Friday, 25 November 2011

Is Conflict resolution in Sales managers' skillset? Can we learn from HR and their work in it?

The Stages to Follow for Successful Conflict Resolution
Thinking - Feeling - Saying - Doing

It is very common for salespeople working in their sales role to face conflict as part of their job. It makes sense therefore that the more customers ( internal and external) that you work with and the busier that your schedule becomes, the higher the frequency of challenging  people and situations that you will face.

a) Think of Michael Winner and “Keep Calm dear!  Michael Winner calm Down dear esure insurance mashup remix( “ Control your emotions and remain calm. You win more with honey than vinegar !

b) Show empathy and/or apologise( if appropriate) ' feel their pain' in order to diffuse client hostility or frustration.

c) Say it right. Appreciate their concern and your desire to better understand and resolve the matter. Thank them for drawing the matter to your attention. Let them know of your desire to resolve the issue. Ask them if they would be willing to discuss it further and provide you with details regarding the situation.

d) Sensitively ask for an explanation, work towards gaining their perspective, feelings about the situation and the facts regarding the issue. Use open-ended questions ( who , what, when, where and how) to get them to open up and provide as much detail as possible.
e) Listen actively. Paraphrase (rather than echo the client’s words), confirm, expand, acknowledge and gain a full understanding.

Also pay attention, use your observation ‘radar’ skills to read between the lines and pick up on hidden meanings and innuendo and body language tells.
f) Isolate the problem(s), ask if there is anything else. Repeat the process outlined above until you have all the concerns, emotions, perspectives and facts out in the open.
g) Summarise  your understanding of what you have learned. Separate the root cause of conflict when secondary issues are present. Secondary matters will often automatically be resolved by rectifying the root cause. Check to ensure that you have clearly understood the matter and that you are on the same page as the customer.

h) If there is a legitimate, justifiable explanation then offer the explanation, answer, address .Do not make excuses, direct blame or deflect responsibility.

Ask for acceptance or acknowledgement of your explanation and whether or not this resolves the matter. Sometimes when you talk it out with people in this manner they realise that it isn't as bad as they initially thought  or that they had some degree of fault in the situation. Once you have explained, confirm that the matter is resolved to the customer's satisfaction or closed.

i) If you are unable to resolve up to this point, then ask, within reason, what they would like to have done to resolve the matter. Gain a very clear understanding of what they are asking for before agreeing to anything.

j . 1. Resolve the conflict if the client request is reasonable or acceptable. You may still have to apply some negotiation skills to ensure that you don't leave the door open for them exploit further..
2. Negotiate if possible, if necessary or if you are able to. This would apply if the client is asking for more than what is considered to be reasonable or acceptable.
3. Bow out gracefully if necessary.
For many salespeople and sales managers, resolving conflict doesn't come naturally, it is something that they need to work at.

Good News :
There are specialists to hand both as mediation trainers and HR to help you.  I am grateful to Panos Papakostis (TCM Group) for news from the Personnel Today awards this week at London's Hilton Hotel.
 Minister for Employment Relations the Rt Hon Edward Davey MP. presented a major new award celebrating mediation success yesterday 23rd November 2011 at the event.

·         East Sussex County Council –  were the winners of the inaugural award for Innovation in Dispute resolution . Congratulations

This year’s  Personnel Today Awards, featuring the best HR teams of the year, were hosted at the Hilton Hotel in central London on the 23rd of November 2011. Amongst the awards was  the inaugural

 ‘Innovation in Dispute Resolution’ Award,

sponsored by The TCM Group, was presented by the Minister for Employment Relations, the Rt Hon Edward Davey MP.
( TCM Group are a specialist private sector provider of mediation and dispute resolution services. I visited the TCM stand in October this year at the HR Performance 2011 Show at Olympia see link at end of this post.)
The award was presented to the HR team that most clearly demonstrated innovation in this area.
Dispute resolution is an HR issue of growing importance as is evidenced by the Government's recent consultation on workplace disputes.
During his speech, Ed Davey commented on the way UK businesses can change their working culture by using mediation. Ed Davey mentioned that he is delighted that David Liddle and the mediation experts from The TCM Group have had the foresight for creating and sponsoring this exciting new award.
The HR teams shortlisted for this year’s award were:
·         East Sussex County Council

·         Foreign and Commonwealth Office
·         Metropolitan Police Service
·         East Lancashire Primary Care Trust
·         Surrey Country Council

The panel of judges was looking for examples of innovative practices such as:
 establishing internal mediation schemes,
 training HR teams to act as mediators and peacemakers
training and supporting line managers to resolve disputes,
 and encouraging early dispute resolution within and across teams.

They evaluated the efforts taken by all the team entrants to develop and embed a system for resolving workplace disputes, grievances and complaints and decided that the 2011 ‘Innovation in Dispute Resolution Award’ winner is East Sussex County Council.
David Liddle, TCM’s Founder and Director commented:
“I would like to congratulate East Sussex County Council for winning this prestigious and coveted award. I admire their creativity and commitment and I celebrate the positive impact that mediation has had across their organization, as it has across so many other organisations across the UK. I would also like to thank the Rt Hon. Edward Davey MP for presenting the award and for the Government’s increasing support for mediation”
Panos  at TCM advised me also  of the   Launch of Governments paper ‘Resolving Workplace Disputes’ was made on 23rd November and is available to download from
Related Links on TCM
TCM Group can be found at
For Press and Media enquiries, please contact Panos Papakostis on 020-7404-3195, Email:  

London West End Stores Christmas Lights and Shop Windows 2011

Selfridges have gone for the sophisticated white look.




Selfridges Window -' Let it snow let it snow let it snow'

Regent Street Lights

Oxford Street Lights

Oxford Street

Hamley's Shop Windows

Lego Snowman and Elf


Animated Advent Card

Lego Santa Claus
Santa stuck in the Chimney
Fortnum and Mason's Shop Window -  Theme 'Follie Fortnum'




Fortnum's window in motion

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Where does Marketing end? Where does Sales begin ? Marketing Essentials

The marketing sales spectrum

The background to Marketing

Time was that the emphasis of  business was very much on the needs of the company and the product which it made.  Products or services were launched onto the market and it was then the task of the marketing department and sales force to create the need for them.  This was company or product orientation.  In many instances it was successful, especially with new and innovative products.  However, to ensure ongoing growth and development business needed to adopt a different approach.
Classic product orientation

The emphasis changed from being centred on the needs of the company and its products to being centred on the needs of the consumers who would buy the products or services.  Companies found that they could only exist and grow if, before producing products, they first established what the actual needs of consumers were and then produced in line with those needs.  The marketing approach has a primary aim of customer satisfaction.  The better that customer needs can be satisfied, provided that by doing so a profit can be earned, the more businesses will thrive.  This is marketing or consumer orientation.

Conventional Marketing approach

The Marketing Mix

This comprises four key elements which need to be considered in order to satisfy the customer needs determined by marketing research.

The first of these is our product or service, sometimes referred to as our ‘offer’.  Product planning includes not only the physical design of a product but also decisions about packaging, branding, guarantees, trademarks and the anticipated market life of the product or service.  It is vital that the product or service is developed, in all aspects, to satisfy identified consumer needs.

The second element of the marketing mix is place, which refers to logistics or the distribution channel.  This includes everything from the physical aspect of getting the product to the customer, to the selection of appropriate channels of distribution.  These can include wholesalers, distributors or retailers if the product is intended for the general public.

The third element is promotion or marketing communication.  This includes advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, direct mail, telemarketing, exhibitions, public relations etc. The Internet,  Web Site, email, Social media: LinkedIn Twitter,You tube The blending of these different methods of promotion is known as the marketing communications mix, and will vary from company to company, industry to industry.

The fourth element in the marketing mix is price, also referred to as cost.  The price of a product or service must be set at a point where profit is possible, is acceptable and justifiable to the consumer, and is also competitive with similar products (if any exist).

These four key elements are collectively referred to as the four ‘P’s of marketing and the precise marketing mix, the relative importance of each, for one product or service is likely to differ enormously to another product or service.

Porter's five forces model

If you are exclusively marketing a service then consideration should be given to two further ‘P’s.  The first is people - they are core to making your service a success and they must be fully trained and capable of meeting the customers’ expectations.  The second service ‘P’ is processes - and these must be structured so as to deliver maximum customer value and satisfaction.

Other factors

The next group of factors to be taken into account in our marketing model are collectively referred to as the PESTLE factors.  When considering each of our four ‘P’s we must do so taking into account the following:


The political environment can significantly affect our marketing plans and strategy.  National and international considerations must be constantly monitored so that we can adapt our marketing to changes in legislation, taxation regulations, controls or political climate.  The internal politics of customer organisations may also cause a change in approach, especially with direct selling.


Economic factors will also have a direct effect on the success or failure of any product.  In general our economy is cyclical and follows a pattern of recession, depression, recovery and prosperity.  No product can be launched without considering the overall state of the nation's economy and the effects of, for example, recession on potential purchasers.


Sociological factors can have significant impact on product development and the way we price, distribute and promote.  Fashion influences vary from industry to industry, but green issues are becoming increasingly significant in every area of business.  We also need to take into consideration demographic information, ethical and other social attitudes.


We need to ensure that our marketing is keeping pace with developments in technology to stay ahead of the competition.  New materials and developments in electronics can make products obsolete overnight.


Modern Marketing plans should make provision for issues to do with national and international laws which have an impact on the marketing of the company's products and services.


Along with issues of social or corporate social responsibility , duty of care, recycling there may be other 'green issues' which have an impact on a company's marketing plan due to codes of practise, best practise or law.

As well as the PESTLE factors there are two other key elements which we must take into consideration when building our marketing plan:


The TIME factor is a critical element when any marketing plan is being considered.  No product can succeed, in spite of its relevance and quality, if it is launched too soon or too late.  Too soon and there is no market for it - too late and competitors may be so strongly established that it is impossible to make real impact in the market.


Although we should not become obsessed with competitive suppliers we need to ensure that our information about prices, products, developments and activity is up to date so that our marketing plan can counteract competitor activity.

Useful links:

Marketing Essentials Course

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Solution Based Selling course review

Solution Based Selling is becoming an increasingly popular approach to selling.

It is seen to be not only ‘different’ to conventional / traditional selling but more relevant to the selling skills needs of today's business roles such as pre-sales, those looking to establish themselves as trusted advisers to their clients and those operating in complex sales rather than one-off meeting type transactional sales.

A definition
Providing a mutually shared answer to a recognised problem and the answer provides measurable improvement
Hugh Alford and Neil Parry - trainers for
"Solution Based Selling" held in the Cavendish Room Devere Venues West One

The TACK  solution based selling model goes through 6 key phases identified through the Buyers' views of Salespeople research Study 2010

1.       Creating rapport and trust

2.       Identifying your customer's  needs and priorities

3.       Creating and designing your  solution

4.       Presenting your differentiated value proposition

5.       Negotiating your terms and conditions

6.       Implementing your  solution, evaluating and developing

 1. Creating rapport and trust

A knowledge of contemporary Buyers’ views is important to a solution based  seller. So  we study the data from the  ongoing research project of TACK Research  Buyers' Views of Salespeople which has been tracking significant changes which today's solution seller needs for the last 13 years.
A solution based seller (SBS) looks to be achieve Trusted Advisor level with their clients..
So what makes a trusted advisor?
A Trusted Advisor provides advice , help and guidance.
Through establishing trust with clients, clients will tell the skilled SBS the truth rather than merely what the salesperson wants to hear.

Improving our interpersonal relationships and communication effectiveness is key to building that bank of trust. This knowledge of interpersonal relationships with both ourselves as SBS but also with all the people who we work with both within our organisation as well as with the external clients we serve is very useful.

With this knowledge  a SBS will be able to decide how to interact with others to meet their personal needs of others. It enables you to develop effective strategies for working with each style more productively.
TACK use the methodology of International Learning Inc
This methodology is so effective for SBS delegates.
 I met up with John Corbet from International Learning Inc. when he came over from the  Canton , Georgia in the USA to visit us earlier this year. It is always useful to update our knowledge with John and the application  of his work and the latest developments from the his matrix.
Hugh Alford TACK International and John Corbett , International Learning Inc

2. Identify customer needs and priorities

Solution Based Sellers need to develop in depth questioning skills that drill down to seek out information beyond basic background information but also to 'tease out" client's opinions , feelings , attitudes, concerns , priorities, needs and wants.

Using the TACK FIND ® Drill Down Questioning
methodology learn to question in a businesslike but conversational way by deducing the back ground , and factual information from the client in a natural but logical flow to reveal the customer's priorities, issues and concerns to expose Issues and concerns and  previously 'unidentified needs'.
Key to the process to not to leap to a solution but seek to get the client to put a monetary value on the concern  by making the customer express the impact of the issue more clearly from their perspective.
By then getting the client to visualise their preferred solution or outcome through identifying true need at which point it will need naturally to your benefits and You Appeal ®  

3. Create and design of your DVP ( Differentiated Value Proposition) solution

  • What is the true need/ solution your client?
  • Who is/ are the decision makers - what do they require?
  • What are your client's decision making priorities?
  • What are the  key components of your solution ?
  • How to communicate them in a way that differentiates your solution?

                                                         "Brain power alert!"
Solution Based Selling Delegates set about deriving the key components of their differentiated value proposition DVP

Anders integrating his DVP to specific client interpersonal pattern

The SBS cannot leave it there though. If your return to or definition "Providing a mutually shared answer to a recognised problem and the answer provides measurable improvement"

In today's business environment measurable improvement is most likely expressed in  financial terms. So SBS delegates develop a financial offer analysis.
Where appropriate  SBS look for relevant parts of their DVP which will help their client's profitability objectives such as :
  • increasing volume
  • increasing unit selling price
  • reducing unit cost
  • optimising fixed capital investment
  • optimising working capital investment
4. Presenting your differentiated value proposition

 I guess the You tube of Rick Perry forgetting his key three points at the Republican leadership debate on CNBC on Thursday 10th November will become a regular source for trainers to illustrate the importance of have easy to read notes of key points of a presentation and how  one answers questions at the end of the presentation or debate is a critical determining step as to whether your audience will buy your idea or solution whether in politics or business or indeed in the business of politics. .

Texas Governor Rick Perry's inability to remember his own policy - the third US government agency he would eliminate if elected - during a televised debate may have seriously hampered his chances at winning the White House, analysts  have said.

We examined six stages of the process of presentation of our DVP we examine Investigation and research, planning, design, rehearsal, presentation and follow up.

Nowadays such presentations are not only conducted face to face but also via the Internet through audio/visual web conferencing on the likes of Webex, Goto Meeting and Skype  calls

Peter explains his DVP to Cedric, Lo Mei and Anders

Katerina presents her DVP to Mike and Guillaume

Mike talking through his DVP with Guillaume studying it closely!

5.Negotiate terms and conditions

 The TACK philosophy ( You We I- You Appeal®) is always the place to start from in selling. So starting from the Buyers' perspective the Solution based Selling course progresses from Buyers' survey research work at the create rapport and trust stage right through to implementation. ( and around again...) 
When looking at the negotiation stage however it also means for the SBS we  first examine the client's procurement process in order to prepare ourselves for effective negotiations. We look at how the procurement function is evaluated so we are able to employ variables that are of great value to the purchaser but little cost to the supplier.
Then we consider the steps and skills of business negotiation
Neil leading the session on negotiation
Peter and Cedric in full flow during their negotiation exercise
"The calm before the storm!"
Katerina and Anders relax before  starting their negotiation skills exercise

" Fortune favours the brave"
Mike negotiates with two buyers Lo Mei and Guillaume
Regrettably the champagne bottles on the shelf behind Mike were empty samples!

 6. Implement solution, evaluate and develop
How do we implement the solution we have offered?
Customer reviews
What will you assess and how?

What will your client assess and how?

Your progress / success can be measured in three areas:-

  • Your Products / services  review e.g. product fit, performance, value and impact.
  • Your company  review  e.g. alignment, quality and commitment.
  • Your personnel review e.g. accountability, knowledge and caring.

Delegates leave the TACK Solution based selling programme with their action plans set and  a126 page workbook crammed with checklists , templates for style profiles and supporting notes to the key sessions of the programme.

The programme is supported with post course 'sms' text messages, blog links and post course briefing by the TACK account team.
                       TACK Solution Based Sellers at the London Course in November 2011
left to right - Hugh, Peter,Mike, Katerina, Lo Mei, Anders,Neil,Guillaume, Cedric.
Peter Drucker the management guru said

 " If you are not part of the solution you have gotta part of the problem".

We are about selling based solutions.

Cultural Cognition and Selling Trust - Feeling more Thinking less?

"If you hope to persuade a disbelieving 'Suit' that climate change is real then the most effective strategy - putting aside the merit of the argument - would be to shave off the beard, wear a sharp suit of your own, and say nuclear power is the answer. "

So Michael Blastland concludes his fun piece for BBC News Website on Saturday November 10th 2011

Cultural cognition has much to contribute to what might be the best approaches to convey our DVP to our buyer. Logical argument alone will seldom be enough in persuading our client.

Is it  the facts of our offer or the identity of the salesperson that the buyer perceives ,the aspect that decides for the buyer - what is right? 

"People buy People first"

 is an old adage in selling perhaps the study of cultural cognition supports this. But maybe cultural cognition suggests that our attitude to risk  is swayed more by perceived shared values.

Who do you  generally believe?

1.The casual bloke with beard and open-necked shirt ?  Maybe the late Steve Jobs?

2.The slim, smooth, designer-specs and all-in-black type?  Possibly Gok Wan?

 3.The business-like, short-haired, serious suit-and-tie?  Dragon Peter Jones from the Dragon's den perhaps

 4.Or maybe a different kind of man-in-jacket, older and rounder, more

 avuncular?  Twitter's own national treasure Stephen Fry ?? !!!

We treat people's appearance as a clue to their values.
Using Michael Blastland's shorthand descriptions
 We expect  a 'Suit', for example, to be a patriot who thinks people should stand on their own feet. And so he is.
'Beard' supposedly dislikes corporate America and believes in more equality. And really, are you surprised by his views?
The 'designer type' is a cool individualist.
And 'Uncle Jacket' defends tradition.

 These maybe  humorous  stereotypes but the fact is people do conform roughly to them as revealed by researchers at Yale University. The research is called the cultural cognition project.

What cultural cognition suggests is that for examples Buyers form perceptions about the facts mostly in line with their existing values and cultural types - of which

 appearance is one part.

Do the sources of the information  I am receiving from the sales person share my values?

Can I identify with them?

Do they reinforce my self-image?

OK then, I'll listen!!!

Why might this be so? Some of the studies relating to risk perception suggest this line of thinking.

  In the discipline of Neuroscience by the likes of Joseph LeDoux they have discovered that neural pathways  ensure that humans respond initially to risky stimuli subconsciously/instinctively, before cognition kicks in. Additionally in the ongoing risk response that follows, the wiring and chemistry of our brain also ensure that instinct and feelings play a significant role, sometimes the most important role, in how we perceive and respond to danger.

Put simply, our  brain is designed to subconsciously feel first and

 consciously think second, and to feel more and

think less.

• The research of Daniel Kahneman has discovered a  "mental toolbox" of heuristics ( experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery) and biases we use to quickly make sense of partial information and turn a few facts into the full picture of our judgment.

 These mental shortcuts occur subconsciously, outside (and often before) conscious reasoning. Kahnemann's research further confirms that we are far more Homo Naturalis than Homo Rationalis.

• The Psychometric research of Paul Slovic has revealed a palette of psychological characteristics that make risks feel "more" frightening, or less, the facts notwithstanding.

These 'risk perception factors' include:

Imposed versus Voluntary
More pain and Suffering  and Less Pain and Suffering
Less Benefit and More Benefit
Uncertainty and Certainty and familiarity

• Recent research on the theory of Cultural Cognition by Dan Kahan has found that our views on risks are shaped to agree with those we most strongly identify with, based on our group's underlying feelings about how society should operate. We fall into four general groups about the sort of social organisation we prefer, defined along two axis,. We all fall somewhere along these two continua, depending on the issue.


Individualists                           Communitarian

Individualists prefer a society that maximizes the individual's control over his or her life.

Communitarians prefer a society in which the collective group is mire actively engaged in making the rules and solving society's problems ( for example Individualists deny environmental problems like climate change because such problems require a 'we're all in this together' communal response. Communitarians see for example  climate change as a huge threat in part because it requires a social response)

Along the other continuum, Hierarchists prefer a society with rigid structure and class and a stable predictable status quo, while Egalitarians prefer a society that is more flexible, that allows more social and economic mobility, and is less constrained by 'the way it's always been'. ( for example Hierarchists deny climate change because they fear the response means shaking up the free market-fossil fuel status quo. Shaking up the status quo is music to the ears of Egalitarians, who are therefore more likely to believe in climate change.)

That risk is inescapably subjective is disconcerting for those who place their faith in the ultimate power of  Cartesian thought  "I think, therefore I am"- Reason. But the robust evidence outlined above makes clear that;

1. Risk perception is inescapably subjective

 2. No matter how well educated or informed we or the buyer maybe may be, we will sometimes get risk wrong, producing a host of profound mistakes.

 3. In the interest quality business interactions between buyers and sellers, we need a more holistic, and more realistic, approach to what risk means. Business risk management has to recognize the risk of misunderstandings, the risk that arises when our fears  whether as Buyer or seller don't match the evidence, the risks of The Perception Gap
Though Salespeople know that Perception is often the reality in business!

Related Links:

Professor Dan Kahan  suggests related framework that  was developed in part to promote effective operations of multi-national business entitities. You can find out about this work at

Selling to different values

Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk
Fun lecture at CRASSH , Cambridge Uni  last year about 40 minutes long  Prof.Dan Kahan  of Harvard Law School . Best to play in full screen mode to see the details of his slides

Risk Perception
David Ropeik Author of  "How Risky Is It, Really?"- Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts