What will a sales trainer like you do for someone like me?

Stop you making the mistakes still made by 95% of all sellers; the ‘also rans’ .

Start you making your first £million by becoming one of the 5% who know what really sells.

(And start you getting very rich indeed)

(FREE) The 8 key steps in selling….and how to do them properly for once:

  • Your customer learns about your product or service through this Directory or through prior experience or even by word of mouth.

The ‘also-ran’ 95% ….react by immediately launching into their one-size-fits-all presentation or demo and give away too much irrelevant information. They show lots of features their product without showing how those features could solve a problem for this customer. They do all this within a few minutes of their first meeting. They are then surprised when the customer quickly asks about the price.

The TOP 5% … Ask a lot of pre-planned questions about problems they know they can fix. The customer enjoys this as it develops a two way conversation rather than a one way pitch. These ‘top 5%’ never start with a presentation and probably don’t give one at all at the first meeting. When they finally ‘present’ their ideas they do it with panache, showmanship  and humour.


  • Your customer evaluates whether your recommended solution meets their needs

The ‘also ran’ 95%…react by pitching the company range whether the customer has asked about it or not.  They can’t wait to give answers and talk about solutions.

The TOP 5%….Ask about the knock-on effect of problems (ones they know they can fix) in the current situation if these problems are allowed to persist. (These ‘knock on effect’ questions are very powerful and persuasive and are always planned by top sellers in advance.) They show great insight from customer point of view.


  • Your customer prepares a request to their financial management.

The ‘also ran’ 95%…react by offering brochures and canned ‘boiler plate’ documentation and presentations to justify any price or cost issues. They quickly offer discounts in an effort to secure the business.

The TOP 5%   …Work with the customer and rehearse them in the best ways to present their price justification.


  • Senior management send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ) to your competitors (just for comparison and to keep you honest!! )

The ‘also ran’ 95%…..Wait for end users to make requests for content of the RFP/RFQ. Are paralysed with fear and believe they can do nothing. They often offer even more discounts.

The TOP 5%…Visit relevant customer departments in an effort to influence the RFP/RFQ content and focus it on their own particular Unique Selling Points which the customer has said it needs.


  • Customer’s ‘buying committee’ (or similar) interviews vendors (you and others) to screen for specification match to requirements  etc

The ‘also ran’ 95% …Show their usual canned demo again…oblivious to customer need to see specific relevant solution now. (I once saw a drinks transport company proudly showing their new Red Bull canned drink transport commercial to a potential fine wine customer. They lost it immediately and couldn’t understand why!)

The TOP 5% ….. Give focused presentation which deal specifically with problems and issues this client has said they need to fix. There is nothing superfluous.



  • Committee gives short-list approval to (usually) two vendors and requests final meeting/presentation

The ‘also ran’ 95% …Sell well only when they have a price advantage. Unable to differentiate themselves from low cost alternatives.

The TOP 5% … Show importance of unique features sought and stated by client which differentiate their higher priced offering from lower priced alternatives.



  • Customer is ready to sign contract but has final concerns which need clarifying (Liability, performance guarantees, contract length etc)

The ‘also ran’ 95%… Try to ignore difficult concerns or pretend they don’t exist. Say ‘Trust me’ when client has doubts.


The TOP 5%…Draw out customer concerns and help resolve them.  Introduce customer to existing satisfied clients. Acknowledge shortcomings but emphasise the importance of the unique things you can do for the client which client has said are really important.


  • Follow up after contract signed

The ‘also ran’ 95%…Give good support but no further attempt to promote other services. (They forget it is 80% easier [and 80% less expensive]  to get more business from an existing happy customer than it is to go out and find a new one)

The TOP 5%… Give good support but also use as an opportunity to sell more to other departments and end users.

Simple? You bet! But most sellers just don’t do it. So I get paid anything between £2500 to £25,000 a day to show my clients how….but you’re getting it for FREE. The trick, you see, is knowing precisely what you have to do at each step to make it work for you.

Give me a call…I will show you how to make a million or more too…..just like me.

(Or you can carry on doing it your way …..and not.)


Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]



8 ways to shove your customers away

The biggest driver of customer loyalty is not after all the things you may think like ‘value for money’, ‘customer service’, ‘ range of choices’ and so on. No…in fact it is the speed, effort and willingness with which you handle customer complaints.

In fact it so important a factor that any customer who has had a problem with your business which you have fixed to their entire satisfaction is almost always more loyal than a customer who has never had a problem.

An academic study by the Customer Contact Council has found that customer loyalty isn’t created by delighting the customer with your general service levels. Your customer’s loyalty is based on how little effort they have to put in to getting their complaint or dissatisfaction dealt with satisfactorily.

The Council has devised something they call the Customer Effort Score which has a 1-5 scale when this question is asked of customers: “ How much personal effort did you have to put in to get your request satisfied?”

Even a small reduction in effort is translated into a much greater increase in loyalty and by default ‘revenue’. On the other side an increase in ‘effort required’ has a 4 times greater ‘negative’ effect. Customers who have to put in a high amount of effort are 61% less likely to purchase again compared with your ‘average’ customer.

Right now I am waiting for the gardening company, who keep my garden in check on a fortnightly basis, to resolve two simple queries. They are easy fixes on work carried out (or not) in this case. The owner of the company could say (after 10 years of a satisfactory –customer delight- relationship and lost of my money): ”Look I don’t know who’s right or wrong here but why don’t we just forget about the disputed charges and carry on as before?”

I would be perfectly happy with that. And would tell my next door neighbour how happy I was.

But In fact the issue has now been dragging on for three weeks while they ‘look into’ my complaints. I have made several ‘chasing’ phone calls to them. I am still expending a great deal of effort with no conclusion in sight. I am not happy. If it doesn’t get resolved I will cancel their contract and go with a competitor. They will lose a loyal 10 year customer and all that future revenue. I will get a new gardener.

So, do you run a business (gardening or otherwise)? Do you know your CES score?

8 ways to upset your customers,,,,,

  1. It takes too long to fix a problem
  2. Promises are broken
  3. Being treated in an offhand manner by someone who wants to prove they’re ‘right’
  4. Being transferred from department to department.
  5. Having to chase the company
  6. Being held in uninformed suspension for days
  7. Being asked for more business when this problem is still unresolved.
  8. Finding the ‘Support’ facility on or off the website completely inadequate


And the single easy way to make them come back for more:

Next time a customer raises a query or complaint, who ever’s ‘fault’ you think it is, try saying this:

“I’m so sorry to hear that Mr Customer. What can I do to put things right immediately?”

Then just do it. You’ll be amazed at the resulting hapiness and loyalty. Remember…you’re not there to prove you’re ‘right’…you’re there to do more business.

It is 80% easier and less expensive to get more business from an existing happy customer than to go out and find a single new one.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]



How you really decide

As the new UK PM Theresa May travels between EU leaders to ‘negotiate’ Brexit …the speed of Article 50 implementation….and all the other ‘exit’ details, she and the people she has to speak to  will have to make a lot of decisions. So it is interesting to remind ourselves of the truth behind complex human decision making: What should I do about this? : What is she thinking?  What do I want? Why do I want it? ……………………………How do we really ‘decide’?

Rational thought? …actually its largely an illusion

On the surface there is the official, written down, formal decision making process.. “Give us the all facts and we’ll decide!” The imagined process is that a draft proposal on some topic or other is arrived after initial discussions between relatively junior people on the opposing teams. This is made into some sort of hardcopy document which is then presented to ‘the next level up’ in the organisation. These middle management ‘officials’ then consider the proposal and send it back for tweaking after which it is resubmitted and ,if OK, passed to the next level up in the hierarchy and so on upwards and upwards until it reaches the boss.

If all is OK the boss will then sign it……..or if not he/she will send it back down the formal chain for further tweaking. And so it goes on backwards and forwards until everybody is happy. When that happens the boss will finally sign it and the decision will have been made.

That at least is the theory.

The reality (The neuro science) is quite different: facts are (in fact), very rarely , the basis for making decisions.  In fact the more valid reasons (or arguments) you use to try to persuade the other side about the reasonableness of your proposal the LESS likely you are to persuade them. This is because (Psychologists tell us) a weak argument always dilutes a strong one.

So the first rule to apply when trying to get someone to ‘decide’ in your favour is to concentrate on preferably just one strong argument. If you feel you must add something else to justify your proposal you may expand that to two strong reasons. And maybe…only maybe….if you’re really experienced just possibly three strong reasons…………BUT THAT’s IT!  Because facts are not very persuasive.

And once you have decided on the strong argument you will use, then look for the emotional triggers you can build your arguments around.

New research over the past decade shows that just about all (ALL) human decisions are driven not by facts but by EMOTIONS.  We make most of our decisions on the basis of likeability, feelings, friendships, familiarity, passion, desire. Very few important decisions are fact or ‘evidence or fact  based’. Even in a court of law good looking criminals get away with serious crimes because people (juries) just like the look of them.

And this isn’t new either; reflect on the culture some of the World’s most ancient civilisations in the Middle and Far East …..from Egypt to China.  In this 21st Century, to get natives of any countries in these areas to decide to do business with you, then you must first get them to like you. In order to do this you must first spend a considerable amount of time in their company NOT talking about the business you have in mind or the decisions you would like them to make. Only when they ‘have the measure of you’ and get to know you will they entertain the possibility of being persuaded by you. The informal structure which actually gets things done is always far more important than the ‘formal’ political hierarchy. And it isn’t JUST in these ancient cultures either….it is actually the same across all cultures but we just don’t admit it; Who ever said, “Its not WHAT you know but WHO you know!”  knew his fellow man alright.

So as you watch Prime Minister Theresa May on her charm offensive in these early days of her Prime Ministership see how she is using this knowledge of human persuasion and decision making. First ‘home’ visits (Charity begins at Home) to Scotland, then Wales and Northern Ireland all potential trip-wires in her quest for control. Not laying down the law about the need for a “UNITED KINGDOM!” but just listening and getting to know the senior people in each of these countries….making friends. Then on to Germany and France not starting negotiations just making friends. She knows it is so HARD to say NO to people that you know’ ….people who like you…even if their driving needs appear different from yours.

So if you too want to become a similar expert in the field of persuasive, human, decision-making, just follow these 10 steps: You will be amazed at the impact they will have on your life when dealing with other people:

  • Give honest and sincere appreciation
  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
  • Show respect for the other person’s feelings – never say “You’re wrong!”
  • If you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Let the other person do most of the talking
  • Try honestly to see the situation from the other person’s point of view
  • Be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Let the other person save face


Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]



Should I start a business now? Ok what business?

As a serial entrepreneur I often get asked by other people: “What business would you suggest I start….right now….in the middle of all this ‘Brexit’ uncertainty?” I could be deliberately difficult and ask “Well what type of business would you love to start?”, as your answer to that question will ultimately determine whether or not you just ‘get by’ or become a multimillionaire. But to keep it simple (and quick) let me give you the bare bones together with a real business idea you can have for FREE even though it could make you millions!

First of all most successful businesses started life in the Complaints Department. Any area of human existence in which you may have heard someone else remark; “This is dreadful….why doesn’t somebody…………?” or “Why isn’t there a shop around here which……?”  or “Why can’t I find on the internet a reliable service which…………………….?” Or “Why isn’t there a ………………….locally?”, …………..is potentially a great business for YOU to start.

What you don’t do (unless you secretly want to fail) is say to yourself,  ‘I am a trained software designer I will start a business designing software’  or ‘I am a trained accountant I will set up my own accountancy practice’ …Then spend a fortune renting an office, buying all the desks, chairs telephones, computers then sit back and wait for your client base to find you. It will not happen and you are likely to run out of money and fail fast.

The reason is that most (i.e. 90%) of successful businesses are successful simply because they solve a particular problem.

So take three initial steps: 1) Start with writing down the problem you aim to solve first with your business. 2) Then research the physical area in which you think there is a shortage of solutions for that problem. 3) Then test the market as cheaply as possible to see if anyone actually wants (and would pay for) a solution to that problem. If you discover they would then it is probably safe to say you have a solid business idea.

I watched a young friend of mine do just this when she left University with a degree in finance and economics. She couldn’t find a job and had very little money. She had an idea that in her relatively poor area of North London there were many one-man-band business owners (window cleaners, plumbers, decorators, electricians etc) People who were good at their jobs but hopeless with keeping their books, doing their accounts and paying the tax man; and they had a problem that couldn’t afford a conventional accountant. So she advertised her small business book-keeping service in every free place she could …mostly the FREE noticeboards in supermarkets.

That was 10 years ago. The response was so strong to her free advertising and built up so fast that she now franchises the business throughout the UK and has become very wealthy. And it all started because she identified a real problem that needed a solution. Anyone could have done it….but nobody had…….so this is the niche which she now fills.

In the city area in which I now live, it is difficult (i.e. a problem) to find (reliable!) decorators, gardeners, window cleaners, cleaners, odd-job men (or women) dentists, child minders, auto body repairers and so on and so on.

I recently had to find someone to fix some water damage in my kitchen. I eventually found an emergency ‘ handy man’ service advertising in my local Sainsburys…£50 per hour callout charge! But I was stuck and had to use him. He completed the job beautifully and when he had finished I asked him if there was much call for a handyman service in my part of town. He told me the market was enormous and that he had recently taken on two assistants. (Even in these uncertain post Brexit times) But the truly amazing thing was his added comment. Because he told me that 90% of the work they were asked to do was: ‘putting up pictures’. With all such business ideas it is not necessary for you to actually DO the work; you just have to find people who CAN and then promote and manage the business. So why don’t you try either of these ideas outlined above in the UK area YOU live in?

It need only take a small FREE card advertising the service (i.e. the problem you solve) in all your local Supermarkets. If they (potential customers) start biting you may have a business….If not it has cost you nothing and you can think of something else.

And IS this the right time?  Well just remember this last point……over the last century thousands of business people have become millionaires by starting businesses during difficult financial times…..just like these. When everyone else was sitting on their hands in a ‘wait and see’ mode they just got on and started.

So what’s stopping you?


Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]



America probably worse than you thought ….Maybe better than you imagined

I’ve just returned from a business trip to New York. I lived there for nearly seven years in the 1990’s.

It is a great place to do business if you can provide what they need (in my case top class sales training). But many of the things you may think you know about NY (or the USA in general) are not true) here’s the three top truths.

  • You need money to live or be in USA; lots of it…there are no Social Security type ‘safety nets’ as ,we know them in UK.  Everything [apart from gasoline (petrol), cars and property outside the main cities] tends to be more (a lot more) expensive: electricity (especially in the summer when air conditioning is a must), gas, food, corporation tax, health care, are all very much more expensive in USA. So make sure that if you quote for business over there you put a handsome mark up on your normal UK price….they expect to have to pay a lot for stuff from Europe. (x 10 isn’t out of the question)
  • Watching the 1990’s sitcom ‘Friends’ you might be forgiven for thinking that most ‘20 something’ New Yorkers live in large fashionable apartments each with his or her own bedroom. Alas this is not the case. Most young new Yorkers live in tiny apartments in which they share bedrooms with others not uncommonly in bunk beds. Their job security is tenuous, wages often not high, and they will rarely argue with their boss about anything or propose an alternative way of doing things. Such public displays of ‘disloyalty’ are seen as negative so they knuckle down and do as they’re told. In this way they avoid getting sacked and all that that entails…including loss of any health care insurance…..a major essential benefit. So once you have found and secured a good trading relationship in your own field try to avoid disagreeing with your main contact. They are not used to it and will find your contradictory views quite challenging. Your hard won business relationship is always on a knife edge.
  • Their culture is very very different from ours….despite the almost common language. Most Americans tend to max-out on their credit cards and pay the minimum back each month. They buy most things on credit and have little notion of the word ‘savings’. It is a fact that most Americans would find it difficult to pay an unexpected (£600) $1000 bill in any one month. Only 9% of the 300 million strong American public have Passports so their World view tends to be quite limited. ‘Limited’ that is, compared with anything you’re used to in UK or Europe. Americans are not bad people or stupid people at all…far from it. They have little sense of irony and a very different sense of humour. They believe totally in their own country and are extremely patriotic. It is a fact that just about every American believes that every non American in the World is just waiting to become an American. So be very careful how you express yourself and check and recheck any proposal you write. When speaking remember that (for example) the word ‘fortnight’ doesn’t exist in America. Or casual throw away ‘light’ swear words “That’s bloody good!!” are viewed as totally blasphemous and can bring about a sudden, unexpected attack of ‘no more business’…this is a very very religious country where 80% of the people attend church. Or that the word ‘quite’ (as in “This is quite a good proposal”) means not that it is just OK’ as it would in UK but that it is absolutely brilliant!!  Check your language…check your jokes….and enjoy your business…I always do!


Oh and I nearly forgot….tipping and Yellow cabs. Make sure that you always tip at least 10-15% in restaurants and diners. The waiting staff get very very little in the way of wages from their employers and rely on your tips to build to a living wage. Your failure to ‘tip’ adequately on any occasion will be regarded as an expression of total disgust with both food and service. And Yellow cabs?….This isn’t like ‘over here’ when you hail a Yellow cab. There is no ‘Knowledge’ exam for taxi drivers like there is in London and no requirement even to speak English! So know precisely where it is you’re trying to get to and its location in any town. Just saying the name of the hotel you’re staying in is no good…your driver just won’t know where it is. And PAY the driver BEFORE you get out otherwise he will think you’re aiming to run away without paying. It’s not ‘wrong’…its just totally different from anything you’re used to. Have a nice day!…..I love it!!

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]



The Great Presentation Scandal


There should be a law against most internal company conferences. No ..really there should!

My name is Bob Etherington and I am a veteran of at least 100 such ‘do’ s in the past 40 years and nearly all of them should never have been allowed! Well..let me rephrase that, just a bit: the plenary sessions should never have been allowed. That’s the bit where the audience sit row upon row in the semi-dark, theater style, while their bosses and peers talk at them. They admonish them sometimes; congratulate them mostly and generally show them PowerPoint slides every time. “This is what they want!” Yeah right!

I asked one senior manager of a large British company what was his primary objective when he stepped on the conference platform. He replied, without hesitation: “I try to impress them!”

But Geoff (that is his name so now, if he reads this, he’ll know it’s him) your audience don’t want to hear about ‘You’. They are not the slightest bit interested in ‘You’. And You [dear reader] are not the slightest bit interested in Bob Etherington…..that’s just the way it is.

Of course what the conference audience is asking themselves -to a man- is the same unspoken question that you have in your head reading this: “What’s in this for ME?”

Your audience -any conference audience- seeks to be generally and personally inspired to work hard so that the company may make even more money in the next fiscal year. You know from all the management courses you’ve attended that the art of management is to get staff to do voluntarily that which must be done anyway. So telling them all the good and worthy works YOU’ve completed isn’t going to make them do anything. Remember the David Brent (Ricky Gervais) address to his staff in the early 2000 BBCTV comedy ‘The Office’. “I have some good news and some bad news today. The bad news is we are amalgamating with the Swindon Office so some of you will be made redundant” [Silence and shocked faces] …But the good news is… I’ve been promoted !! [More dumbfounded silence] …Oh..I can see some of you are still on the bad news!” We wince with embarrassment because we have witnessed this type of crass statement in the real business World. It is not as rare as we hope.

In a recent HR survey it was firmly established once again that what staff value most of all in their jobs is not what many managers think it is. The most important factors are:

1) Feeling appreciated.
2) Having something interesting to do.
3) Being kept on the inside track.
4) Sympathy for personal problems.
5) Money.
6) A happy working environment.
7) Promotion prospects.
8) Job Security.

So to get the serried ranks of your employees inspired to come in early, stay late (and work hard while they are working for you), tell them how good they are and congratulate them. If times are tough keep them on the inside track by telling them what’s going on. Cut the rumor mill off at the pass and tell them what you are doing to fix things for them. Tell them how they will benefit, personally, from doing what must be done.

Have the good manners also to rehearse your presentation in front of a person of similar standing in your company and ask for genuine feedback on how the message is coming across. Just showing up with a memory stick containing all your PowerPoint slides half an hour beforehand and hoping for the best is not inspirational management. The Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli stated that “Everybody loves flattery….but with Royalty you lay it on with a trowel” Your staff, just like my staff in Bob Etherington Group, are your Royalty and without them nothing happens. Your ‘stuff’ all about your department and your personal triumphs is not what most internal audiences want to hear. They are there to be inspired. So inspire them..flatter them…Say, “Thank you”…. “I’m proud of you”….”Well done!” (the rarest and most powerful words in the management lexicon)
Now you’re talking business!

OK, You’ve Had the Training – Now Change

I would like you, if you will, to join me in a little mental game. Ready? OK.. . In your mind’s-eye imagine that you have recently accepted the job of Sales Director at a well known international company. After a few weeks of observation and inquiry inside the company the following 4 facts are obvious.

1) A year ago your company took over a competitor and now has to merge the two competing sales forces.

2) Because of the Global recession, your market share is shrinking and your sales team seems to be relying on price-cutting in an attempt to gain more business.

3) Your once ‘unique’ market benefit is slowly being eroded by competitors’ product improvements.

4) Your customers are in trouble themselves and are squeezing you on price and other contract issues.

Now (typical !) as you are about to send your initial analysis to the CEO she preempts your email with one of her own: “I know things are tough out there [Bob] but we brought you in to change things for the better.. . . So now that you’ve had a few weeks with us, what’s the plan?”

Now you’re on the back-foot. But your reputation in your marketplace is that of a decisive and determined sales leader. So you set up a teleconference with your various country sales managers around the Globe, to decide on the action plan. This teleconference has revealed a clear need and an overwhelming desire amongst your team to DO something.. . anything.. . they are all relying on you. They’ve tried Knock-on-more- doors (the old ‘numbers-game’ sales approach) but that didn’t work. Also wait-and-see (The ‘something will turn-up’ strategy) and price cutting (Because ‘price’ is always an objection).

But they have both proved fruitless too. So you -the decisive one- have decided that wholesale re-training of the sales force is the only way forward. [For goodness sake there must have been considerable advances in sales training in the past 10 years; there must be some new ‘intergalactic techniques that can be used by our sales force!]

You can feel that your Global team of direct reports are not particularly enthused by your decision. They have seen similar big-projects before you arrived. There was the “Leadership 3000” initiative organized at MIT. This involved sending up-coming young executives to USA to learn how to become ’empowered’. Problem was, when they returned from Boston, all-fired-up after three weeks, they were universally advised, in their individual departments, to return to normal ‘ASAP’. This failure to capitalize on the new-learning cost a small fortune and gave rise to a great deal of cynicism.

So here you are.. this is your dilemma. You have to do something otherwise nothing will happen and you will inevitably get fired. But experience shows that doing the usual sort of ‘something’ will also result in ‘nothing’ so you will eventually get fired.

So why does all this happen? Why do the vast majority of companies spend lots (and lots) of money on training -especially sales-training- for which they get virtually no measurable benefit. I asked my last boss (when I was ’employed’ rather than, as now, self-employed in my own business) why our very large and well known financial information company, constantly ran these expensive retraining projects. “You know why”, he said with a wink, “it’s just to keep everybody busy!”

Right.. . so what’s it to be: Training or Results?..You choose. The first focus addresses the need for a feel-good, tick the box solution: OK I’ve organized the training what’s the next project? The second focus is on finding a way to make the desired change stick.

In my experience when selecting an outside training company for an employer, we (the committee) always tended to make our final judgment solely on what the short-listed company presented to us by way of ‘content’. The more unusual or new ‘nostrum’ the more we seem to like it. Ah! the fresh air of some new ‘New stuff’ -breathe it in! But content is only one part of the story. The bigger question that I (you) should be asking each training company is this one: “Just how are you going to make this training of yours effective and long lasting?”

When you approach training from the point of view of “How?” you are- probably for the very first time- on your way to achieving some real measurable change in behavior. Why does an effective approach to training need to be from the “How?” rather than the “What?” point of view?…because we humans find changing our habits very, very difficult for four deeply rooted reasons:

1) Organizations rarely make changes quickly or because of some authoritative, top down, dictat. 2)Classroom training costs a lot of money and is most effective only for the part of the training process where interaction with the trainer and fellow students is required. 3)We humans only willingly change our behavior if we can see how it will help us personally. 4)Unless our behavior-change-progress is regularly measured and fed-back to us we will usually be back where we began within 30 days [‘That which doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done’]

To address these issues (and avoid the school of hard knocks) here’s how I’ve finally learned to make training effective for my clients:

1) In most companies there is no-time. Everybody is searching for the new-new thing, allowing no time for the last new-thing to take effect. An effective training organization makes sure that line managers are rewarded and measured for their role as ‘coach’. It is regular coaching that makes training work and stick. Spending time training your managers in field-coaching skills is like a miracle-pill. When sales people go into the field with their coach once each month and reinforce what they are doing right, the results are usually amazing.

2) When I learned to fly an airplane (part of my mid-life crisis) we did spend a lot of time in the club-house on the white-board looking at dotted lines, sketches of runways and cross sections of airplane wings. I honestly don’t remember any of it; nothing…but clearly a lot went in. It was, however, a safe non-dangerous environment in which I had a chance to ask questions about meteorology, navigation and ‘Air-law’. But the only serious memorable learning happened when we got into the plane and I had a chance to do it- for real. So for introducing new subjects and problem-free practice, use the classroom. For reinforcing the real skills and for long lasting change, get out into the real world with your coach.

3) If training is seen as some generic, off-the-shelf ‘thing’ introduced to your sales force in a classroom setting, after which they are left to work out how apply it themselves, then it will fail. Adults – that’s you and me- learn best when a new idea is presented in context. Each sales person must be able to see the track they can follow with the new skills which will eventually bring them more sales. New skills need to be practiced in realistic role-plays using realistic data and with colleagues acting like realistic clients. New procedures must be presented in terms of the company values and company culture. (I was once trained to be very firm when customers endeavored to negotiate a price reduction. When I politely applied the training in the field, a customer complained to the CEO who instantly caved-in. He then sent me a nasty note telling me not to ‘go round beating customers up with base-ball bats’.. . . not good training)

4) The most important question for you, or the person who has been asked to organize training, to ask at the start of your training project, is as follows: “What problem are we trying to solve here?” It is the first question I ask all customers who call my company out of the blue to inquire about training for their sales force. Many times it is a show-stopper…I can hear the enquirers mouth hanging open. So I help them by asking the second question, “Well could you describe what things will look like at the end of this training program?” They usually find this a bit easier to describe until I ask them to put some measurable mile stones (usually some numbers) into their description. But without something to measure, how will we know how effective we’re being? One customer told me that his objective was ‘customer satisfaction’ but struggled with the definition: service? price? delivery? colors?…We got there eventually but it wasn’t easy.

All these things may appear common sense but they are rare. The only company I have ever worked in where application of the 4 steps outlined above was a religion, was an American copying machine company in the UK in the early 1970s. Their training program was constant, consistent and nobody was exempt. If it had not been for this carefully coached approach I don’t know where I would have ended up. I certainly would not have been able to make a successful career in sales. I would not have set up two successful training businesses. And I definitely would not have written this article.

Bob Etherington

You Are an Imposter But You Don’t Have to Be

About 25 years ago a major global airline conducted a light-hearted survey amongst its First and Business Class passengers. They wanted to discover what type of people travelled in the front cabins of their airplanes. The most surprising discovery they made, was that 80% of these outwardly successful and confident travelers, when asked anonymously, confessed that they thought they did not really deserve to be there. Sooner or later, they thought, somebody was going to realize that far from being responsible, confident, executives (as they appeared to the outside world), they believed they were actually faking it!

A quarter century on and nothing much has changed it seems. I still travel the World assisting senior business people to communicate effectively and I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that most of the people I meet are playing a very unhelpful tape-loop, over and over again inside their heads.

The message on the tape is still: “What will they do when they discover I’m only me?”

For all their bluster, success and outward confidence most people are as full of self doubt as well…me.

This condition actually has a name: ‘Imposter Syndrome’. A constant feeling that, despite (in my case) 40 successful years in business, at any moment we may be revealed as corporate frauds or business fakes.
Every time we succeed we count it as a fluke or an error. Whenever we (occasionally) get awards or hearty thanks from clients we feel we should almost apologise. Either we have done the trick again and fooled them all or we are once again dealing with this company’s village idiot. Quite soon somebody is bound to take any one of us to one side and say, “My friend all is discovered… You haven’t got a clue have you?”

‘Imposters’, find that each new obstacle [ a seminar, a promotion, a contract, an air fare ] only increases the anxiety that next time we WILL be discovered.

But there is help out there. In her 1988 book “The Imposter Syndrome: Overcome the Fear that Haunts Success”, the American psychologist Pauline Rose Clance says that 70% of us (men and women) professional people, share this anxiety. The second thing is, she says, that it mainly affects high achieving, very intelligent and highly motivated people. The ones who appear to ‘have it all’. Wah-hay!!
But that doesn’t make us feel any better does it?

So what can we self taught ‘imposters’ do about this unworthy feeling? The book by Pauline Clance, has some home-learning exercises any one of us can use.

She tells us: Keep a record for a week on how you respond to compliments and jot down how you feel And what you said to the other person, especially if you changed the subject. Do a reality check: count up the supervisors, teachers, bosses who say you are talented and have given you praise or promotions in the past. Is it possible for so many people to misjudge you consistently? ” (What? You’re a real imposter? Don’t answer that!)

We imposters require a lot of back-up and encouragement. We need to accept that other people are not just sucking up to ‘make us feel good’….These others genuinely see our talents in a way that we do not.

Our daily affirmation might be the last words spoken by AA Milne’s Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh: “Promise me you’ll always remember you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”

I’ll do that Christopher Robin- thank you.

Bob Etherington

It’s Networking [Jim] But Not As We Know It

“I don’t mean to be rude but…….”: has become the unofficial catch phrase of Simon Cowell the owner and main judge of the UK/ USA TV talent show “The X Factor”. Often in the past 6 months these words have sprung to my mind when attending face-to-face business networking events. Do the attendees really know how to network? Have they any talent for human interaction or do they sincerely believe that just showing up with a pocket full of business cards and a few sentences about their business is all it takes?

I am willing to bet that if you’re ‘in business’ you have somewhere, in or around your desk, or in your wallet, or at home in your bedroom chest-of-drawers, a veritable pile of business cards. I further bet that you can’t recall where you got most of them…or the person who gave you the card… or what his/her business could do for you.

So if you’re going out ‘networking’ in the next few days it is probably a good idea to have a rapid re-think about your strategy. How are you, personally, going to make more of an impact on the people you meet, than the average networker?

There is an old saying in the sales profession that: “Telling isn’t Selling” and it applies directly to networking which is, after all, just one stage in the sales process. And the thing to remember, when you’re selling anything to anybody, is that NOBODY else cares about you and your business. Apart from your family and close friends your relationship with other humans is largely conditional on you being able to assist them in some way.

So the question to ask before you set out networking is: “What problem(s) does my business solve for other people?” That is why your business exists…if you cannot identify one or more problems that you can solve you don’t have a business.

The four main areas of concern for most other people -your potential customers- are: ‘Money’- making more or losing less, ‘Power’ – getting an edge over their own competitors, ‘Prestige’ – looking and sounding more important in their market place, and ‘Pleasure’ – ease of use, good times and the simple life. Provided your product or service potentially solves a problem in one of those areas, you have a something which somebody somewhere will buy from you.

From this little exercise you can now plan a response when somebody asks “What do you do?” you won’t have to un-memorably say: I’m a solicitor… I’m a consultant… I’m a website designer….I own a cleaning business….I own a training company or any of the other yawn inducing stuff that your competitors spout.

Now you can say: “We take away all your business headaches caused by unforeseen legal minefields” or “I make your business start producing additional profits in less than 12 weeks from now” or “We design your website so that customers keep returning and buying from you”

This type of opening statement is much more likely to gain interest and questions like: “How do you do that?”, “How much can you save me?”, “Do you offer guarantees?”

It isn’t the proverbial ‘rocket science’ but it will place you in the top 5% of networkers at your next event.

And one last word or two about networking.

When you do arrive at the venue, do get into conversation very quickly….don’t just stand there by yourself drinking coffee…waiting for somebody to approach you. The best ice-breaker, if you don’t know anybody, is to walk up to the nearest group or solo person , smile and say these words. “Good morning….My name is I don’t know anybody here…will you talk to me?” I GUARANTEE that you will NEVER be rejected with this approach….never! In fact whoever you’re talking to will see you as some sort of brave networking hero. After that ice-breaker try not to tell the others what you do until asked. Ask questions whenever you can and show undivided interest in what other people are saying – try not to let your eyes flick from side to side in search of someone more interesting to talk to. This total-focus trick is espoused by all those people who are said by the people they meet, to be ‘charming’ and ‘charismatic’.

Finally when you get back to your office DO follow up with interested prospective customers. They are NOT going to chase YOU.

In the past six months, in the process of setting up another new business, I have attended approximately one networking event per week and met over 800 business people and secured 37 new customers for my business. But also in that 800 I found about 15 companies that offered services and products I would buy or would have bought. These varied from book-keeping to brochure printing, accountancy to office supply. I have registered my interest during these networking events and told each one to call me as soon as possible. Do you know how many have made contact since?
I don’t mean to be rude but the answer is: none of them!

My name is Bob Etherington and I can make your customers buy from you. Whether your customers are internal (colleagues, bosses, team members, staff) or external (customers, shareholders, partners) the processes of persuasion are universal.In fact you rarely persuade other people to do anything…they actually persuade themselves. You can make that process happen once you understand how decisions are made. You can read my books “Presentation Skills for Quivering Wrecks” and “Selling for Complete Amateurs” And you can attend the seminars we offer. You can discover a lot more at beltd-sales.com

To Be a Top Negotiator – Just Behave Like One

Negotiating is the ‘poor cousin’ of ‘selling’; simple as that.

It is highly probable that you would prefer not to have to ‘negotiate’ if you can do a deal using your standard terms and conditions. This reluctance to negotiate is most likely if you are from somewhere outside the classic negotiating centres of the World, like South America, Middle East and Asia. For people in these places ‘negotiating’ is a way of life. For most of us (mainly Caucasians) however, negotiating can seem like a nightmare…a sort of verbal game of chess or poker in which our every move is being read by some clever, cunning opponent. He who blinks first loses’ and all that stuff.

Well, if you’re fool enough to enter into a negotiation without knowledge of the basics you will get crushed. On the other hand, the basic behaviours of successful negotiators have been researched and are very easy to copy and this is what this article is all about. There are four basic things that top negotiators do all the time and four things that ‘average’ negotiators do which top negotiators avoid getting dragged into doing.

Before we get into the four ‘do’s and four ‘dont’s something needs to be said. Because it is a cold hard truth that, in business, if you ‘sell effectively’ in the first place, you probably won’t have to negotiate. Effective selling is based on finding out what a customer wants to buy (in other words the specific problem he wants solved) and then focusing, laser-like, on that alone. Most sales are messed up to the point at which a negotiation is required, because the seller couldn’t or wouldn’t shut-up talking about all the other spurious benefits of his product.

The golden rule of effective selling is: ‘Never miss a good opportunity to shut-up’.

But let us say (unhappily for you) that the straight-forward sale has been messed up and you DO now have to negotiate. First of all it is probably not, “all about the price” as so many of my clients tell me. Most negotiations are about value and not price. If you sincerely believe that price (and price alone) is what it is all about then you probably need an article on ‘haggling’ rather than negotiating.

The word ‘negotiation’ implies an ability and a willingness on your part, to vary your terms in some way. It is highly unlikely that you will make any progress at this stage by just standing on your side of the negotiating table (hypothetical or not) making demands and digging your heels in. So start by using the most powerful persuasive tools you have: “Questions”. The first behaviour of top negotiators is that they ask a lot of questions.

A ‘question’ gets you information. And you can’t start ‘negotiating’ and investigating areas in which you might be able to vary your normal terms, until you get an idea of what is going on in the head of the other side. A top negotiator never makes a statement when she could ask a question. A top negotiator constantly seeks Information, Information, Information before and during every negotiation. A top negotiator will always be thinking, “Why did he just ask me that?” and will be saying things like, “Suppose we could offer you that concession…then would you be prepared to agree our contract period?”

Always think ‘questions’ rather than statements whenever possible.

Each question will potentially raise another agreed point or result in a rejection on the way to finalising the whole deal. There can be many such twists and turns on the way to a successful outcome. So the second ‘top-negotiator’ behaviour is to regularly summarise and agree the items covered so far. Failure to do this can and often does de-rail complex negotiations if summarising is either omitted or left to the very end. We, on our side of the table believe that something has been settled (sometimes days ago) only to discover this is not the understanding of our counterparty. Summarising throughout and at least once an hour, is the second noticeable behaviour of top negotiators.

Having advised you, a couple of paragraphs ago, to ask questions rather than make statements, I’m now – for the third ‘top-negotiator behaviour’, going to back up a little and tell you to open up a bit too. Many of the executives I teach to negotiate, tend to take the ‘ask questions’ theme to the extreme and virtually refuse to give away anything when the other side asks them questions. This is not what it’s all about. In fact a top negotiator learns to treat both questions and answers like ‘negotiating currency’.

Of course, before sitting down to negotiate, he will have decided what information can be released to the other side and what highly confidential and sensitive information cannot. But having decided what can be given away, he is quite careful how it is done.

He will often, having answered two or three questions in a row from the other side, say, on being asked a fourth question, “Well OK…now we’ve answered three of your questions, if I answer this one as well I will need you in turn two answer three important questions that we have and in particular…..”

So the process of asking questions and surrendering information is played very carefully…nothing is given up unless something is gained in exchange.

The fourth and final ‘top negotiator behaviour’ is the way in which impossible requests are handled.

For most of us, faced with an unexpected outrageous request from someone we would like to do business with, our reaction is an outright immediate rejection: “Oh please!…you REALLY can’t be serious with that request…the answer is NO!”

However, skilled negotiators never give such an instant knee-jerk response.

Instead they spend time, before they say NO, explaining the situation and never give advance warning that a rejection is coming up.

They will give an explanation first and say something like, “Reducing the contract period to one year is a very interesting proposition, John. As you know, the way we operate in this market sector is to offer every customer exactly the same 3 year contract. As you have already said, we are quite flexible on price, size and color so that your needs are fully accommodated. On the other hand the contract period is kept the same for all so that no customer can accuse us of ‘horse-trading’. If we vary it for one customer we will lose the trust of all the others who will inevitably find out. So for this reason I hope you can understand why the contract period must be the same for all.”

This willingness to give a clear explanation before rejecting a request, usually results in a more ready acceptance than a straight ‘NO’ followed by an explanation if required.

So your four desirable negotiator behaviours are:

1) Seek information and ask questions constantly
2) Summarise regularly to avoid late misunderstandings
3) Be prepared to surrender information but always exchange it for reciprocal favours
4) Explain the background to something you must say ‘no’ to before you say, ‘NO’

On the other side this article are the far more common behaviours which you may find yourself drifting towards and which you should try to reduce or eliminate.

The first of these is the natural human desire to argue. After a day or so ‘negotiating’ the teams are getting a little tired. Suddenly ‘somebody’ says something ‘daft’ to which the obvious reaction is something like, “Oh do shut-up!” The problem is somebody does actually say it! “Don’t you tell me to shut-up! I’ve been sitting here listening to your drivel for the past 7 hours!” “You’ve been listening to MY ‘drivel’ …I like that!” “Look here, I want to say something!…We came to see you in good faith and……” and so on and so on. A slow, spiral descent, into a negotiating black hole.

The automatic charge and counter-charge of a classic argument, each trying to out-do the other, will not get you anywhere.

In short: Arguments can be ‘fun’ but they are not persuasive negotiating behaviours: AVOID.

The second ‘poor behaviour’ indulged in by average negotiators is the speed at which counterproposals are produced in response to the other side’s suggestions. To explain the folly of doing this, a negotiator must appreciate one particular facet of human psychology. That is that the point at which another person is least receptive to another person’s idea is if he has just presented one of his own.

So, if a counterparty has just presented a proposal: “How would it be if we agreed to a five year deal with your company and all our servicing is guaranteed to go through your workshops?” and you reply… “Well maybe….but we were thinking of a completely different approach…..” , then you are already en-route to a pretty well guaranteed disagreement in the next few minutes.

As a top negotiator you can avoid this ‘average behaviour by ALWAYS being seen willing to consider and discuss the other side’s suggestions – however crass you may think they are – before introducing any counterproposal yourself.

The third poor behaviour is the false notion – beloved of untrained business-persuaders and amateur negotiators- that facts are persuasive. The result of this folklore is that, the more somebody disagrees with you or fails to accept your proposition, the more facts you pile up in order to prove your point. Alas this is not what happens in the collective mind of those in the other side of the table.

The more facts that are brought in to support a proposal, the more confused the other side becomes and the more – horror !! the more the price or the cost will become the central feature.

Knowing this interesting ‘fact’ however can provide you with an interesting and effective negotiating lever.

Next time you need some way to demolish or weaken a proposal from the other side simply act as if you are not convinced by the initial argument. You will find, inevitably, that another suporting fact will be produced. But you still act ‘unconvinced’. Keep this going: “I’m still not sure that this is a good idea”.

You do this until four or five new supporting facts have been produced.

You will then discover something very interesting is happening: each new fact produced by the other side is successively weaker than the one before. It won’t take long, therefore, until a very weak supporting fact is produced. At this point you say, “Hang on just a moment….are you really saying that you can’t deliver on Saturday because we only open Monday to Friday?..well that’s easy we will get somebody there to meet you! So there’s actually no serious issue.”

You will discover that it is very rare for a counterparty to reverse back into their previous stronger supporting facts and you win the point. Just beware of being trapped into this ‘ploy’ yourself.

Finally, when it comes to unhelpful negotiator habits, there’s the old standby which, alas, is spoken by nearly every business executive on the planet at some time every day. We negotiators call it an ‘annoyer’.

An annoyer is an annoying phrase or sentence thrown into the mix in a misguided attempt to give the other side confidence. The two most common are, “To be honest with you…..” and “Look we are offering you a really great deal here”.

In the first case, the psychological effect on the other person (or persons) is, “So are you saying that up until now you haven’t been honest?”

In the second case, telling somebody that you (in your opinion anyway) are making a ‘great offer’, has a very negative effect on the counterparty mind. Far from convincing the other side that you are making a generous offer, it actually implies, in one sentence, that you feel that the other side is not being ‘great’ if they reject your offer.

Both of these ‘annoying’ phrases and others in a similar vein are aimed at increasing confidence. But they have a very bad effect on other people’s perception of you as a negotiator.

So in summary, whilst incorporating the previous top negotiator behaviours take good care to avoid the following average behaviours:

1) Defend and Attack arguments of any sort
2) Your own counterproposals introduced, without first discussing the other side’s proposals
3) Too many facts to support your proposals
4) Using very common and unintentionally annoying phrases.

Being a top negotiator isn’t difficult if you behave as you should. Sometimes you won’t win -that’s life- so when the deal looks daft from your point of view be prepared to walk away. And the more times you are prepared to walk away you will be amazed how often the deal chases you out of the door.