Saturday, 19 December 2015

Why Panic ? Every day's a Sales Day now on line or on the High Street.

"...Then there are 364 days when you might get un-birthday presents and only one for your birthday presents, you know” - Alice in Wonderland  by Lewis Carroll

Discounting can be a most effective way of attracting sales but too much cost cutting can cut off the face of your profits.

Black Friday was a damp squib sales wise in UK this year.

This month, about 41% of goods are already on sale discount but this  was predicted by Deloitte to increase to 45% Saturday with stores like Sports Direct offering a staggering 80% off of some items.

Deloitte analysed the  prices of more than 1.9 million products and found a wide spread of discounts from 5-90%.  Limited Sunday trading hours on Boxing Day weekend may also lead to slightly deeper than usual discounts this post-Christmas sales window.

A mild autumn and disappointing Black Friday sales have left businesses desperate to shift stock,  some experts have expounded.

19th December 2015
front page of the Daily Express
With less than a week until Christmas, last-minute buyers will also be out on what has been dubbed "Panic Saturday". The twitter #panicsarturday was popular but I wonder who was panicking ? 

Was it the consumer or the retailer ?

With six days remaining before Christmas Day next Friday, shoppers are expected to embark on a £6bn spending spree - up 23% compared with the the same period last year, when Christmas Day fell on the Thursday, researchers predict.

Despite Black Friday additional sales not really materialising, the Office for National Statistics stated the quantity of goods bought in November month on month increased by 1.7% and 5% year on year.

Both on line stores and in the shops we seem to have more and more special discount and sales days.

 These are not that short of a daily occurrence. 

Maybe we have already reached this Alice in Wonderland moment where every day is a 'Sale Day' and the new retail normal for consumers. 

However, like 'Alice' , we "can’t go back to yesterday because" we were "different people then." !

Related Links:

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Culture sensitive selling negotiation

The UK is set to have a referendum vote by the end of  2017 on whether or not to remain as a member of the EU. 

The UK Prime Minister's requests focus on four key objectives:

  1. Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries
  2. Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the "burden" of red tape
  3. Exempting Britain from "ever-closer union" and bolstering national parliaments
  4. Restricting EU migrants' access to in-work benefits such as tax credits for four years 
 David Cameron has gone off today to negotiate a better deal for the UK in the EU. I guess he needs to be aware of the different cultures of the 27 countries he needs to persuade.

"I want to see real progress in all of the four areas that I've mentioned. We're not pushing for a deal tonight (17th December 2015), but we're pushing for real momentum so that we can get this deal done."

He said he would be "battling hard for Britain, right through the night".

Perhaps he could make use of Erin Meyer's 'The Culture Map' but even if he does not we in selling most certainly can !

Often we concentrate on negotiation technique- what Meyer's points out is we should also adapt our negotiating tactics depending on the culture we are dealing with.

Strong negotiating skills in one culture can actually be a disadvantage in another, according to Erin Meyer, author of The Culture Map.

Source: Erin Meyer  HBR December 2015  photo of WEF forum site
Some cultures are emotionally expressive, even in the meeting room. 

Laughing, raising your voice or physical contact beyond a handshake can be considered normal in countries such as Italy and Spain.

 Whereas in the United States there’s a level of friendliness with limits. 

Meanwhile, business cultures in countries like Germany and Japan can find such behaviour inappropriate or unprofessional.

How antagonistic a person is, or how much they express their disagreement in a negotiation, can differ from culture to culture. To some, confrontation is necessary for clear communication, while others only feel comfortable arguing in more subtle ways.

Handling the stereotypes:

Not all emotionally expressive cultures are also confrontational, and vice versa.

 German people have a reputation for being blunt in a calm and rational way, which can be useful in negotiations. In France or Italy, on the other hand, one might expect to see a more passionate exchange. Meanwhile, the cultural stereotype for Saudi Arabian and Filipino cultures is to be emotionally expressive while at the same time avoiding confrontation.

But what about those sales people who do business negotiations internationally? Meyer suggests five matters we need to consider for this sort of discussion.

1. Get a feel for the way you express disagreement

The difference can range from a stance of “I completely disagree” to “I am not sure I understand your point” . Such flexibility could make or break a negotiation. Which one is appropriate in the culture where you are doing business?

2. Know when to hold your peace or let it all hang out

Assess whether the time to assert your opinion, or should you adopt a soft and gentle tone?

3. Ascertain how the other culture builds trust in negotiation Erin Meyer describes two types of trust in negotiation

a. Cognitive trust is based on how much faith you put in someone’s accomplishments or skills; how reliable they are.

b. Affective trust stems from an emotional closeness, where partnerships are more like friendships. You need to figure out which type is most valued by the culture you’re working in.

4. Avoid  Closed Questions and their yes or no responses 

Did they really mean “no” or are they telling you that the subject needs further discussion? Different cultures view the words yes and no with varying levels of complexity.

5. Be careful about putting it in writing

In some cultures, an email to sum up your conversation could be perfectly normal, while in others it is a clear sign you don’t trust people to remember what you discussed.

Thought to myself !

 I think it might be worthwhile asking Santa this Christmas 2015 for Erin’s book The Culture Map* -breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business. Perhaps Samantha Cameron has got the PM a copy !

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Selling lessons from Christmas Panto

Stats. from The Stage newspaper.
The six week Pantomime ( Panto) period over the Christmas season is a critical selling window for theatres across the UK.  Last year Pantomime productions accounted for 16% of all tickets sold in regional theatres in 2014 – more than 2.7 million, making almost £52 million.

Sales Growth

The 200 member organisations of UK theatre increased their ticket sales by £4.5 million from 2013 to 2014. UK Theatre’s data reveals that almost 100,000 more tickets were sold for pantomimes in 2014 than in 2013

Up to 60% of tickets have been sold up to the beginning of December most producers can accurately predict sales turnover for the period so long as the season is not hit by heavy snow. ‘Dreaming of a white Christmas’ is a nightmare for the Pantomime business.

“Don’t let it snow, Don’t let it snow, Don’t let it snow !”

Aladdin at Camberley
Panto is the goose which each year  lays golden eggs. Whether local theatres consider Panto as their Cash Cow or Cash Horse, the revenue it generates is lifeblood to many local theatres.

The market leader in Pantomime productions is Qdos Entertainment which this year is producing 24 shows . Another provider FFE has a 2015 programme which features the customary schedule of recurrent favourites: an Aladdin, a Sleeping Beauty, and two productions each of Dick Whittington, Snow White, Cinderella and Peter Pan.

Panto can teach us all lessons in selling.

Jack and the Beanstalk
at Guildford's
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
As well as being an entryway to the theatre, the stories of traditional Pantomime can also be an early introduction to the world of selling for better or ill for youngsters going to their first experience of live theatre.

Selling narratives

 Many of the stories have a cautionary moral concerning business conduct.  They tell how riches can be earned in a right or wrong way rudimentary ethics even today’s business could still pay heed to. They also show the contrast of good and bad personal behaviour in conducting our affairs. For example:-

Aladdin at Oxford's Playhouse

The story of Aladdin has the wicked sorcerer , Abanazar,  inveigling into the family posing as Aladdin’s  trusted Uncle who offers to set up the young near-do-well lad as a wealthy merchant.  This tale from 1001 Arabian nights teaches us all to be wary of offers that too good to be true. Aladdin’s wife is enticed by the offer or ‘New lamps or old’.

Jack and the Beanstalk
 at Basingstoke's
 Anvil theatre
Similarly Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk appears another naive negotiator when he exchanges his family’s cow  ( their only source of income ) for a few worthless supposedly ‘magic’ beans.

However as we know those worthless beans grow overnight into a huge beanstalk.   We in selling maybe can learn to have patience to let our prospective beans grow and then emulate some of Jack’s courage in venturing up our equivalent beanstalks and overcoming the objections of a yelling Giant to achieve the objective of the Giant’s bag of golden coins. 

I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.”

The Pantomime of Dick Whittington follows the classic basis of Fairy Tale, and indeed does many a pantomime. The Poor boy makes good through some heroic or magical deed. By rewarding others he achieves his target or sales objective -a Kingdom, a Princess, Untold wealth, or, in the case of Whittington he becomes fabulously rich, and is made Lord Mayor of London three times.

The pantomime of “Mother Goose” in the form we know it today was written in London in 1902 by J.Hickory Wood  who created a new pantomime especially for the leading comedian of the day- Dan Leno. It has the biggest part for a Dame in any pantomime.
Dan Leno created a poor woman who befriends a magical goose that provides her with Golden Eggs. She is rich, but there is something she wants more than money- she wants to be young and beautiful.

Sleeping Beauty at
Victoria Theatre
The pantomime has a strong moral- Beauty & Wealth alone seldom bring you happiness.
In Beauty and the beast the Beast (a ‘cursed’ prince)  can only break the spell by learning to love another and earn her love in return before the last petal from his enchanted rose falls, which would bloom until his twenty-first birthday.

 In the beginning Beauty views him as nothing more than a monster, he views her as difficult and stubborn. But the two soon taste the bitter-sweetness of finding you can change and learning you were wrong.  Perhaps we as sellers, can draw some parallels on the skills of relationship building both with co-workers and clients from the story.

In Snow White the proud, overbearing and beautiful Queen of the Grimm brothers cannot bear to be surpassed in beauty by anyone. In her several attempts to kill off the young and  beautiful Snow White at the house of the seven dwarfs she manages to be allowed entry to the house through her sales pitch:-

 “ Fine wares to sell. Fine wares to sell”  “ Good wares, fine wares laces of all colours”.

Aldershot's Princes Hall is presenting Cinderella
The tale of Cinderella teaches us remain ethical and moral ( in the Grimm Brothers’ tale “pious and good”)  and endure hard work so when the time is right our Prince will come,  and the story of  Peter Pan  shows us that fortune favours the brave.

Pantomime is family entertainment which enchants children through the magic of the fairy tale, and adults through the humorous risqué double entendres which are supposedly above the children’s heads.

Of 16 theatrical genres analysed by UK Theatre, pantomime achieves the highest capacities, and is matched only by comedy, recording an average capacity of 73% in 2014.

The Theatre’s own ‘Cinderella’
When compared with other theatre art forms, Panto starts looking a bit more serious. Last year across the UK, plays achieved 52% capacity, with contemporary dance attendance falling from 59% in 2013 to 42% in 2014.

Panto productions may not feature in the glamorous award ceremonies such as the BAFTAs , the Evening Standard Drama  or Olivier awards yet but for the sales of Pantomime tickets UK theatres would be all the poorer and quite possibly out of business. They also play a part in the cross sell to live drama.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Airplane Challenge Training Energisers

When your delegates are looking  sleepy or tired, an energiser can be used to get them moving and to give them more enthusiasm.

Short games can be used to help people think through issues and can help to address problems that people may encounter when they are working together. Games can also help people to think creatively and laterally.

I use games for a variety of different reasons, including :-
  •        helping delegates to get to know each other better,
  •        increasing energy or enthusiasm levels for sessions,
  •        encouraging team building
  •        or making people think about a specific issue as a group.
Energisers re-ignite the delegates oomph and
 the trainer's vigour for the next session 
The Air plane Challenge
Each team needs 1 sheet of flip chart Paper
Some flip chart pens
reel of masking tape

Team Task:
Time : 10 minutes total : 8 minutes to design build and test 2 minute test in competition

To produce a paper plane using the whole sheet of flip chart paper
It is required to fly straight.
Marks will be awarded for aesthetic design
The planes will be thrown from a standing line
The plane is required to fly straight ( Your plane must fly and land within strict parameters of the test run way) 
If your plane lands outside the runway your team will  be disqualified
Marks will be given for  best distance 

A team of delegates work on the
aesthetics of their flip chart paper plane

Delegates are so creative. This team even created
team badges to match that on their plane's logo

Get the teams to present
 and explain their designs

This team spontaneously presented
the merits of their design to rival teams

Presenting the design to a judge

Delegate throwing team's plane trying
to keep it between the runway strips
Flying high at start (see top of photo) but where will it land ?

Tailor's Measuring Tapes make 
a colourful addition to the runway

Test runway made of 2" strips of masking tape.
Best to use a corridor or wide open space rather ha n a training room.
Measuring tapes use for marking the impact point of each teams plane

Should you need a rational explanation for energisers- Here's the Science bit !


or Why do we feel the need  of a siesta after lunch ?

Source:  05 June 2006   NewScientist.
The mystery of why we often feel sleepy after eating a big meal may finally have been resolved. Researchers have discovered that high blood glucose levels, similar to those after eating a big meal, can switch off the brain cells that normally keep us awake and alert.
The findings make evolutionary sense since sleepiness could be the body’s way of telling us to relax and conserve energy once we have found and eaten our food, says Denis Burdakov of the University of Manchester, UK, who led the research.
“It has been known for a while that people and animals can become sleepy and less active after a meal, but the brain signals responsible for this were poorly understood,” he says.
Burdakov’s team studied a group of brain cells called orexin neurons, which are found in the hypothalamus and produce proteins called orexins that are essential for maintaining normal wakefulness in humans. These neurons are less active at night and when they malfunction this can lead to narcolepsy, where sufferers cannot stay awake.
Firing rate
Previously, researchers have shown that orexin neurons can be inhibited by glucose, but it was not known how sensitive they were. Burdakov’s team exposed orexin neurons to subtle changes in glucose levels similar to those that occur in the blood during daily cycles of eating and hunger, then measured their firing rate.
“What we discovered is the activity of the neurons can be turned off by minute elevations in glucose associated with normal meals,” says Burdakov. The glucose is thought to act on potassium ion channels in the neurons’ membrane.
He believes this could explain why we naturally feel sleepy after a meal and also why it can be difficult to sleep when we are hungry, since the activity of the neurons would be higher when there is less glucose in the blood.
“We think orexin neurons make sure that we are awake and alert when hungry, in order to ensure optimal food-seeking,” Burdakov says. He adds that it makes evolutionary sense for animals to turn off their wakefulness and conserve energy once they have eaten their food, since it could be risky or wasteful to expend too much energy looking for more food.

Journal reference: Neuron (vol 50, p 711)

500,000 pageviews - Thank you

To followers of my 'Fruits Of Success' Sales and Marketing  blog - THANK YOU

Thank you so much for visiting and reading my Blog

500,000 page views is a super endorsement that the content is of interest to people in Sales and Marketing. 

It does take  time to work on it but your response and support makes it worthwhile.

A selfie with delegates at the course this week when
we broke through the 500,000 page views target .
 A later post will explain the 007 Bond theme !
Thank you to all the clients and delegates who regularly come and use the information I share.

Thank you to all my fellow professional trainers for your kind and encouraging messages and helpful feedback. 

Aleksandr has been with me up in Oxford this week and
 sends his thanks and best wishes to you all also

Good Selling Folks