Super User

Super User

I would like you, if you will, to join me in a little mental game. Ready? OK... In your minds-eye imagine that you have recently accepted the job of Sales Director at a well known international company. After a few weeks of observation and inquiry inside the company, the following 4 facts are obvious.

1) A year ago your company took over a competitor and now has to merge the two competing sales forces.

2) Because of the Global recession, your market share is shrinking and your sales team seems to be relying on price-cutting in an attempt to gain more business.

3) Your once ‘unique’ market benefit is slowly being eroded by competitors’ product improvements.

4) Your customers are in trouble themselves and are squeezing you on price and other contract issues.

Now (typical !) as you are about to send your initial analysis to the CEO she preempts your email with one of her own: “I know things are tough out there [Bob] but we brought you in to change things for the better..... So now that you’ve had a few weeks with us, what’s the plan?”

Now you’re on the back-foot. But your reputation in your marketplace is that of a decisive and determined sales leader. So you set up a teleconference with your various country sales managers around the Globe, to decide on the action plan. This teleconference has revealed a clear need and an overwhelming desire amongst your team to DO something... anything... they are all relying on you. They’ve tried Knock-on-more- doors (the old ‘numbers-game’ sales approach) but that didn’t work. Also wait-and-see (The ‘something will turn-up’ strategy) and price-cutting (Because ‘price’ is always an objection).

But they have both proved fruitless too. So you -the decisive one- have decided that wholesale re-training of the sales force is the only way forward. [For goodness sake there must have been considerable advances in sales training in the past 10 years; there must be some new ‘intergalactic techniques that can be used by our sales force!]

You can feel that your Global team of direct reports is not particularly enthused by your decision. They have seen similar big-projects before you arrived. There was the “Leadership 3000” initiative organized at MIT. This involved sending up-coming young executives to the USA to learn how to become ’empowered’. Problem was, when they returned from Boston, all-fired-up after three weeks, they were universally advised, in their individual departments, to return to normal ‘ASAP’. This failure to capitalize on the new-learning cost a small fortune and gave rise to a great deal of cynicism.

So here you are.. this is your dilemma. You have to do something otherwise nothing will happen and you will inevitably get fired. But experience shows that doing the usual sort of ‘something’ will also result in ‘nothing’ so you will eventually get fired.

So why does all this happen? Why do the vast majority of companies spend lots (and lots) of money on training -especially sales-training- for which they get virtually no measurable benefit. I asked my last boss (when I was ’employed’ rather than, as now, self-employed in my own business) why our very large and well known financial information company, constantly ran these expensive retraining projects. “You know why”, he said with a wink, “it’s just to keep everybody busy!”

Right.... so what’s it to be: Training or Results?..You choose. The first focus addresses the need for a feel-good, tick the box solution: OK I’ve organized the training what’s the next project? The second focus is on finding a way to make the desired change stick.

In my experience when selecting an outside training company for an employer, we (the committee) always tended to make our final judgment solely on what the short-listed company presented to us by way of ‘content’. The more unusual or new ‘nostrum’ the more we seem to like it. Ah! the fresh air of some new ‘New stuff’ -breathe it in! But content is only one part of the story. The bigger question that I (you) should be asking each training company is this one: “Just how are you going to make this training of your effective and long-lasting?”

When you approach training from the point of view of “How?” you are- probably for the very first time- on your way to achieving some real measurable change in behavior. Why does an effective approach to training need to be from the “How?” rather than the “What?” point of view?…because we humans find changing our habits very, very difficult for four deeply rooted reasons:

1) Organizations rarely make changes quickly or because of some authoritative, top-down, dictate. 2)Classroom training costs a lot of money and is most effective only for the part of the training process where interaction with the trainer and fellow students is required. 3)We humans only willingly change our behavior if we can see how it will help us personally. 4)Unless our behavior-change-progress is regularly measured and fed-back to us we will usually be back where we began within 30 days [‘That which doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done’]

To address these issues (and avoid the school of hard knocks) here’s how I’ve finally learned to make training effective for my clients:

1) In most companies there is no-time. Everybody is searching for the new-new thing, allowing no time for the last new-thing to take effect. An effective training organization makes sure that line managers are rewarded and measured for their role as ‘coach’. It is regular coaching that makes training work and sticks. Spending time training your managers in field-coaching skills is like a miracle-pill. When salespeople go into the field with their coach once each month and reinforce what they are doing right, the results are usually amazing.

2) When I learned to fly an airplane (part of my mid-life crisis) we did spend a lot of time in the club-house on the white-board looking at dotted lines, sketches of runways and cross-sections of airplane wings. I honestly don’t remember any of it; nothing…but clearly a lot went in. It was, however, a safe non-dangerous environment in which I had a chance to ask questions about meteorology, navigation and ‘Air-law’. But the only serious memorable learning happened when we got into the plane and I had a chance to do it- for real. So for introducing new subjects and problem-free practice, use the classroom. For reinforcing the real skills and for long-lasting change, get out into the real world with your coach.

3) If training is seen as some generic, off-the-shelf ‘thing’ introduced to your sales force in a classroom setting, after which they are left to work out how to apply it themselves, then it will fail. Adults – that’s you and me- learn best when a new idea is presented in context. Each salesperson must be able to see the track they can follow with the new skills which will eventually bring them more sales. New skills need to be practiced in realistic role-plays using realistic data and with colleagues acting like realistic clients. New procedures must be presented in terms of company values and company culture. (I was once trained to be very firm when customers endeavored to negotiate a price reduction. When I politely applied the training in the field, a customer complained to the CEO who instantly caved-in. He then sent me a nasty note telling me not to ‘go round beating customers up with base-ball bats’..... not good training)

4) The most important question for you, or the person who has been asked to organize training, to ask at the start of your training project, is as follows: “What problem are we trying to solve here?” It is the first question I ask all customers who call my company out of the blue to inquire about training for their sales force. Many times it is a show-stopper…I can hear the enquirer's mouth hanging open. So I help them by asking the second question, “Well could you describe what things will look like at the end of this training program?” They usually find this a bit easier to describe until I ask them to put some measurable milestones (usually some numbers) into their description. But without something to measure, how will we know how effective we’re being? One customer told me that his objective was ‘customer satisfaction’ but struggled with the definition: service? price? delivery? colors?… We got there eventually but it wasn’t easy.

All these things may appear common sense but they are rare. The only company I have ever worked in where the application of the 4 steps outlined above was a religion, was an American copying machine company in the UK in the early 1970s. Their training program was constant, consistent and nobody was exempt. If it had not been for this carefully coached approach I don’t know where I would have ended up. I certainly would not have been able to make a successful career in sales. I would not have set up two successful training businesses. And I definitely would not have written this article.

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Tuesday, 31 March 2020 13:51

The Great Presentation Scandal

There should be a law against most internal company conferences. No ..really there should!

My name is Bob Etherington and I am a veteran of at least 100 such ‘do’ s in the past 40 years and nearly all of them should never have been allowed! Well..let me rephrase that, just a bit: the plenary sessions should never have been allowed. That’s the bit where the audience sit row upon row in the semi-dark, theater-style, while their bosses and peers talk at them. They admonish them sometimes; congratulate them mostly and generally show them PowerPoint slides every time. “This is what they want!” Yeah right!

I asked one senior manager of a large British company what was his primary objective when he stepped on the conference platform. He replied, without hesitation: “I try to impress them!”

But Geoff (that is his name so now, if he reads this, he’ll know it’s him) your audience doesn’t want to hear about ‘You’. They are not the slightest bit interested in ‘You’. And You [dear reader] are not the slightest bit interested in Bob Etherington…..that’s just the way it is.

Of course what the conference audience is asking themselves -to a man- is the same unspoken question that you have in your head reading this: “What’s in this for ME?”

Your audience -any conference audience- seeks to be generally and personally inspired to work hard so that the company may make even more money in the next fiscal year. You know from all the management courses you’ve attended that the art of management is to get staff to do voluntarily that which must be done anyway. So telling them all the good and worthy works YOU’ve completed isn’t going to make them do anything. Remember the David Brent (Ricky Gervais) address to his staff in the early 2000 BBCTV comedy ‘The Office’. “I have some good news and some bad news today. The bad news is we are amalgamating with the Swindon Office so some of you will be made redundant” [Silence and shocked faces] …But the good news is… I’ve been promoted !! [More dumbfounded silence] …Oh..I can see some of you are still on the bad news!” We wince with embarrassment because we have witnessed this type of crass statement in the real business world. It is not as rare as we hope.

In a recent HR survey, it was firmly established once again that what staff value most of all in their jobs is not what many managers think it is. The most important factors are:

1) Feeling appreciated.
2) Having something interesting to do.
3) Being kept on the inside track.
4) Sympathy for personal problems.
5) Money.
6) A happy working environment.
7) Promotion prospects.
8) Job Security.

So to get the serried ranks of your employees inspired to come in early, stay late (and work hard while they are working for you), tell them how good they are and congratulate them. If times are tough keep them on the inside track by telling them what’s going on. Cut the rumor mill off at the pass and tell them what you are doing to fix things for them. Tell them how they will benefit, personally, from doing what must be done.

Have good manners also to rehearse your presentation in front of a person of similar standing in your company and ask for genuine feedback on how the message is coming across. Just showing up with a memory stick containing all your PowerPoint slides half an hour beforehand and hoping for the best is not inspirational management. The Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli stated that “Everybody loves flattery….but with Royalty, you lay it on with a trowel” Your staff, just like my staff in Bob Etherington Group, are your Royalty and without them, nothing happens. Your ‘stuff’ all about your department and your personal triumphs are not what most internal audiences want to hear. They are there to be inspired. To inspire them..flatter them…Say, “Thank you”…. “I’m proud of you”….” Well done!” (the rarest and most powerful words in the management lexicon)
Now you’re talking business!

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People in my family and many of my friends are blessed with ‘20/20 hindsight’ …they love to be ‘right’…they frequently remind me that they “told me so”. They particularly love my business mistakes and mishaps and use these as a reason to predict my imminent downfall. They have been predicting it now for several decades.

One particular very close family member recently told a mutual friend (who of course immediately reported it straight back to me) that: “Bob’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t know his own limitations”. They may be right.

Indeed there is a whole medical/psychological condition (identified in 1999) called the Dunning Kruger effect in which “..persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is”. I’m open to the possibility that that’s me… but I’ve rarely claimed abilities outside my range of knowledge or experience; people seem to assume I have them.

In the 30 odd years that I was an ‘employee’, I was frequently targeted as the person who’s ‘fault’ some major corporate catastrophe was. I was also frequently promoted upwards out of jobs I’d ‘failed’ at into jobs I wasn’t really qualified to do so no wonder I made mistakes. I once told my boss that I knew nothing about a managerial position I was told I was being given. “But I don’t know anything about this market“, I wailed. “I know you don’t” he replied…”But everybody thinks you do!”

On another occasion (as a new sales director), without asking permission, I hired entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Nekker Island in the Caribbean for a week as the top prize in a sales competition. The top 12 global sales executives would spend a week in absolute luxury and he company would achieve its annual sales targets 4 months early; Result! News of this incentive rapidly spread through the company to the very highest levels and clearly those ‘in-the inner-power’ circle made sure the CEO was made aware of my permission-less transgression. Indeed a few days later I received a very loud and extremely vitriolic phone call directly from the CEO. “Idiot” “optimist” “ fool” “stupid” “a*s*h*l* “ were some of the more polite names directed at me. Finally, after 15 minutes the tirade stopped and I readied myself for instant termination. But instead, he said, very quietly, “Right official reprimand over!………………..well done!! ” and put the phone down. The ‘mistake’ sales competition was a massive success.

Being prepared to take a risk and/or make mistakes, I have discovered, is really important for your corporate success. ‘Postit notes’ ‘Nitrous Oxide’ [170 years later still today’s main medical anaesthetic] and ‘Tippex’ are all the result of well-known mistakes. Thomas Edison in the US and Joseph Swann in the UK between them made 1700 mistakes before coming up with a working electric light bulb. Edison was once asked if he was disheartened by all his mistakes. He replied, “Not at all I’ve just learnt 1700 ways not to make a light bulb”.

As a result, I am starting to formulate a business philosophy:

· You rarely get sacked for doing things. You may be severely reprimanded but sacking is usually a result of not doing things.

· If you ask middle management for permission to do something different they will generally say ‘No’ so why ask them? If it says ‘Manager’ on your door then go and MANAGE!

· Mistakes only become failures if you repeat tomorrow the things which didn’t work today

· If a subordinate asks for guidance on resolving an issue ask them what they think should be done. (i.e. Bring me solutions not problems). When they tell you to have the courage to reply “Go on then!” (With every pair of hands you get one free brain.) I learnt this one from a great manager of mine at Reuters, ’Dave Brocklehurst’ Thanks, Dave.

Finally, I have a client in NYC right now into whose corporate structure across America we have introduced a “*c*k-up of the month club”; the person who this month has made the biggest corporate mistake but with good intentions is rewarded with a weekend away (with partner/spouse) in the nearest big city all expenses paid. But if they (or anyone else) then make the same mistake next month they will immediately be placed on the official termination list because we now know something that doesn’t work. They tell me sales turnover is already up this calendar year by 29%…..I may be wrong!

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

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There is a little list of common phrases sentences and questions that unintentionally murder (or at least ‘self-harm’ any persuasive encounter.

Successful business persuaders never use them…or at least they struggle not to. The vast majority of average sellers, persuaders and managers use them all the time then wonder why they fail to persuade or why they lose their followers.

1) “We’re making you a really generous offer here.”

(Or, “We think we’re being very fair” , or “I’m sure you’ll agree this is a very reasonable deal” etc) indeed any of these and similar stock phrases is an instant subliminal deal killer. The speaker clearly thinks that pointing out what a ‘great deal’ the customer (employee subordinate) is getting will make them think, “Wow…until Bob said that I hadn’t realized how great it was. Now I will definitely sign up!!.” Instead, from several buyer research projects, we now learn that quite the opposite feeling is generated. The customer actually thinks (or worse ‘feels’): “What did he just say?!! he’s clearly suggesting that I must be pretty stupid if I haven’t already figured out that this is a good offer. I don’t like being thought of as stupid by him; I’m not stupid….. I think I’ll leave it

2) “So…did you close it?”

Probably the commonest sales manager question to returning sales executives around the World. It is also the biggest sales executive ‘morale killer’. Getting to ‘yes’ (and the signature-on-the-line-that-is-dotted) is generally quite very tough. And, ‘sorry no…not at the moment’ and ‘we’re still thinking about it’ and ‘ we’ll let you know soon’ are ten times more likely to be what the salesperson has just heard. As no seller wants to have to admit to their manager, “Sorry no. I didn’t get it today”, they find answering the question disheartening. So Mr (or Ms) Sales Manager…what alternative uplifting question or questions could you ask next time instead of “So ..did you close it?” (OK.. manage the situation more motivationally…Don’t look at me…Think of something…. It says ‘MANAGER’ on your door…so ’Manage’)

3) “You really must improve.”

At the end of the ‘Annual Appraisal’ or ‘360’ or whatever you call your annual performance review, it is quite the norm to hear SM’s or SD’s tell the subordinate that they must ‘work harder’ ‘do better’ or generally ‘improve’ their performance in one or more areas. And yet these vague and woolly terms mean absolutely nothing to the person they’re aimed at. I recently asked a team manager (in a team-building seminar in Scandinavia) if they all understood their group’s current overall performance targets and their own individual goals and targets. The manager confidently told me (in front of his team) “Yes in my team they definitely do!”. I then asked the team “So DO you all clearly know your team and personal targets?” To a man, they all said in unison, “No we don’t”. The art and science of permanently improving and changing people is to make sure that what you’re asking for is measurable ie ‘with numbers’. (“What gets measured gets managed” ). Exactly how much money? Exactly how many calls? Exactly what date will you launch? Once these are agreed there is no lack of clarity and people know what is expected of them. That’s how to trigger the improvement you seek.

By the way, the opposite of the quote above is equally true: “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done”

4) “To be honest with you….”

Along with the first example in this article, “To be honest with you” sets of quite the opposite thought process in the other person’s mind to the one intended. Far from changing the tone of the meeting from high-level generalities into confidential specifics…it just doesn’t; it sets up doubts. The throwaway phrase, “To be honest with you….” actually triggers the thought (or feeling): ‘So what he is actually saying is that he hasn’t been honest so far; well I don’t think I trust him now’ . So as trust and honesty are the two golden requirements of selling you’ve just wrecked the whole foundation on which you are endeavoring to ‘persuade’. Back to square one!!

5) “Well yes I’m sure that’s one way... but first of all we were thinking…”

In Dale Carnegie’s 1935 magnum opus: “How To Make Friends and Influence People” (still in print today!). He states that, in order to influence another person, you have first to make them feel good about themselves. And people feel good about themselves when you make them feel important. The problem is that most of us when they endeavour to persuade regard the words out of our own mouths as 10 times more important than anything the other person wants to say. So if the other side opens a meeting or negotiation with an idea that is either ignored or quickly shut-down by your side, how important does that make him feel? And if he doesn’t feel important how open is he going to be to hear your idea?

Top business persuaders know that their first duty is always to hear out the other side’s idea(s) first and even discuss it (them) at length (however bonkers you think they are) before presenting their own idea. It is only this way that the other side might be open to hearing what you have to say. Being too early with counter-proposals is a sure route to disaster ….but still, most of us do it (sigh!)

6) “Don’t hesitate to call me”

Quite simply the human brain can’t hold a negative thought. If I tell you, “Don’t think of pink elephants” what do you think of? ………… quite! If I say “Don’t worry” or “Don’t get upset” then what part of those phrases remain and what words are discarded?

In exactly the same way if you sign off a sales letter or a meeting by saying “Now remember…dodon't hesitate to call me if you have any questions” What subliminal instruction are you sending to the other person? Exactly…now you know why they don’t call you; you told them not to.

You can add to the self-harm list yourself (e.g. at trade shows) “Can I help you?” (On the phone) “How are you doing today?” and (in a one-to-one meeting) “Sorry I really must take this phone call”. You are not immune but neither are you a special case to whom none of this applies

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

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(The above answer to my question, “Could you define the word Strategy?” came from one of Asia’s top public company CEOs…he wasn’t laughing. He told me I could tell this story but not his name

The truth is most people in business haven’t got a clue what differentiates a ‘strategy’ from a ‘plan’…. or from a ‘goal’ or from an ‘objective’.

I am regularly told by executives ranging from Directors of huge public companies down to young entrepreneurial start-ups :

“Our strategy is to increase turnover by 10%”

“Our strategy is to undercut our competitors”

“Our strategy is to ensure that all our sales staff receive two week’s off-site training per year”

Or even as one London based client told me “Our strategy is to have no strategy”.

None of the above is a strategy!

Not ‘understanding’ the difference between having a real strategy and having a strategy in name only, results in large High Street chain stores believing that all they have to do to profit like a ‘Pound Store’ is to cut their prices and sell more packets. Or large airlines, in competition with highly profitable Easy Jet or Ryanair, to come up with a decision to cut some of theirs. Or to state that: “Our sales strategy is to get everybody working harder …knocking on more doors. That’s what we’re going to do! ” The results of these misguided ‘strategic change’ ideas are usually somewhere between non-existent and suicidal.

To set a strategy is to take into account the entire environment, your corporate desire, market atmosphere, audience, current situation, future assessment and have each item backed up with hard detailed facts and evidence. ‘Strategy’, demands that you can answer questions like: “ ‘Double your profit in the next 12 months eh’?…..What makes you think you can?” (And the answer isn’t “Because we did it last year”)


“ You say you will, increase your ROI by 10%’ …. Compared with what?’ “

Your strategy is in fact your whole business philosophy.

And it is from this alone that springs your action plan, your goals, and your objectives.

To start you in the right direction so that you can start to create a real ‘business strategy’, here are eleven questions you must be able to answer in some detail.

1) What is our raison d’etre? What problems does our business solve for our audience? What outcomes and solutions do we, (our people, our company and our product or service) provide? What makes us different from our competitors?

2) Who is our target audience? Describe in detail (The right answer isn’t, ‘everybody’)

3) What does our target audience want? What major headaches nightmares issues and problems do they typically have that we can solve? What will be the knock-on effect of not solving them?

4) What do we want? In most markets, we can choose to be somewhere between The Rolls Royce or the cut-price runabout. There is profit in both but the ways of going about achieving it are different. So what will make us happy to get up and deliver each day?

5) Are items 3 and 4 (above) congruent? Is what we want compatible with what our audience wants? Is there a good fit between our business and theirs? (Don’t invent answers that look good…you’ll only be kidding yourself). If what they want to receive and what you want to deliver are different you have a strategic problem. [ e.g. The company I employed to do my gardening at home were excellent gardeners but the owners were more interested in proving that they were ‘right’ in any minor dispute than preserving my custom. They are no longer my gardeners]

6) How does our audience know about us? What do we do to make sure we are in the eye of our target audience in every possible way? [e.g Is our website an exercise in corporate vanity or an effective problem-solving advertisement? The big test: Would a Martian landing for the first time in front of our home-page know in 14 seconds (average surfing time)what problems we could solve for them?] If your answer begins with, “ Well…errr…….” You have a problem.

7) How does our perspective audience contact us? The complete absence of (or cunningly concealed) phone numbers and email addresses on marketing materials is alarming. The speed of reply to inquiries even more so.

And FINALLY, now that you have a lot more strategic information:-

8) What is the current market for what we offer?

9) What is the future market for what we offer? (And “Business as usual”.. is not a credible answer)

10) So (based on the above) how are things changing?

11) So (if this is how things are) where are we going?

This is not the definitive: “How to Really do Strategy” book. Answer each question honestly and don’t worry if you duplicate ideas or add things that I’ve missed.

It’s just a way of showing you how to start coming up with an effective ‘thingy’.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

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When the Spanish Inquisition (as reimagined by Monty Python’s Flying Circus) wanted to torture their victims into confessing to heresy there was only one thing for it….the comfy chair! “Oh NO”, Screamed the victim, “NOT the comfy chair!”.

In the modern selling profession despite all the courses, research, seminars and coaching over the past 40 years, most sellers still resort quickly to the selling equivalent of the comfy chair…..” the canned presentation”.

“Why ?…well it’s easy isn’t it? …it’s effective……I mean it looks professional”

These -the majority of sellers- can’t wait to get out the laptop, or iPad and show/ tell their customers all about it. They don’t seem to realise that this is the point at which it all goes ‘pear-shaped’. For every prospective client or buyer, I’ve ever spoken to, sitting through the canned presentation is absolute torture; because it has nothing to do with the prospect.

For example, a few weeks ago I was in buyer mode for an expensive piece of equipment and called up two or three suppliers. They all arranged for a sales executive to call round to see me. After a bit of cursory questioning and some quite sophisticated objection handling (Well done guys) they all eventually reached into their bags (Oh NO!!!) with a, “….OK Mr Etherington that sounds like a very interesting project…..Let me just show you how we…….” (and out came the laptop….and off they went into their parallel universe). In every case I tuned-out in about 30 seconds. All that is except one ….he got his laptop out…unfolded it on my table and began the spiel ….but after 20 seconds he caught my eye… (I was looking out of the window) ….so he stopped and said, “You’re not interested are you?” I said “Not in the slightest….because none of this is about me” He stopped….and got back to talking about me. (He eventually got the contract)

After confessing to him that I earn my living by training and coaching business people to sell really effectively (Money back if not absolutely delighted) I told him another true tale of a client I had a few years ago. They were a soft drinks logistics (transport) company with an ‘exclusive’ wine storage business on the side (for investors in wine). They were very proud of their reputation in both market places but of particular interest to the MD was the wine storage part of the enterprise. So proud in fact that they had a very fancy sales presentation video made about the wine storage side of the business to show prospective clients.

So anyway, one day (with their soft drinks logistics hat on) they were given the opportunity to quote for the lucrative distribution contract for a company we’ll call ‘Bovine Rouge’ and did very well in the initial part of the bidding process. So well in fact that that Bovine Rouge’s MD asked to meet the logistics MD. The meeting went well until they said “Let's show you a bit more about us”…..brought down the blinds turned off the lights and ran the proud video. When it ended the lights went on and the logistics guys sat back and waited for the “Wow…that’s really impressive…..where do we sign?!” But it never came.

Instead, the Bovine Rouge MD said “Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for showing us who you are….. it’s quite interesting…….very professional…but I’m afraid that’s not our business.”

And that was that.

I was even out with a salesman of financial services in NY once (who had been asked by a client to just, “Pop in and pick up a contract”)…..wreck the ‘top-of-the-range deal’ in an instant by, for some inane reason saying, “While I’m here let me just remind you about the service you’re buying” …and launching into full-blown canned demo. After about a minute the client said “Just a moment …is that that crappy graphics package you had in the old version? I didn’t realise it was in this one too……we don’t want that…..take it out and give us a discount!”

The thing is a presentation has its place but only when you know precisely what the customer (the one you’re sitting in front of now) wants to buy. Then, when you prepare the presentation (never the canned one) for use late on in the process- you focus only on those specific problems and solutions requested by the client. Forget everything else….he’s not interested. In the crowd scenario at a trade show or when you’re speaking at a conference then you can produce and deliver a lively high-level demo or presentation; that’s OK.

But face to face across the desk one-on-one never (never) ‘the comfy canned presentation’.

That smile on his face is a glaze….just before he falls asleep….eyes wide open.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

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If you are familiar with advertisements for novelty domestic gadgets (See ‘B List’ TV channels around 3:15 am) you will also be familiar with the hyperbole that accompanies everything from the sale of magic cucumber peelers to clockwork vacuum cleaners. The fact is that if one wants to return the ‘guaranteed’ goods (Through a paucity of ‘absolute delight’) it is notoriously difficult to find out how to do it (not to mention the cost of postage) despite much dissatisfaction. Therefore we feel ‘conned’: rather like the frozen ready-meal which always looks much better on the box than it does on your plate.

Therefore despite much ‘purchaser disappointment’ returns for this so-called “inertia selling” technique are a very tiny percentage of sales.

Well, now a confession: WE always offer a ‘no quibble’ money-back guarantee too for all our bespoke training programs (In other words just about everything except public open conferences)!

We do this because the only judge of whether some of our training (or product or service) is valuable to a customer is ‘you’ the customer. It’s not about whether WE think what we’ve delivered is good or even faultless…. If you are dissatisfied you’ll tell 10 other people, whereas (alas) if you’re happy you’ll tell only 5.

Many friends and colleagues constantly warn us that we’ll be ripped-off by unscrupulous customers who just want a freebie; “Look mate it says there NO QUIBBLE so come on money back”. Well, I’ll wait until it happens. We are not the cheapest sales trainers out there…not by a long chalk! But in over a decade and over 150 full programs delivered, we have never had to give any money back….not a penny…although we certainly would.

‘Value= Benefits minus Cost’ and provided the customer feels they are getting value for money (ie at least the minimum they paid for and usually a lot more) they show no inclination to short change us.

But many businesses are still being very defensive and take each customer complaint as possible direct fraud. One case in point in the UK when my elderly mother took a little box of eye-shadow back to a well known UK High Street ‘super’ purveyor of drug type substances. Her complaint was that when she got it home she discovered the box had already been opened. The ‘manager’ was having none of it. “We wouldn’t sell you anything like that…they’re checked every day” So my dear old mum left the shop…went home and called me. That afternoon we went back to the shop together and I went through the same routine with the manager and she raised the same defense. Meanwhile, my mum was busying herself examining other a little pots in the same display rack. Suddenly she said, “Look here’s another one opened…..and another one” . The manager was adamant “We check each of ‘them’ little pots at the checkout. I know the one we sold you would have been sealed so I can’t give you your money back.” Naturally, I remonstrated with her once more and she replied (And this is verbatim because I wrote it down.) “Look you don’t understand! [Almost shouting now] This shop wouldn’t take ‘no’ money if we gave everyone who complained their money back”

I left (with my Mum) found out the name and location of the owners of the chain (in Germany) and wrote to the CEO quoting precisely the words used to me. Not only did I get my money back but a lot more besides including a big apology. The ‘manager’ was not there a week later.

So could my Mum being quite old at the time have opened the pot and not remembered doing so? Quite possibly…although quite unlikely.

So whatever complaint your customer brings you to make it easy to locate you (or whoever you make responsible for handling complaints) and instruct them to ‘let the customer be right.

That is the real route to absolute delight.

(And a lot more money in your pocket afterward)

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 13:14

Online Homeschooling

Homeschooling online

You may want to research and investigate some of the recent developments in online homeschooling software packages and techniques. Technology has moved forward and gone are the days when parents had to buy material from vendors and then pass it on to their children with explanations. Today, you get the full course details, material and test papers online.

Children like to sit with at their computer, their computer also makes use of the visual and audio to make learning enjoyable and accessible. Streaming video and audio can show various scientific processes in great detail. Computers can highlight colourful images and display multiple techniques that can be utilised to help effectively bind the data into your child's memory bank.

Numerous online resources have an enjoyable testing centre that aims to measure your children's knowledge and skill levels. Problematic maths and science problems can be dealt with precisely and smartly.
You can also visit an e-library that can also be lots of fun, especially when there is an audio clip or video that highlights passages for your children to comprehend.

E-learning has revolutionised the world of studies. When managed correctly your child can absorb an amazing amount of information from their online resources sitting right there at their fingertips.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 11:53

Homeschooling Methods

Homeschooling Methods

Many parents envisage schooling children at home as everyone sitting around a table and getting on with their work whilst they are overseeing their children.Although this is one method of teaching there are many more and you can choose depending on the curriculum and your approach to teaching your children.

Here are some of the most prominent methods:

The Charlotte Mason method:
Charlotte Mason is known as the founder of the homeschooling movement. A homeschooler herself, she was passionate in her zeal to lay out the foundations for an effective complete homeschooling program that is fun and educational at the same time. This method focuses on all the core subjects with emphasis placed on classical literature, poetry, fine arts, classical music, and craft. Mason used a variety of books from classical literature, which she called 'Living Books'. Since this method encourages a passionate awareness of literature, the child is read to daily from the 'Living Books'. After this, the child is asked to narrate what he/she has heard. This process begins at the age of six, and by ten the child is expected to write her narrations in his/her book. Mason also advocated the use of 'Nature Diaries'. After each short and interesting lesson, the child is asked to go to Nature and draw observations from Nature. Thus the child also gains a sense of respect for her environment. Mason believed that the development of good character and behaviour was essential to the complete development of the child's personality.

The Eclectic Homeschooling:
This is a mixture of various homeschooling techniques. Here, innovative parents trust their own judgment and pick out the topics that make the best curriculum for their child. Such parents continuously lookout for the best products that will meet the needs of their homeschoolers. Most Eclectic homeschooling curriculums are improvised. This means that the basic curriculum is ready-made. The parents then make changes in the curriculum to accommodate the individual needs and interests of their children. The child's gifts, temperament, learning style, and interests dictate the curriculum. Eclectic programs include visits to the museum, libraries, and factories.

A Boston public educator name John Holt laid the beginnings of the unschooling method. He believed that children learned best when they are free to learn at their own pace and when they are guided by their own interests. His message was to 'unschool' the child. This method is a hands-on approach to learning, where the parent takes definite cues from the children. There is no definite curriculum, schedules or materials. This method is the most unstructured of the various homeschooling techniques.

The Montessori Method:
This method began in Italy when it was observed that children have acute sensitive periods, during which they undergo periods of intense concentration. During such phases, a child will repeat an activity until he/she gains a measure of self-satisfaction. The Montessori method depends on a prepared environment to facilitate learning. All the materials used in this method are designed to satisfy the inner desire for the spiritual development of the child. The materials used progress from simple to complex.

These are just a few of the methods of homeschooling. Whatever the method, the underlying factor is flexibility and a keen interest in the desires of your children. The secret is to use your children's desire for knowledge to further his/her education.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 11:24

Homeschooling Hours

 Homeschooling Hours

Many parents ask themselves how many hours, how often and when should I teach? Parents often ask themselves these questions repeatedly when it comes to preparing for homeschooling hours.

Your Flexibility will be one of your key underlying principles to support your children’s homeschooling. Your flexibility should be focused on your children's curriculum and also the number of hours you are going to give your children.

It is natural for parents to think when starting out schooling your child at home that your children should be studying their books all the time or doing some coursework. This is not necessarily the case, there are many ways to school your children. ~Especially on those days when you feel tired and drawn out from work yourself, something as simple as watching a documentary or movie with a meaningful message and engaging with your child to get feedback on what they have seen can be just as useful in their learning

One of the key points parents complain about with the schooling system is a waste of time and energy used to lengthen classes that could be productively utilised into your children's learning. Many periods can be simply unproductive and your children effectively get only a few hours of study from their schooling every day.

When starting out schooling your child, be sure to develop a scheme of work for the learning and activities that are going to take place.

When possible try to keep the same hours every day. A regular routine gives you and your children the structure and stability to learn and will make a more positive learning experience. You will always be telling your child that you are disciplined and organised with their learning which means you are taking them seriously. Your children will also have a routine that allows them to free their minds from other activities and focus on their regular studies due to the regularity.

You can measure the actual number of hours that you need to teach depending on the curriculum your children need to learn. This will also support you to develop a learning style for your children that is suited to their learning needs. More complex subjects can demand more time, less complexed subjects can demand less time form you. You can also utilise multiple techniques to support your children's learning.

 Teaching your child from home should not amount to sitting and preaching at them, you can design days out to museums or places of importance, watch documentaries and films, go to libraries or archives buildings. You need to make your children’s learning fun for you and your children.

Textbook learning is only part of the process so be sure to mix up your approach to facilitate all aspects of learning rather than being one dimensional which can lead to boredom for you and your children. The key objective is that you and your children look forward to spending time together having fun whilst learning together.

Try not to waste time doing meaningless activities which lead to nothing, remember when teaching your children you are delivering 1-2-1 teaching. 1-2-1 teaching is highly productive when delivered correctly and can very rewarding for your children, this is due to more learning taking place in quality time rather than limited time available when in a classroom environment.  

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