Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sales Talent Churn challenges posed by Defectors, Misfits and Remnants

Of all the sales management metrics that tell us about economic growth, the ones that we in selling know ( and often to our cost)  is talent churn.

 In London according to  recent issue of the London Evening Standard, it is predicted that 
40% of employees plan to move within next year.

Managers ( including sales managers) turn from corporate game keepers who guard and develop their company's  talent to one now of  poachers who may feel the need entice talent away from competitors.

More than half those leaving jobs in London then try to entice their colleagues to follow them and many choose to take them up on their offer.

40+ %  when asked when anyone had left their place of work and tried to ‘poach them’ to go and work in a new company  “Yes and I took them up!”

25% replied that they had been approached but declined

33% said they had never been approached


Research from Adecco reveals the reason for defections.

That the most common  reason for wanting to move is bad management.

 30% wanted to move because of poor management nearly twice as high as those saying they would leave primarily because of low pay.

Ironically the worst bosses are to be found in HR with nearly 40% saying that bad management was the strongest reason for moving jobs followed by arts and culture at 37%.
Poachers are most likely to work in:-

  • Professional services
  • HR
  • Sales
  • and Media


Not only is poor management the main cause of defections their exacerbate the problem by then replacing them with the wrong people.
70% of those polled say their firm made hires that were ‘clearly  a wrong fit for the organisation’

Legal professionals are far more likely to poach successfully. 40% in London have done so successfully. But 80% of legal professionals say that their firm has made bad hires. ( the average is 73% across London.


If defectors and poor replacement hires were not enough of challenge to sales management , the task of sustaining team morale when key staff leave ( and possibly try to take colleagues with them) 24% of staff feeling ‘de-motivated’ when someone leaves.
40% say they are ‘disappointed’ when someone leaves
20% say they are ‘frustrated’ when someone leaves

And only one in seven admitted to being ‘happy’ to see certain people leave.

Half of Londoners in the Adecco study are also concerned about the increased workload with 25% saying they are worried that more people  will then leave ( and many of these will be poached)

54% of  Londoners believe their firms have a problem with retention   38% believe better management training is the number 1 solution

Ironically HR who you would think would be best at managing staff- has the  worst management   with 50% saying that there is a lack of management training for staff compared with 35% across the board.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Happy #Appleday from fruits of success

                                                  21st October 2015

Apple in Fulham Palace Orchard, Apple Day 2013  photographed by Hugh Alford
We brotherhood and sisterhood of selling,  stand on the shoulders of giants before us.
One specific job title for a fruit salesperson centuries ago was a ‘costamonger’.

Apples have been in cultivation for a long time in UK. The 'Costard’ was first mentioned in 1292 and is one of the oldest types, was grown extensively and sold by “costard mongers” from hand carts, the name eventually shortened to “costermonger” or greengrocer.

Today October 21st 2015 we celebrate Apple Day

Why not raise a glass of Apple Juice, Cider, Scrumpy or Calvados ?!

Be upstanding our toast is “to the memory of costamongers”

Good Health and Happy Apple day

-Dylan Thomas as it is the great writer’s  anniversary
 born 27th October 1914  died 1953

Fern Hill   - Ist stanza

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

The night above the dingle starry,

Time let me hail and climb

Golden in the heydays of his eyes,

And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple 


And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves

Trail with daisies and barley

Down the rivers of the windfall light.....

 Take look as some other varieties of apple that are sold today

Covent Garden, London in 2014 - The sign harks back
to a time when it was an apple market

Related Links

Apple Day - Commonground

Dylan Thomas -The Official Website

The Wurzels - I am a cider drinker Youtube clip

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Learning Mind App for our Selling Brain part 4

Exhibit from the Art of the Brick . 
Lego® brick sculptures by Nathan Sawaya
Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane London UK
Dan Pink’s book published last year, is titled

 “To Sell Is Human”.

It  argues that moving people    (selling, but also persuading or influencing) has become an essential building block of nearly everyone’s job in our modern workplace.

 Everyone is in sales. 

So it is a skill we all need and you will find plenty of tips on the blog on selling better.

However on this post let's focus on the business of learning for all good sales people must be good learners. Learning how the Human mind works is helpful.

Learning is what our brain does naturally. 

It has been doing it every waking minute since about a month before we were born.

It is the process we acquire and store both useful and useless information and selling skills.

The question can we make our selling mind more efficient?

As our brain processes information, it makes and breaks connections growing and strengthening the synapses  that connect neurons to their neighbours. or shrinking them back.

When we are actively learning, the making of new connections outweighs the breaking of old ones.

In some parts of the brain , notably the hippocampus the brain grows new cells as it learns.

Exhibit from the Art of the Brick . 
Lego® brick sculptures by Nathan Sawaya
Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane London UK
However once a circuit is in place it needs to be used if it is going to stick. The process of myelination occurs when a circuit is stimulated enough  times to grow a coat of fat membrane. This membrane increases conduction speed making the circuit work more efficiently.

So the best way to learn things and retain them is :-

Focus your attention e.g. Listen with interest to your client (use  eye contact)

engage your working memory e.g. take and make notes

a little later try to recall it  e.g  just run through your mind what you have learnt

Allan Badelley of York University UK advises that we test ourselves in this way as it causes your brain to strengthen the new connections. In addition he suggests that we try to link bits of information we already know. This will make the connection more stable  and less likely to deplete through under use.
How might we apply this in the selling situation?

The following will help you employ attention, working memory and learning.

Concentrate- make the effort to pay attention to your client
Take and make notes – key points
Focus on the main points your client raises
Question and confirm to check your understanding
Keep an open mind- take care not to jump to conclusions
Analyse and organise and see if you can connect it to previous knowledge
Practise Active Listening ( if sitting lean slightly forwards, make gentle eye contact, nod occasionally, smile where appropriate, use verbal affirmations)

Exhibit from the Art of the Brick .
 Lego® brick sculptures by Nathan Sawaya
Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane London UK
It appears that learning is more difficult as we get older. But the neuroscientists suggest this not so. The learning process carries on for life and there appears to be no physiological reason for the slowdown.
As adults we have a large store of mental short cuts that allow us to skip over details.. But we do have the capacity to learn new things in the same way as children, which suggests that if we could resist the temptation to cut corners, we would probably learn a lot more.
A more tried and tested method is to keep active.
With a little exercise the brain can leap back into life. In one study 40 minutes of exercise three times a week for a year increase the size of the hippocampus- which is crucial for learning and memory. It also improved connectivity across the brain , making it easier for things to stick..

By the way even master Lego® sculptur Nathan Sawaya uses glue to make his bricks stick !

 Feb 15 2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences PNAS vol 108 p3017

Related Links
Attention app for your Selling Brain part 1

Working Memory for your Selling brain part 2

Logical and Rational thoght App for your selling brain part 3

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Logical and rational thought App for your Selling Brain part 3

We salespeople most of the time like to think of ourselves as rational and logical folk. And we can be – but not without some effort.

Logical thought requires us to behave like a micro processing chip, performing stepwise operations on information .

Lego sculpture by Nathan Sawaya part of
the Art of the Brick Exhibition
 at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lana, London UK
There are sales processes that use the analogy of a series of steps as  questions to gather information or build agreements to win over the heart of the buyer. 

However such logical behaviour does not necessarily come naturally to many of us, and requires outside instruction to learn and lengthy training to master.

 Even then we, we may struggle to maintain a purely rational perspective.

Caroline Williams in New Scientist reports that there is a kernel of truth in the popular wisdom that " left brain equals logic”.

Imaging studies have shown that the left prefrontal cortex is needed to make logical trains of thought happen and much of the time no input is needed from the right.

However when there is conflict between what seems logical and beliefs that we already hold, the right side prefrontal cortex kicks in to help us sort out the confusion – Brain Research vol 1428 p24.September 2012

In such circumstances the right hemisphere usually wins

Nathan Sawaya's 'Grasped' sculpture in Lego®
bricks from the Art of the brick exhibition
 in London 
Many studies have shown that where new information conflicts with existing beliefs, our brains ‘fight’ to keep beliefs in tact rather than revises them.

 It is as if our forward motion is held back maybe like Nasthan Sawaya's 'Grasped' sculpture from Art of the Brick Exhibiotn currently on in London.

For sales people this gives further weight and significance to the skills  required when handling buyer objections  such as

 “ We are happy with our current supplier”

We have used  their X product satisfactorily for 5 years ,it worked fine,  I see no reason to change over to your Z system

or even the colloquial

Don’t fix it , if it’s not broke”.

It is not so much that old dogs can’t be taught new tricks but unlearning a belief will take time because the right hemisphere has dug in.

 So the pill of logic needs a little sugar of appreciation to help the rational medicine go down.

Cognitive psychologist at York University, Toronto Canada says that a zap to the head may help.

“ Brain stimulation techniques may eventually  offer a route to improving reasoning as has been used to stimulate creativity. "

But for now there is no short cut,  so he suggests practice being our best option.

Some recent studies with students studying for law exams benefited from training in rational thought. It was observed that the number of connections between frontal and parietal lobes and between the two hemispheres ( Caroline Williams in New Scientist 4th Oct 2014 cites Frontiers of neuroanatomy vol 6 p32) 

The catch is ,without regular practice this effect is almost certainly fades away a few months are the course ended.

So the old adage hold “ If you don’t use it your lose it”

Monday, 13 October 2014

Working Memory App for your selling brain part 2

Everything you know and remember whether it’s a call event, a skill or a fascinating fact, started is way into your selling mind’s storage by going through your working memory.

Lego® artwork by Nathan Sawaya at the "Art of the brick"
exhibition at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane ,London
Neuroscientists tell us that it is more than just a clearing house for long term memories. It is better to envisage it as the brain’s scratch pad: where information is held and manipulated.

If you are doing anything which requires effort and focused  thought such as concentrated listening, finding solutions to client’s problems, resolving complaints, answering customer objections you are using working memory.

An influential model proposed by University of York’s Badelley and Hitch in the ‘70s came up with the concept of an executive controller which runs the show by focusing on the relevant information.

This controller also kicks ‘slave’ systems into action.

3 slave systems of working memory

  1. One of these holds up to 4 pieces of visual information at a time.
  2. A second one can memorises about 2 seconds of sound especially spoken words, which it loops over and over a gain (think of mentally repeating a phone number while searching for a pen.  
  3. The third is the episodic buffer, which adds relevant information from the long-term memory.

A weakness of this model is that working memory does not occupy a discrete area of the brain that can be monitored  in action in a brain scanner.

Due to this some neuro scientists have suggested that it might not be a separate system at all but part of long term memory we are currently paying attention to.
Whatever it is , it comes as a standard to our selling mind but some people have better memories than others.

Hugh Alford sharing thoughts with Nathan Sawaya's
Seated Lego
® man from "The Art of the Brick " exhibition 
currently at the Old Truman Brewery , Brick Lane London
Working memory capacity is a better predictor of academic success than IQ, so getting the most out of it is useful.

The good news is that the system can probably be upgraded. Some studies show that braining training  programmed aimed in particular at working memory can produce improvements.

Cognitive neuro scientist Jason Chein of Temple University , Pennsylvania who works on the field of working memory  says that there seems to be improvements  in other cognitive skills although the changes are quite small . But even a modest gain can have a meaningful impact on every cognition.

 Jason Chein says we don't yet know for sure how to improve working memory, but here are some suggestions:

  • Engage in regular physical exercise
  • Find mental tasks like Boggle that challenge working memory.
  • Try mindfulness meditation, which isn't just relaxation, but focusing internal attention.
  • Avoid continuous periods of high mental workload just before important tasks, as they can deplete working memory.
  • Give your mind some actual downtime.
  • Don't pull out the smartphone every time you have a break.

Related Links and Info

The Selling Mind Attention App

New Scientist October 4th Issue 

Mindfulness for salespeople

Friday, 10 October 2014

Mindful Attention and your Selling brain part one

The much loved comical saleswoman Mrs Slocum ( played by Molly Sugden) from BBC’s TV sitcom  “ Are you being served” used to express her decisions  about various matters with the catchphrase
“... and I am unanimous in that...”

A salesperson’s mind  however is not one thing.

 Apparently the Old English word from which our word 'mind' is derived is gemynd which  refers to memory. As neuroscience discovers more about the workings of the brain, we realise that memory – although an important aspect is not the only aspect.

The Thinker in Lego® bricks @NathanSawaya
 #artofthebrick exhibition currently 
at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London
Our human mind is the most complex information processing system we know. 

Suppose our mind is seen as a contemporary mobile device,  let's call it the FOS i-mind * , it has all sorts of useful design features. (* Fruits of Success i-mind  :) )

However this sales mind also has many glitches and weaknesses.

 Fortunately, your FOS i-mind* has apps to help it work better available for retinal download from this blog  ;) !  

Using your industry standard  free Retinal Information Download App (RIDA) you have free access to the 24/7 streaming fruitsofsuccesswithhugh.blogspot  through FOS i-mind *. 

The content is in the form of fonted characters and images received by your FOS i-mind * and RIDA software to your personal retinas through your natural focusing facility i-lens. 

OK enough of this funny nonsense-  now to the serious matter of using our selling brain better.

Neuroscience in the last few years has been helping us to better understand the workings of our mind.

  1. Attention
  2. Working memory
  3. Logical and rational thought
  4. Learning
  5. Knowledge 
  6. Creativity
  7. Intelligence 
For this post let's look at how to use the first app for better selling  brain usage

1. The Sales Attention App
The Sales Attention App.
Probably the most useful feature  of a salesperson's brain begins with attention. Attention determines what you are conscious of at any given moment of opportunity.

 Learning to work this app is just about the most important thing your selling brain can do. 

Firstly this app will help you give your buyer a 'damned good listening to !' .

In research polls of Buyers' views of salespeople, time and again they wish we would listen more !

However to make sense of the frantic business world world , we need to filter out almost everything around us and focus only on what is relevant - namely what the client is saying to us.

Such focused attention is essential for our learning and memorising.

So if you can BOOST your ability to pay attention it follows you can at almost improve everything in selling.

Apparently the the brain has two attention systems.One the 'bottom up"   BU mode, automatically snaps up potential new information (but often distracting information) e.g. moving objects, sudden noises and sensations of touch. BU mode is fast , unconscious and always on.

The other system the " Top Down"  TD mode is  deliberate , focused attention which zooms in on what ever we need to think about  and hopefully stays there long enough to get the job done.

This is the type of attention that is useful for doing tasks that require concentration like listening to your client.

Unluckily being distracted is both a bug and a design feature. TD mode requires effort and is prone to losing focus or being overridden by the BU system

Distractability comes therefore as both a bug and a design feature. The good news from neuroscience is that we can tweak our attention settings to stay more focused more easily.

We can cut down BU mode by:

  • switching off email notifications, Facebook alerts etc
  • putting mobile on silent 

UCL's cognitive neuroscientist  Nilli Lavie suggests we actually should give our brains MORE  to do.

Her work has shown that better control of TD mode comes by not reducing but increasing inputs.  Lavie's Load Theory says that once the brain  reaches its limits of sensory processing , it can't take in anything else including distractions. She observes that this seems to work for both distractions and mind wandering.

Hugh Alford standing next to the attention grabbing
 Giant Pencil in Lego® bricks 
 #artofthebrick exhibition currently 
at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London 

Lavie recommends adding visual aspects to make more attention-grabbing without making it more difficult e.g. colour bordering a document , using a colour for copy. So the old adage about taking physical notes has neuro-scientific support.

Further studies are under way  and initial results appear to  suggest  the right kind of brain training could help most people.

The next best option is learning to chil-out in the right way. 

Experienced meditators  have been shown to have thicker parts of the brain associated with attention, while other studies have found that attention scores after a short course of meditation.

So learning to focus better may be as simple as making time to sit still and focus on not very much.

Related links

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Selling and the creative dividend

 “For years, business leaders have focused on things like employee productivity, process efficiency and workforce planning as the key success drivers for their companies. But over the past few years, the mindset has shifted. Leading companies recognise the importance of another key success driver – the need to infuse creativity into all aspects of the business environment – from strategy and culture, to innovation and customer engagement,” 
 David Wadhwani, senior vice president, Digital Media at Adobe. May 2014

The evolution of modern business through the second half of the twentieth century saw  the shift from manufacturing to the knowledge economy.

In selling that knowledge has now become increasingly available to our buyer’s digital fingertips. Much of transactional selling is now done on line and sits more comfortably under the marketing function.

It looks now that the next stage is that the knowledge economy will move to one that relies on creativity for the salesperson  (s)he  has to add value.

"Creativity" on show at London Fashion Week
Somerset House, Strand London in September
But what is such  creativity worth ?

In May 2014 researchers at Forrester Consulting on behalf of Adobe  attempted to quantify this intangible of creativity.

Sample size and type: The study surveyed senior managers from more than 300 large global companies across a diverse set of industries to understand how creativity impacts business results. 

Decision-makers from large enterprises in the U.S., U.K., France, Australia/New Zealand, Korea, Japan and Germany who influence creative software purchases were interviewed.

Key Findings:

They  discovered that the ‘creative dividend’ has a significant impact on the bottom line:-
Companies that foster creativity achieve exceptional revenue growth than peers.#

 58% of survey respondents said firms that foster creativity had 2013 revenues exceeding their 2012 revenues by 10% or more.

In contrast, only 20 % of less creative companies performed similarly.

 More creative companies enjoy greater market share and competitive leadership.
 Creative companies are more likely to report a commanding market leadership position with a higher market share than competitors.

Of those reporting market share leadership, creative companies outnumber their less creative counterparts by a factor of 1.5 %.

Despite the perceived benefits of creativity,

 61% of companies do not see their companies as creative.

Only 11% said their practises were perfectly aligned with firms readily recognised as creative.

The majority (51 %) said they were neutral or not aligned with creative firms,
 and 10% felt their practises were, in fact, the opposite of what creative companies do.

One sector that needs creativity more than other is the creative sector itself. It accounts for one in twelve of all new jobs – segments like
and computer gaming.
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising have recently been considering the challenges of recruitment  and retaining talent in their Adaptathon imitative.
IPA’s president Ian Priest was quoted in the London Evening Standard 7th  October
“The advertising industry has always been about ideas and creativity but post digital, we need to attract a more diverse talent into the industry- and not just in terms of gender, age, culture and background, but in terms of technological skills so needed today.”

“Creativity is more than art directing or copy writing, what we need are those who are commercially creative. These are the people who deliver ideas that grow our client’s businesses as well as the agency’s business”  In other words (mine not Ian Priest’s)  sales professionals in the agency world !
Priest goes on to give role examples of these salespeople

“ These include strategists who know where there brand should be and where it should target its audience, the creatives who then turn these strategies into adverts, and the creative technologists who can look at how you can come up with an engaging way to target the audience”

Many Businesses may not segment roles like an advertising agency but  still  have to strategise, create and employ today’s technology ( internet and social media) to add value to their clients.

Creativity is an important constituent of selling.

 For ‘if you are not part of the solution for your client , you've got to be part of the problem’

Related Links

Friday, 3 October 2014

Break Breathe and Be Sales #Mindfulness

Today’s professional salespeople have a lot on their plates, which are likely as not to be of the spinning variety.

Checking in to a University Hall of residence in Chicago a few weeks ago for a conference, the graduate in the queue in front of me was given his code key for the internet link.

  Additional code keys required a supplementary charge.  “Oh, I will need three more please.” It turned out he had not only a work laptop, but a tablet, and two smart phones.
Glazed phrenological bust
 by Lorenzo Niles Fowler (1811-1896)

So in effect four screens of information to juggle. It is the way of modern sales that there is a daily barrage of visual and aural distractions on the senses.

The overload of these stimuli has increased the stress modern business folk have to contend with.

Our attention is constantly being stirred.

The pioneering American psychologist William James observed that

“ the ability of bringing back a wandering attention is the very root of
 good judgement, character and will”

Yet can attention be trained ?

Can you quieten down the jabbering of modern business life  and the continual internal dialogues  in the mind which can lead to over thinking, the constant scanning for problems for which our attention has been evolutionary hard-wired?

Could today’s worldly wise, nay cynical  and commission incentivised salespeople be persuaded that their concentration can be boosted by sitting still and being quiet ? !!!

Our mental health and happiness are profoundly shaped by what we do with our attention at our workstation , speaking to clients over the phone or through conference calls, face to face or for that matter at a seminar.

Yet for good survival reasons our attention is constantly on  “look out” , raising our stress levels, latching onto problems, spinning stories, and interpretations of what we  think might be going on in our clients’ mind let alone ours !

Setting aside a few minutes of each day with our attention focused on sensing rather than thinking can be hugely beneficial.

Essential mindfulness employs the use of breathing exercises to focus on the present moment found in meditation practise, yoga and prayer.

The key to its effectiveness is REGULARITY.

I noticed in the programme for DAVOS this year there were daily sessions of guided mindfulness sessions. Corporations such as Google, E bay and Apple all offer mindfulness programmes for their staff.

Sports stars such a Johnny Wilkinson endorse the practise. So Mindfulness is good enough for the likes of the good and great it must be good for salespeople.
Sales Mindfulness  in essence N.B. Remember the three Bs

Break                 Stop ! Take a break
Breathe              Concentrate on your breath
and BE.              Be in the present.

3Bs of Mindfulness
Here are some simple exercises you might care to try :

  1.    Feel the ground beneath your feet
  2.   Eat a piece of fruit - be wholly absorbed in its taste, smell and texture.
  3.   Breath in for a count of 7 seconds and exhale for a count of 11 seconds

Neuro-scientific studies on mindfulness practitioners has shown changes to the amygda region of the brain- an area known  to be associated with attention, empathy increases.

Maybe the next habit of highly successful people ( the 10th ?) of Steven Covey will be Mindfulness.  Certainly there are more courses , books etc. coming onto the market.

Meanwhile why not text the 3Bs to yourself , your colleagues and your friends!

Related links

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Boris Brick cements his point memorable visual aids at presentations

What are the  images that you remember most from the 2014 Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham ?
The Tory Chairman and The Baroness?
The Prime Minister and the faithful? 

Of all the images that have stuck in my memory from the recent Conservative party conference in Birmingham probably the most effective were not the high tech PowerPoint , vox-pop  video trailers, nor the good and the great taking selfies. 

but a certain Boris Johnson brandishing a cored brick.

A simple visual aid linked to his message
The last party conferences before the General Election of 2015 are both a rally for the party faithful and an opening sales salvo to the electorate.

From a selling skills perspective it is worth looking how they attract the attention of the audience and sell their message.  

We can all learn from their efforts during this conference season

The way we can attract attention in our presentations can be reduced to five main ways.
 All were used during the Conferences


For example Ed Milliband promise to increase health spending by £2.5 billion a year by raining taxes on homes (mansions) worth more than £2 million


For example Rhetorical Questions posed to the audience as to whether it was fair that benefits should outweigh those who work for low wages


For example London Mayor Boris Johnson and prospective Tory candidate for Uxbridge brandishing a cored brick to illustrate his house building initiatives.
Selfies with ordinary people’

The power of the third party testimonial has been known for years
During the conferences we are shown celebrities attending the conference.
Speeches from various ministers were illustrated with examples the expereinces of ‘normal , ordinary ‘ folk.

Such attention getters have to be tweaked to modern cultural conditions , as Lord Bell ( former adviser to Margaret Thatcher) suggested in a recent  interview on Radio 4 Today programme we have moved from a  ‘Deference to a Reference’ culture.

Chancellor of the Exchequer , George Osborne felt duty bound to link back and  mock Ed Milliband’s omission on the deficit - the faux pas of the Leader of the Labour Party in the previous week.

Related Links: