Is Your Competitive Advantage a Hit, Myth, or Somewhere in Between?

10/16/2015 posted in Business, Speakers, Sales, Strategy

A recent Vistage Open Day in Manchester proved thought provoking, invigorating and inspired some of us into action. 

Jaynie Smith opened her session by asking us to stand up when we heard one of our company’s competitive advantage statements, then listed the 10 most common responses given.

Almost universally, the top three were service, quality and reputation. Jaynie called the top 10 list “Blah Blah Blah”. She demonstrated this by sharing that when you Google “customer focused” there are over 77 million results; as we looked around, there was a dawning realisation of how ineffective most of us are currently at selling our relevant competitive advantages! 

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Are you a little bit Nokia?

9/11/2015 posted in Business, Getting Ahead, Sales, Marketing, Strategy, Change Management

I remember, not that long ago, if you were flying just about anywhere in the world, after landing there would be an outbreak of Nokia ringtones going off around the plane as everyone turned their phones back on. And now? Never.

As a young engineer I remember being proud to be the new owner of an Aristo sliderule. It was the very best you could get – the Rolls Royce. Where are Aristo now? Gone.

The Cutty Sark tea clipper in its day was one of the fastest commercial sailing ships ever built – the envy of all. Then steam was invented and these new fangled steam ships didn’t need to tack into the wind and hence could cut hours from the Far East route. There have been no commercial sailing ships built since.

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Successful Selling is a Science, not a Dark Art

7/3/2015 posted in Sales

Sales are core to any business. If you don’t sell you don’t have a business. Successful selling is like any other career, it can be scientifically learnt; there’s no dark art magic to it.

Successful selling needs to be professional, needs to focus on the buying cycle (understanding the sales cycle from your customer’s perspective) and needs a consultative sales methodology. It’s the power of 3. Let’s investigate further.

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How Business Leaders Can Empower Their Sales People

2/25/2015 posted in Sales

As eloquently described in Daniel Pink’s seminal book ‘Drive’ to maximise personal motivation three key elements need to be in place: Autonomy, Purpose and Mastery. I often think about how this applies to sales people and the over emphasis on the ‘carrot or stick’ approach. Very often, business leaders rely on incentive schemes (rewards) or ‘performance management’ regimes (threats) to try to drive the required sales behaviours. With this in mind I fear that many business leaders have much to learn about the noble art (or is it science?) of selling and what it takes to maximise the potential of each individual. How much ‘autonomy’ do we really give sales people.Ostensibly a life ‘on-the-road’ provides much freedom but the reality is that most companies concentrate on monitoring and control more than they do on empowering sales people to generate their own activity plans and owning them! (How many sales people have you met that love filling in there CRM reports?).

Here is a simple framework for enabling and empowering your sales people.

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Advanced Negotiation Skills (4): Dealing with Deadlock

1/8/2015 posted in Business, Sales, Negotiation

Deadlock is many negotiators’ worst nightmare. It happens where there may well be a deal to be done but neither side seems willing to move towards the other in order to bridge their differences. If you are not used to this, it can be psychologically very uncomfortable.

In fact, creating deadlock on purpose is a key part of the armoury of hard-ball negotiators. They do it to make sure they have drained every last drop of advantage for themselves before agreeing any deal.  And, because they do this habitually, they are often very good at it. For them, there is no apparent concern at all about being stuck in impasse. They are only waiting for you to blink first.

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95% of Companies Get Their Value Proposition Wrong - How Does Yours Compare?

11/27/2014 posted in Business, Getting Ahead, Sales, Marketing, Strategy


95% of all companies do not even know what their competitive advantages are. Much less are able to communicate a clear reason for why customers should choose their product or service. Vistage Speaker Jaynie Smith states that "this isn't just true for small to medium sized businesses" - large companies also have it wrong. The trouble is that most business leaders are carrying on with business as usual, not realising that they are doing themselves, their staff and their customers a disservice. So, it is likely that you are too!

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Why is Truth Always the First Casualty of Business?

11/20/2014 posted in Business, Sales

The truth is that truth is a very rare commodity in business. Would you agree that nobody tells the absolute truth in business? Would you agree that there is usually a web of half-truths, deceits, conflations, exaggerations and misdirections? Have you become – had to become – adept at convincingly telling at least half-truths as if they were the utter, honest-to-god truth?

But, hey, what’s a few porky pies if that’s what it takes to win the business?

Everybody does it. You have to do it if you want to get on. We all do it – so don’t point your moral finger at me!

But the question is whether it matters?

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Advanced Negotiation Skills (3): Reading Between the Lines

11/18/2014 posted in Business, Sales, Negotiation

Experienced negotiators know that there is a special ‘language’ for negotiating. It could be very abrasive, perhaps designed to destabilise the other side; or it could be quite emollient, to show how reasonable we can be, and both have their place.

We also know that often, what people say (and how they say it) isn’t always quite what they really mean. So a supplier might say: “We’ve got to have a price-rise”. But does that mean: “otherwise we will stop supplying you”, or “that is our fond hope”? It’s important to know which! Naturally, all good negotiators will make their best hopes sound as if they are the least they can accept. But where does the truth lie?
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Why Doesn't Your Corporate Website Get Any Attention?

10/14/2014 posted in Business, Sales

We spend exorbitant amounts of time online – which is why it’s more crucial than ever before that businesses cater to this online audience. The problem is, most business leaders have no idea why their corporate websites garner such little attention online. They keep repeating the same mistakes, while failing to implement the obvious solution.

Most Corporate Websites Look Like This: Sales and Slogans

For a platform that’s limited only by the capabilities of the latest technologies and our imaginations, the vast majority of company websites are startlingly similar. Corporate marketers feel inclined to put sweeping promises, sales pitches and facts on their web pages such as:

  • “Leading customer service since 2001.”
  • “15 minutes south of downtown.”
  • “Meet our dedicated team of experienced professionals”
  • “Come in and experience our personalized service.”
  • “Your all-in-one solution with a smile!”
  • “Small Business Award Winner, 2006.” 

The trouble is, none of the above information is valuable. It makes a cheap, inflated promise to the prospect and tries to lure them into the store or into a purchase. And since everyone else follows the same format online, it is neither compelling nor memorable.

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Advanced Negotiation Skills (2): The Art of Preparation

10/7/2014 posted in Sales, Negotiation

We all have to negotiate, whatever we do, whether at work, home or play. Most of us learn through bitter experience that if we want to win really good deals, we need to invest time and effort in preparing effectively.

Yet curiously, it seems that many Brits take a special pride in ‘winging it’! I polled some 25 different nationalities on how they perceived the strengths and weaknesses of other nationalities. Most said they saw the Brits as being generally amiable, keen to do a deal and flexible. But, even more said they found us unprepared, naïve and untrained. How shameful is that!

This doesn’t mean to say that this criticism applies to you. But it might well apply to your sales teams or key staff, as a business leader you should certainly be aware that this is how we might be perceived by others.

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