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Monday, 30 August 2010

Keep Going, The Next One Might Be The Next Sale!

My old sales mentor, the sage of Wythenshawe, Phil Copp, was an inveterate and committed cold caller in the days when sales forces could afford to swan off into the wide world and see if they could generate some business, anywhere and anyhow.

Phil would just call in on a company if he was passing and it looked interesting, go to reception, demand to see the Chief Engineer and then wait.   On occasions he was lucky and the Chief would come to see him, but generally, he had the usual rebuffs of "nothing today, thank you" (irrespective of the fact that nobody knew what he was selling) or "he's in a meeting" or "just leave your brochure and he will call you".  Oh yes?

I asked him once how many cold calls he made and didn't see anyone and he said, "Probably hundreds".  In something of a state of shock I asked him how many times he made a sale and he said: "Probably once in a hundred".

In even more shock I questioned: "How on earth can you accept all that rejection and keep on cold calling?"

His answer has stuck with me ever since.  He said, quite simply: "Because the next call might be the next sale".

Sales methods have changed radically since those times.  Vistage speaker Grant Leboff exhorts us to "stop shouting at the customers"; to organise your approach so that the customer comes to you.

Even so, Phil's message still holds good because selling is an art not a science, however much the sales gurus want make it so.   However we manage the interaction between ourselves and a potential customer or client, in the end, we have to put over a message that will entice the customer to make a decision, and hopefully a positive one.

It is obviously far better to generate qualified leads than to cold call although that message doesn't seem to have got through to the many unwanted telephone calls that I seem to get these days.

Even with qualified leads, however, if conversion rates are generally low, Phil's philosophy holds good.  The next discussion might be the one which is successful - even better, the next discussion WILL be the one which is successful.

Yes, it is most important to understand that what we say to potential customers and how we say it, is key to success as well but the overwhelming aspect is complete self-confidence that we will succeed.  It is only by that self-confidence that we can overcome the fear of rejection and move on to the next opportunity.

As long ago as 1952, Dr Norman Vincent Peale wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking" and that concept is still valid, perhaps even more so in these extremely competitive times.

"The next sales meeting WILL be successful" is a mantra that many people in business could well take on as a way of life.

For further information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Sunday, 22 August 2010

If You Want To Make God Laugh, Show Him Your Plans!

That supreme cynic, Woody Allen, said: "If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans" and Vistage speaker and former top CIA executive, Herb Meyer, would say: "No plan can survive its collision with reality".

Cynical or pragmatic?   Possibly both, but to counter them, Jim Slater, who was a great name in the 1970s when building his Slater Walker business empire, opined that he was more successful than others simply because he knew where he was going and had a very precise vision of the future.

I believe that Herb's view is essentially pragmatic in that there is no sense in stubbornly going for an objective when circumstances have changed to the extent that the objective is no longer viable.  Plans are there to assist the leader to achieve and can never be set in concrete.

It often surprises me however, when in mentoring mode, that many of my clients have at best only a vague idea of what they want and where they and their companies are going.  Even more curious, there are cases where the business owner is reaching, to be kind, maturity and has no idea of what he/she will need to do in order to exit the business.

Most really successful athletes have an absolute vision of where they are going.  They can visualise success, how it looks, how it feels, and what it will mean to them when it has been achieved.   If only more business leaders could have the same, almost blinkered, vision there is no doubt that there would be much more visible success.

If people in business need to know "how am I doing and where are WE going?", how much more does kit apply to the leader if only to be able to answer these questions with absolute certainty and confidence.

A final quote, this time from Theodore Levitt, formerly Professor of Marketing at Harvard who said: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there".   Now there's a thought.

For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Short Span of Attention? Who, Me? What Did You Say?

The first time I lectured at a Business School, we were in a first floor room with a window overlooking the main road.  I was standing with my back to the window and in full flow, when I suddenly realised that I had lost them.  They were all looking either through me or past me and whatever I was saying was wasting my sweetness on the desert air.

I looked round and, lo and behold, outside the window was the sight of the top deck of a bus - with people on it!  Far more exciting than my apparently rather turgid presentation.

Taking the theme a stage further, I visited my son in San Diego to find that he had a new TV with a vast number of channels which was a fascinating innovation, coming as I did from four or five free channels in the UK.  However, he spent a great deal of time zapping from channel to channel on the remote and just about every one was showing either advertisements or a cowboy film.

No wonder it has been said that when men have a remote control in their hands, they are not looking to see what is on TV, they are looking to see what ELSE is on TV.

So what has this to do with business?  A great deal, because it is all about how we communicate and that means how we pass on information and, more importantly, how it is received, or whether is it received at all.

I remember being told, in my youth to "look at me when I'm talking to you" and "Do you understand?" and "look at the blackboard, lad, not out of the window".

Our span of attention is said to be no more than 7 seconds by which time something else has intruded into our thought processes.  Many TV films, for example, cut each scene into very short pieces so as to keep the attention at a higher level.

In business we need to realise that attention spans are very short in general and unless we can encapsulate what we need to say in a very few words, the message will not get through.  Asking if the recipient understands will generally elicit a nod or a "yes" but is unlikely to be true.   Feedback needs to be gained on the basis more of "what have you heard?" or "what will you do now?" and that should discover whether the message has been absorbed.

Even more importantly, the rise of the use of websites and the all encompassing search engines means that we now have the opportunity to cover a vast amount of information.  Again, it is said that the average visit to a website is no more than 7 seconds if the information being sought is not immediately apparent.  Equally, very few people will look further than the first screen and very few scroll down to see what else is available. 

Have you ever tried to tell people what you and/or your company does?  Try to tell them in no more than 40 words in no more than 15 seconds.  A difficult task for those of us who are steeped in the lives of our companies but remember what Mark Twain said, "I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have the time".

If the attention span of the listener is short, make sure that the message is equally short which will give it a better chance of being heard and understood.

For further information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Sunday, 8 August 2010

It's Not What It Is, It's What It Does That Matters!

My telephone (iPhone of course) rang in a mentoring meeting this week and I hastened to turn the thing off, having forgotten to do so, as I consider that answering the telephone in a meeting is, at the very least, discourteous.

However, my client, having helpfully told me how turn it silent, said "I have an iPhone4 - have you seen one?"

I enthusiastically took a look and was slightly disappointed to find that while it is smaller and thinner (though heavier) than mine, the screen looked much the same and on the face of it, I couldn't see why it cost so much more than mine.

This caused me think about the differences between the purchasing rationales of the ultimate consumer and what might be called, business to business (B2B).

The UK Managing Director of a global consumer electronics brand once told me that somewhere in the south of England, they had a house in the country where several PhDs and MBAs were ensconced ostensibly to think about the future of the company's product range.

On the basis that the life cycle of a typical electronics product (he said) was about six months and it took an average of three years to bring it to market, the need for a pipeline of innovation was manifest.

It seems to me that the balance between "want" and "need" is changing rapidly even in these straitened economic times, and that is evinced by the sale of more than 1.4 million iPhone4s in no time flat following its launch.

If the "need" criterion is much higher in the B2B transaction, we should remember that most manufactured products finish up as a part of the "wants" of the ultimate consumer.   Accordingly, any thoughts of innovation should build on a plan which starts with the end in mind - what is likely to move the consumer next?

That is a tough call and I wonder whether innovative companies do that or just innovate and then use brilliant marketing to persuade the consumer that this is what is the next great "want".

My sales mentor, the Sage of Wythenshawe, the great Phil Copp, used to say "It's not what it is, it's what it does that matters" and that is quite true in most cases.   The iPhone4 is a telephone with a lot of very interesting and powerful extras but if it is a telephone, so is the £15 pay-as-you-go from the local supermarket.

The fact that there is now a raft of smart phones from several manufacturers' all with new and different extras just emphasises the fact that the consumers "wants" are paramount.

Anyway, I'm just waiting for the next big thing which I am quite certain to want like mad (iPad with a telephone and camera perhaps?)

For further information visit www.maa-uk.co.uk
To contact us email to ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk

Sunday, 1 August 2010

How Can A Defeatist Leader Lead? With Great Difficulty!

It's strange how a theme for this blog seems to pop up during the week and is reinforced several times in meetings with clients.

In a meeting with a consultancy client this week, we were discussing the performance of his team, and he mentioned that he was concerned that his Sales Manager "is a very good opener but a poor closer".   He went on to say that he can open the door to new clients, build a relationship, put over a good story but in end, he fails to close the deal.   It seemed to stem from a period when competition was fierce and he lost a couple of significant orders which had made him either defeatist or defensive or both.
I have been listening to the radio commentaries on the European Games this week and was fascinated to hear Darren Campbell, a former European sprint gold medal winner, say that to be a great champion, it has to be understood that the physical aspect of the athlete's preparation had to be a "given"; that the coaches, the physios, the doctors and nutritionists would all have done their jobs and the athlete would go into the competition fully prepared - physically.

Campbell made the point that the aspect that differentiates the good from the great is purely mental; that the great athlete had complete self-belief and knew precisely what the objective was - to win.   It was interesting to hear the reaction of  a silver medallist who said to the interviewer that "he hadn't come to Barcelona to come second - he had come to win" so the most important thing for him was the next competition, the Commonwealth Games.

The great coach (or leader for that matter) had the ability to enthuse his/he charges with that total self-belief that they can only win, not at all costs, but in competition with others of equal or sometimes greater talent.   A deep knowledge or even experience of the technicalities or details of the sport is less important that this rare facility to deliver that feeling of invulnerability.

The great Mark Spitz, a swimmer who won eight gold medals at one Olympic Games, had a coach who not only couldn't swim but had a morbid fear of water.  What he could do supremely well was to build Mark Spitz's self-belief to a level which enabled him to win and go on winning.

So what has this to do with a Sales Manager who is defeatist because at some
time in the past he lost a couple of orders?   The main function of the leader at any level and in any environment is to be coach to his/her team, to enthuse them with a feeling of wanting to win, to build their trust and hence their self-belief and to give constant encouragement.  It is not to be the best technician; others are employed to be that. 

Ed Ryan, a noted US HR specialist, says that "we hire on skills and fire on attitude".   Turn that on its head and ask ourselves the question - do we hire or promote on attitude rather than skills?  What, in the final analysis, is more important, skills or attitude, especially in a leader?

The primary function of the leader is to be the coach to the team, to build that feeling of invincibility and that is the how, as Jim Collins says in his book, Good to Great, we can get the right people on the bus.

For more information visit www.maa-uk.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk