; and you are free to agree or disagree. It won’t bother me one way or the other.
I want you to have the best.
I really want to help and I think this important but, I can’t…. I could …..
You probably already know this but, ….
This may sound crazy, and I don’t want to bother you, but…
I’m really interested in your viewpoint.
I understand how you feel. In this situation, I (or others) would probably feel the same way you do.
If I were you, I’d probably think this way too.
Is this a good time to talk? If not, I’m happy to wait until it’s convenient.

Finally I ought mention in America I was introduced to a piece of sales advice from the Dale Carnegie Training company.

A cushion is a statement that acknowledges that you listened to the prospect, heard the objection, and recognized its importance. When a buyer states an objection, your first action should be to cushion the objection. A cushion does not agree, disagree, or answer the objection.

Here’s one of their examples I really liked:

Objection:  I do not think we’re ready to make a change at this time.

Cushion:  I know you want to make the right decision at the right time.

Anyway, the point remains valid. Salespeople are prone to race straight to responding to an objection. “Yeah, but…” gets us nowhere.

How can you take a pause and show some empathy?


Where’s Your Prospect Project Dividend?

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Where’s that bus?

Another news bulletin, another Westminster slanging match. Hear, hear.

This one notable for the first time I heard the concept Brexit Dividend. From one of the revelling post-Maastricht “bastards”, no less.

A nifty GIYF led me to the image up top.

I was intrigued to see such mental picturing.

I note the vaunted post-Cold War Peace Dividend receives mixed reviews nowadays. Despite much hope, money never got switched to other causes from military budgets, as conflict and threats continued or grew from all angles.

Although honourable mention must go to Northern Ireland.

Whilst it may have stuttered early on, they did indeed and still today reap considerable social and economic fruits after cessation of their Troubles.

It is perhaps partly in this spirit that the phrase crops up again now.

So could such imagery work on a solution sale?

Well, let’s take the latter word first. Everyone likes a dividend, don’t they? Even Monopoly boardgamers enjoy them from the Bank.

I immediately thought on synonyms, tangents and metaphor; product quotient return bonus uplift reward. Googling also suggests a basic starter pack;

Quite the choice to find your fit.

Then what of substitutes for the titled? How could you name the “project”?

It goes without saying it should not travel anywhere near competitive branding.

Nor ought it be a slavish replication of your own marques.

Better is something that matches the prospect mood, personality, language.

I think about times when a prospect of mine was moving, renovating, building. Designing, rendering, remodelling. Adding, subtracting, multiplying. Something which will set your bid apart and is eminently rideable.

You could also use this ‘result’ to help ease minds away from distracting switching, sunk, setup costs. Shift focus towards the value you’ll enable. With a cheeky nod to opportunity costs. Every equation has an “=” side to fill.

Then maybe you and your prospect can avoid the hole fallen into by “leaders” a generation ago. As reflected on by Margaret Thatcher in Statecraft;

“The West as a whole in the early 1990s become obsessed with a ‘peace dividend’ that would be spent over and over again on any number of soft-hearted and sometimes soft-headed causes. Politicians forget that the only real peace dividend is peace.”


Do You Sway Towards The Ideal Sales Job Candidate?

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aka, Do You Give A First-Date Or Joe Friday Interview? One of them is good, the other, terrible…

Want to know which one gives results a whopping six times better than the other? Well, according to a couple of pages I read in the pop-psych Sway (pp80-2 of my paperback), the authors quote recruitment expert, Professor Allen Huffcutt.

Although from the view of the recruiter, his ideas can be as readily applied by any hopeful interviewee. After all, how better to show sales acumen then knowing what helps sets you apart…

He found these top ten questions get asked in the standard, typical ‘free form’ interview. Recognise any?

  1. Why should I hire you?
  2. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  3. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths or weaknesses?
  4. How would you describe yourself?
  5. What college subject did you like the best and the least?
  6. What do you know about our company?
  7. Why did you decide to seek a job with our company?
  8. Why did you leave your last job?
  9. What do you want to earn five years from now?
  10. What do you really want to do in life?

These are witheringly categorised into a trio of clusters. The self-evaluative 1, 3, & 4. The crystal ball gazing 2, 9 & 10. The past reconstruction 5, 7 & 8. None reveal anything relevant. Simply the as-expected, prepared, largely useless responses. Such as;

“I work too hard … I’m a team player who enjoys a good challenge … my life’s dream is to work for your company … in this exact job”

As compilers the Brafman brothers conclude with delightful sarcasm, “yeah, that’s the ticket”.

The only half-decent one appears to be number 6; “What do you know about our company?”

At least it should show up qualities vaguely related to doing the job in question.

As for overall approach, the recommendations are clear.

“restrain … from delving into first-date questions and focus instead on specific past experience and ‘job-related hypothetical scenarios’ … It’s the Joe Friday just-the-facts-ma’am approach”

Joe Friday, they reveal, returns the impressive six-times more effective results.

They provide a triplet of examples from various situations;

What kind of accounting software are you familiar with?
What experience do you have running PR campaigns?
How would you reduce inefficiencies on the assembly line?

In our Sales context these seem to have everyday equivalents.

What kind of objections do you field?
What experience do you have with complex bids?
How do you quicken the sales cycle?

Yet in a winning interview, such alone are not enough.

The most recent help I gave to sales management in this regard was aimed at producing a simple six-point checklist. A half-dozen things to do during the interview. Two in particular involved not just hearing what the candidate had done. You have to go farther. Deeper. Narrower.

I thoroughly recommend conducting actual role plays.

Cold calling integral? Then swing round your chair and let them shoot.

Simplified pitches vital? Then hand over a marker and let them draw it out.

Talking in CEO-speak essential? Then you be the chief exec and see how they engage.

One word of warning. If you have HR departmental police, be careful of sharing your insight. For as Huffcutt acknowledges, such staffers are slow to adopt the right path. He himself is left frustrated that even his own personnel team preferred their traditional (ineffective) ways rather than put his compelling findings into (better result creating) action. Crazy.


Borrowing High Impact Turns Of Public Phrase

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The land of my birth this week witnessed all sorts of political game playing. Around divorcing. Or perhaps more, the conscious uncoupling.

During these rampant discussions surrounding separations, I noted a trio of soundbites got repeated plays on national media.

First up, from a talking head that wished to point out;

there’s always facts, but more than one way to interpret them

Then the minister in charge of cutting Bruxellian chains sought collaboration;

it is not the ends that we disagree on, but the means

Before the PM herself evoked;

tunnel vision

Described as “deeply regrettable”. In the sense that “this is not a game”.

They reminded me that, just as top salespeople keep a hardcoded log of winning lines (whether in response to a given situation, pitching or objection handling), seasoned buyers do similar.

My own grey matter instantly retrieved a most disarming line I’ve used to full affect after once watching an episode of (don’t judge me) CSI. ‘My heart’s with you, but let’s think about the head…’

Here’s a threesome worthy of selling note. Especially when negotiating. That most Sales of offshoots that goes criminally un-tended.

Every now and then you catch a turn of phrase that you maybe subconsciously add to your sales lexicon. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one I’ll be shortly harvesting from here.


This Week’s $100m Risk Free Close

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It’s not often a sales close makes global news.

But when a media darling billionaire of comic strip proportions asks for a hundred million dollar deal by tweet, well, it truly is the stuff of memes.

There’s all sorts of (fairly vital) background context you can glean from your news feeds of choice.

So let’s start off by stating a disruptive-leaning energy project is pitched at a municipality suffering power outages.

A proposal which pretty much claims a working reference site elsewhere. Delivered there for a cool $100m.

What is striking about this so public of closes, is that any experienced buyer would never go for it.

They’d run a mile.

The image of such “no work, no pay” offers tarnished the nascent tech world “eval” ideas.

“Try before you buy” lured plenty to career-halting agreements. Word soon spread.

A big part of the problem is that without the exchange of cash for a fair trade of goods and services, the whole endeavour tends to collapse the second something non-standard, unusual, extra crops up. Which does so. Often immediately.

Ask anyone ever buying a ‘complex sale’ about “project creep”.

That isn’t to say I don’t approve. But the more it sounds like a mere gimmick, the less it should be taken up.

An Evaluation Close though, can be a real winner.

Yet it must not fall into the trap of its common nickname, The Puppy Dog Close. So coined in memory of any parent persuaded to take one home by a pet shop owner “just for the weekend”.

Nor can it have the sniff of an “on-spec” deal. Whereby a ton of work is done upfront by one party alone. Typically one with less overt power in the transaction. With such little guarantee of eventual payment that none ever seems to result. Designers and programmers in particular found movements against such in the name of exposing exploitation.

Let’s be positive for a moment. This may well be that rarest of bloom. The genuine turnkey solution. Plug ‘n Play. Offsite pre-fab’d construction installed onsite fully operational.

The differences on such huge infrastructure jobs between Day One and On costs will be familiar to more than just procurement professionals.

I do get it, though. As a classic new entrant land grab tactic.

It ranks alongside the ‘free to have then we share in savings/profits’.

A concept that’ll shudder anyone wondering how at one stage scarily close to being the planet’s most expensive building, the Sino-French Severnshore nuke plant, might go.

Far be it from me to dish out sales advice to someone so dwarfing the tatty collection of banknotes under my mattress, but leading on the money here does not feel the way to success.

Who in this case really cares about the cost? Politicians? Voters? Company founders?

An undertaking of this magnitude clearly has a telephone number price tag.

Competing vendors can reveal their Dutch auction cards for official scrutiny as and when.

Surely the deal clincher here is not any zeroed initial outlay. It is time.

Up and running in 100 days?

…Where do I sign?!

And that’s what my sales antennae likes about this Elon Musk close. So long as from there, proposals that properly, openly share in the burdens and benefits gain consent then that should get you home.


How Could We Make It More Greek?

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In a cafe talking through project details with someone, a lady close by was in a rush.

Barely sipped her enormous smoothie, but suddenly had to go.

Asking the manager for a takeaway cup, the apron-clad hipster went for a spot of client engagement. Or pulling. Either way, his chat wasn’t the best.

He keenly asked where she was from. Greece. Athens no less.

Oh great. He’d been to Paxos once. Loved it.

She thought Paxos cool too.

And then stilted silence as mushed fruit poured from glass to plastic.

“Enjoy the rest of your day.”

We pair in earshot couldn’t help but unpack this.

With our selling ears tuned, forgetting the deli-dating angle. how would this attempt at dialogue go down in solution sales?

Down, indeed.

‘Where you from’ is from that awful clutch of poor openers you encounter in all manner of semi-social situations. Like the lazy ‘what do you do?’. I’m reminded of the old good friend mercilessly ribbed for heavy fall back on the “so, where you going away this year?”

There’s the Derren Brown. “How do you spend your time?”. Or any smoother variants on the “which way are you fixing the world at the moment?” or “what’s your current project?” vibes.

Yet in this instance it wasn’t the opener that was the problem. Sometimes, almost anything will suffice. Rather here we couldn’t help but talk on the follow-up.

You know the scenario. Ask the innocuous. Get a response. Then note the disastrous dive in. Where all that happens is the questioner broadcasts about themselves in the forlorn hope of the other party miraculously revealing a glimpse of their soul.

Would the woman really ever be interested that you’d passed through the vague vicinity of her upbringing?

Yet we ran through several alternatives the lad could have had ready.

Which bitterly brought to mind a number of sales conversations we’d witnessed.

Not that we’d have begun in similar fashion, but upon hearing “Greece” our favourites on the spot featured anything garnering a comparison or development.

‘So how could you make that smoothie more Greek?’

With all manner of yoghurt to kebab to tax-dodging yachter stereotype references at the ready.

I’m pretty sure she’d have said anything with fig a major plus.

Ahem. Still. We weren’t expecting nor even recommending the full “spin” type sales methodology put in play. Just a little simple plan to summon Aegean sunshine. Have you got yours?