“In life, you cannot always choose what you do, but you can always choose who you are”

This is an inspiring story. I first saw this video as a commercial for a well known malt drink. It reminded me of my family when they came from the Caribbean to the UK at the end of the 1950’s.

Growing up, I was surrounded by a bunch of eccentric characters from different islands. These were tough times, many people came over to the UK as blue collar workers. The work was hard and the hours were long, therefore leisure time was full of music, laughter, good food, friends and hope for the next generation.

My mum was an accomplished seamstress so she made sure we were always dressed in the trendiest of clothes and on Sundays, we always wore our “best”. Most of my Dads friends were manual workers so Sundays and special occasions (even friendly cricket matches), always called for a sharp suit and tie. During those times in the late 60’s and 70’s there was not a lot of disposable income like today, so you had to be creative, with food and clothes, we used to go to the top department stores and boutiques to “shop for inspiration” I realise now that meant buying one item and getting inspired to make an outfit for a party or a special occasion.

I love it when I go into companies and I see young interns and juniors starting out in their career, choosing to dress sharp to define themselves. One young intern I recently met, came into his office wearing a stunning pink designer jacket, finished off with a white shirt, a tie, sharp black slim fit trousers, and the shiniest shoes. I was surprised at the reaction, everybody who passed, complimented him on his attire even a visiting VP. So we can all take some inspiration from the video and apply this to our every day lives, it has certainly inspired me. Not sure I could get away with a pink jacket and black slim fit trousers, but perhaps an “inspirational” shopping trip is in order…

Connect via email blondell@perfect-fossicking.com or give me a call 07525 018074

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A 21st Century view of Sales

Sales Man

At a family event recently, somebody asked what I do for a living. An innocent enough question, so I replied “I work in sales and marketing”. Without missing a beat, the elderly gentleman said “Oh, you are one of those”.

I was curious about what he meant by “one of those”, so I asked him. That was it. He was off. He had a negative view of sales people, of on a rant about how many telephone calls he received at home, always being “sold” to and used adjectives like pushy, arrogant and rude. I listened politely for a few minutes, then excused myself and headed to the bar.

A couple of weeks ago, during the commercial break of one of my favourite TV programmes, there was an advertisement for coffee capsules. The scene featured a young brash, salesman on the telephone, calling from a fictitious loft insulation company making a call to a housewife, a prospective customer. He was talking at her, I noticed he started with a closed question, using street slang and making comic gestures with his colleague in the background (a bit like a scene from The Office meets a comedy sketch on Ali G). Of course, the lady used this time to make herself a cup of coffee and let him rant for a bit and then asked him to call back the next day.

Although this is an amusing telly advertisement, I could not help noticing that sales people are still today being portrayed in this brash, unprofessional almost comic way. It is not surprising sales people have a poor image – according to LinkedIn, there are approximately 10 million sales people working in business to business sales around the world today. This does not include retail, food and customer services, so the chances are that many of us will be either sold to or will have to sell ourselves, products, ideas – even if we are not in a traditional sales related job and there is a strong chance that many of us will regularly find ourselves being sold to.

I love being sold to. In one of my favourite department stores in the City of London the staff are so well trained you rarely come away with just one item. They engage with you and subtly entice you to buy something complementary. It is a heady experience.

I am writing this as a champion for all sales professionals. Let us all work together to raise the standards and perceptions of us hard working sales professionals that enables products to be bought and sold.

After all, it is up to us sales professionals to make the world go around.

Connect via email blondell@perfect-fossicking.com or give me a call 07525 018074

How knowing your strengths can be a powerful tool

Strength ProfileOver the years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Catherine Dudmesh, a Director of The Leader’s Forum. They specialise in providing leadership solutions that challenge, inspire and engage us to be the very best. Their approach focuses on positive centered philosophy that drives excellence in leadership throughout an organisation.

One of the tools they champion is a strengths tool that provides measurement of an individual’s strengths and the extent to which these are productively applied at work.

I was very interested to know about the benefits of this strength test, so I took some time out to complete my own strength assessment and the results were revealing, if not surprising.

The online test took about 40 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time. The questions were quite thought provoking and a bit of a challenge. I was asked to complete these as honestly as I could.

The results are broken down into 24 strengths within four clusters: Emotional; Relational; Thinking and Execution. Strengths are defined as those areas that energise or strengthen me. The report identified my top seven strengths.

Here is what I found:

Emotional: I was pleased to see that enthusiasm and optimism were my two highest strengths, with courage being my weakest.

Relational: my strengths were developing others, collaboration and persuasiveness, such a relief for me as a sales coach.

Thinking: creativity and common sense were my highest. However, Catherine explained although none these formed part of my core strengths. Over time you learn to become competent at certain tasks for example, finance and administration, things I do, but as these are not my strongest areas they are likely to take longer and I may put them off – they de-energise me.

Execution: I scored high with self-improvement, my lowest score being results focused. Not a good endorsement for a sales professional. However, I am not a champion of results at any cost, something I’ve realised since becoming self-employed.

So what does all this mean and how can we all benefit from playing to our strengths?

I think that knowing your strengths can really support, energise and enable you to become more positive centered. If you are often in a situation where your core strengths are being used, the benefits will include being more motivated, work better in a team environment, build confidence and reduce your stress at work, which ultimately will have a positive effect on your health and well being.

Most importantly, knowing your core strength enables you to focus on the areas that you are good at, rather than dwelling on areas of perceived weakness.

This test enabled me to realise that although I am full of enthusiasm, some people may find that to be a bit forceful or come across as over confident or even arrogant, which is not my intention. Using my emotional intelligence, I can learn to moderate or “turn down the volume” on these strengths in certain situations or with certain people. Tasks that are not my strongest (administration and finance) are better out sourced to people who revel and excel in detail and analytics. If I am facing a challenge or an opportunity, I am most likely to succeed if I draw on my strengths as this is where I am firing on all cylinders.

Overall, my seven core strengths are; Collaboration, Developing Others, Enthusiasm, Leading, Optimism, Persuasiveness and Self-Improvement, I am looking forward to playing to my core strengths.

If you want to find out more about your strengths, below are some books and links which you may find useful;

Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Yourself and Others (Strengthening the World Series) – Alex Linley

Gallop has a comprehensive strengths test on their website http://goo.gl/LJ3RLn

The strengths report I completed was Strengthscope http://www.strengthscope.com

This is an interesting article published by the Harvard Business Review, How to play to your Strengths – a worthwhile read http://goo.gl/JsWdaA

Feel free to get in touch, I always provide a free initial consultation. Connect via email blondell@perfect-fossicking.com

Referrals, recommendations and introductions – the good, the bad and the ugly…

referrals

I was asked by a customer to help mop up the aftermath after a bad referral experience with a business associate.

My customer re-connected through social media with an old acquaintance who provides complementary services and was keen to explore business opportunities.

Through their discussions they discovered they had many things in common and very quickly a friendship was formed. They met up regularly, enjoyed lively discussions over boozy lunches and attend networking events together. Soon, an opportunity presented itself for business collaboration with one of my customer’s existing clients.

 It was a perfect referral, they both attended the meeting, which was relaxed and informal and they all swapped business cards; However, at the end of the meeting it was clear there were no immediate opportunities for collaboration but they agreed to possibly work together in the future.

 

So you can imagine my customer’s surprise when they found out from the associate that a deal had been done with the client. This is where it gets a bit complicated: the associate made direct contact with my customer’s client, introduced another organisation and a substantial deal was done. As a result, the associate was expecting a generous commission and was now in discussions about other services similar to those my customer offered.  What happened to my customer? They were completely cut out of the deal and it was embarrassing all around.

I am in awe of my customer – a successful, personable and social individual. They didn’t want this experience to get in the way or cloud their judgement of others, so asked if I could help with implementing some kind of policy. They did not want this experience to stop the team networking, getting and giving referrals, but they wanted some best practice, advice and guidelines to help in the future.

 I’ve been carrying out some research and this is what my conclusions: 

  • You need to be ‘like-minded’ with your associate and have the same values and business ethics.
  • Be pro-active in the process, follow up on how meetings go or attend meetings yourself.
  • Find out as much as you can about the associate, their product or service. Make sure they are genuine and trustworthy; take some time to get to know them – it is your reputation too.
  • If somebody gives you a referral, show your gratitude, even if it is just a thank you note or an email.
  • You need to communicate clearly what it is that you do – it is amazing how messages can be diluted three conversations along. Keep your network updated with your products, services be transparent about your costs – if you charge for pre-work consultancy, be upfront about it.
  • Use your gut instinct. If you’ve been asked for a referral or an introduction to one of your customers and this makes you feel uncomfortable, then don’t give one and be honest with your reasons.
  • Once you’ve received a great referral, or new business opportunity, go out of your way to reciprocate. Find out as much as you can about the person, the type of work they do and introduce them to somebody you know.

Feel free to get in touch, I am happy to provide a free initial consultation.  email – blondell@perfect-fossicking.com 

Tis the season to be jolly and giving?

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I mostly live and work in Central London. There are many advantages and something for everyone. I love that it is a cosmopolitan and vibrant city, bustling with people, great scenery (I never get tired of the view of the City crossing Waterloo Bridge), there are easy transportation links, great shops, traditional pubs, theatres, bars and restaurants.

However, there is a darker side – homelessness and beggars. As the festive season approaches, I tend to notice beggars asking for money and hustling on the streets and I make a point of offering the friendly ones (using my gut instinct and reading their body language), a hot drink and some food. I never give money.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised by an encounter with an elderly vagrant. He got my attention because he was much older and sober and he gave a good opening pitch. “Can I have some money? I just need enough for my dinner. I’d like chicken curry.” I told him I did not have any money, but I could buy him a sandwich from Pret. He was adamant, he definitely did not want a Pret sandwich – turned his nose up.

He looked me in the eye and said slowly: “I want chicken curry and rice, with extra chilli sauce and a coke.” Pause. “Not diet.”

So I smiled and said “OK, I’ll see what I can do” and began to walk away. He called out after me and told me which café to go to – very specific. That made me laugh, so I said I had some errands to run, I’d get his food when I finished, which I did.

He was still sitting in the same place when I returned half an hour later. Obviously starving, he thanked me genuinely, opened the take away container and got stuck into his meal. I walked home knowing I’d made a small difference that day.

When I shared this story recently with friends, they said I was soft, I got played and I was conned, but I disagree. I thought his approach was right: he gave a good pitch; he was direct; he connected and read me perfectly and was successful. He got his chicken curry meal.

What surprised me was how I felt. I did something small – the take away cost £3.70 – and it made me smile.

 

Remembering Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaThe sad news about the passing of great leader Nelson Mandela has affected millions of people around the globe. I wanted to document and share how his life, vision and courage shaped my life and in some way made me the person I am today.

I do remember a humorous tale about Nelson Mandela after his release from prison. He was invited to Dublin to attend an official ceremony in 1990. At the same time, Ireland did very well in the World Cup and reached the quarter final. The Irish national team were on an open bus on a tour of the city. Roddy Doyle (author of The Commitments) told the story that half a million people were chanting “Ooh Ah Paul McGrath’s Da, Ooh Ah Paul McGrath’s Da…”. Apparently, Nelson Mandela found it amusing that, after he’d spent 27 years in prison, the crowd were cheering, thinking he was the father of one of their sporting icons.

My first memory of Nelson Mandela and the Apartheid movement was towards the end of the 1970s, in senior school. By that time Nelson Mandela was serving a life sentence on Robben Island, for creating acts of sabotage against the South African Government. I was intrigued by a man who could not be discussed.

Like most senior schools, there were a mix of students, some sporty, some academic, some musical and creative. There were also those that asserted themselves (I guess today they’d be referred to as bullies – spiteful and mean individuals). I was an easy target due to my personality and skin colour living in a predominately white working/middle class home counties town.

It was the Soweto Uprising in June 1977 that sparked a lively debate about the Apartheid system in South Africa. We debated the pros and cons of economic sanctions and, as you can imagine, these discussions exposed a variety of values and beliefs about race and politic. Some of the students were genuinely in favour of Apartheid and were quite vocal with their views and opinions. Following on from those debates, I was subjected to some cruel taunts and jibes from a minority of students.

In retaliation, my teacher suggested I present my perspective in an assembly to the whole school. That’s when I began reading about Nelson Mandela, his fight for equality, freedom and his imprisonment on Robben Island.

I don’t remember the assembly, but I do remember my interpretation of the word apartheid. Translated, it means “separateness”. I tried to explain what that meant for those brave students in Soweto. I told the school the stories I’d read in the papers about the Soweto students protest about mandatory instruction in Afrikaans. More than 500 students were killed, the majority younger than 18. I showed graphic pictures from a newspaper of Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo after being shot by South African police and Antoinette Sithole, running along besides them.

I talked about inequality for students and the motivation behind the riots. I also talked about non-whites detained without trial and the murder of medical student Steve Biko. There were also phone taps, the exile of courageous journalist Donald Woods and harsh reporting restrictions. I remember feeling humbled and asking the whole assembly if they could imagine being so brave, taking such action to stand up for their rights and being prepared to suffer the consequences.

Finally, I talked about Nelson Mandela and his speech. During our lessons and debating sessions, Nelson Mandela and ANC members were portrayed as criminals and terrorists. I found out he and his associates were well educated. He was a lawyer and gave a powerful speech at the time of his sentencing. It was a long speech, much of which I did not understand but this is what I remember.

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

After that assembly, there was a renewed mutual respect between myself and my tormentors and the remainder of my senior years passed in relative harmony – we learnt to get along despite our differences.

Over the years, I’ve learnt some valuable lessons, thanks to Nelson Mandela. He gave a whole generation hope, pride, forgiveness and the ultimate master class in peaceful negotiation.

Thank you for making my life full of hope.

Everybody Needs A Superhero

Captain cb scully

Like most people, I read with amazement about Captain C B “Sully” Sullenberger (what a name), who was the ultimate hero in 2010. Not only did he successfully land Flight 1549 on the Hudson river following a bird strike, but he then walked the entire length of the plane – twice – to make sure all 150 passengers had escaped. He was the last person to leave the aircraft.

My earliest memory of a superhero is Batman played, of course, by the gorgeous Adam West. To me, he was the ultimate hero. Smart, funny, brave and strong and he always solved the problem, caught the bad guy and lived to fight another day.

 “Being a hero doesn’t mean you’re invincible. It just means that you’re brave enough to stand up and do what’s needed.”Rick Riordan, The Mark of Athena

It may be controversial and I know we don’t often save lives, but I feel quite strongly that the majority of sales professionals are unsung heroes. I feel privileged that I get to interact and engage with these hard working men and women who regularly demonstrate their superhero qualities on behalf of customers who, surprisingly, probably don’t realise it.

In that list I would include my favourite luxury fragrance sales ladies who consistently and patiently go the extra mile to help their discerning clientele understand, discover and select the suitable gift for family, friends and sometimes as a mark of gratitude for business connections. Or the good people in Logistics who ensure that valuable documents, drawings and their clients’ best work is delivered on time and in a professional manner. Lastly, those tenacious City surveyors who are pivotal to finding the right office building in the right location, providing security, safety and a working environment so their clients can get on with whatever they do.

When I get feedback from a client about how my coaching enabled a reserved individual to approach a group of peers and prospects at a high profile networking event with confidence, skills and ability, I feel like a hero. Most recently, I heard one chap practised his questioning techniques in a social setting. He is now dating the lady he practised on, not quite what I had in mind for connecting and engaging!

Doing what we do every day, we often encounter rejection and a fair amount of frustration, but to the people we are in service to – our customers – we are their heroes. So go on, I dare you, adopt your superhero persona and go the extra mile to be your customers’ hero today. 

(Oh, and do tell me how you got on…)

What The Face can teach us about selling ourselves and our USPs?

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I’m not a huge fan of reality TV but my ears pricked up when I heard the most interesting dialogue from the most unlikely source. Honestly, I never thought I’d be hanging on every word and agreeing with what Naomi Campbell had to say.  For those of you who have not seen the programme, the makers and experienced models are looking for somebody to represent and be the face of a leading cosmetics company: potentially a life-changing opportunity for the fortunate winner.  So what was it I found so interesting? It was the similarity between us all, every day in front of clients, at meetings and presentations, with co-workers and in social settings and those beautiful girls on a runway wearing the most expensive and elegant designer clothing.  I was surprised to hear Miss Campbell talk about being a top model. Apparently, it is all about the attention to detail and knowledge – how to pose, engage the audience, sell the product, have confidence, be creative, be able to take direction and get into the right mind set to get a winning picture. Models must adopt and cultivate a winning spirit and have the drive and determination to succeed. Sound familiar?

By this time I was completely gripped. I have a bubbly and outgoing personality, which is a huge blessing but over the years I’ve learnt it is not about me, it is about the product or service and how those can solve a problem for the buyer.

I never thought I’d agree with Naomi Campbell, but she is right – hence 27 years at the top of her game. Sometimes, the best messages come from the most unusual sources.