High growth companies actively pursue “customer lock” in strategies


Ambitious high growth entrepreneurs should spend at least 3 days of their official working week living in the customer’s world. Viewing the market place from the desk is extremely dangerous, being immersed within your industry and the needs of your customers provides real-time market intelligence. This helps to tailor propositions specifically to the wants and needs of your market place; it also supports new product and service development. Gazelles companies create a massive gap between them and their competitors because they deploy innovation and imagination to problems, this inspires and very often leads to development and evolution of propositions that the customer didn’t even know they wanted! They occupy uncontested space. Others will soon start to copy and replicate – your job is to stay one step ahead of the game.

High growth businesses we have studied stay close to their key stakeholders. More specifically, they spend time

  • Looking at the factors that impact their customer’s performance – this provides opportunities to provide new solutions
  • Understanding their customers strategy – this facilitates a partnership working model
  • Looking at how they can help improve efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance performance.

Getting close to the market helps to drive what I term “customer lock in” – that phase of the supplier/customer relationship were there is a true partnership, mutual respect and a genuine win-win. Moving to lock in can absorb an enormous amount of time effort and energy, however the rewards can be big. It also makes it very difficult for competitors to move in and occupy your space. Being embedded means any new entrant would have to untangle lots of relationships, systems and processes to get a foothold. A word of caution – never take relationships for granted and be aware of performance vs. KPIs. Customer complacency represents a real danger zone for businesses. Lock in delivers true competitive advantage.

The Rule of Three


Some traditional sales philosophies tell us that we should keep following up leads, quotations and proposals till we get a “yes” or “no” answer. Similarly, we are advised that getting the desired meeting with a potential buyer  requires up to  nine calls/emails. My experience over twenty odd years of selling would tell me that if I have to ring someone more than three times they really don’t want anything to do with me. In selling it is so easy to cross the line from bringing value to being a pain in the backside. At the end of the day do any of us want to feel we are being a pest?

My preferred sales philosophy is based around embracing a mindset of bringing added value whether it be a request for a meeting or credentials presentation. If after three attempts to get a date in the diary no response is obtained I would rather move on. Why would  I want to meet or speak to someone who does not want to speak to me?

It’s a bit like being in one of those awful networking sessions and you are speaking to an individual and they are totally ignoring what you are saying because they are looking for someone else they deem as being more important than you. Personally I would rather be somewhere else. Life’s too short to be spending time with people who are totally disinterested in what you have to say. Spend time with those where there is common ground – it’s far more satisfying, rewarding and indeed productive from a business development point of view.

Stand and deliver


The ability to stand up and deliver a powerful pitch, proposition or message is a fundamental skill for all growth/ambitious companies. It is a capability woven throughout all aspects of running and managing a business. Selling is such an important skill that many enterprise policy makers have overlooked and only in the US does it get the respect it deserves. The reality is if you can’t sell your business will suffer not only in terms of winning new customers – but it also has a knock on effect to recruiting high quality staff, suppliers and other strategic partners. The ability to raise and secure finance is also a function of how well you can sell. I was talking to a corporate finance friend of mine the other day – she said one VC’s she works with had 1,000 business plans fall on their desk – last year they invested in 7 ! Many of them were sent in on spec and others failed to hit the mark in any way shape or form. I keep hearing that there is no shortage of funds but poorly pitched ideas is common place. Many of them, with tweaks are potentially viable but most end up going nowhere.

I hope that the message and importance of selling and the power of great selling gets on the agenda – so many great ideas fail because of the ineffectiveness of the entrepreneurs ability to stand and deliver!

High impact selling – a proven model!


Anyone involved in  sales and marketing will know about features and benefitsa legacy of the 70’s/80’s and 90’s school of selling. Whilst the underpinning principle in my view is sound – today we find customers are more discerning, wanting for far more, often for less ! Over the past few years I have been exploring how the old school of selling (F & B) can be fused with a more powerful channel to communicating propositions – this has led me to adding impact and evidence to the old ways of doing things. I believe that when we combine F and B with I and E an extremely intense message is emitted to customers. Next time you are in a sales situation think about:

Impact – can you validate to customers: return on investment (ROI), cost savings, efficiencies, when you can demonstrate impact in terms of facts and figures the credibility of your proposition is just positioned on a new level – for example if you are an advertising agency, can you show the impact of your services on the clients budget of £X will give a return of £5X

Evidence – telling the customer that you are great is superficial and generic – in the case of the advertising agency the evidence should be – the names of three clients that have benefitted from the services and indeed the added value brought to bear. Such an approach to selling is clear – there is no ambiguity.

I have observed  many businesses embrace this F.B.I.E model of selling and proposition marketing . It can be applied to telesales, web communications, pitches and any other form of business development. When you think in terms of FBIE your messages become crisper and to the point – more importantly they will resonate with the customers world – it shows you are bothered and its not just about getting a deal. Try it – it really does work!

The way to think about selling


I have spent so much time over the last number of years speaking and lecturing on the topic of “what great selling looks like”. Great selling for me is about:

– Finding problems and solving them

– Bringing added value that makes a difference

– Capturing the voice of the customer

– Living in the customer world

– Walking away if what you have does not align to the customer needs

We have seen so much non sense in my view over the years around objection handling and closing techniques – most of which I disagree with – trickery that aims to nobble people! Closing starts the minute you open your mouth – if you spend the duration of a meeting talking rubbish – I remain to be convinced that some form of magic wand termed as a closing technique will do the job. Sell from the heart and believe in what you are selling – the best sales people I have met just love their proposition. This love translates in to a passion – the ultimate sales tool. Dont be afraid of letting your customers know how much you love your propositions!

Fresh Thinking


The term “thinking out of the box” does my head in. Easy to say hard to do – how do you do it? Get to the route cause!

Don’t fall into the trap of routine. Repetitive behaviours will deliver a mindset that lacks vision, imagination and creative spirit. When we do the same things day-in day-out we establish a routine, this state of mind both inhibits and prohibits new possibilities. We find that the same old problems surface and bizarrely we think that by doing the same thing over and over again the results will be different. We must be aware of our habits as they become hard wired into our daily schedule. The manifestation of routine is that we experience a sense of monotony, feeling of being stuck in a rut, poor self confidence, low energy levels and loss of purpose and direction.

Everyone experiences these feelings at some point, however we can take some simple steps to rewire our thinking. Emphasis must be placed on constantly searching for stimulus – things that will disrupt habitual behaviour, strengthen our creative muscles and deliver a freshness of thought;

Alternative perspectives – constantly look at your challenges from different angles – ask yourself “how would your role model address the issue?”

Remove yourself – from the daily routine and spend one day a month do something completely different.

Connect with nature – spend time in the open air and appreciate the wonder of the countryside. Combine this with regular exercise, it provides a boost to our energy levels. It also helps us to value our existence.

Don’t Think – don’t pre judge the outcome of any situation. Just observe and detach yourself from comment. By not thinking you clear your mind.

Take a look – observe what your peers do and share experiences with them. Wherever possible engage with people from other cultures, religions and regions of the world.

Five simple practices will act the fuel for fresh thinking. Doing away with routine is a liberating experience. It energises us, and keeps us motivated to perform at high levels.

Life’s a Pitch


Success involves people and organisations having to sell what they have to offer – this could be our skill, a product or service. This term frightens the life out of many as it conjures images of unethical smooth talking individuals manipulating others so as to get their own way. This is not the case, a great pitch is grounded in ethical behaviour fused to a mindset of offering real value through a passionate belief in what you have to offer. Personal and professional progression means that you will frequently be in a situation where you have to pitch for what you want. Applying for a career promotion, a place on the school board or attracting new customers fundamentally means we are in competition and there is a need to sell.

If you don’t adopt this mindset then you will struggle to get what you want out of life. When you find yourself in a situation where selling is vital, start by asking:

  • Do I understand their world?
  • What problem am I going to solve for the person I am pitching to?
  • What do I know about my audience?
  • What value do I bring?
  • What examples can I use to evidence credibility?
  • How can I bring to life the impact I make?
  • What is special about what I have to offer?

Personal progression means you must embrace the philosophy of life is a pitch. In doing this you condition yourself to delivering an effective and engaging performance to those that matter. Convincing others of the benefit of your talent, idea, product or service is an integral component to achieving your goals. Other people have an influence on whether we succeed or not. Your pitching mindset should help you to position your key messages in the following way:

  • Real and tangible
  • Deliver it with passion and meaning
  • Ruthlessly simplistic message
  • Clearly shows the difference you will make
  • Win – win outcome

Practicing your pitching skills to enhance your chances of success. It will put you in a stronger position to beat off competition.

Challenge conventional wisdom


Wisdom is the term used to describe ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field. The term also implies that the ideas or explanations, though widely held, are unexamined and, hence, may be reevaluated upon further examination.  Many of us conduct and live our lives within the framework of established principles of wisdom. They can govern our personal life, relationships, work and professional advancement. For many of us they can have an overwhelming influence on the way we think, and behave, this applies to both individuals and organisations. However we must acknowledge that conventional wisdom can limit our thinking and create boundaries to our aspirations. They can misguide our intentions and infer that some things are not possible – when in reality they are! We must question – is it true wisdom or dogmatic views on how things operate or how things are done. It is vital that we don’t take at face value the wisdom that applies to our own particular situation – it could be wrong.

Successful and ambitious individuals will if necessary contest conventional wisdom that surrounds their circumstances. A burning desire to pursue a dream or satisfy a need that is not being catered for can lead us to challenge a preconceived ideology that masquerades as wisdom. Don’t take the words of experts as being that of the Oracle, whilst their wisdom may have value and may have a role to play – it does not automatically mean they are right and their word is final. Listen to your inner voice, does it feel right, if it doesn’t, then ask Why? Why not? What if? What about?

We can run the risk of our creative energy and new ideas being misdirected by people supposedly in the know. Don’t think twice about challenging views. Breaking new ground often means “Creating New Wisdom”

Selling – the elephant in the room!


The importance of selling skills must feature high on the agenda for enterprise and entrepreneurial policy makers ! I find myself reading report after report on the skills, attitudes, behaviours, competencies of entrepreneurs. What I dont get is, why has no one realised that if you (or someone in your team) cant sell then you will NOT succeed in either setting up or building a business – my first book Pitch Perfect was the manifestation of my frustration around seeing loads of good ideas/products/services  that never enjoyed the revenue streams they deserve. I see lots of entrepreneurs sat they in their office waiting for the phone to ring! However they have got a great business plan ! I also see loads of extremely well turned out business graduates who can interpret a balance sheet standing on their head whilst having a brew – but they cant sell! I once had a heated debate with a Business School Professor – I asked him the question why dont you teach selling? I was then talked down to by an academic who couldnt even run a chippy never mind a business.

The reality is that policy makers need to see this for themselves – if we are going to support the growth agenda it means – companies  have to sell more – I dont know what it is but it just feels like the elephant in the room. Selling has this spiv like image – well maybe its down to definition – great selling is marketing driven and ethical, its underpinned by drive and determination to succeed – its about solving problems.