Nobody Wears Shoes Here!

shoesA shoe manufacturer finds itself with sales having plateaued.  Despite their best efforts there is no growth to be found in their existing markets.  So looking to kickstart growth the Sales Director decides they have to look at new markets.  Two salespeople are sent to a developing third world country where the company has never done business before.  They are sent to different parts of the country and challenged to understand the market, the culture of the prospective customers, to look at the competition and report back on the opportunity.

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You’ve Got To Put In The Miles If You Want To Win Gold

running legsCertain stories stay with you.  One in particular for me came from an interview I heard Sebastian Coe give about his rivalry with Steve Ovett.  During the 1980’s Coe and Ovett were two of the best middle-distance runners in the world.  Both English but from different backgrounds, they specialised on the 800 and 1,500 metre distances and both had held the world record in each which they’d wrestled from each other.  And their rivalry was so intense that it had millions of Britons gripped to their TV screens at a time where track and athletics was generally a very distant second to football, rugby and tennis.  Part of the attraction was each of them’s sheer determination to win and beat the other.  It was compelling.

This particular interview was being given 25-30 years after their rivalry had ended, yet Coe recounted this specific story in a manner that suggested he was referring to something that was very recent, and clearly still important to him.

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Wow … That Is A Beautiful Potato; It Must Be Worth A Fortune! The Importance Of Plan B

potatoHow are you getting the message across that your product/service has real value for your prospects and customers alike? Do you struggle to do this, especially in a world where technical advantages can be eroded in next to no time? If so there could be an important lesson to learn from history and from a man whose exploits earned him the right to be called Frederick The Great .. by promoting the value of the humble potato!

Frederick was ruler of Prussia in the late 18th century (king Frederick II) and was faced with a nation struggling with famine; held ransom by bakers whose bread was too expensive and beyond the reach of many. Frederick realised the potato was a good alternative, cheap food supply and attempted to get people to switch to it. To his and his advisors’ dismay the people rejected royal advice to grow them themselves saying they were, ‘tasteless, odourless and even not wanted by their dogs’. As such, his and his advisors’ efforts weren’t improving a worsening situation.

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“How Do You Know You’ve Been Successful?”

Sitting with a group of senior managers of a new prospective client I was asked how I knew I had been successful in training a sales team. I acknowledged it was an interesting question and asked what type of answer the manager was looking for. She told me to quantify what number out of a group of 12 salespeople had to apply and have success from what I’d shared with them.

ducks odd one out“1” I said. “Only 1! Why so low?”

“Because if 1 person can listen, hear and apply something from a day’s worth of knowledge, skills, tools, disciplines and techniques I share with them, then so can the other 11. I cannot make them do it though, they have to want to do it; to be motivated to work on applying it and improving. Whilst I will have a short-term effect (as do all external trainers, speakers, etc…) long lasting benefit only comes from within the individual wanting to do it and be more successful. The only other way is for those 11 to be managed to change”, (which again needs repeated, even continuous attention … and even then it may or may not work).

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How Dress Down Day Worked For Me

dress codesI had been working on breaking into a major competition account and had visited them a number of times when they introduced ‘dress down Fridays’.  This involved the usual formal attire of business suits and ties making way for smart casual shirts, blouses and suits being replaced by slacks and jackets.

 

As noticeable as this was, there was another immediate impact in that the people, all of which were graduates through to senior executives, acted in a decidedly more casual manner.  From typically being very business-like and structured, Fridays quickly became a day where you were hard pushed to get a decision on whether someone wanted full fat or semi-skimmed milk in their coffee, let alone a decision to invest in a new piece of capital equipment or to change a working method or supplier.  People simply left their business brains at home with their formal attire!  So the conclusion could be drawn that a Friday was a bad day to visit them and talk business. In fact, my colleagues and boss told me so.  For me however Friday visits to this prospect became a regular habit.

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Whatever It Takes To Succeed!

I’m a competitive person.  I love winning and so I suppose a career in selling is something that befits my D.N.A.
Don’t get me wrong though, I can take losing so long as I lose to someone better than me rather than as a result of me not doing things to the best of my ability and when I lose to someone better it spurs me in to improve myself and raise my game.
So when it came to selling I would do (and still do) a whole host of things to make me that bit better, in the knowledge that those ‘bit betters’ would make a considerable difference (which I have found to be true).  Whilst some of these things may seem trivial at first look I thought I’d share them with you:

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“The Company That Does Not Obsolete Its Own Products Runs The Risk of Becoming Extinct Itself”

A client of mine was telling me how his customers are always trying to commoditise what he does.  Whilst his company spends time, money and effort developing solutions to their problems and they start to do repeat business, he told me their customers would eventually begrudge paying their price and invariably some would find someone who professed to offer the same for less.

 

gamblingWhilst everyone knows that where something professes to be the same and costs less, it is invariably found to be inferior because it has a lower value.  Unfortunately for him that doesn’t stop his customers being willing to ignore that to the point and every now and then some of them will move away to save a little money.

 

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