Thursday, 30 August 2012

Lord Coe's Paralympics inspiration to selling

Whether Lord Coe sees himself as a successful salesperson I am not sure, but he  and his team not only sold the winning bid for London 2012  all those years ago, but have seen the project all the way through.

There is much talk and expectation of legacy and asking how the slogan " Inspire a generation" will really turn out beyond the rhetoric and hype.

Lord Coe, himself a two-time Olympic 1500m champion, said at the opening of the Paralympics opening show last night :

"Sport is about what you can do,
 what you can achieve,
 the limits you can reach,
the barriers you can break.
Sport shows what is possible.
Sport refuses to take no for an answer."

"And everything sport stands for we are going to see right here, right now. Everything sports stands for we are going to experience with these Paralympic Games."
His words are inspirational and it got me thinking that the endeavours of both sport and selling have parallels.
Substitute the sports word for selling and his words become .....
My sketch of a blade runner
"Selling  is about what you can do,
 what you can achieve,
the limits you can reach,
 the barriers you can break.
Selling shows what is possible
Selling refuses to take no for an answer."
So here is another set of 5  to add to our 5-a-day series of selling tips inspired by the paralympians.


       26.       Ask my manager for help and support with critical calls.

       In the opening parade at the Paralympics the athletes entered the stadium with members of their support team including  technicians, sports psychologists  even their guide dogs  !

        27.       Make more appointments – don’t just call on the off chance.
        Like paralympians realise that the word 'success' comes before 'work' in a dictionary!

28.       Don’t pounce.

As with paralympians salespeople need to listen patience and interest.

29.       Use appreciation technique for answering objections.
Don't argue and contradict rather persuade clients.

     30.    Make a list of objections you meet most often,  and prepare answers  for them.

Like paralympians learn from your mistakes and by getting it right.

For some worked examples click this link

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Selling Ability , They move, They put in motion , They rouse – London 2012 Paralympic athletes

One definition of selling is “Persuasive Communication against resistance”

The three  agito of the Paralympic logo ( latin for I move, put into motion , rouse ) are coloured green red and blue because these colours are the most common in the country flags of the world.

They convey that spirit of overcoming obstacles and moving on. A great stimulus for salespeople

It seems particularly appropriate that Paralympic logo hangs from the front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square with its  column and statue to a one eyed ( eye lost in a battle in 1794) amputee  ( arm lost in battle 1897) and hero  - Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Many of the competing athletes competing in the games are former service personnel who having suffered injury in theatres of war use sport in their road to recovery and focus for life.

Nelson’s famous rousing signal from HMS Victory before the battle of Trafalgar 21 October 1805 read “England expects every man to do his duty”.

It is so  succinct it would easily qualify the 140 Character space allowed for a tweet.

Of course sporting analogies with war are not always appreciated.  

For example in 1941 one Eric Arthur Blair wrote "Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play, it is bound up with hatred and jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all the rules and sadistic pleasure in unnecessary violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.''

Blair’s pen name was George Orwell ! ( Animal Farm, 1984 etc)

 One wonders whether his jaundiced view of sports might have been changed a little  by the 1948 first wheelchair games at Stoke Mandeville founded by Sir Ludvig Guttermann. These were the forerunners to today’s Paralympics.

The business of Disability has a current promotional lift in the media due to the hosting of the Paralympic games in London. The tickets have sold extremely well.

In the  pre-festival hype athletes were being sold to the public as heroes.  An expectation has been heaped on our home based athletes’ shoulders- their sales targets have been set..

The Paralympics are also an opportunity for many of us to learn more about sports and disability.

 My quick sketch based on Finlay MacKay's photo of
Paralympic Rugby Players at Stoke Mandeville last year
 from Photo Exhibition Road to 2012 at National Portrait Gallery
We are listening a lot about the athletes’ back story which are inspiring and we will also witness these elite athletes doing their thing.

Quite what the legacy of these Paralympics will be in the long term is anyone’s guess.

Poster on the Underground ('Tube') promoting
the contribution made by the Sponsors of 2012 Paralympics

The whole event needs money and industry is doing its part and promoting itself in the process.

So what’s this got to do with Selling ?

Lord Coe’s vision for London 2012 Olympics was to want to change the public attitudes towards disability, celebrate the excellence of Paralympic sport and to enshrine from the very outset that the two games are an integrated whole.

Attitude to disability

Firstly It might surprise buyers, consumers, customers and clients to know that they already interact with many salespeople and customer service people who are disabled. ( and  of course sales people should be aware that the buyer who they are speaking to could of course be disabled)

 Many disabled people work in selling on the telephone. The customer does not see the wheelchair or other obvious visual indicators you might see face to face.

Learning from disability

Secondly the abilities of disabled people have much to teach all of us.

I have been fortunate to run courses where some delegates were disabled  - - amputees, profoundly deaf, blind etc.  They taught me a huge amount about both human endeavour ,  human prejudice but also how to overcome obstacles both physical and mental and sell well.

So I am looking forward to following the games and being inspired and seeing some great  elite sporting talent at work

Channel 4 TV is covering the games in detail.

Sainsbury supermarkets are a key sponsor.  Great Videos on  Here’s to extraordinary

Welcome to London the athletes and fans from the 166 countries taking part in this festival of Paralympic sports

 Go Team GB Go     Good Selling

 To adapt Nelson’s famous signal and the IPC’s vision.

A tree in London's Leicester Square adorned with medals
“Britain expects every man and woman to do their duty and achieve sporting excellence , inspire and excite the world.”

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Is it worthwhile Selling Bidders challenging Public Sector Buyers? - Virgin Trains duel for the West Coast line

Update to oiginal post
The Department for Transport have dropped their plans to strip Virgin Trains of its right to run the main London to Glasgow rail route.
Reported by the Daily Mail’s Ray Massy and Hanah Roberts October 3rd 2012
 Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
“I have had to cancel the competition for the running of the West Coast franchise because of deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process.”
“A detailed examination by my officials into what happened has revealed these flaws and means it is no longer possible to award a new franchise on the basis of the competition that was held.”
“I have ordered two independent reviews to look urgently and thoroughly into the matter so that we know what exactly happened and how we can make sure our rail franchise programme is fit for purpose.”
The news coverage and tributes over the weekend to Neil Armstrong - the first man to walk on the moon -has reminded me just how brave the pioneering astronauts were.

They also were extremely savvy about the world of Procurement in the Public sector for example :-

"As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind: Every part of this capsule was supplied by the lowest bidder.

John Glenn, first American in Space

The new trains promised by winning bidder First West Coast Ltd will travel at somewhat more modest speeds but the company has promised:-

  • 11 new 125 mph six-car electric trains on the Birmingham-to-Glasgow route and provide more direct services between destinations.
  • Additional Pendolino tilting trains  and they promise will deliver more than 28,000 seats a day.
This winning bid has been challenged.

Is it worth challenging the Buyer when it’s the Public Sector ? 
 Perhaps we can learn from competitive athletes.

 Such challenges are high risk of course.

In the recent London 2012 Olympics, the South Korean fencer Shin A Lam staged a sit-in for more than an hour in protest after her semi-final match in the individual epee.

Lam had appeared to defeat her opponent, only for the clock to be controversially reset by the referee who ruled their was one second remaining.
A sketch of the dissapointed fencer

In that second Britta Heidemann scored the fateful point that took her to the final.

Lam was offered a medal for sportsmanship in consolation, which she rejected.

Can such a clock be re-set in a competitive  business bid situation?

We have all been there.

You put together a bid involving a massive amount of time and talent for a competitive bid and then get the disappointing news that we have lost.

What is our next step?

 Some will accept the news and move on .

 Others will ask the question “ Is it all over?  Can we challenge the decision? “

 Come what may following  the disappointing news of our failed bid, we may undertake a process of lost business analysis . Possibly ask what else could we have done?

Today 28th August 2012 the contract for the UK West coastline rail is due to be signed between the Department for Transport and First West Coast Limited who were declared the winners a few days ago. The new operation is due to take up their role on December 9th 2012.

The Department for Transport are in a position of strength as the ‘Buyer’.
extract from a UK Government Advice booklet
 for SMEs bidding for Public Sector work

 However their decision and indeed their procurement procedures  have been challenged by entrepreneur Richard Branson who is adept at media campaigns as well as running a rail service which has doubled passenger numbers on the line.

There may be some lessons for SMEs in Sir Richard throwing down his gauntlet in this duel with the Department for Transport.

The Department for Transport have been rather shy about explaining in any detail their decision . They have chosen 'empty chair' approaches to media invitations to engage in discussions to account for their decision to spending of tax payers’ money for the contract.  
Much talk of 'due process' has been issued in their careful statements to the press.

"… the winning bidder was decided by a fair and established process and no reason has been advanced to convince DfT not to sign the agreement."

Virgin are now likely to ask for a judicial review.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: "We are in receipt of a letter from Virgin Trains which is a precursor to legal action. We are reviewing the correspondence. The Department is confident in the process it undertook and the decision made in awarding the West Coast franchise."

On another front a challenge has come from the end use customer – the travelling public.

This cause has been subsequently been taken up by Her Majesty's opposition - the Labour Party.

Due end users / customers have any influence on such deals? ( Maybe not but voters, tax payers and TV viewers etc…)

An e petition launched a few days ago has passed  150,000 signatures as at 7 a.m. today.

 Petitions beyond 100,000 signatures usually merit a debate in the House of Commons.

It would look extremely odd and possibly very embarrassing for both Government and the Department for Transport if a debate is conducted after the contract with First West Coast Limited has been signed.

Just imagine - Who will the Government and/or The DfT ‘field’ to appear the BBC Newsnight Programme ?
 –  Neither  'Empty Chair '  nor stonewalling strategies  convince the viewers on that programme) - example of Paxman's determined interview approach .
As the author of the Art Book -The Victorians  ISBN  978-1-846-07743-2- no doubt Mr Paxman might postulate on the thoughts of John Ruskin (1819-1900)

"There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person's lawful prey.

It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money -- that is all.

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot -- it can't be done.

If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better."

Time will only tell whether Sir Richard Branson  ( Virgin Trains ) or Tim O'Toole ( First Group) will be the Shin a Lam or  Britta Heidemann  and whether the Department for Transport (under pressure from Parliament) will be the clock resetting referree in  this duel for the West Coast line.

The Backbench Business Committee meets weekly, when the House of Commons is sitting, to hear representations from MPs for debates in backbench time.
The Committee can consider any subject for debate, including those raised in e-petitions, but an MP must make the case for their consideration.
More information about the Committee is available on its website

Monday, 13 August 2012

Weymouth / London 2012 the X Factor Yarmouth the legacy of Cowes Week

Congratulations to team GB sailors at Weymouth in the London 2012 Olympic games.

Ben Ainslie won gold while Mills and Clark took silver to add to the second places of the windsurfer Nick Dempsey and the Star keelboat pair of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson.

This British summer of sport continues to raise the profile of Sailing. This week is the start of Yacht Racing's premier regatta Cowes Week sponsored by  Aberdeen Asset Management.

Yacht racing's history began in 17th century England and is generally argued to be started by the establishment of the Royal Yacht Squadron Cowes Isle of Wight in 1815.
 However maybe  London could claim its origin! 

In 1661 John Evelyn recorded a competition between Katherine and Anne, two large royal sailing vessels both of English design, "…the wager 100-1; the race from Greenwich ( where the London 2012 Equestrian and modern pentathlon events took place) to Gravesend and back.”  One of the vessels was owned, and sometimes steered, by Charles II.
The king lost!


 If you wanted  fizz and the X factor in your sailing, it was to be found down in Yarmouth Isle of Wight the first weekend of London 2012.

The Taittinger Royal Solent Yacht Club's Annual Regatta 2012 took place last Friday through to the Sunday. 
The newly expanded Club house of the Royal Solent Yacht Club , Yarmouth Isle of Wight with banners for their 2012 Regatta Champagne House Taittinger and Financial Specialist Charles Stanley

Supported by Taittnger Champagne  in Association with Charles Stanley  (personal investment services) the Regatta has grown over the years.

In this year's White Group were races for the 6 metre class, International dragon, Folkboats, X One design and Y One design. The Black group included races for Division 1 IRC, Division 2IRC. Swan Classic, Contessa, Classic Cruisers and Gaffers.

X122  'Eve' and X125 'Arrow' battling it out on the Solent off Yarmouth

X 125 Arrow is named after the cutter
Arrow that competed in the first America's Cup in 1851

Arrow XOD 125 Spinnaker flying

Friday, 10 August 2012

Becoming a selling legend Usain Bolt style

Listening to Michael Johnson on the BBC TV coverage of last night's 200m  men's final at London 2012 it appears that a lot goes on in the head of the elite champions during those scant 20 seconds.

Usain Bolt set his own target to go for Gold in  the 100 and 200metres in successive Olympics which would mean for him - he would be a legend.

 He even admitted ahead of the games he was only 95% fit.

Olympic great Johnson pointed out the checks that are carried out in double quick time by elite sprinters in the race which were further explained when the slow motion repeats were played .

 You see Bolt's eyes darting around checking the rest of the field of competitors and in particular Blake.

His gesture when crossing the finishing line of his index finger crossing his lips  gestured to his critics and doubtrs that they should keep silent and should have not lost faith.

Day 5: Your 5 a day selling tips to go a la Bolt today are
      21.       Look for buying signals - check for positive body language,- sweep those eyes around like Usain

      22.      Listening actively straight from the start like those sprinters intently listening for the starting pistol

       23.      Prepare some different closing techniques  like the sprinters you need contingencies and flexibility at the real race- directly ask ( closed question), alternative, assumptive ( open question), summary, caution, reference, isolation, concession Click this link for worked examples

       24.       Look for ‘yes’ responses’ Keep you eyes and ears alert for positive responses.

25.   Keep the chat gap to a minimum.
       Bolt may have chatted to the other competitors and officials  in the last couple of preparation minutes but you could see he was still focused.
He built instant rapport with the 80,000 in the stadium. He settled the arena down for the start.

 For all the show biz gestures, media sound bites, lightning mimes and gentle clowning ultimately he let his legs do the talking. Let your hard work and talent shine to become  the best salesperson you can be - Your Own Legend!

Related links:

5 a day to go Blog bites

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

London 2012 Handball Olympians see themselves as Sales reps

Day 4

17 years planning for 4 weeks 1551 days planning for  1 day

Thursday, 9 August 2012

17 years of planning for London 2012 – Planning lessons for Selling

To bid to host an Olympic and Paralympic Games, plans have to be made well in advance.

 For example yesterday before the London 2012 games have finished, the Kenyan Prime Minister announced that Nairobi will be bidding for the Olympics for 2024.
The current London 2012 games were awarded back in July 2005.
The final bidding cities were Paris, New York, Madrid Moscow and London but preliminary planning for 2012 began as far back as 1997.
Each Olympic Games host sets the bar higher for the following host city. Beijing set it high for London and London sets it high for Rio
Much like today’s Business bidding processes of RFI and RFIs, much planning is involved in modern selling.

So it is for the principles of day to day selling.

Professional salespeople need to plan the year, quarter, month, week and day.

Planning for Selling -Travel , Business Objectives and Time management

Day 4 : Today's 5 a day to go sales planning tips

Poster on a London Tube Train 2012
  16.       Plan journeys to minimise time e.g Use you sat nav software, for London use the Transport for London's journey planner 

   17.        Set individual objectives - “Why am I here ?” - decision based objectives - to gain agreement on....
       information based objectives - to establish /to find out

 18.       Grade customers to use your time more effectively

 19.       Complete all the necessary paperwork / populate the CRM system after each call- do less important paperwork in own time

20.   Prepare telephone list the night before  your telephone appointment getting day

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Selling handball to the British Public at London 2012

 We’re like sales reps – we’ve sold the public a product and I haven’t heard any negative comments back’  Team GB Women’s Handball Team member Holly Lam-Moores at London 2012 Olympic games .
Pierre de Coubertin (founder of modern Olympic Games) is recorded as saying

 “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well”.

The British handball team lost all five of their group but British Handball was only founded six years ago. Yet the support they have had in Hackney's Copper box has been tremendous. British handball

  Holly went on to say “We need to capitalise on what has happened.

‘The fans cheered us as if we’d won gold –that must be a signal something has to be done about it

King of the Road Kenny
 - Jason winner of the Golden Fleece

Day 3: Today's 5 a day to go

If you have the challenge to sell your product imagine if you were British handball bidding for funding Here are 5 selling tips for salespeople and fundraisers.

6.       Improve your product knowledge  ( select and read a piece of your company's product literature)

7.       Maximise the benefits and minimise the cost ( name the chief benefits of 6. above, how do these benefits minimise cost for a customer)

8.       Develop open questions that might pin point client information and opinions that could draw out their need and want for the 6. above - ( Who, What, When, Where, How and Why)

9.       Develop more benefits for each feature - keep challenging your product knowledge with "so What! So What! " Challenges

10.   Smile  

Here is a selection of  Lonodn 2012 winning smiles from the London Times and Metro newspapers


Related links:

5 a day to go Blog bites

Day 1

Day 2

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Usain Bolt Quotes for Salespeople

Day 2 of our 5 a day to go selling tips series begins with motivating words of the fastest man in the world.

4 Inspiring quotes from Usain Bolt last Sunday night after winning the 100m August 5th  at London 2012.

These quotes cover  a. self belief , b.  business focus, c. playing to your strengths and  d. his version of actions speaking louder than words.

1. " When it comes to business I know what I need to do. I have a great talent" 

2. " I tell your, people, when it comes to championships it's about business for me - I brought it. I executed and that was the key" he told the BBC.

3. " I think I sat in the blocks a little bit, so I don't think it's the best reaction in the world. My coach said, 'Stop worrying about the start , the best part of your race is at the end, that's where you rule' "

4. Asked about the people who had doubted him, he said " I'm not concerned. I've said it from the start, people can talk, all they can do is talk"

         Usain Bolt - Still the fastest man alive!

Day 2 : Your   2nd set of 5 a day selling tips to go
6.       Take time to think like a champion - scroll back and read the quotes above one more time

Think how a positive mental attiude must have helped
 Victoria Pendleton clear the disappointment of
 the day before her kierin Gold medal achievement
when she and Jess Varnish
 were disqualified in the team sprint. 
7.       Develop the right mental attitude – be positive rather than negative

8.       Say “ You” more often - You sane :)

9.       Audit your Attributes Skills and Knowledge - where do you "rule"? ( see Bolt quote No. 3 above)

10.   Find out the client’s personals motivators as well as the business ones.

Poster on the London Underground ( The Tube)
promoting the London 2012 Corporate Sponsors

Related links

Day 1 of 5 a day to go series

Monday, 6 August 2012

Your 5 a day Selling tips to go- 14 day selling skills detox

One of the slogans of London 2012 is " Inspire a generation"

Well maybe we can use the joy of the London 2012 Olympics to inspire all generations of professional salespeople competing in the current economic challenges.

For the next fortnight "Fruits of Success with Hugh"  will have a daily set of "5-a-day-to-go" selling fuses to  light up your selling.

These shorter posts are suitable for mobiles and smart phones

 Let's start with some 'pithy' quotes for our selling mindset this first day.
You might not be carrying one of the Olympic torches
 but you can carry a bag of selling solutions from the next fortnight's
 " five-a-day-to- go from " fruits of success"

      1. “By the yard it’s hard by the inch it’s a cinch!”
      2.   “ Measure twice cut once”
      3. “ Sell the sizzle not the steak"
      4.    “There is not much emotion in business but there’s a hell- ‘f -a -lot of business in emotion”
      5. “ Different strokes for different folks”
With the continuing selling challenges ahead of us in this double dip recession ( The Sunday Times even talks of a triple dip!), let us take stock and get inspired by the world’s great Olympic athletes visiting London this month and this great summer festival of sport.
Hugh Alford holding a London 2012 torch
The London 2012 Olympics actually started a few days before that  opening ceremony  of Industrial chimneys, Mr Bean, HMTQ " Good evening Mr Bond" , Daniel Craig  and the multi-leaved cauldron.

A  football match was played in the national stadium in Wales three days before.
The Olympic torch flames continued to be transferred the flame through parts of London linking it with the whole UK through during those last  three days.
 So it is with today’s buyers who start to play the ‘business games’ by surfing our suppliers websites perhaps long before many in sales  will even realise an opportunity is available.
 Suppliers, maybe, are still preparing to enter the arena waiting for the cue of unfurling of flags, the flourish of fanfares and setting of the fireworks.
  For suppliers it seems the business games need to be ‘officially started by the ignition of the of the cauldron. 

76% of the respondents of the Buyers’ Views of Salespeople Survey 2012 ranked the Supplier’s website within 1- 4 on a scale of ten - when asked about sourcing supplier product information preferred channel to source/receive such details

The ranking 1-10 in terms of preference/relevance where 1 was highly relevant to 10 highly irrelevant
The Buyers’ Views of Salespeople Survey 2012 is shortly to be published.

For more information  contact