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Would You Employ Any Of Lord Sugar’s Apprentices?

Posted on Have Your Say: Leave a comment?

Sir AlanYes, it’s excruciating, painful and hilarious. But it’s also a great study programme for those of us interested in the psychology of the fame-seeker. And the interest is shaken, stirred and served up with a delicate slice of hyperbole in this season’s BBC1 extravaganza, The Apprentice.

I love to see how these obviously intelligent people in a past life actually try to sell themselves on TV, possibly not realising that if they go out in the first few weeks, people will only remember them for being total and utter mash-heads.

Listen to some of the quotes from the first show:

‘I’m an alpha male. I can make women do what I want in the business world, and, come to think about it, some men”. Yes, Daniel Lassman, but can you actually make a company successful?

He continued, ‘I’d give myself a 9/10 for attractiveness, but I’m not better at business because I’m good looking. I’m better at business because I’m better at business.’

Well, that makes sense now, then. Thanks for clearing that up.

Steven Ugoalah was one of my favourites. ‘I have an amazing idea that will make Lord Sugar a fortune and change the world. I’m not arrogant – because what I’m saying is all true.’

Can’t wait to see wait what this idea is. And Lord Sugar’s reaction. Riveting!

‘I get the job done. I walk the walk. I talk the talk. I dance the dance,’ said Mark Wright. Wow, that’s what every interviewer wants to hear at every interview. And probably has. From all the has-beens and idealists that have stepped foot in the building!

And what of Scott McCulloch? Yes, the great one was on top form with, ‘I see myself as a mix between Gandhi and the Wolf of Wall Street.’

An interesting and poignant observation from Scott, many supposing that up to seven billion people could be aligned in the same phrase! What a shame we won’t be able to see if he is right. Lord Sugar eliminated him on the first show!

It was fascinating to see the way these people tried to sell themselves to the British public, or was it just to themselves? Surely the women on this series wouldn’t stoop to the level that makes others reach for the sick bag?

Stand by for Ella Jade Bitton, claiming to be a management graduate, and giving all other management graduates nightmares. (Is this seriously the business I have devoted my life to? Arrghh!)

‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. That’s how I live. That’s my motto.’

Now, I’m not so naïve as to believe all this is exactly how they appear in real life. It’s pure televisual sloth, I know. But there will be some managers out there who will, in the future, be employing these delusional, aspirational salespeople.

Yes, that is what they are. In sales. every one of us has to sell ourselves every day in many situations. The question is do we need to pepper ourselves with bravado to convince others to like us? Naturally, obviously, essentially, the answer is no.

I am so looking forward to seeing how these apprentices are treated by Lord Sugar over the coming weeks. We’re in for treats as the fun unfolds and we get to know them and how they change on the way. Compelling viewing! Just like a car crash!

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of Twitter)

Posted in Sales Stories | Tagged | Leave a comment

How To Overcome The Prospect Who Needs To ‘Cut Costs’

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Cutting costWhen negotiating with a client recently, I noticed she was often coming back to the issue of pricing for our services, trying to get me to reduce the fees for some specific services we were offering.

Now, I realise that, although MTD are tried and trusted with many clients, new prospects haven’t had the opportunity to see how we can benefit their business, so I can understand that they can’t see the value in some of the specific offerings that we have.

I asked her why she felt we needed to reduce the price. (This is always a good tactic, as it helps you build up the rationale behind the request).

She told me that she needed to ‘cut costs’ and that this was one of the items that needed to be cut in price so that she could justify the investment.

Notice she didn’t say that the company didn’t need or want the service…she wanted it, but at a price that she thought right for them.

I said that the fact she was paying anything for the services proved that actually she wasn’t looking to cut costs; she would still have to pay for the services so that wouldn’t help her to cut costs.

What she actually wanted was for us to help her make a profit from the services. Actually, no company wants to ‘cut costs’. It’s just a simple way of saying you want to make a profit, and you think the easiest way is to cut back.

So I identified her positioning statement of ‘reduce your price’ as exactly that…a position.

I wanted to really identify her actual needs, so I could pinpoint her interests.

I asked her what benefit she would see in MTD reducing the price. She replied that she needs to see her departmental profits increase for the next 12 months, and she sees this as one area that will help.

Having seen the real reasons, I said “So you really want to improve profits and you see one way of doing this is by us cutting our fees, is that correct? Well, if we were able to show you how we could help you maintain and increase profits using these services, enabling you to utilise these facilities in a way that would immediately have an impact on business, would you say the fees we are charging are reasonable?”

After a little contemplation, she had to say ‘yes’ to this, as it was providing the solution she was looking for. As we offer a guarantee on our services, I was able to persuade her to accept our fees, with no discount, on the proviso that it would help her achieve her profit goals.

So, I worked with her to see how the return on investment would be greater than the initial outlay, and she was able to see the rationale and agreed to go with us.

This is the value of moving away from ‘positions’ in negotiating and moving towards ‘interests’. People always have hidden interests that are served beneath the surface of their positions they are taking. Uncover those needs and interests and you have a greater chance of succeeding when you are negotiating, rather than just relying on working on their positions.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Negotiation Skills | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The 8 Essential Skills You Need To Become A Perfect Listener

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Woman listening with ridiculously big earWe have spoken many times about the key skills required to become an expert salesperson, and we always keep coming back to the specific skill of being able to listen effectively.

Listening is a skill in that it can be learned, developed and improved. Here are some ideas that will help you keep developing this essential addition to your armoury:

- Practice listening skills: Yes, the more you practice, the better you will become. It’s not something you will ever become perfect at – your brain is set up to continually ‘self-talk’ so when you are talking to yourself, you obstruct the ability to listen effectively. Spend time listening in to conversations and practice closely listening to the meaning behind what people are saying, rather than getting ready to jump in with what you want to say.

- Keep an open, curious mind: This is a great skill to develop. It stops you being judgemental and allows you to open up the conversation because you’re more interested in what the other person is thinking and feeling rather than what you are wanting to say and do

- Link what you listen to with what you already know: This helps you build your knowledge and determine connections between what was said and what you know already. That will help you see how these connections could be built up further and also turn you into an interesting conversationalist as you share ideas that are linked up.

- Resist external distractions: Noises, other conversations and such-like are often key distractions that might interfere with your ability to pay attention to what someone is saying. You need to focus and concentrate so these extraneous distractions are placed into the background rather than brought to your conscious attention. If distractions become too much, see if you can move locations or pick up the conversation at another time.

- Ask questions to clarify understanding: People will delete and generalise information because they are reciting from their own perspective and from their own opinionated ideas. Recognise that they may not see things like you do. It doesn’t mean they are wrong; it just means they see things differently. Listen to understand before being making yourself understood.

- Summarise often: It’s good to stop off now and again in a conversation to summarise your understanding of what has been said so far. It stops you from misunderstandings and allows you to backtrack if necessary and ensure you have a complete understanding of what has been said by the client so far.

- Analyse non-verbal signals: Remember that people say more with their subconscious body language than they do with their conscious words. Watch out for mannerisms, eye-contact, specific gestures and other signals that may not be in sync with their overall message. Ask questions that determine the real meaning behind what they may be saying

- They listen to content and emotion: many people will hear the content but miss the emotions that drive the content. In conversations, the emotions may actually mean more than what is being said, so listen out to the signals that may mean the person has hidden agendas or has more concerns than they are letting on.

As you can see, listening is a skill that you will never perfect, and if you keep practicing you may find you get to know more than you had perceived before.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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How To Take Effective Notes During A Client Meeting

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bMany salespeople ask us about the best way to broach the subject of taking notes in a client meeting. Some actually state they’re worried about asking or simply taking out their notebooks because it may put the client off or slow down the meeting.

Also, some have asked whether it’s OK to use a tablet rather than a notebook, or whether it may look a bit pretentious to use such technology.

Actually, I’ve never met a customer who has objected to me making notes during a meeting. It’s a natural thing to do, but still some may not know how to do it effectively. Here’s my take on making it look professional:

A Chinese proverb states, “The faintest ink is better than the greatest memory”. Just like an Ed Milliband speech, you don’t want to miss out something important in your records. So it is always good to have some form of record of what the meeting was about

The way to approach it is, at the start of a meeting take out your tablet or notebook as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

As you open it up, establish eye contact and say “You’re ok with me taking notes, aren’t you?” Say it as if it’s a foregone conclusion the obvious answer will be “Yes, of course!”, which it almost definitely will be. (I’ve yet to come across a prospect who has said, “Actually, I would like you to memorise my every word rather than write them down!”)

The benefit of taking notes is that you can control the pace of the conversation. If the prospect sees you writing, they are more likely to slow down rather than race ahead. Also, they may take more time to consider what they are saying, if they know that each word may be dissected and transcribed.

Write down only the key points. You’re a consultant, not interviewing a star for a front-page tabloid story. The main points are those things that are most important for you to remember and will help you assimilate the solution for this specific client.

Writing notes will help you resist the temptation to interrupt, as you will be concentrating on what they are talking about rather than thinking through what you wish to say in response. It actually changes the whole complexion of the conversation and turns you into the listener rather than the salesperson. This will aid you in building rapport, rather than losing it, as many people think when they take notes.

When you get to a specific point, you can then take control by saying something like, “So, Mr Client, what I see from our discussions so far is….” and you can then cover the main points so the client can see you’ve really appreciated the situation from their viewpoint.

After the meeting, use your notes to be absolutely clear on the needs of this specific client from this meeting. If necessary, link them up with notes from other meetings you may have had from them, so you can see the connections and identify the way forward from now on.

As you can see, there isn’t really any need to feel nervous about taking notes. They are simply another way to show the prospect how important you see the discussions. Done correctly, it will add to your professionalism and help them see the benefits of dealing with you, the real consultant.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Sales Meetings | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Why The Lowest Cost Can Sometimes Be The Riskiest Option

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economía y finanzasWe all know that when you buy a cheap solution, you are also losing something that paying extra would bring for you. But many people buy cheap because they don’t see the worth of paying extra.

A friend of mine refuses to buy high-ticket brands because, as he puts it, ‘paying for the name doesn’t make people feel any different about me when I wear it’

So, what he’s referring to is that he doesn’t see the worth of paying £30 or £40 for a branded tee-shirt when we can get a perfectly good, cheaper one without the name on.

‘Worth’ is in the eyes of the buyer, and if that worth isn’t built, the result will be one of ‘it’s not worth it to me’. I suppose that explains the success of L’oréal’s catchphrase ‘Because you’re worth it!’ on their adverts…they’re trying to make you feel that you, personally, are worth paying more for yourself, and hence increasing your own worth.

John Rankin’s quote comes to mind. Written over 150 years ago, it still sounds as if it could have been written yesterday:


Sound advice. Today, we say that if you buy cheap, you also buy risk. The risk of the item not doing what you intended it to do; the risk of it failing more quickly; the risk of it not providing the results you intended.

Your customers, when they say they want the cheapest, often mean they want to see the best value in the product or service. Your questions have to revolve around what they see as the best solution for their situation. If that means the initial investment or the overall costs being higher than what they originally intended to pay, it should be clear to them what risks they are overcoming if they go with your solution.

A minimising of the risks may well be worth more than the extra costs. That should help them see they are getting good value.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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