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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Best Characteristic of a Salesman? Bloody Minded Persistence!

My old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the sage of Wythenshawe, used to say that the most important characteristic and the one that leads to success in selling is just bloody minded persistence.  It's that desire and ability never to give up in the face of rejection. 

He used to draw on the example of the Manchester based salesman finding himself in Barnsley on the other side of the Pennines at 4 o'clock on a wet November evening with snow in the air and deciding to make just one more call instead of heading home to home and warmth.   How often is that call successful.

Phil's strictures were brought back to me last week by a reader who commented on an earlier post of mine and it's worthwhile reproducing his message in full.

"Four weeks ago I started in a sales job doing well mostly by perseverance. On Friday with 15 minutes to go, the MD arrived on the sales floor to deliver his weekly pep talk. Unaware of this ritual I picked up the phone to make the last call of the day. I delivered the same pitch I had used all day but this guy said "Yes".   My only "yes" that day.

As I thanked the customer and closed the sale all eyes were on me. I replaced the receiver to a resounding cheer, "There goes Q again, right on cue!!" came the pun from the back of the office.

"A lot of fuss over a 300 quid sale", I thought until it became apparent that my sale had just taken the team over the 20 grand target for the week. Just goes to prove the next call might be THE sale".

What more need I say, other than have a successful week!

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

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Big Problem? Draw a Line in the Sand and Move On!

Some years ago (now I come to think about it, many years ago) I went through a very unpleasant, painful and traumatic situation in my business life.  Full of rage, I went to see a good friend, a very clever and mature lawyer, to see what could be done.

After allowing me to vent my spleen for an hour or so he stopped me and said:  "I'm going to put three points to you.  Firstly, I'm not going to charge you for this discussion (I did say that he was a good friend), secondly, if you hadn't told me who you were in business with, I would have told you.  He's got form, he's done it before and he'll do it again".

Then came the clincher, a message that quite literally changed my life.

"Finally", he said: "I'm going to give you some advice".  Goody, I thought, here comes the great legal mind applying itself to my problem and coming up with a great legal solution.

"Go home" he said: "Draw a line in the sand and get on with living your life from today.  Don't waste your time, effort or emotions on a situation that you can't change".

Somewhat chastened, I did as I was told and ten days later landed a contract that set me up for a year and started my solo business career.

During that time I have had many business leaders, in mentoring sessions, tell me about traumatic events which had blighted their lives and how it had made them resentful, irritated and, in some cases, even looking for revenge.  My friend's sage advice always comes to mind on these occasions.

The problem is that we often only learn about the event, when we should learn from it to enable us to move forward in a positive manner.  VIstage speaker, Nigel Risner's equation of E + R = O (event plus response equals outcome) encourages leaders to realise that the event is immutable and cannot be changed.  The only thing in which we have discretion is our response and that must depend on the outcome that we want.

It isn't always easy to draw that metaphorical line in the sand and move forward, but the rewards are there for the taking for those with the courage to do it. It isn't enough to march bravely backwards into the future with our eyes firmly fixed on the past; it's today and what comes with it that matters, and which offers us an opportunity to effect change for the better..

The simple question "Does it really matter?" or, even better, "Will it matter in twelve months' time?" will put the situation into perspective.  Of course, it is often necessary to revisit the past but it is only of value if we really learn from and not just about what happened, and then take action to ensure the future.

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

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Leader (or Short Distance for That Matter!)

One of the abiding issues which seem to afflict many leaders is that of isolation; nobody to talk to who will give them genuine feedback and honest opinions.

The primary problem is that most people on a business have a hidden agenda and sometimes it isn't even hidden.  By the way, that goes even for trusted professional advisers, non-executive directors and spouses, especially spouses.   They all (well, most of them) have an agenda which wants to be protective and that isn't always what is needed.

The problem escalates when the leader is long distance; perhaps he/she runs a business which is an offshoot of an overseas company or even a subsidiary of a corporate enterprise with the usual faceless people asking for esoteric information most of which seems totally valueless but takes a vast amount of time to prepare.

There is no doubt at all that isolation causes stress; the solution is to find somebody or some organisation which can supply that vital ingredient of total detachment; someone who cares but who isn't involved in any way other than as a trusted companion, or even better, as a peer group of like minded people.

Dig a little deeper and consider people in a business who operate from home, perhaps some considerable distance from base.  Their feelings of isolation are often compounded by a lack of understanding of their needs and emotions; often their performance is assessed without any conception of their feelings of isolation and lack of effective communication with headquarters.

In the end it all comes down to more effective communication and, please, not only to complain about performance and to add more and more regulation to monitor activity.  Trust must be given and moreover, demonstrated visibly so that the long distance operative can show reciprocal trust in the leadership.

We are all pack animals at heart; we all need reassurance that we doing the right thing and we all need challenge when we are not.  The solution?  For the leader, find a trusted advisor or better, a trusted peer group, and then make sure that all your people are helped to feel more involved and less isolated.  Performance can only improve as a consequence.

I would really welcome your comments!

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

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Prices Too High? Try Improving Your Service Levels!

It is interesting to note how an almost chance conversation during the week can be emphasised and substantiated along the way.
In discussion with a CEO running a substantial £40million turnover company retailing consumer goods through some 35 off-High Street outlets, he made the point that his business is a discounter and unless they supply at the lowest price possible, then the competition will take business away.

He was bemoaning the fact that prices from China are escalating and he will have to start increasing his prices to the customer or reduce his margins to maintain his competitive advantage.  It was pointed out to him that as all import prices are escalating to everyone, he wasn’t alone; everyone else would have to take the same approach.

He was asked about his service levels to the customer and he said that in the market he was supplying, great service wasn’t expected. It seems that he exploited that myth and had people in his stores who also didn’t care about serving the customer.

We suggested that as his sales by volume are flatlining, that he starts to take the service aspect far more seriously. Prices will have to increase and the effect can be ameliorated by giving really good service which, frankly, doesn’t need to cost very much.

It needs better (and probably fewer) people, better paid and better trained plus a disciplined, committed and dedicated approach to making the customer want to come back again and again.  There is nothing wrong in running a business as a discounter and great service can offer competitive advantage.

In my Vistage group I have a member running a company serving professionals, whose sales by volume have increased significantly, year on year, right through the recession even though his prices are substantially higher than the competition. Feedback from customers almost never mentions prices but praises the excellent service given by his company.

I have just seen an email received yesterday by my wife, practice manager in a law firm, which reads, in part: “I really just wanted to thank you for everything you did for us,........., For my part to have someone who calls when they say they will, who does everything they say they'll do and that you can totally trust is priceless in today’s world and very rare......... Fantastic! I will recommend your firm very highly and very often. Thank you again”.

What a great way to end the week! In almost every case, price is actually a secondary feature of why people buy, whether it be business to consumers, top level or discounter, business to business or professional practice. In the end we prefer to deal with people we like, people who we can trust, people who make us feel important to them. How much does that cost? It outweighs price disadvantage every time.

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