Sunday, 27 February 2011

Consumer Trust gained through Brand extension and Brand refreshment

The shelves and display cabinets of London’s gift and souvenir shops are groaning under the huge weight of products which have a limited life span of just a few weeks – namely mugs ,plates, thimbles, bells, fridge magnets etc. commemorating the forthcoming marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

What will have happened to these items in say 50 years?

Perhaps some may have been kept in households and later appeared on the 2060 version of BBC's "Antiques Road show", "Cash in the Attic" or "Flog it".

Maybe one or two might well end up in a museum . Stranger things happened!

One such repository in our time is London's Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising . This is a collection of over 12,000 items of consumer culture based on the remarkable collection of Robert Opie.
Click for Half Moon Bay – Robert Opie Gifts and Housewares

The Founding sponsors of the museum include Vodafone, McVities, Twinings, Kellogg's, Cadbury ,Diageo and PI Global.

The museum is located in a delightful West London cobbled mews on the Ladbroke grove/Notting hill borders.

Its exhibits stretch from Victorian/Edwardian era to the present day.

Because its collection is about communication to the consumer, visitors find themselves both acting as passive observer and but also constantly having their memory jolted by products, packaging and advertising that they remember from earlier parts of their life. As powerful a memory alerted when Pop and Rock records are played in the radio as"golden oldies",

Listening to fellow visitors reactions as they follow the trail of the museum, you realise that our ages can be identified through such responses both to our visual but also verbal and vocal memory.

Brand names, lettering and slogans erupt like conditioned reflexes from people as they pass the display cases crammed with items and on lookers re -speak the slogans of former times in their life.

You also become aware of how certain brands have had their life cycle extended. Some products and brands are no longer in circulation. Many items, fads and fashions come round again even if the medium is now more net based.

There are many souvenir products of previous royal weddings, coronations and national events whose producers at the time must have had to sell their wares in very short time like today's vendors.

You find yourself drawn to staple food & drink brands , sweets ( candies) , toiletries, and soft drinks and household cleaning products whose packaging has subtly changed over the years.

Some products you might not have been aware, have a longer history and were known to your great great grandparents .

Some brands have been lost or their parent companies have been acquired, merged along the way.

Certain products’ dominance has been diminished.

I am not a smoker myself , but I was astounded by the plethora of brands of cigarettes during the first half of twentieth century on display.

The graphics, fonts and designs however have subtly changed and been refreshed over the years.

For one or two products ranges, the displays were lined in a sequence for a brand and displayed from left to right from the ‘20s to the present day.

Notable were the lines of familiar products like Johnson Baby Powder Tins to plastic bottle and similarly for Scholl foot powder.

For fans of the comedian and singer Richard Digance whose song of nostalgia asked whatever happened to Spangles /- would find the answer in this collection has originals of tubes of Spangles sweets.

Then there are the product name changes with examples of the original products such as

Opal fruits to Starburst and

Marathon bars to Snickers bars.

Also there are brands that have disappeared from the shelves in the UK such as Smiths crisps, Golden Wonder Crisps.

Maybe a campaign for such products should be raised on social network as was achieved for Cadbury's (Kraft's?) Wispa Bar.

Photo of postcard from Robert Opie Colection

Not all the exhibits are of consumable products.

There are reminders of Government advertising posters from times of war plus exhibits of ration books and examples of rationing which are thought provoking.

As the current coalition government in Britain is dealing with the financial problems of the country certain cuts are being proposed to public services such as possible closure of certain libraries.

This has a certain irony when I read one of the posters from World War Two :-


There was a notice to retailers to be displayed in the shops .


Photo of postcard from Robert Opie Collection

Chocolate manufacture J.S. Fry even printed on their wrappers what we might describe now as a ‘buyer’s journey’ accompanied by photographs of a young boy in a series of grimaces until the problem was resolved.

The Ad ran

photo of post card from Robert Opie Collection

The breakfast cereal "Shredded Wheat" before its ownership by Nabisco was called WelGar Shredded wheat – presumably so named as the factory was in Welwyn Garden City.

I think production has moved now but the Factory site can still be seen from the Northern Main line railway line.

Cultural acceptability of some foods has changed. In a display of Heinz 57 varieties placed next to tin labelled ‘Mock turtle soup’ is tin of ‘ Real turtle soup’ that might cause a bit of a fuss today from certain environmental lobbies.

Lost to us now are the delights of Coop Spec washing powder.

There is a section devoted to the evolution of packaging such as cartons, Cans/Tins, right through to today’s recyclable and sustainable methods.

The trail of the exhibition finished in a small tea room/shop where a loop of TV ads from the past is run.

Photo of post card from Robert Opie Collection

Brands and their accompanying slogans on TV attract different generations.

The jingles that caught me included :-

“ Boom Boom Boom Boom .. Esso Blue”

“You can be sure of Shell”

“For mash get smash” for those of a certain generation who remember the
Puppet Martians!

“Any time, any place any where .. that’s Martini. The Right One"

Homepride's “ Grade grains make finer flour”

Go and visit this museum it's terrific!

Click for Museum of Brands
Museum of Brands
2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road,
Notting Hill, London, W11 2AR


Monday, 21 February 2011

Sales lead to jobs - Barclay's Corporate & FT survey- Can Sales save the UK?

From Banker Bashing to Civil Servant Clobbering.

My i newspaper has been doing its fair share of banker bashing the last few weeks, so for a little contrast I purchased the Financial Times today.

The FT today is sold at the eye watering price of £2.00 (some 20 times my ‘ i newspaper’ or to put it another way - two weeks’ worth!) Time for me to get it on my Kindle I suppose.

The FT have a series running called the 'job creators' this week.
The’ pink’ paper’s view of the coalition government’s strategy of hope is a touch sceptical.

The Government expects the UK private sector will create jobs to offset public sector redundancies as the spending cuts take place.

In spite of concerns over rising unemployment perhaps the Government is pinning its hopes on the independent Office for Budget Responsibility which forecasts that the private sector will generate £1.5 m jobs over the next 5 years more than offsetting the 400,000 to go in the public sector.

(Front page right hand side column "Companies resist idea of taking on jobless civil servants" 21st Feb 2011 FT) However the FT rightly asks

“Where are the jobs to come from?”

One statistic to come out of a report study they have conducted in conjunction with Barclay's Corporate of 500 UK companies was that 78% want to see solid evidence of sales growth before creating jobs. The figure before the recession was 69%.
What has caught the eye of many though is that the majority of the survey resists the idea of employing civil servants.

When asked whether they are interested in employing ex-public sector employee:
32% not at all interested
25% not very interested
30% said quite interested
8% said very interested
6% said don’t know

The FT concluded that 57% of companies are not interested in employing ex-public sector workers.

Alongside a chart of the above statistics, the FT placed another set.
52% of companies think ex-public sector workers are not equipped to take jobs in their business:-
It was broken down as follows:-
20% said not at all well equipped
32% said not very well equipped
37% said quite well equipped
6% said very well equipped
6% said don’t know.

Unfortunately the full report is not on the Barclay's Corporate site yet to read the detail

But I can’t help thinking that the ‘not well equipped’ label suggests that the experience and skills sets private companies believe civil servants to have, are either not appropriate, or that they feel civil servants lack certain key skills. ( A training Gap perhaps ?)

Some may surmise that Professional Selling Skills and a ' selling mindset ' might be amongst the ‘lack of equipment’ but as that fictional antihero Conservative Chief Whip, Francis Urquhart in the series "The House of Cards" often said

“You might very well think that but I could not possibly comment”

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Kew Gardens Tropical Extravaganza Feb-March 2011

Fellow meerkats and human friends. If you are feeling bluesy and down in the dumpings, I Alexandr Orlov, meerkating superstar recommend a visit to Royal Gardens of Kew.

Should you be tired of comparing meerkats go compare the orchids at Kew.

Enough of me talkings enjoy photos taken on Mr Appeal's economy camera of beautiful flowers plus movie with tropical rainfall soundtrack and polite visitors. ( Scroll down to end of post)

Click for Tropical Extravaganza at Kew - Kew official website

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Phonics, Phonies and Sales Jargon

Reading English and hearing English is a daily challenge in selling. see alsoClick for past post on Evolving English Exhibition at British Museum.

The thought below perhaps encapsulates the daily challenge for many of us in selling when our communication has floundered.

“ I know that you believe you understand what you think I said but, I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant!!!!!!

In selling we use words with clients speaking on the phone, face to face or presenting to a group.

We write ( type) using words in our emails, proposals quotes, blogs and texts

We read and interpret other people’s words whether in a request for proposal RFP, answering customer enquiries, handling objections etc.. All are crucial part to the art and science of selling.

Words in the form of questions help us find out their needs and wants and convey messages to our clients. We use them to explain rational processes. We use words to motivate their emotions and persuade them.

So the current concern about reading standards of UK children and the teaching of reading is of interest to Salespeople as well as to concerned parents and teachers. There are also consequences for the workplace see below in the CBI study.( Scroll down to end of post for thought provoking figures)

Indeed even for we adult salespeople, buyers in the Buyers Views survey of Salespeople do express opinions on how they feel Salespeople communicate and the quality of the channels they communicate to Customers.

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

There is a proposed test from the Department of Education (D oE)where ‘non words’ are being introduced in the reading test for 5-7 years old.

The trick ‘non words’ have been inserted into the test to check pupil’s ability to decode words using phonics. This is the reading system by which children sound out words using letter sounds.

Nick Gibb education secretary argues that there is support in this view by high-quality academic evidence from across the world - from Scotland and Australia to the National Reading Panel in the US - which points to synthetic phonics being the most effective method for teaching literacy for all children, especially those aged five to seven.

Other experts disagree such as the UK literacy Association
Click for UK Literacy association

The English language, they argue is not phonically consistent as say German or Finnish.
"The D o E test is trying to control all the different variables so that things like meaning don't get in the way. "

Of course not all words in English are decodable( is that a word by the way?) by phonics.

(Earl as 'pearl' not as in year 'yeer', or ear! Court as in Caught!)

There are many words with which we have to use a 'look and say' approach. Just think of common words such as 'the' and 'once'

Even to address the Minister for Education whose surname is ‘Gove’ which sounds like the word ‘cove’ would be problematic as it does not rhyme with ‘love’!

Some supposed non words to be used in the test have already been scooped up by the press

For example Koob

So for fun I googled ( is that a non word for the DoE test I wonder?) the word koob.

( Comedy as in 'comma' not 'come')

According to the urban dictionary –

Koob happens whilst you are consuming something, when you get an overwhelming feeling that you don't want to finish what you started, but you do anyway for some reason.

For example:
If you are drinking wine at a meal in a restaurant, and decide to order another bottle half way through which you don’t really want any more but then you finish it anyway because you don't want to waste it.
"Oh wow I just koobed “

So Let's here it ( sorry "hear it!") for non-words

( Is yogurti a non word according to the D o E test?)

A Graphic designer Luke Ngakane, , uncovered hundreds of 'non words' as part of a project for Kingston University, London ( my Alma mater) His project was reported in the newspapers in August 2010.

Apparently there is a secret portal owned by the Oxford University Press that holds millions of 'non-words' for everyday activities, recently submitted for use in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) that didn't make the dictionary.

Creating a dictionary of their own, the words will remain dormant unless they enter common parlance in the future.

Here are some non words which maybe should become officially accepted by the "powers that be" to use a King James Version of The Bible expression.

Maybe some will become common parlance in the selling arena if not the Oxford English dictionary:- As a peppier ( see below) might say:-

( is the acronym TGI a non word?)

Accordionated - being able to drive and refold a road map at the same time Asphinxiation - being sick to death of unanswerable puzzles or riddles
Blogish - a variety of English that uses a large number of initialisms (?), frequently used on blogs
Dringle - the watermark left on wood caused by a glass of liquid.
Dunandunate - the overuse of a word or phrase that has recently been added to your own vocabulary
Earworm - a catchy tune that frequently gets stuck in your head
Espacular - something especially spectacular
Freegan - someone who rejects consumerism, usually by eating discarded food

Fumb - your large toe
Furgle - to feel in a pocket or bag for a small object such as a coin or key
Glocalization - running a business according to both local and global considerations
Griefer - someone who spends their online time harassing others
Headset jockey - a telephone call centre worker
Lexpionage - the sleuthing of words and phrases
Locavor - a person who tries to eat only locally grown or produced food
Museum head - feeling mentally exhausted and no longer able to take in information.
Nonversation - a worthless conversation, wherein nothing is explained or otherwise elaborated upon
Nudenda - an unhidden agenda
Oninate - to overwhelm with post-dining breath
Optotoxical - a look that could kill, normally from a parent or spouse
Parrotise - a haven for exotic birds especially green ones
Peppier - a waiter whose sole job is to offer diners ground pepper, usually from a large pepper mill
Percuperate - to prepare for the possibility of being ill
Pharming - the practice of creating a dummy website for phishing data
Polkadodge - the dance that occurs when two people attempt to pass each other but move in the same direction

( Never quite sure whether there should be an apostrophe with Houses ever since Lynn Truss wrote her "Eat , Shoots and Leaves" book punctuation is another matter though!)

Pregreening - to creep forwards while waiting for a red light to change
Quackmire - the muddy edges of a duck pond
Scrax - the waxy coating that is scratched off an instant lottery ticket
Smushables - items that must be pack at the top of a bag to avoid being squashed
Spatulate - removing cake mixture from the side of a bowl with a spatula
Sprog - to go faster then a jog but slower then a sprint
Sprummer - when summer and spring time can't decide which is to come first, usually hot one day then cold the next
Stealth-geek - someone who hides their nerdy interests while maintaining a normal outward appearance
Vidiot - someone who is inept at the act of programming video recording equipment
Whinese - a term for the language spoken by children on lengthy trips
Wibble - the trembling of the lower lip just shy of actually crying
Wurfing - the act of surfing the Internet while at work
Wikism - a piece of information that claims to be true but is wildly inaccurate

Xenolexica - a grave confusion when faced with unusual words

Good selling all you fellow Xenolexiconists!

Click for Free Evolving English exhibition at the British library, London closes 3rd April 2011

Serious Point:

Two-fifths of employers surveyed by the CBI had serious concerns about employees’ basic literacy and numeracy skills.

On the literacy side, the main problems are not being able to write in sentences, spell correctly or use accurate grammar.

On the numeracy side, the key issue is the inability to spot simple errors or rogue numbers.

Poor basic skills have a serious impact on customer service according to two-fifths (40%) of employers, and lower productivity according to a third (34%) .

Both issues have damaging implications for business performance and around a quarter of employers are investing in remedial literacy and numeracy training.
Click for National Literacy trust Adult literacy

Monday, 14 February 2011

7 effective sales closes and ways of gaining commercial commitment and converting more sales

If you
- haven't set clear selling objectives
- haven't planned and prepared your sales call,
- haven't clearly explained the purpose of your call,
- haven't maintained and sustained your prospects attention throughout,
- have only carried out a cursory investigation of your client's needs and wants,
- have not matched your offers' benefits to those needs and wants of your buyer,
- have not handled and not answered your client's objections and concerns
- but you are the most marvellous 'closer' in the world


It seems so obvious to state this - yet still in 2011 you see recruitment advertisements in the on- line sales recruitment sites asking for "Closers" as if that is all that is all that is required or worse implying that closing is some kind of knack or magic trick of the trade.

The close of the sale cannot stand by itself - it is the logical end to a well planned and well executed presentation.

(Photos in this post are of commerical buildings in the City of London ( Financial district), the Shell building South bank of the Thames and an office in Hammmersmith, West London)

No method of closing is likely to succeed if the presentation has been weak; on the other hand even a good presentation may not ensure the business if it is not properly concluded.

To bring any sale to a successful conclusion you must keep your decision based objective clearly in mind and close on that objective by obtaining from the client either:

• firm commitment (e.g. a signed purchase order, a verbal acceptance)


• positive agreement (e.g. that you will be specified in future, that you will be given an order when the need next arises).

When to conclude or close

The timing of the close is important. You can fail to achieve your objective by attempting to close too soon - before your prospect has enough information on which to base their decision - or by going on too long and spoiling an otherwise sound presentation.- in effect talking your way out of a sale.

This does not mean there is only one ‘psychological moment’ at which to close.

It does mean though that your close should be planned.

At every stage of your offer, ask questions to ensure that your prospect has understood what has been said - and perhaps more importantly, agreed with it.

Checking for these ‘yes responses’ will ensure that any doubts, disagreements or objections are brought out at the appropriate time.

For example “Are you happy with what I’ve said so far?” or “Is that type of service quality important to your company?” sometimes referred to as trial closes

As the interview progresses, you should watch and listen for ‘buying signals’ - indications of how the prospect’s mind is working. A buying signal may be physical
(e.g. picking up your sales literature); or it may be verbal (e.g. “What is delivery on this?”). The prospect has not yet definitely decided to buy - but is considering doing so.

When buying signals are observed, you can afford to become assumptive and change from “If you have this” to “when you have this”. You must develop the skill of becoming gradually more assumptive as the ‘yes responses’ become more positive.

Sometimes your buyer will close the sale themselves naturally, but if not you should try to close on a buying signal which comes towards the end of your planned presentation.

How to conclude or close

You must always be prepared to ask for the decision.

Sometimes simply asking will be sufficient, but here are 7 basic techniques (and many other variations/combinations thereof) which can be used to make the asking more effective:

•1. Assumptive close: maintain the positive momentum of ‘yes responses’ and ‘buying signals’. Use that momentum to close by wording the close carefully.

Not “Do you want to go ahead?” but, “How soon would you like delivery?”

• 2. Alternative close: offer a choice of two (or sometimes more) positive alternatives in terms of timing, specification, colour, payment method, delivery etc.

e.g. “Would you like the ads to start in March or April?” “Would you prefer delivery to gate C or gate D?” " It is available in blue or green - which would you prefer?"

This method is the only one, which in itself asks for a decision and can be used either by itself or with one of the others.

It is particularly effective because you are asking the prospect to decide ‘yes or yes’ rather than ‘yes or no’ - even if both are rejected, your prospect has not rejected your offer itself, only those particular choices.

• 3. Summary close: briefly summarise the main points of your discussions and presentation, paying particular attention to the benefits of your offer as it relates to your prospect’s needs, wants, problems and priorities; in a competitive situation also emphasise those factors about your company and your product or service which your competition cannot match.

• 4. Verbal proof close: refer to an existing client or a particular case history, or white paper outlining what your company has done and the benefits derived; this will build confidence in your prospect’s mind and show that you can also provide the same benefits for their organisation.

The ‘verbal proof’ must, of course, be true and if possible capable of being checked - documentation or a letter of reference will add impact and increase credibility. And if you can cite a prestigious, local or relevant, and similar existing customer, so much the better.

• 5. Concession close: encourage the prospect to make a positive decision by offering a concession (within company policy) which is either designed to apply time pressure (e.g. a small price reduction for an immediate order) or to show that you personally are providing specially good service for that particular prospect (e.g. a small specification change at no extra cost). Concessions should be kept till the very end and used only if necessary - if a concession is introduced too soon, or if it is seen to be available to everyone, its impact is reduced.

• 6. Caution close: introduce a note of caution by explaining the disadvantages of not making a positive decision.

e.g. “So that you will have sufficient stock for the new season shall we...” “To avoid any unnecessary expense shall we double the order at the current price before the price rise is due to take place next month” The overall message being put across is “... you would be well advised to order now - Buy now while stocks last ...”

• 7. Isolation close: if your client raises a last-minute objection, try and make sure there is nothing else stopping them from going ahead. “So if we can take care of that point of concern, Charlie, will you attend the demonstration?”

There is no one best way to close, but there is a best time - when the presentation is complete, and when you have been getting sufficient ‘yes responses’ and ‘buying signals’. At that point your buyer is convinced, so that is the best time to close.

You should prepare and practise as many of the different methods as are appropriate to your business. Then you will be flexible enough to react correctly in every sort of selling situation. Such practise also helps you build your confidence where 'fear of trying to close due to fear of rejection can hold one back from asking for commitment.

Don't be a "Charlie" be an "Alfred"Just think to that toe curling scene in the Film "Four weddings and a funeral" when Hugh Grant's character Charlie waffles on about the Partridge family instead of asking the question of the girl of his dreams played by Andie MacDowell.

Alfred Tack , the father of UK sales training said once " If you don't try and close- you are working for the competition!"

Related Links

DVP , branding - Milk chocolates and Milk Flowers for your valentine?

One of the oldest botanical gardens in London is the Chelsea Physic Garden ( CPG)founded in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries. Chelsea Physic Garden was established to teach apothecaries about medicinal and other uses of plants..

The land on which the garden is situated came into the ownership of Sir Hans Sloane in 1712 and leased at a rent of £5 in perpetuity to the Apothecaries.

Sloane was a physician, botanist, philanthropist and relevant to this blog an entrepreneur. A statue of the great man is the centrepiece of the garden.

Sloane lived to the remarkable old age of 92.

He believed in

“ sobriety, temperance and moderation are the best preservatives nature had
vouchsafed to mankind”

Of his many achievements those who follow this blog might like to acknowledge his part in the history of selling.

As a result of travels to the Caribbean Sloane he introduced a “health promoting” recipe for drinking chocolate. By 1689, Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink as a result of his travels to the Caribbean and in particular Jamaica.

Well before what we might call the modern era of selling ,he had branded his product (milk chocolate drink) ‘licensed’ his formulation and sold it to be made exclusively by a ‘manufacturer and had his product distributed through outlets – the coffee houses of Georgian England.

He even expressed his distinctive value proposition (DVP) as can be seen by the poster. ( note the old use of ‘f’ for ‘s’ my spell checker has blown a fuse!)

Sir Hans Sloane’s

Milk Chocolate.

Made only by William White , succefsor to
Mr Nicholas Sanders, No 8 Greek Street, Soho, London.

Greatly recommended by feveral eminent physicians, efecially of those of
Sir Hans Sloane’s acquaintance.
For the Lightnefs on the Stomach, and its great Ufe in all Confumptive Cases

N.B. What is not figned by my name and fealed with my Arms is counterfeit.

In the 21st century we are also familiar with stories of medicinal benefits of chocolate .

Cocoa or dark chocolate may positively affect the circulatory system. Other possible effects include anticancer, brain stimulating activities.

Any aphrodisiac effect is as yet unproven despite what hopes today spring from giving one’s ‘valentine’ a box of chocolates! But hope springs eternal ! .. talking of which..

The first signs of the end of the deep part of winter has passed in London . Snowdrops have appeared.

Last weekend Chelsea Physic garden opened its gates for its Snowdrop Days

The botanical name Galanthus is from the Greek gala – milk and anthos – flower. The garden has a collection of over 100 varieties. The subtle differences can be determined by close inspection of markings, leaf shape and fullness of flower.

However you have to remember your “ leaf, scape, spathe. Pedicel, ovary, flower, outer tepal, inner tepal” all of which I had forgotten from school lessons in Biology. Fortunately CPG supplied visitors with an illustrated guide to their snowdrop trail highlighting 15 different varieties.

One of the most delightful stages of the trail was the snow drop theatre.

This exhibited a range of choice Galanthus cultivars bred and developed over the last 150 years. In late January 2011 a particularly desirable form sold on line for £350 for a single bulb!

As well as the pleasure snow drops give to galanthomaniacs some varieties have medicinal properties. Although galantamine is produced synthetically nowadays for drugs like Reminyl it is used in the treatment in Alzheimer’s


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Aleksandr ORLOV explains Simples Advertising More Th>n Freeman

VCCP the advertising agency responsible for creating the talking Meerkat Alekandr Meerkat is also the creative powerhouse behind" More Th>n Freeman"

Lord Tim Bell whose PR firm Chime Communications bought VCCP in 2005 described some of the changes in advertising :-
" In the 1980s it was all about slogans and catchphrases and humour. Now advertising is about communicating the concept of a visual narrative. More th>n Freeman, like the Meerkat is a visual narrative"

Alekandr Orlov Junior (AOJ) learns about Simples advertising from Uncle Alekandr Orlov (AO)

AOJ"What business are you in?"

AO"I am account executive in ad and & PR agency"

AOJ"Do you write ads?"

AO"No, copywriters do that"

AOJ"Do you create ads?"

AO"No , art directors do that"

AOJ"Do you handle press releases and product launches?"

AO"No, P.R. specialists do that"

AOJ"Sounds like fun job"

AO"It's not that easy - we do lot of research"

AOJ"Do you do research?

AO"No, we have research people for that"

AOJ"Forgive me Uncle, but WHAT IS your job?"

AO"Well it's marketing really"

AOJ"You do marketing for the clients?"

AO"No, not exactly they do it themselves"

AOJ"Are you in management?"

AOJ"No, but I soon will be"

AOJ"Wow, what great job Uncle Alekandr!"

Click for Official site trading name of BISL Ltd

Friday, 11 February 2011

When outsourcing costs more,is bad value and when the RFQ or RFP is too inflexible is Selling ever Buying's " keeper"?

Most stories of commercial poor practice that hit the news focus on bad behaviour on the Selling side. These stories should be told of course but excessive media coverage does taint the reputation of the majority of those in the profession who try to do a good job for their customer, for their companies and for themselves.

Stories abound about pensions miss-selling, preying loan sharks in the current recession or stories churned out on BBC TV's "Watchdog" or Radio 4 " You and Yours" stereotyping dodgy double glazing selling or mobile phone contract scams abound.

But before we in Selling get any sense of vindictive satisfaction in reading a story for once of Buyers 'getting a good kicking' we should remember the customer in the M25 extension fiasco is the nation.

You would think that if a commercial project was running to time , was under budget and one that will complete its critical deadline of national importance ( London 2012 Games) that all would be well and good.

Indeed as a set of metrics it might suggest good buying and good selling had taken place.

Yet in the report published 8th February 2011, the Public Accounts Committee have cited, “poor cost estimation” and a lack of “robust information” as key flaws in the handling of the project, describing it as “poor value for money for the taxpayer”.

The case in question is the massive construction project to widen London’s M25 orbital road between junctions 16-23. The Buyer in this case-( the Highways Agency) has been heavily criticised by the Public accounts committee of the UK Parliament.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme chair of the committee Labour MP Margaret Hodge said

“They have got it completely wrong.”

She derided the 30-year, £3.4bn private finance contract for widening the M25 and said the mishandling had cost the taxpayer as much as an extra £1bn.

She urged ministers to renegotiate the contract, whose management costs she said were "far too high" following "appallingly bad estimations" produced by consultants employed by the Department of Transport.

Margaret Hodge said "The taxpayers have been the main loser. Road users have had to tolerate constant traffic jams, and the only beneficiaries have really been consultants and advisers."
"The public accounts committee had been "shocked" to learn that £80m was spent on consultants to advise the department on "how to build a road".

This report from Parliament follows the National Audit Office (NAO) report of last year on the project

"Lessons to be learnt" has been the PR soundbite from the criticised buyers but there will ramifications of course for those Selling to the public sector from hereon. The NAO recommended the following for the Buyer in this case - The Highways Agency:-

1. The agency was criticised for being too slow to investigate potentially cheaper alternatives, such as allowing traffic to use the hard shoulder.

2. The NAO study said: “The agency should have adopted a more agile approach to procurement, recognising the potential for making savings using an alternative method of relieving congestion: hard shoulder running.”

3. It estimates this could have saved between £400 million and £1.1 billion. It said slow progress on testing hard shoulder running and the agency’s commitment to widening the motorway limited its options and provided less value for money.
4. An 18-month delay in preparing and finalising the procurement work to widen the road meant the contract was let in May 2009, at the height of the credit crisis. This increased the cost of the deal by almost a quarter to £3.4 billion.
5. The report also described “shortcomings in its cost estimation process”. The Highways Agency’s cost estimates were 27-43 % higher than the bids it received. The NAO recommended the agency investigate the reasons for the difference.

Outsourcing is not always the answer it seems.

The NAO also called on the agency to develop its in-house skills in procurement and contract management because it is “over-reliant” on consultants.
“The agency has not reviewed the total costs of its procurement to identify lessons for future projects,” said the NAO.

“The agency continues to rely on advisers for contract management support and documentation about the procurement."
“The agency’s reliance on advisers has built up over time and in part reflects insufficient commercial and technical skills within the agency.”

The Highways Agency spent £80 million (7.5 per cent of the capital value) on advice and support from external organisations, including £45 million on technical advice, during the course of the procurement for the road widening.

Caveat emptor "Let the buyer beware" one might think . It is the Buyer's lookout but there is always Caveat venditor "let the seller beware" to consider.

Should Selling take responsibility for the product and be discouraged from selling products or services ( including consultancy) that are unreasonable or unsuitable ?

The dilemma here was for those suppliers who wanted to suggest the cheaper hard shoulder option. Their suggestion would probably have run the risk of being rejected because such a suggestion may not have kept within the strictures of the terms and conditions of the request for proposal RFP.

The Buyers Views of Salespeople Survey has also identified additional changes in Purchasing practice. 15% of the sample had increased their outsourcing. But as we see from the M25 extension case this may not mean best value.
Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study
Readers might also find the increase in purchasers' consideration of sustainability issues, local sourcing and changes in the number of suppliers used interesting

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Selling sign of our times Neon and Sir William Ramsay's plaque unveiling

2011 has been nominated the International year of Chemistry.

What better way than to remember a great scientist?!

On Wednesday 9th of February English Heritage unveiled one their blue plaques at No 12 Arundel Gardens Notting Hill London W11 - the house which the first Briton to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1904 lived. No 12 was the home from 1887-1916 of the chemist and discoverer of noble gases, Sir William Ramsay.

The crowd who had come to witness the event were in the main Chemists from University College London and members of the Royal Society of Chemistry. I suppose I could claim to be to be a Chemist although it is some 35 years ago since I studied chemistry! - but I felt among friends.

Most people in the industrialized world will nightly or daily have their attention grabbed as a result of Ramsay's discovery.

From the neon illuminating advertising signs to the xenon that trigger photographic flash bulbs his discoveries touch our daily lives.

It was while living at No 12 that Ramsay made his sensational discovery of noble gases. It was in his study at his home that he and his colleague Morris Travers wrote a joint paper for the Royal society on their discovery of neon. This post box was the one Sir William used to post his groundbreaking paper on Argon.

The name neon comes from the Greek ‘neos’ meaning new. The early developments of neon lighting in advertising probably goes back to Georges Claude.

In 1913 a large sign for the vermouth Cinzano illuminated the night sky in Paris, and by 1919 the entrance to the Paris Opera was adorned with neon tube lighting according to Wikipedia.
The first neon sign in the UK was probably at Piccadilly Circus was for Bovril – the beef tea drink.

Whether used by independent retailers or big chain global franchise operations, like Subway, Neon signs abound even in the era of LED.

Dr Andrea Sella, Inorganic Chemist at UCL Chemistry Department said “ Ramsay was a groundbreaking chemist and built up an outstanding research department at UCL. Nicknamed " the Chief”, he was an inspirational teacher and revered by his students . He maintained that his greatest contribution to science was not the chemistry but his students that he had produced."

To commemorate Sir William, a group of chemists led by Dr Sella cycled Sir William’s cycle route to UCL from his former house to the University. A route he would have cycled over cobbled roads on a rigid bike. In a letter to his aunt not long after moving int o the house he wrote “…I go to town on a bicycle.! Right along the Bayswater road to Oxford and to Gower Street. This morning I was at College in 18 minutes from the house."

Dr Sella and fellow chemists cycle the Ramsay cycle route.

Click for year of Chemistry 2011

Click for English heritage

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Show me - 4 types of Sales Demonstration and how best to use them face to face and or line

One the criticisms of salespeople that has been repeated over the 12 years of the Buyers views of salespeople study is that many of us "talk too much." Maybe like the suitor in My fair Lady we should listen and read our buyers better.

"….Sing me no song ,rhyme no rhyme
Don’t waste my time show me.Don’t talk of June, Don’t talk of fall
Don’t talk at all – Show meNever do I ever want to hear another word
There isn’t one I haven’t heard…."

Elisa Doolittle from My fair Lady by Lerner and Loewe to the hapless suitor Freddy Eynsford-Hill

54% of Buyers said that their buying groups found demonstrations as a media to receive a supplier presentation. (Source: Buyers Views of Salespeople see below)
The use of sales aids must be planned along with the content of each of your sales presentations.

Your sales aids are not a substitute for a well-structured presentation - they are a complement to it.
4 Different types of sales aids

Interest 'stimulators' which engage one of your client’s other senses (i.e. apart from hearing), an aid which brings in sight, smell, touch or taste can be an excellent ‘attention getter’.

Trust builders such as testimonials, newspaper articles, white papers or independent test reports will reduce any doubts a prospect may feel about the wisdom and safety of purchasing from you.

Visuals such as diagrams, photographs or advertisements help to communicate facts or explanations, and add variety to the presentation.

Laptops help you make your whole presentation logical, complete and well ordered; for example, a well-structured PowerPoint presentation, Video Web Conference with ‘on screen’ you appeal, combined with good graphics, can be very persuasive.

Your own sales literature may encompass some or all of these aids or may simply be a summary or a reference document to leave with your client.

Remember not to hand over literature to a client until the stage in the presentation where the objective of the literature is the same as the next objective in the presentation. *If they wish to look at the interest by all means hand it over but stop talking over it because they may not take in your messages.
Similarly when using PowerPoint blank (toggle key B) or white ( toggle key W) the screen until you are describing what's on the screen.

Demonstrations act as an
• explanation of what your product is or does
• proof that it works and is effective and relevant to your client
• motivation of your prospect to want it after seeing it in action or using it
• trial/practice in advance somewhere where mistakes do not matter

Prepare carefully giving yourself time to resolving any problems - for example:-

Ensure you find appropriate location of your demonstration can make all the difference; if possible arrange to demonstrate in a typical “user location”; if not, it is wise check in advance what facilities are available and gear your demonstration accordingly ( or if using web conferencing all the equipment is compatible)

Pace your demonstration so that you explain sufficiently what is happening without being so slow as to sound laboured.

Professionalism means presenting in a way that has impact and is memorable, but ensuring that your “showmanship” is subtle and not glib or “flashy”

Engage your prospect(s) in the demonstration through their active participation . It makes an enormous difference; plan how to achieve involvement without losing control of the demonstration

Some guidelines

Sales aids and samples used in face to face situations need to be kept clean and in good order.

If you are using them regularly you may not notice their deterioration and gradually looking ‘tired’ but your clients will. Dusting your laptop from time to time is worth doing. They do attract a lot of dust through static.

During your presentation you must keep control of all aids or they may become a distraction from you rather than an advantage to you.

e.g., if you are using a brochure make sure that you are turning the pages as and when you want them turned rather than allowing your client to flick over the pages while you are talking about something different. ( but see * above if they are holding the brochure try not to talk over a brochure which is being read/flicked through by a buyer )

Design and use each aid for a specific objective. Once that objective is attained put the aid to one side or away from your client and out of sight.
Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

Why should sales exhibit? Are exhibitions like old horses only good for the knackers yard?

40% of Buyers said they used exhibitions as a location to meet with supplier sales people over the last twelve months. ( Scroll down to end of post for link to free copy of executive summary of Buyers' survey of Salespeople)
Click to register for Modern

Adam Ginty Marketing Manager at Lyme Media & Events Ltd set the debate going by questioning the value of face to face at exhibition encounters in the modern selling era.

In a later thread he wrote

“For the vast majority of (field-based) salespeople, attending exhibitions either as an exhibitor or as a punter ( exhibitions) will be a very rare event compared to the frequency with which they could/should be prospects and customers."

Measurement of return of marketing investment (ROMI) was also mooted by many forum contributors.
“We've tried and tested the merits and costs of each tactic and can apply these on a sale by sale basis."
Some forum members employ cost per sale targets, but they have found there is a spread and some sales are more involved at a higher cost compared to some which are way under Cost per Sale targets, - so they also monitor average cost per sale to analyse overall Gross Profit
As sales professionals in the Selling 2.0 era, we have got bag of tools to use as and when the situation dictates a particular tactic.

This has been described as ranging FROM; Tweet, Re-tweet, email, phone call, proposal then close (and an add on Linked In) - TO; Phone call, email, meeting, (a series of) phone calls etc. etc. to close.

A number of the discussion forum members raised additional “horses for courses” type arguments. But maybe to continue the equine metaphor we in sales need to “avoid putting the cart before the horse” before we even enter and run the race!

So here are some fundamental questions to help clarify our thinking:

  1. How important is it for you to meet people with the power to make decisions?

  2. How well attended-is the show for your industry?

  3. Will it give you the opportunity to meet more key buyers?

    Past attendance visitor attendance data are worth considering but how were they audited? ( ABC measured?).

    If you are investing in the exhibition to generate new business leads

What does the show’s marketing campaign consist of? (before, during and after the event)
e.g. advertising, ticket inserts, direct mail and electronic marketing, how does it target its audience

As an exhibitor you will be exposed to actively interested buyers, before, during and after the show.

Exhibiting at an exhibition enables you to meet more professionals at one time and gives you access to new prospects.

Buyers come to you
Well of course your stand presence needs to be attractive

An exhibition is the place buyers come to compare, contrast, source and select new venues and services

. The decision-makers and influencers who are your customers take time out of their busy schedules to come to see you.

Face-to-face contact is one of the most effective sales channels and at an exhibition you can meet more customers than at any other event. This makes an exhibition both cost effective and time efficient, resulting in one of the highest returns on marketing investment.

Customer retention
With the number of conventional face to face one on one meetings reducing in B2B sales exhibitions are a way to meet and nurture clients.

Meeting your existing customers can be part of retaining and developing business. At an exhibition you can benefit from a networking environment in which you can consolidate and develop existing business relationships, as well as gain new business leads and build your brand.

If your competitors are at the show do you need to be too? Your presence can remind your existing customers why they buy from you.

So there is life in the 'old horse' of exhibitions yet. Exhibitions will have to fight for their place in the ever widening array of marketing communications channels available in the selling 2.0 era - whether selling competes 'on the flat or 'over the fences'.

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study