Wednesday, 29 June 2016

5 steps to take now in your selling after the Brexit vote

Well  the Brexit tube of toothpaste has been squeezed.  The Leave camp won.
 I was disappointed by my nation’s decision to leave the EU.

However I am a democrat and I have to accept as a member of the minority to bow to the decision of the majority of my nation
Now for the consequences
What’s done is done.

There is little point in trying to poke the toothpaste back into the tube.

As salespeople we have to regularly accept such similar defeats – we know as the song lyric goes that we must ‘pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and start all over again.’

  For example we may disagree with decisions by our management, decisions by the ‘marketing’  on strategic direction,  production’s refusal to produce a ‘special’, finance’s  final say on margins ( or discounts)  etc. But we have to comply or else internal business anarchy takes place.

We are used, in other words, to accepting the minority position of Sales at power broking board level. ( The tension between serving the share holder , investors, stake holder etc versus the external customers)

The time for us to lick our wounds ( Remain) or gloat on our battle won ( Leave) is OVER
Let’s not dwell on Brexit but rather concentrate on staying competitive.

Our country is shell shocked in the aftermath of the EU referendum. We are grappling with the new reality .

However unpredictable the future may be, the worst thing to do now is dwell on the result on the referendum vote.

 Much like the pointless moaning about England’s soccer team being knocked out of the European Cup  in France  ( Congratulations  and well played to the Iceland team by the way) the English FA has now to look to the future ,plan for it and take action to the new tasks. The fans need to get over it now too. So likewise must we sales in the post referendum era.

The real risk is that the warnings of economic decline and predictions of the diminished role for the UK in the world and other doom mongering become self fulfilling prophecies.
Yet we should be in no doubt the consequences of this vote is a real game changer. So here are some initial suggestions

1. Time to keep calm – not to panic.

2. Think

3. Review

4. Communicate now with your customers and prospects- if you have not already

5. Avoid lack lustre treading water type messages of ‘no change here’, “ wait and see” but rather communicate positively how you will be:-

  • more competitive,
  • more flexible,
  • more creative,
  • more dynamic
  • more entrepreneurial
  • and more proactive.

Re-assure your customers that unlike certain Brexit politicians ( as it currently appears) we in selling do have a plan B  !   – we know the importance of contingency and how to support our clients in both good , tough  and uncertain times.

Whether the UK’s Brexit decision turns out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the Leave camp or a real one that is for the political historians to argue over, our role in Sales is to work to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

Whichever way you voted , now is the time to take up the strain again – and as sales and marketing profession it’s what we all will be doing.

Good selling in this ever changing world of new opportunities

Related Links

Minding your own business Leave or Remain

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

#TuesdayMotivation A Selling thought from Rumi

"Load the ship and set out.

No one knows for certain whether the vessel will sink or reach the harbour.

Cautious people say, "I'll do nothing until I can be sure".

Merchants know better. If you do nothing, you lose.

Don't be one of those merchants who wont risk the ocean.

Everyone is so afraid of death, but the real sufis just laugh:
nothing tyrannises their hearts.

What strikes the oyster shell does not damage the pearl."     Rumi

Monday, 6 June 2016

Brexit or Remain ? Mind your own business !

Back in the day, sales professionals were advised to avoid conversations with clients around topics like religion, politics and such like. Such subjects were likely to expose extremely held views and create a conversational climate unlikely to promote a helpful atmosphere of carrying out trade.

Across the beautiful River Itchen
( or perhaps might have well been

 the English  Channel
 in this house owner's view)
 in Winchester, Hampshire yesterday
The long campaign for the EU referendum has led to many angry arguments in the social environment  ( if dinner parties I have attended of late are to go by) let alone in the business arena.

I have met a number of folk of late who work for large multi-national organisations. They have taken out time to 'guide' their employees ( for the good of the firm) which way they should vote. Such guidance is not much appreciated by Brits and could lead to a bolshie  reaction .

Whichever way the country votes , one thing is for sure - if salespeople have not taken any proactive action already,  they will need to do so - one way or the other . 

For after June 23rd there can be no further treading water !

This is because the referendum is not just about us as individuals- but it's our customers and their customers, it is about our direct and indirect competition, it is about what to do in financial conditions in the short , medium and long term.

Contrary to the implications of spokespeople for both Brexiters and Remainers  or the bickering of blue-on-blue action-  no sales happen automatically in business. 

Nothing in business really happens before a sale is made. Buyers will still need to be persuaded. Negotiations will need active participants. Nothing in business sells itself-No product or service. Nor is selling and buying purely a rational logical undertaking.

Some may think There is not much emotion in business but there is a lot of business in emotion - that is why both sides have exploited ( perhaps over exploited) FUD - Fear , Uncertainty and Doubt in their campaign communications)

Salespeople need to concentrate on three action areas.

These are
  1. Protection
  2. Expansion 
  3. Development
1. You  need to protect your existing customer base. You will need to determine what effect in or out will have on their business, their customers, their competition

2. You will have to see where growth within your existing customer base will need to be achieved.

3. What NEW customers will need to be developed. Will new distributor lines be needed? Will the supply chain need to be altered ?

Directly after June 23rd , few other actions will be relevant.  

Related Links

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Sales decisions loom on BHS Austin Reed

This week sees two formally leading brand  names of the UK high street that are destined to disappear. They are Austin Reed and BHS.

 In the last decade we have lost many former champions of the British High Street such as Store names we have lost
Phone for U
Threshers Wine shop
Zavvi  formerly Virgin Megastore  )
Blockbuster Video
Borders Books
JJB sports

The imminent departures of BHS and Austin Reed  have  been picked over by the expert vultures of the business analyst community. I have held back quoting their real names, but the quotes are real enough. Take a look at the quotes below and you will recognise this week’s analysis clichés . reporters for the above failures ( and probably were) . The sad thing is that such quotes always brought out in the press at such times.

 I have put the words in bold type for those who are familiar with the key parts of the traditional marketing mix.

 “ .....retail experts say the firm has failed to keep pace with its competitors.”
"The company's (product) offer has been inconsistent, the ( product) ranges have been poor and the stores have looked rather tired ( merchandising)," said Mr X  business advisers XYZ.

"Perhaps most disappointingly, the website is not good enough by today's' standards ( technology)” said Mr Y of Baksete-Dryvas,  Hyndesite and Wyze -Arftarevent  Partners.
How are the mighty fallen? And their weapons of War defeated/depleted.

Came across this ad for Austin Reed in a concert
programme back in the day when I used to sing with 
the Royal Choral Society
Austin Reed started as a tailoring business in the City of London more than a century ago, selling off-the-rack suits which could pass muster as made to measure.
Austin Reed had a concession on the transatlantic liner, the Queen Elizabeth, and supplied clothing for special agents and resistance fighters during World War Two.

British Homes Stores first opened for business in Brixton, south London in 1928
Mary Portas Retail Guru focused her analysis on constantly re-imagining the Brand to keep in contact with your customer. It is worth listening to Portas because she reminds why these brands were once leaders and identifies where they may have lost their way in a changing market.

Back in the day at BHS

“The historical position of British Home Stores was a practical solution brand that was affordable and accessible. At its heart, BHS delivered good quality, decent items for people on a budget.  It always had a brilliant lighting department”

Change in shopping

Yet a retail business like British Home Stores needs to constantly re-imagine itself to connect to today’s consumer.

The way we shop today has changed, irreversibly.

The internet ( technology), international competition (competition), the recession (economy); all those things have made consumers really think about where they were spending their money. 

“Today, the consumer is absolutely king.”  Mary Portas

If we look back over the history of retailing, and the history of BHS, customer choices were limited.

Now, though, consumers can shop
where they want,
when they want – whatever time of day they want –
and pretty much at whatever budget they want.
To separate yourself from the pack, you have to be the best in practice (USP), whatever that means for your particular business.

That can be across different things:
the best fashion,
the best product,
the best price,
the best social experience,
the most desirable,
the most innovative
or simply the most wanted because you've got a brilliant brand.

Sadly, Mary Portas observes  British Home Stores was none of those.

What WAS right can now be WRONG

BHS was a national chain, so it was in the right towns, in the right places. But today that is not as significant.

Through the years, the retail world has changed in so many different ways; international brands coming in, competition firing up, and the internet has given people access to and knowledge of what is fashionable and where to buy it. There are also social media platforms that can make the small and niche big and powerful. There are new kids-on-the-block looking at innovative ways of connecting their businesses to consumers. There are young entrepreneurs, who are hungry – and creative.

Sadly, British Homes Stores didn’t change.

A ‘lick of paint’ is no longer enough!

It sort of smartened itself up a bit and thought that would be enough – and it wasn't.
BHS was a value retailer, it kept the right price, but lately it has just looked like the sad relation to Marks & Spencer.

If you are not part of the solution- you’ve gotta be part of the problem.

 Mary Portas gives some ideas of how she would have gone about things at BHS.

“If I had been at British Home Stores I would have looked at today’s market place and created a brand that is relevant for today’s shopper.” Mary Portas
I would have gone totally after the value market, but made it functional and cool.

I would have started with where it was good – the lighting. Then I would have extended that to become a modern British lifestyle retailer at a great price.

Who have got it right on the UK high street? Tiger, Uniglo Primark and Ikea

“Look at Tiger, which has come on to our high streets. It has done an extraordinary job of taking that basic fundamental market that was the old Woolies, and made it sexy.”

Imagine if British Home Stores’ ground floor was like Tiger, its fashion floor like Uniqlo or Primark and its home stuff like Ikea. Value with sex appeal all under one roof. Then add some small startups that are all young British makers or designers.

House them within a market place model and then you start a business with a point of view.
So, BHS is not the best value brand in town. It’s not the best homewares brand around. It’s not the best fashion at a good price in town. It hasn't got the best brand reputation. It’s not the sexiest and it’s not the most loved.

I don’t think we will miss what it is today. I think we will miss what it was at a time when it was relevant. And I think we will miss the fact that it wasn't made relevant. For great businesses like that it is all about the vision.

Lots of brands come back on to the market if they have been failing, and re-imagined themselves. Just look at Woolworths. What a tragedy it was when it went from our high street. But look at what has taken over that gap: the Pound shops. Woolworths when it started off – everything under one roof for a cent – was the first value, brilliant retailer. It let that go and that pound shop business is what Woolworths should have been today.

The great thing about great retailing is re-imagining your business in new landscapes. We have never had such changeable times. British Homes Stores was not re-imagined, and that is its problem.

(Mary Portas is founder of Portas, a creative communications agency that advises retailers the world over)

The BHS  downfall is a more significant collapse than Woolies, which was pushed over the edge by the recession. BHS is a similarly  tired brand, but one that appears to have died from under-investment.
If Next are struggling as is rumoured , what on earth must be going on in the less well-capitalised, less well-run, less IT-savvy businesses out there out there on the high street.
 Will see a number of other fashion chains collapse? 
Putting finance, administration / management and IT aside ( which of course you cannot !)

·        Past performance is no indicator of future performance in marketing.
·        What got you here won’t get you to where you want in the future, in marketing. 
·        Hope is not a strategy for marketing success.