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Business management Feeding the pipeline General Locating customers Sales Ethos Sales Management Sales Planning Sales process Sales tips Technical Sales

Deal or No Deal

Whether you like or loathe the man, and there seems to be little middle ground Boris has always had a very focussed approach to Brexit.  He has a plan and a strategy, rightly or wrongly.

Comparing this withe Sales Process, and there are many prarallels, he is attempting to obtain the best deal for the UK from the EU.

In every sale, the backstop; the very last option has to be a no-deal.  In other words, ‘I am prepared to walk away and neither of us benefits from this relationship’.  But to make that a useful negotiating tool, it must be an option available to you.  If you are not prepared to walk away, no matter how much you want the deal, then the opposition will use this to their great advantage and to your disadvantage.

If they know that you are not allowed the option to walk away, the ‘no-deal’, then they will find it much easier to impose their needs and wishes over yours.  It gives you a weak position from which to negotiate because they know that in the end, you will have to accept a deal that favours their needs.

Unfortunately, parliament do not understand this, or, they feel that the risk of ending up with no deal is too great.  So, Boris’s hands were tied.

This point is similar to that discussed in my blog of March 2019 where the delegate was not allowed to walk away without the order.  Here as well, his negotiating power was weakened and the customer had, and played the advantage.

This is not an easy line to follow.  It may result in bluff and counter-bluff and a cool head is needed.  However, simply believing that you have the power to walk away from the deal (even if you have no real intention to do so) may be enough to help strengthen your position.

Make sure they believe you have the choice, and then secure a better deal.

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Business management Ethical Selling Feeding the pipeline General Locating customers Sales Ethos Sales Management Sales Planning Sales process Sales tips Technical Sales Time management

Three essentials needed by those selling into technical markets

Three essentials needed by those selling into technical markets:

1/ Technical knowledge

2/ Training/Coaching in Technical Sales

3/ Motivation & self-belief

Why is technical sales training and coaching so essential?

Managers will notice a lack of confidence in those new to technical sales, and sometimes even in those who have been selling in technical markets for some time.

Lack of confidence results in reduced motivation. Less motivated salespeople will under-perform.  Under-performance limits success, reducing self-belief, and so confidence dips further.  This results in reduced productivity and profitability.

Likewise, the converse is true.  Help in the form of training and coaching in technical knowledge and selling skills for technical markets will boost confidence, motivate and ensure more and faster success.

I remember clearly the time when I was a new sales engineer.  I knew that my technical knowledge was good, but not yet complete.  My confidence in selling was very low, likewise my self-belief that I was any good at selling (although I never let on!).  Clearly, my bosses had seen more in me than I had; they had more belief and confidence that I would be successful.  If I had thought of this I may have grown more quickly in the job.

A little sales training was offered and taken, but this was very general and did not address the specific issues met when selling in technical markets.  My technical knowledge was built on the job with frequent returns to the engineering lab for help and advice.  Mostly, I learned on the job.

The perceived wisdom is that for any new salesperson it would take at least a year, possibly two to become cost effective and profitable.

What if you could reduce that ‘delayed profitability’ significantly?  What if it took just a few months rather than a year or two?  Wouldn’t that result in more profitable sales, and faster?

Reducing the delay by nine months to a year would make a substantial difference to the number and value of the sales achieved.  What extra value would that be?  An extra 20 or 30% of sales from that person?  It could be more.  Put a value on that percentage.  Would it not make sense to invest a little now to reap faster and larger turnover?

They say that the average time that a good salesperson stays with one company is no more than 2-3 years.  Without training or coaching, the time when experience starts to make them profitable can be 18 months to 2 years.  They may just have become profitable to you when they decide to move on.  With good, tailored training, you could extend that profitable time by up to a year.  Now THAT IS worth the investment!

Motivation, self-belief and self-confidence come from experience and from support.  Experience takes time, but support in the form of training and coaching makes a significant difference by shortening personal development and bringing forward success.

Training and coaching result in more knowledge, skills and confidence.  And hence more sales.

Why wait?!

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Business management Ethical Selling General Sales Ethos Sales Management Sales Planning Sales process Sales tips Technical Sales

Where to draw the line.

That’s a good question…..

When training a sales team from Samsung recently, I was asked a question which prompted a lot of thought and soul searching.  I was able to answer it, but was the answer just too easy? 

The question?   Where does an ethical sales person ‘draw the line’?

The answer is simple, and quite straight forward: ‘wherever your conscience lets you draw the line’.  This is obvious, clear and fits all.  However, is it a helpful answer?

The example given by the team member was of a potential customer who used their own ‘pressure buying’ techniques that quickly strayed into bullying; the Genghis Kahn school of negotiation.  Apparently, the buyer would throw his pen onto the table and demand loudly that they accept his terms or get out.  Other tactics of similar aggressive and intimidating nature were used.  Would YOU sit there and take that abuse?

He had my sympathy.  Most experienced sales people have had situations of similar severe discomfort.  While the buyer rants, raves and threatens, you are sat there wrestling with your own conscience and professionalism. What are your options?

There are many as every situation is different and requires some ‘thinking-on-your-feet’.

Below I describe the two extremes and an ideal. 

1/  Fight back?  This is the most satisfying.  Potentially it can gain respect from the buyer and a mutually beneficial solution could be possible.  However, it is extremely risky, as it may escalate the emotions and temper to the point where errors are made, opportunities are lost, and things are said that should never be said by true professionals.  Are you reducing your own standards by lowering yourself to their position?

2/  ‘Take it on the chin’; in other words, sit there and use silence or passive resistance as your main tool of defense.  This is a very professional approach that will make the buyers behavior seem very childish and clearly bullying in comparison.  However, there is also the risk that they will then take your reluctance to engage in a fight as weakness and assume their argument has been won.

3/  A carefully judged balance between the two, whereby you respond to aggressive posturing with a firm insistence and repeated ‘no’.  Your volume would be higher than usual but less than theirs; maintain eye-contact as much as possible; your words would again be professional, but your manner should show you standing firm but being fair.  Consistency, professionalism, repetition and firmness are needed, with a clear message that you will not be intimidated.

The salesman was strong and held his ground as best he could.  Give-in to a bully and they will always bully you.  If you cannot work with them, and you have the authority, you can walk away, but do not let them win.

Yes, it is up to you and your conscience.  Sometimes it may be a balance between needs and conscience.  Apply your own positive, firm approach but do your best not give in to intimidation. When you can, retain the moral ‘high ground’ and give little away.  No-one likes a bully, and it is a great shame that some believe this is the way to behave in modern society.  However, one cannot deny that they still exist, and we must deal with them while achieving our objectives AND remaining professional.

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Business management Feeding the pipeline General Locating customers Sales Ethos Sales Management Sales Planning Sales process Sales tips Technical Sales

How to overcome Brexit Blues and how the Salient ‘Plan B’ showed the way forward.

It has to be said, I am sorry, but it does have to be said.

Brexit has made a difference and will make further differences to business.

Things are changing and there are more changes to come.

But, I am not one of the doom-mongers as I believe it offers us interesting and useful opportunities.  I say ‘offers’ as it is up to us whether we take those opportunities or sit back and just hope.

Whatever happens there will be change, and we need to be prepared as best we can.  But prepared for what?  I believe there are four indisputable facts:

  • Brexit will happen!
  • Markets will change
  • There will be greater focus on domestic markets
  • We will find ourselves competing with more UK companies as larger providers seek to replace off-shore business.

This is what happened to Salient in the last 18 months:

  • Five larger prospects, (£1M turnover+), were reasonably secure in my sales pipeline.
  • As the Brexit vote loomed, happened, and shocked the markets, these five companies retreated, not wishing to ‘spend money when the market was so unpredictable.’
  • My cash-flow forecast dropped considerably!
  • I initiated my contingency, my Plan B, and targeted the smaller businesses that tend to ‘get on with it’ no matter what the market is doing.
  • I had to replace one large opportunity with ten smaller ones.
  • It was successful, and I have now progressed to Plan C where I develop the new smaller company market, while attracting new larger opportunities.

But what of the larger companies?  What will they do in this Brexit uncertainty?

I believe they will do very much as I did and look to smaller domestic markets to fill the gap in their turnover.

In other words, those who rely on domestic markets for the majority of their turnover will start to find more competition from larger suppliers.

There is another side to this.  Those seeking your products or services are less likely to look off-shore for suppliers as these are likely to become more costly.  Therefore, they will actively seek domestic suppliers. It could be you, if you are ready!  Another point is that if they previously sourced from larger companies, they are likely to spend more than your present customers.

To summarise, this could mean for your business:

  • New domestic markets are likely to open up
  • Competition will increase for home-grown opportunities.
  • The new opportunities have different expectations and spending levels

Are you ready?

Is your sales team and/or your sales process the best it can be?

Your sales effort needs to be at its best; sharp; focussed; forward-thinking.

Don’t miss the boat. 

If you fail to address this, others will get there first and will win the lion’s share of the new opportunities.

If you are successful in this, your business growth could be double what you would anticipate for 2018.

If you would like to discuss your experiences of this, please be in touch; call or email Andy

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Business management Ethical Selling Sales Ethos Sales Management Sales process

What politicians could learn from Ethical Selling …and what we can learn from the politicians’ mistakes

 

Thursday 23rd June 2016 was a landmark day for many reasons.  The outcome of the referendum surprised a lot of people and delighted others.  But, why am I blogging about the referendum of all things?   One word: INTEGRITY!  As many of you will know, I fly the flag for honesty, openness and integrity in business and particularly in sales.

Sales and selling has long suffered a bad press due to the involvement of those with little or no integrity; those who firmly believe the end-justifies-the-means and the means can be anything at all to win the business.

There’s the parallel.  The press is now talking about the ‘fallout’.  Now we hear that key arguments and figures were in fact a ‘mistake’.  We have now heard that ‘immediate emergency measures’, means ‘we’ll have to look at it in a few months-time when the dust is settled, as we need stability’.

AND THEY WONDER WHY WE DON’T TEND TO TRUST OR RESPECT POLITICIANS AS MUCH AS THEY WOULD LIKE US TO!

If a certain PM, a particular UKIP leader and a well-known chancellor had done things differently; perhaps they could have kept their integrity AND continued to influence people ethically and positively!  They would have remained respected, believed and would still be able to influence.

The Salient Points:

  1. Politicians need to be good at sales and selling. They are in a position of influence and the people expect to be led and advised with honesty and integrity.
  1. NEVER ASSUME what people want, or the outcome of an initiative. Making assumptions as to what people think, expect, want or need is a recipe for disaster. Identify and clarify the need, what is really the issue, then aim to fulfil that need.  Assuming everyone, or at least a majority are going to agree with you is never a good idea.
  1. If you seek to influence and persuade your customers, or in this case ‘the electorate’, it’s always a good idea to provide accurate facts and reasoned argument.
  1. If you have competition, do not make it personal! YOUR ARGUMENT SHOULD NOT BE LACED WITH PERSONAL ATTACKS ON THOSE WHO OPPOSE YOU!  Sell it on its merits.
  1. If there is any possibility that you may lose the argument, after all there is always ‘the unforeseen’, have a CONTINGENCY PLAN, which helps you to carry on, but perhaps in a slightly different direction. (‘Damage Limitation’)
  1. If you want to remain a supplier to your customers (or ‘in office’), then the following applies:

Be clear and consistent in what you say, giving enough facts to allow an educated decision to be made by your customers (‘the people’).  This wasn’t done well in the referendum.

These facts and arguments must not be exaggerated, or untruthful, because, surprise-surprise, truth will out, particularly in the fall-out after the event.  This happened on both sides.

Customers (the public) will see this disparity between what you promised and what you deliver as a clear manipulation of the process to achieve the sellers’ (politicians’) own ends. They are MUCH less likely to buy from (vote for) them againThe PM is going; others will likely follow.

A customer who is given all the facts they need in order to make an educated and reasoned choice, and these facts are given accurately, without exaggeration, fabrication or vagueness of interpretation, will be happy to deal with you again.  IF the final answer is ‘NO thanks’, they are still likely to return and engage with you again.  Customer retention and loyalty is only possible if you maintain this integrity.

If you are proved to be false or manipulative, then you should not be at all surprised if the customer then goes elsewhere.  That’s politics as we know it!

As it should be in SALES and in POLITICS, it is down to motive, intent and conscience. I aim to sleep well every night.  Do you?

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Business management Sales Ethos Sales Management Sales Planning Sales tips

Move your own goal-posts.

Do you really want it?

Lots of money; holidays; cars; clothes; lifestyles.....?

Do you really want it, or do you just want the end result, the reward?   Do you want the omelette but are not prepared to break a few eggs and spend time whisking?

Everything of value to you has to be fought for.  A struggle is often needed to move forward.  This could entail time; working all hours, repetition; over and over again until you get it right; changes to relationships; being with patient people who share your dreams, and so on.  Whatever you do requires effort.  How much do you want that dream, that wonderful end result that will make you happy?  Are you prepared to struggle to achieve it, to work through the process time and again and again until the outcome is secure?

I meet many people who claim to have a dream, a goal, an objective, but have not yet asked themselves these questions.  In fact, too many have not even made a plan or mapped out the route they would need to take to get to where they want to go. (Have you?)

Here’s an example (names and figures have been made up to protect the guilty):

John wants to be successful   -  how successful John?

John’s dream is to achieve a turnover of £100,000 in 5 years  -  where are you now John?

So, John needs to find and win £85,000 of new business within 5 years – really?!

That is as far as John gets with his dream.

John’s approach is to keep doing what he is doing to make the business grow.*  He believes that “opportunities will arise along the way which will boost the business”.

Hands up who is surprised when, in 5 year’s time, John is turning over £32,000, and most of that is from a couple of clients who are personal friends.  John’s expansion plans are on hold.

Did John achieve his dream, his goal?  No.  Why not?  Probably because he chose a goal without considering the process, the effort, the struggle that would be needed to set his sights that high.

Every dream has a cost.  That cost includes the time and effort, the loss of focus elsewhere, the reduction of short-term-gain in favour of long term benefit.  Likely there will be disappointment, fatigue, despondency, even despair in yourself, and possibly those close to you.  Is it worth this struggle, or is it likely to damage other things you value more; your family, friends, principles, standards, enjoyment?

If you have considered all this and it is worth it, then go for it!  Or, as I read on Facebook last year: ‘Don’t downgrade your dream to match your reality, upgrade your faith to match your destiny’!

However, if the process, the struggle, the ‘pain’ proves too high a cost; lower your sites.  You can still win, and enjoy the journey.

* Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

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Business management Sales Ethos Sales Management Sales Planning Sales process Sales tips Technical Sales

Beware the spread of ‘Sales Phobia’

Has anyone else noticed this? ‘Sales phobia.’

A contact of mine who runs a business that provides professional training to education, public sector and professional bodies, was telling me that his clients appear to have adopted sales-avoidance strategies.  I suspected this was a wind-up until he told me that, for some, their new term for this was ‘Customer Engagement’.  Others had replaced sales and selling with the catch-all of ‘Business Development’.  I had previously heard of a consultant in the south of England effectively demoting sales by saying it was part of the discipline of ‘Business Strategies’.

Sadly, there may be a simple reason for this; bad experiences of being sold-to and more people are expecting to be given the ‘hard sell’ As a result they do not respect the sales process or people who sell.

Having spent 20 years in field sales and sales management, I have been very aware of the pressure that senior management put onto their sales teams.  In the companies I worked for, it was always ‘do whatever it takes to win the business’.  In the extreme, one MD said to a colleague of mine ‘if you don’t win the business, don’t bother coming back’!  This culture fostered some terrible sales practices, all based on pressure, manipulation and worse.

At the same time, business-to-consumer sales was facing growing and tougher competition and so, instead of offering better service as an enticement to buy, they too adopted pressure selling techniques.  We all remember the awful reputations gained by car and double glazing salesmen!

Unfortunately, I believe that, while some improvement has been made, pressure selling is still rife and the sales discipline as a whole has become tarnished by these unethical practices.  The culture is also perpetuated by the likes of The Apprentice, and, occasionally, even Dragon’s Den., i.e., if you don’t do what is expected, if you don’t win, you are humiliated and you are out.

When selling, how far would YOU go to protect your income, your standard of living?

I suspect that this continuing culture has caused the name change.  Perhaps our own professional bodies should take notice and make solid pronouncements against pressure selling techniques.  Perhaps not enough has been done to ‘clean-up’ sales with clearly defined boundaries of what is ethical and what is at least ‘dodgy’.  I feel passionately about ethical selling and have flown the flag for some years now, but I too come across very negative attitudes towards selling and sales people in general.

I aim to bring back enjoyment and satisfaction in selling by teaching a clear and clean sales process that is open and understood by all prospects.

In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson; “Everyone lives by selling something”.  Often this is just selling ourselves; making a good impression; having a positive impact.  If we cannot do this without being devious or manipulating our prospects, then clearly we cannot be trusted and perhaps we deserve the demotion to a sub-discipline.

In short, ethical selling must inherently be more successful, especially in the longer term.

  • Pressure selling is less likely to result in repeat business or referrals.
  • Building business relationships and selling ethically reduces the need to keep looking for new customers.
  • Customers who don’t enjoy buying from you are less likely to come back for more.
  • Keeping existing customers AND finding new ones will build a business far quicker than if you constantly have to look for new opportunities because former customers have voted with their feet.

If we don’t all start flying-the-flag for strong, ethical sales, then fewer people will respect it, expectations will remain negative, and we will all become ‘customer engagement’ experts!

Do you have a ‘Sales Phobia’?

Let me ask a different question:

Does the idea of selling cause you to palpate or procrastinate?

Do you fear a prospect rejection, or worry about making a fool of yourself when asking for the business?

If the answer is yes, you may have a sales phobia.

Unfortunately, I fear this is becoming more common.  I am doing my best to change business culture to accept that sales can and should be ethical, simple, jargon-free and enjoyable!  I achieve this in most cases.  However, there is a risk that this phobia is becoming institutionalized.  It should be a high profile and honourable profession.  Don’t let the gainsayers try and tell you otherwise!

Selling can be even more fun than buying!

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Business management Sales Ethos Sales process Sales tips

Let’s get a bit closer…

Communication and Buy-IN; are your customers and prospects fully engaged or merely notified?

I was training a group of 10 delegates a couple of weeks ago.  They were a great bunch, very professional and clearly dedicated to the company. However, like many, they felt that contacts; customers or prospects; were not fully engaged with them.  Their contacts would not respond promptly; weeks would go by with no response to a question, query or quote.  Apparently, some quotes of considerable value were still outstanding and they had assumed that they had not been successful.  Three things immediately sprang to mind:

FOLLOW-UP, ASSUMPTIONS and COMMUNICATION!

Any question, query or quote goes cold very quickly unless reinforced with a follow-up.  They may be short of a single fact or simple clarification.  ‘For a ha’porth of tar, the ship sank’ as they used to say….apparently.

This team had worked hard to offer what they felt the customer needed, but had stopped short of the follow-up.  Looking keen and following up within a small number of days will only give good impressions and emphasise that yours is the company to engage in business.

This level of attention has three key benefits:

  • It shows you’re keen
  • It keeps you up to date with customer intentions
  • It speeds up the sales process

Without effective follow-up, others will step in to take the business.  The ‘personal touch’ will be lost and engagement will transfer to others who express more interest in working with them.

Rule 1 – follow-up, if you don’t, others will.

In each case assumptions have been made.  It could be you are assuming you have little chance or the e business is not due to be placed yet.  Maybe they have assumed that your lack of follow-up means you are less interested in the business.  There are many other common assumptions and whichever side is making them, they are very dangerous and likely to damage your prospects of winning any business.

Rule 2 – never make assumptions; ASK!  Summarise, clarify and confirm every time.

How you generally communicate can make a huge difference to the progress and success of the business you are chasing.  I asked the team of delegates what forms of communication achieved the highest emotional connection or engagement, the most ‘buy-in’ from the customer.  We produced this list in descending order.  I then asked how they would usually communicate and in what proportion.  The results speak for themselves:

Engagement %                  % usage of communication methods

Face to Face                        90                                          5

Skype                                   50                                          5

Phone call                            30                                           5

Letter                                    10                                           5

Email                                     5                                            90

The company relied almost wholly on email, but admitted this was the least effective when wanting to engage with customers or prospects.  Despite the hard work and best of intentions, they had notified instead of engaged.

Rule 3 – if you claim to be a friendly and personable company to work with, don’t rely heavily on email for your communication.  If in doubt, ask them, see them, call them, write to them; why not use two methods, write then call, or visit then write etc?

If your customers matter; and of course they do; work more closely with them to understand their need, to fulfill their need and to win the business.  I am sure this team will now move forward by following up every contact and proposal as they certainly deserve the greater success it will bring.

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Business management Locating customers Sales Ethos Sales process Sales tips

Is your 1st Impression….2nd best?

It could be YOU!

  •   They might not like the look of you!
  •   Perhaps your opening line closed the conversation
  •   Your enthusiasm has overwhelmed them
  •   Your lack of enthusiasm has disappointed them
  •   Your garlic/coffee/curry breath has caused their spectacles to melt!

All these factors can have a negative result when attempting to sell.  Have you noticed a common theme?  They have little or nothing to do with your product or your sales skills.

In fact, many business opportunities are lost even before any attempt has been made to sell.  This is simply because the seller hasn’t considered their own personal presentation.  Such issues can also play a part in business conducted over the telephone or over the internet.  Here the issue is ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’.  We all know this to be true, but how often do we stop to think how this can apply to us and our business approach?  First impressions are more about how we look, how we act, what we say and what we do.

Emotion has a huge effect on how we regard the people we meet.  The emotion generated can have a positive or negative effect on any business being sought.  Before we have even opened our mouths, the new prospect can have made a subconscious decision not to do business with us!  Are we guilty of self-sabotage without realising it?

It is true; we do business with people we like.  Often, we decide whether we like them or not within just a few seconds of meeting them.  Yes, first impressions are very important.

Next time you want to approach someone whom you think may be a prospective customer, take a moment to consider:

  • Do I look the part?
  • Would a mouth spray help?!
  • Am I prepared to listen before I attempt to sell?
  • Do I have an interesting opening line and elevator pitch?
  • Will my enthusiasm for my business be seen as being keen or aggressive?
  • How can I help them?

……and only then, how can they help me?

Give yourself a chance! Once these questions are answered positively, you stand a good chance of winning their hearts and their business.

Categories
Locating customers Sales process Sales tips Technical Sales

HOW MANY SALES PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW IN A LIGHT BULB?

To me there are three possible answers to this.

(The ‘not quite hilarious’ answer is number 3.)

At the end I will challenge you to find a fourth!

3 possible answers:

1/  When I was part of the ‘corporate world’; field-selling and directing sales for larger companies; the glib answer to this was ‘None’, that’s the Marketer’s job’.  This old chestnut was coined by territorial salesmen who neither understood nor respected the valuable work done by the marketers (or ‘marketeers’ as some like to call themselves).  The reply was at best, mildly amusing, but, to me, it simply emphasized the big divide between the sales and marketing departments.

For whatever size of business, sales and marketing need to work together. Good marketing raises your profile and attracts new customers but does not ‘win’ the business.  Sales skills are needed when the new prospects contact your business.  Good marketing can result in a much faster and easier sale as you avoid having to find and make contact with new prospects.  But remember; the sale will not just happen; you will still need to pitch, negotiate and close, and then manage the new client.

2/  The real answer to ‘how many sales people…?’  If the marketing has been done effectively, then the customer will have realised;

  • the value of a light bulb (it’s gone dark), thus identifying the need, and….
  • a good idea of how the product (the light bulb) is applied (screwed-in).

A helpful sales person may then show the customer how to achieve more light by buying and inserting the new bulb, thus, fulfilling the need.  However, at the end of the day, it is the customer’s responsibility to actually screw-in the bulb.  So, again, the answer is ‘none’!

3/  The answer is 2;  one holds the light bulb still, while the sales manager makes the world revolve around him (as he likes to think it does)….

HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: let me know your suggestions for answers to the question:

HOW MANY SALES PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB?!!

Answers may be humorous, ironic, or simply thought-provoking.  The best entry will win a half-day of one-to-one sales & marketing coaching, aimed at lighting the way ahead for your business and helping you to grow your sales.  (This can be in person at the Salient office in Royal Wootton Bassett, or by Skype and email.)

The winner will be decided on May 31st 2015.