Saturday, 24 January 2015

Scientific Attributes can help Selling - learning from the scientific mind-set Davos 2015

At Davos 2015 the president of Imperial College Alice Gast postulated that there was pressure from business in the application of sound business practices to universities and other public services.

 This resonates in the UK with the next General Election on the horizon.

For example :-Which parties care for and manage best the National Health service NHS ?

But business practice is also being applied to institutions such as the established Church of England whose  current Archbishop of Canterbury ( a former Oil Executive) and has commissioned a report on the Church written by Lord Green ( a former Chief executive of HSBC bank and McKinsey consultant.)
Professor Gast said that she wanted to turn the tables and suggest that a scientific mind-set can inform and benefit the decision-making process outside of the laboratory.

 She also argued that by adopting the mind-set of a scientist this could help all of us approach a changing world.
“We should embed a scientific mindset into business culture”

As a distinguished scientist herself and  co-author of “Physical Chemistry of Surfaces “ a classic textbook on colloid and surface phenomena, and she has presented named lectures at several of the nation's leading research institutions she is worth listening to.
For myself, whose first degree study in Chemistry with Business undertaken some 45 years ago I have a vested interest in what she had to say.

 How can the scientific mindset help our Selling?
Because selling involves a delicious mixture of the logical and emotional, science can contribute.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the professor’s presentation to Davos and from the perspective of selling .

What would adopting a scientific mindset in this way mean in the sales arena?

Let's consider her three scientific attributes  but to “Selling”

1.  Sceptical curiosity

2.  Collaborative competitiveness

3.  Confidence in the case of the unknown

1. Sceptical curiosity

 Scientists need to be sceptical. Like their colleagues in selling, and they also must innovate. As they innovate, scientists strike a careful balance between curiosity, intuition and scepticism. For those practising selling these three aspects are a daily work.

Salespeople need to be curious how else will we find out the needs and wants of our client ?.

 We need to tune  into our gut instinct and what we have learned from experience but also not believe everything we are told. ( Customers like salespeople can exaggerate things and because we are all human, sometimes even lie !)

Science is driven forwards by curiosity, and it is guided by intuition and prior knowledge, but techniques such as external and internal peer reviews and randomized control trials are also embedded in their way of thinking to avoid blind optimism and bias.

An executive from Nestle Corporation speaking at
the International conference of Tack International
an example of Gast's Sceptical curiosity in action
 - letting your customer speak to your sales team -
 genuine LIVE  Voice of the customer !
How we apply apply it in selling

 In your organisation, invite sceptics and non-experts in.
Some already invite themselves in of course, most disciplines have an opinion about sales ( not always complimentary ).

But taking the gist of Professor Gast’s suggestion inviting customers , buyers etc into to speak to your sales meetings can be  enormously helpful in selling and servicing your clients better.

 Ensure that certain sales initiatives are checked by someone outside your team, even outside your organisation or industry.

2. Collaborative competitiveness

 The best scientists readily compete and collaborate with one another.

Successful Selling Conference Professor Gast's
 "collaborative competitiveness in action  .
Someone in a different field or organisation could have the key to unlocking the problem they are working on.

When the problems get tough, scientists want to build the best team, even if the partner is a fierce competitor.
Prof Gast illustrated the point
 "At one time, collaboration and data sharing were the purview of “big science”, such as the scientists at CERN. Now we see new collaborations all the time when it is opportune to bring together diverse teams such as at the Crick Institute or in complex areas such as climate change or public health for an ageing population."

How we might apply it to selling :

Look at those sales problems and opportunities in your business or organisation that cannot be solved in isolation.
Prof Gast suggested at Davos areas such as cyber security, global political and economic forces, or significant technological requirements, all benefit from collaboration across the industry and across sectors.  These are also relevant to many in Selling along with PESTLE  factors from the marketing model.

When corporations come together, as they do at Davos, they can make important things happen. Bringing together industry, government and higher education can be even more powerful.

Similarly  when sales professionals attend their institutions like the CIM or ISMM or IOD they can make important things happen. They enable to bring together industry, government and higher education  and can be even more powerful.

Sales people should collaborate like a scientist. Some do of course but more should.

3. Confidence in the face of uncertainty and the unknown.

Valuable Insight in unknown and uncertain business world
 Download for free Buyers' views of Salespeople 2012
In selling we have become aware of our modern  business world by the acronym VUCA ( Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous)

 The scientist’s business is the unknown.

 Where something is unknown, it is an opportunity to be pursued rather than avoided.

This requires the ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty, which most people find difficult.

In  a scientific experiment, a lack of correlation moves science forward as much as a positive correlation.

VUCA Volatility ,Uncertainty,
 Complexity and Ambiguity
Photo of Slide from Impact International
No information is ever complete.

Scientists are comfortable with moving forward purposefully when faced with incomplete or problematic data sets.
How  might apply it in Selling ? :

Break down problems into smaller hypotheses to be tested. ( An elephant can only beat eaten in bite-sized pieces)

A complex sales situation e.g.  preparing for a pitch at a  competitive “beauty parade”  where buyer’s have deliberately not fully revealed all the information either as negotiating ploy, or because they don’t know themselves  but are  using your pitch to help them discover the more about the nature of the issue.

To quote Prof. Gast

"Evaluate probabilities and the interrelation between factors affecting probability and move forward armed with that imperfect knowledge. " 

This all sounds so similar to the  challenging world of sales forecasting , pipeline management and assessing the risk ( or doing it anyway !)
Like the scientists , professional salespeople need  to build a team that can deal with uncertainty and ambiguity by sharing their understanding and gaining confidence.

Good Selling  and Good "Sciencing" ! 

Related Links

Sales Process # notatDavos by Little Bogdan

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Little Bogdan is not at Davos 2015 - but if he was he'd be SELLING

Fine Little Bogdan, but you need to Plan and set
 your selling objectives
What decisions are you after?
 What information do you need to find out?
Who has the budget, authority, influence and need?

Research at the individual, local and global levels
That's why it's worth listening and watching the presentations
at WEF Davos 2015 ( scroll down for link below.)
Who are your customers' customers? What is their market about?
Who are their competitors ?...

Interest your client. Question them and above all LISTEN to them.
 Match their needs and wants with your offering,
Handle and Answer their objections

Negotiate what is of value to them and less cost to you

Ask for the decision. Keep developing the business.
And don't forget to thank them for their business !

Don't forget to KISM

Keep It Simples Meerkats

Related links

Serious Selling Information

Interesting information for sales WEF Davos 2015

For the genuine Compare the Market /Meerkat site

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Leadership in Selling, Selling Authenticity and Well-being Ideas from Davos 2015

“There are four ingredients in true leadership:  brains, soul, heart and good nerves “  
Klaus Schwab  founder and Chairman of World Economic Forum  Davos 

 21st January 2015

Here are some findings of research on leadership which readers may find interesting in view of this leadership theme at Davos this week

Tel Aviv University’s Yona Kifer  published  January 28, 2013 a study in Psychological Science.

The study concluded that :

employees were 26% more satisfied in their roles when they had positions of power.

The researchers also found that feelings of power also translated to more authenticity and feelings of well-being.

Power made the subjects feel more “true to themselves,” enabling them to engage in actions that authentically reflected values they hold dear.

This subjective sense of authenticity in turn created a higher sense of wellbeing and  happiness.

Drawing on personality and power research, Yona Kiferl and colleagues suggested that holding a position of authority might enhance subjective well-being through an increased feeling of authenticity. 
The researchers predicted that because the powerful are able to
“navigate their lives in congruence with their internal desires and inclinations,” they feel as if they are acting more authentically — more “themselves” — and thus are more content.

The findings were published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. 2013

In their first experiment, the researchers surveyed over 350 participants to determine if Internal  feelings of power are associated with subjective well-being in different contexts: 1.  at work,  2. with friends, or 3.  in romantic relationships.

The results indicated that people who feel powerful in any context tend to be more content.

The most powerful people surveyed felt 16% more satisfied with their lives than the least powerful people.

This effect was most pronounced in the workplace:

Powerful employees were 26% more satisfied with their jobs than their powerless colleagues.

The power-based discrepancy in happiness was smaller for friendships and romantic relationships.

The researchers suggest that this may be because friendships are associated with a sense of community rather than hierarchy, and therefore having power in this kind of relationship is less important.
Causal relationships  in power, authenticity and wellbeing
In the second and third experiments, Kifer and colleagues examined the causal relationship between

a. power,
b. feelings of authenticity,
c.  general well-being,

by manipulating each of the factors independently.

The results revealed that being in a position of power causes people to feel more authentic and “true to themselves” — that is, it allows their actions to more closely reflect their beliefs and desires.

Feelings of authenticity, in turn, enhance subjective feelings of well-being and happiness.

“By leading people to be true to their desires and inclinations — to be authentic — power lead individuals to experience greater happiness,” the researchers conclude.

Kifer and colleagues propose that future research into power dynamics, happiness, and authenticity should focus on specific kinds of power, both positive (such as charisma) and negative (such as punishment).

Together, these findings suggest that even the perception of having power can lead people to live more authentic lives, thereby increasing their happiness and well-being.

Co-authors on this research include Daniel Heller of Tel Aviv University, Wei Qi Elaine Perunovic of University of New Brunswick, and Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School.

The 'Feeling of Power' - productive, performing and pleased

Research has shown that helping others feel more powerful can boost productivity, improve performance, and leave employees feeling more satisfied on the job. A study conducted by Yona Kifer of Tel Aviv University and published in Psychological Science found that employees were 26% more satisfied in their roles when they had positions of power.

Feelings of power also translated to more authenticity and feelings of well-being, the Researchers found.

Power made the subjects feel more “true to themselves,” enabling them to engage in actions that authentically reflected values they hold dear. This subjective sense of authenticity in turn created a higher sense of wellbeing and happiness.

Yet Gallup research has found that typically 70% of American workers aren’t engaged or committed to their employers. Gallup estimates the cost of their apathy at between $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year.

I reckon those workers aren’t feeling all that powerful.

While it would be great to think we could just repeat a mantra each morning to facilitate these well being -enhancing feelings of power, another global study conducted by Gallup found that among some 600,000 workers across several industries,

  • leadership support,
  • recognition,
  • constant communication,
  • and trust

were essential to creating a thriving environment where front-line employees felt they had the autonomy to make a real difference in the organization. In other words, to instil a sense of power , people for sustained engagement you need the support of the entire system.

The Importance of Buy-In

By contrast, overly structured management-driven empowerment programmes that are coupled with continuous improvement initiatives don’t work, according to researchers from the University of Illinois, as employees tend to feel such programs are often ‘ forced upon them’ without their input on  the initiatives’ usefulness.

Instead, the researchers found that even the least powerful employees will commit to finding ways to make their organisation more efficient if given the autonomy to make decisions and execute the improvement measures they find most useful.

Sales Managers are advised to act more as coaches, giving direction and support, and trusting that front line salespeople, who are the experts on the ground, know better which improvements ultimately work in the best interest of the organisation.

The study, by Gopesh Anand, Dilip Chhajed, and Luis Delfin, shows that employees will be most committed to the organisation when they feel their day-to-day work environment is autonomous and when they trust leaders to have their back. 

 These feelings of power and the reciprocal trust in leadership in turn lead to proactive behaviours by front line salespeople, as they’re likely to take charge in continuously seeking ways to improve their day-to-day work practices that lead to organisational efficiency.

While a company-wide effort of making employees feel autonomous and trusted yields the greatest benefit in employee commitment, managers can start with their own team members.

Encouraging others to

  • share their unvarnished views on important issues,

  • delegating

  • and sharing leadership,

  • assigning managerial tasks,

  • communicating frequently,

  • and allowing for mistakes to serve as learning opportunities can all empower employees and develop them into independent thinkers who aren’t afraid to take risks and actively contribute in moving the organisation forward.

It isn’t necessary, or indeed possible, to elevate every member of the sales team  to a Leadership position.

But a good sales  manager can offer choices that lead to empowerment, no title required.
While we know that people instinctively crave higher status, M. Ena Inesi of London Business School discovered that agency is just as important.

She primed study participants to feel either powerful or powerless.

They then had to choose whether to shop at a nearby store with fewer options, or a store that was further away but which offered considerably more options. When participants felt powerless, they craved more choices. 

The participants who felt powerful, however, were content to have fewer choices.
“You can imagine a person at an organisation who’s in a low- level job,” Inesi said at the time.
You can make that seemingly powerless person feel better about their job and their duties by giving them some choice, in the way they do the work or what project they work on.”
The dangers of Learned Helplessness

People need to believe they have a sense of control over their situation, particularly in times of change and uncertainty, or they may adopt what psychologist Martin Seligman at the University of  Pennsylvania termed “learned helplessness,” where they basically stop trying.

In a similar vein, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer conducted research on mindfulness and ‘choice’ and found that giving people choices over their environment actually extended life by years, according to her studies conducted among the elderly in nursing homes.

Tom Peters once said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”

Giving Your employees real autonomy and helping them feel more powerful is not only your best chance to buck he trend of disengagement and apathy; it is at the heart of competitive strategy.

 Perhaps the good and the great at Davos this week would agree with not only the founder of the World Economic Forum but some wisdom from some two and a half thousand year ago
"A leader is best when people barely know (s)he exists, when their work is done, their aim fulfilled, the people will say: we did it ourselves." 
Lao Tzu    571 BCE

Related links

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Words Music Dance - communnication skills msterclass for professional Selling from Circus Ronaldo

Who do you reckon are the most effective  practitioners of communication skills? 
 Politicians ?  e.g The great communicator President  Ronald Reagan ?  perhaps

 Movie Actors (e.g  this year’s Oscar goes to ... maybe

I believe a strong contender must be in those very special folk  Professional Mime artists !

Each year I  treat myself in the first two weeks of January  to  a  performance in the London International Mime Festival  season .
This is fun Continual Professional Development  CPD with a capital F.

 How many salespeople could sell their products let alone hold the attention of a buying panel through mime for an hour or two as these do with their audiences ?

Trapeze in the Circus Ronaldo on the LIMF programme
LIFM now in its 38th year  promotes cutting-edge circus, adult puppetry, live art and physical theatre.

This year I went to see Circus Ronaldo from Belgium.  The company is a family concern in keeping with  the romantic circus and travelling theatre tradition

For their LIMF performance they set up on the stage of the Queen Elisabeth Hall on London’s Southbank.
The company include artists who not only have theatre and circus skills but also play musical instruments, sing and have puppetry skills. So for those salespeople familiar with the communication channels of Words , Music and Dance ( WMD)  Circus Ronaldo are the practitioners with the full set of WMD

Learning by observing the skills and craft of another profession, namely Circus/theatre is a good way to review one's own communication skills in business.

In the  after show discussion  a large number of the audience stayed to ask questions and learn of the history of this family business who trace their roots back several generations.

 Danny Ronaldo (left in the photo) not only revealed that much of their craft has become a DNA of circus /theatre but probing a little detail he talked also of the roots of 

Commedia dell’arte.

Back in 16th Century Italy the roots of the clown can be identified.

To distinguish the form from commedia erudita or learned comedy that was written by academics and performed by amateurs.
 Commedia dell'arte , was performed by professional actors (comici) who perfected a specific role or mask.
To me this resonated as the contrast between studying Selling at a college, training programme or reading a book and practicing the craft.
Of course in our 21st century one can study both selling and Circus Crafts at University. Indeed at the Festival they also hold Week long to One day workshops .

In the legacy of Commedia dell'Arte,  also known as "Italian comedy,"  whose  humorous theatrical presentation performed by professional players who travelled in troupes throughout Italy in the 16th century Circus Ronaldo  tours.

  Often  today we talk of ‘standing on the shoulders’ of predecessors but of course this family have literally learnt from father to son , from generation to generation in circus skills like acrobats, tight rope walkers, jugglers, clowning.

We use the expression 'high flyer' rather too glibly perhaps, forgetting its hard earned origins of the high wire. ( Go  and see  the Cirque de Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall at present)

Performances in 16th century Italy took place on temporary stages, mostly on city streets, but occasionally in court venues.  Similalry Cirus Ronaldo used their family  demountable theatre.

I know it's a bit obsessive to scribble notes
 on the programme sheet,
 but there is so much to learn
 from these master artistes
Music, dance, witty dialogue, and all kinds of chicanery contributed to the comic effects. Subsequently the art form spread throughout Europe, with many of its elements persisting into present-day theatre.
Back in 16th Century the most notable troupes  such as the Gelosi, Confidenti, and Fedeli became internationally famous.

Music, dance, witty dialogue, and all kinds of chicanery contributed to the comic effects of Circus Ronaldo's 'Amortale 'which brought  together tragedy and clowning, opera, string puppets, slapstick and melancholy circus and simplicity and not a little hilarious anarchy.

Apparently, there was no attempt made to change the performance's dialect from region to region. Even when a local company performed, much of the dialogue would not have been understood. Regardless of region, il Capitano would have spoken in Spanish, il Dottore in Bolognese, and l'Arlecchino in utter gibberish. The focus was placed on physical business rather than on spoken text.

Similalry Circus Ronaldo do use some Italian and a   few bits of  English in the London show but mainly it is through  physical theatre .

Three characters from the Circus Ronaldo  “ Amortale” show could be identified from the Commedia dell Arte  Who make up what Danny Ronaldo  the “eternal triangle” of the ‘master and two servants” One very stupid servant and one smarter.  I think he was probably referring to
 Il Capitano/ Il Dottore  ( Masters)  the clowns   Zanni  and L’Arlecchino .

Recognise of your your clients, co-workers or bosses in the cast above ?

Whilst we in professional selling  use the work of twentieth century psychology on personality types to help us communicate and work better with clients in systems such as  MBTI, DISC or the Big Five, maybe  the  500 year old pedigree of Commedia Dell arte still can teach us when we go to enjoy the circus.
The London International Festival of Mime’s 2015 season continues next week.
Related Links


Friday, 16 January 2015

Mis-sold, Mislead or Mismanaged Some causes of #Mis-sellingEFG

mis-selling *
"The Budget freedoms that come into force in April could trigger mis-selling claims worth billions of pounds"

"Does rising proc  (procuration) fee chasm create mortgage misselling risk?"

"Time to bring an end to mis-selling"

"City directors jailed for biofuel mis-selling  "

Above are just a collection of headlines in the media about mis-selling. The financial institutions have to sort out and fix the problem much like handling and resolving a complaint anyone in selling is familiar with.

But what if it is in the case of a state owned or part taxpayer funded enterprise?

The current mis-selling story doing the rounds is about RBS ( 80% owned by the UK tax payer) in their mis-selling of Enterprise Finance Guarantee  EFG .

The Scotsman  today reported Colin Borland, the Federation of Small Businesses’ head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “It is disappointing to see another mis-selling episode involving small businesses and the banks. RBS needs to move quickly to take care of these small business customers.”

The EFG scheme provides 75% government (tax payer funded)  guarantee to lenders ( e.g) RBS willing to  support  viable small businesses that lack security to obtain a bank loan.

RBS has admitted that some of its customers were incorrectly told that the tax payer guarantee was for their benefit (e.g. small businesses’ benefit) rather than for the bank.

In certain cases only when the EFG  customer defaulted did the business owner discover that they remained liable for the entire outstanding loan.

 Perhaps we have a right to ask Business Secretary Vince Cable and his team regarding the EFG scandal to investigate on our behalf areas such as
1.       What  are ( were) the board of the lender's  responsibility and commitment  to Selling EFG , their responsibility for setting of targets, their responsibility for  design of incentives, bonuses and commission (as well as the salespeople responsible ( Relationship managers) who carried out the directions of the board)
2.       Selling ethics –  Did Self regulation in this case work?,  Was Best practice, best advice given? What is the role of regulators and government on critical points of a selling offer?
3.       What was  the quality of training,  how was it measured and  how was it monitored?
The Times of London implied a connection with the departure of The deputy Chief executive who left on Dec 31st
An “Accountability Review” is being lead by head of commercial banking and private banking for RBS Alison Rose. She is quoted as saying in James Hurley’s Times article 15th January
“Our Relationship Managers ( RBS Salespeople) were not clear enough on explaining the liability issue which is critical to customershead of commercial banking and private banking for RBS, Alison Rose
In view of the importance the head of commercial banking and private banking for the lender places on this issue which is critical to customers  we might well seek some clarification on these questions:-
1.      Was this liability issue, which is critical to customers, included in the sales/product training ? Did the senior management identify this liability point in their Training Needs Analysis ?
2.      Was the liability issue, which is critical to customers, stressed in the course content design and commissioning ?
3.      If it was – how was liability issue ,which is critical to customers , actually trained ?  Did the training manuals stress ,with examples, how important this   liability issue which is critical to customers?
4.      Who signed off the training manual content ?
5.      What skills practice was undertaken on the liability issue which is critical to customers  Was it merely lecture input, or  demonstrated with specific examples, or  actively role played by the delegate Relationship Managers ?
6.      What post training course field coaching and monitoring was undertaken to ensure this liability issue, which is critical to customers, was communicated clearly to client prospects?
 * There are fortunately over 500 posts published on this site about Good Selling  and positive stories about Selling.