Selling Ice to the Eskimos?  It’s not big and it’s not clever….


How often have you heard a salesperson lauded by proud work colleagues, friends and Family? “Good old Bob, he can sell ice to the Eskimos” or “Claire, she could sell sand to the Arabs, that one”.


There is a real flaw in the thinking here.  The subliminal message is that “good” Sales people sell you stuff you don’t want or need.

I’d describe THAT as a confidence trick.


For many people the terms “Salesman” and “conman” are interchangeable.  People fear being trapped into a purchase they don’t want to make because somehow the sales person will use words and actions to manipulate them into doing something they don’t want to do.  And it is true that there are people like that out there, and they are causing trouble for ALL of us.


Because here is the breaking news.  We are all sales people.  If you’ve ever recommended a book to a friend, or a film or a restaurant….THAT’s selling.  Ever been on a date?  Did you pick the worst outfit in your wardrobe?  No, of course not, because you were selling yourself.


As children we have all the right attributes to be great salespeople.  We’re inquisitive, want to explore and need to ask lots of questions.  We want to find stuff out.  THAT’s what GREAT salespeople do.  They look at a prospect and try to get in front of them and what’s the last thing they will be doing at the initial audience?  Selling. 

What they WILL be doing is asking lots of questions, listening to the answers and trying to find out what the Prospect wants.  In 30 years of sales I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone into a meeting assuming that my Prospect will want “X” and ends up with “Y”…..and if I’m honest (which I am, because I am a Sales Professional) sometimes they want nothing.  Sometimes I will be able to tell them where to go instead.  I did it on Wednesday in a DIY store in Luton.  I was selling conservatories and extensions and this gentleman came in wanting to seal a 100-year-old Oak floor.  Yes, I could have got someone to do it and put a margin on for myself, but much better for the customer to deal direct so I put him in touch with a company I’ve known for years. 


Some people will query why I should turn work away.  I’ll tell you why.  Because selling is based on trust.  A few years ago I was offered some work worth £150,000 from a client I was already turning over £600,000 a year.  I told the client that I COULD do it, but there was another supplier who could do it cheaper.  My client said:

“But Richard, you’re turning this work away.”

“Yes, I am” I replied.  “What would you have thought of me if I had taken the work, ripped you off and then you’d found out that not only could you have bought it cheaper, but that I KNEW you could?  Would you ever trust me again?  And because I’ve been honest, will you trust me now?”


The answer to that question came 3 years later when the same client awarded me a contract worth $35,000,000.00…..and no, no one else could have done it better.


The Rules of Successful Selling


You MUST believe that what you are selling is right for the person/organisation you are approaching.  They may disagree, but if you don’t think your product or service is right for them you are playing a confidence trick.

Be yourself.  Yes, build rapport and adapt your behaviour to suit the prospect, but within the parameters of the real you. 


Very early in my career I nearly lost my company a key account.  The main buyer was a good old London Boy, off the markets, very shrewd but never had two aitches to rub together…..and I adapted my language over the phone to mirror him.  He rang my boss and said this:


“Look Frank, this new kid Richard, he’s a nice enough bloke but I know he went to Public School and he’s trying to talk like a barrow-boy….he’s taking the fucking piss.”


People buy people first.  It’s as old as the hills and it’s true.  When did you last buy from someone you didn’t like? 

If you’ve ever done it, did you willingly go back or look at ANY alternative to the existing supplier?  Would you happily pay more?  The flip side is that not everyone is going to like you.  Don’t see that as a problem….do you like everybody you know?  There’ll be plenty of likeminded people out there for you to get on with.

Is it best price or best value?  How often have you bought the budget item only to take it back or chuck the broken bits in the bin?  Don’t look at the base price only.  Look at the base price and the DIFFERENCE in price 

Bloody Money Grabbing Speed Traps

I went on a Speed Awareness Course last week after I got done for speeding a few weeks ago.  83mph on a dual carriageway and 13mph over the limit.  It was a choice between £60 and three points on my licence or £90 and a four-hour stint in the classroom.  I opted to pay the extra, reasoning that I like having a clean licence and it’d probably cost more in insurance renewal if I’d taken the points.

I decided I would go to the training with an “open mind” – only fair really, as it is ALL I ask of delegates to my training sessions.  I am glad I did because boy did I have some pre-conceptions and urban myths exploded.  I also found out some seriously useful information which certainly vindicated my decision to pod out the extra 30 quid for the course.

Did you know, for example, that you signed a contract the day you passed your driving test?  For me it was over 30 years ago and I don’t even really remember the examiner given me the chit to sign – I was too excited.  If I HAD bothered to read the T&C’s however I would have seen that I was signing up to keep myself abreast of any changes to the Highway Code for the rest of my driving career.  When was the last time you looked at the Highway Code?  The latest one came out in 2017 so if it was before then, you are in breach of contract.  

I also discovered that for the period of your licence having 3 points on it, the average increase in insurance premiums is in excess of £400 and some insurers will void your existing insurance immediately and hit you with a serious hike in your contributions. 

My biggest perception change, or paradigm shift, came regarding the positioning of Speed Cameras – both static and mobile.  My suspicion has always been that they are placed all too often in a place where they can generate the most income by pouncing on unsuspecting drivers.  At the training session I discovered that mobile cameras are only erected at the site of a death or serious injury and static cameras only get put up where that toll rises to 3 deaths or serious injuries.  If you ever see a speed sign or warning sign that is surrounded by a yellow square, it’s because someone died there.  Those black and white arrows on a bend?  Surrounded by a band of Yellow? – yup, someone died on the corner.  You’re entering a pretty little village and the village name sign is backed with Yellow – that’s right, someone died here.

In Goal Mapping we talk a lot about how we view the world and how it is coloured by our paradigm – the prejudices, emotions, beliefs and understandings that contribute to our judgements of situations.  Having a distorted paradigm can be very detrimental to the way we act and react and we can make poor judgements that affect us adversely.  Questioning how we see the world and making sure we have all the relevant information is vital to make the right response to any situation or opportunity.

Like never before, we are surrounded by information on our phones, iPads, laptops, TV, Radio, Social Media and so on.  The scary thing is that without an “open” mind or if we are hampered by a distorted paradigm we are going to make some dumb – and expensive – decisions.

My paradigm shift from last week’s experience will, I hope, make me a safer driver.  Hopefully you aren’t as dumb as I was and get done for speeding, but if you are unsure of how your paradigm is affecting your performance or how you can make better informed decisions with a clearer view of your world then go to  or give me a call on 01767 261160.

And if some copper points a speed gun at you, it’s not that he’s after your dosh.  He’s trying to save your life.

Downton - A Christmas Special


Fans will be wishing for a 2017 Christmas Special of Downton Abbey and fuelled only by the leftover booze from a pre-Christmas office party (a half bottle of flat Cava, some supermarket lager that no one could face, a hideous choclate liqueur from a well-known German Supermarket and the bottle of Spiced Rum we get from the Stationery Supplier) here is my suggestion for the plot line……



…Christmas 1938 – Nearly 15 years on from the last episode and dark clouds are gathering over Europe again


Tom and Henry's car business is turned towards making armoured cars for the MoD.


The first model is fraught with problems and nicknamed the "Lady Mary" for breaking down at vital moments, a complete cow to start and even more difficult to stop with totally incomprehensible steering and irrational gear changes. It also appears to be well-armoured but turns out to be vulnerable to small arms fire in the most unlikely of places.


 Meanwhile Bertie and Edith report back to Robert that on a recent diplomatic visit to Berlin organised by Bertie's chum Lord Halifax they met Chancellor Hitler who seemed "an all-round good egg with some interesting ideas" - and can be counted on to get the trains to run on time.


Lady Cora sends a telegram to her cousin in Boston about the shortage of Stockings and Chocolate and advises that when her countrymen deign to get involved they should stuff as much of the two items in their kit bags as possible and a good time will be had by all.


Downstairs Mrs Patmore, now close to retirement frets about the new rationing and how the hell is she going to do Christmas for 75 with half a hundredweight of carrots and a small chicken run over by one of the Lady Mary armoured car prototypes.  Mr Mason and Andy save the day with 30 rabbits that had been in the cabbage field and Daisy sets to work skinning and gutting them for a festive Rabbit Pie.


Carson, now ninety, is badly injured as Mrs Hughes smacks him one with a cast iron frying pan after he compliments her on her egg-nog being "nearly as good as Mrs Patmore's".


Mr and Mrs Bates still don't get why everyone sniggers when they insist upon referring to their now 15 year old son as "young Master Bates".


Berrow is beside himself with excitement when it is announced that Downton is to be used as the base for Basic Training of the Yorkshire Light Infantry and the prospect of 600 young men in uniform is almost too much to bear.


Countess Violet is furious at how standards have slipped when the new King, George VI, sends her a birthday card with a badge attached proclaiming "I'm 105" on it........


In the second half of the programme we discover that Spratt has used his earnings from the Advice Column, now syndicated to a national and ten regional papers, to fund his longed-for gender reassignment.


It isn't an unqualified success but the recently widowed Isobel (who suspects Lord Merton's death was caused by a dodgy fish soup served to him the last time they dined with his son and daughter-in-law),despite her grief, vigorously defends Dr Clarkson's efforts as a "jolly good first attempt" at sex-change surgery.

The last word on the subject is of course given to Countess Violet who states that however hideous the result, at least Spratt is still more attractive than Denker


Springwatch comes to Ambridge

Exciting news for Naturelovers and Archers fans.  It is suggested as a cost cutting exercise that this year's Spribngwatch be based in Ambridge with a simulcast on BBC 2 and an audio edition on Radio 4 saving an estimated £30,000 in Production costs.  But what special ornithology can Chris Packham and the team expect to spot?  


Here's a taster:


Grundy’s Gull: There are two schools of thought regarding this bird’s nest building ability. The Cock is convinced of its genius whilst the rest of the bird world, including the Grundy hen, snigger behind their wings at its shambolic efforts. Nests often appear on “Springwatch” and “Country File” after they are built near blast furnaces, on extremely weak branches directly above a waterfall or just outside the 18-yard box at Anfield. Chicks, IF they survive, will fight constantly.

Brookfield Archer Bird: After laying, the hen will often abandon the nest for no reason leaving her mate, who isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, completely nonplussed. Unique to the bird world the Cock’s mother is usually on hand to feed the entire brood.

Pargitter’s Pheasant: Hens are renowned for taking a mate from a later brood

Bellamy’s Bird of Paradise: With bright and cheerful plumage, the female is a gregarious bird and easily impressed by any flamboyant potential mate flashing a few feathers. Feeds almost exclusively on juniper berries

Kenton’s Tit: Prone to great plumage displays for no apparent reason, if ignored this little bird becomes quite plain and even appears morose, looking at all the other birds flying higher and flicking his wingtips at them and giving his distinctive call which some say sounds like “Yooo-Luckee-Baa-Stoo-Ard”

Carter’s Warbler: Nowhere else in the bird world is the cock so hen-pecked and downtrodden. Despite making fabulous nests, providing the finest in mealworms and grubs, the hen looks disapprovingly at her mate. Mind you, it isn’t just him. Any bird in the vicinity is likely to be judged harshly by this feisty little bird, with wings that uniquely fold across the front of the breast. Rather than calling her mate, the hen places her head on one side and taps her feet until she gets what she wants. If the bird finds a discarded chili pepper it has been observed to launch the most outrageous and explicit courtship dance in avian history. An observant bird, Carter’s Warbler can be counted on to notice anything new in the neighbourhood at which point she will go to the top of the tallest tree in the woods and squawk uncontrollably, sometimes for DAYS

Snell’s Duck: Waterproof, bullet-proof, bomb-proof. A tenacious little duck that never gives up on whatever task it sets itself. You can always spot a Snell’s Duck, or at least hear it. After the entire duck pond has “quacked” there is a pause before there’s a final single quack from Snell’s Duck –who’s just had the joke explained to her. Ruffles a few feathers on the duck pond but, although no one will admit it, this little red-headed duck is loved by all.


And finally a visitor from Minnieapolis not seen for a while, but who could turn up at any time - 


The Titchener Shitehawk:

Renowned for its very complicated courtship dance, often giving elaborate gifts of woven branch material or delicately eviscerated prey, once the male has a mate it becomes very possessive and has been known to peck and harass the female who will often resort to cowering in the nest and refuse food. The male is unpopular even with keen ornithologists and opinion is divided as to whether it’s best to net, gas or just shoot the little bastards


Marmite Politics

Ken Livingstone once wrote a book called “If Voting Changed Anything, They’d Abolish it”.  For most of my life – the wave to the Pavilion for the hard earned half century is but a dim memory – that’s been true.  Wilson, Heath and Callaghan came and went – Thatcher is now a subject for history lessons and even the New Dawn of Blair is overshadowed by Chilcot.

Change came without the need to vote.  No one voted to put a man on the Moon, or for the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Perestroika and Glasnost happened because one night over his cocoa Mikail said to Riesa “You know what Mrs Gorbachev? This bollocks needs to stop.”

No one voted for Windows or the iPad, or the Internet or even Social Media.  Before Facebook and LinkedIn we relied on the pundits to gauge the mood of the Nation – now we are all pundits.

And that punditry has brought about one, and possibly two, momentous decisions for which the ramifications are unknown.  The EU referendum and the US Presidential election have polarised the debate.  If you voted Remain on June 23rd then you’re now a “remoaner” being told to suck it up and accept democracy in action.  Are you a Brexitier? If so, you’re tarnished with being a small-minded, bigoted owner of a White Van….and no doubt you read the Daily Mail.

Trump supporter?  Then you’re a woman-hating redneck who’s married to your sister and you want you’re old job at the lumberyard back.  Killary fan? Then you’re a Liberal who wants more war and don’t mind having someone who deleted 30,000 emails as your President. (Interestingly George W and his Administration deleted MILLIONS of emails – and yet that only ran on one Sunday night documentary – blokes eh?).

What both campaigns have in common is you are either 100% in one camp, or 100% in the other – no common ground, no consensus.  And with opinion divided pretty much down the middle as the polls in the US suggest and the result on June 23rd showed that’s pretty scary because when the results start to be felt, and whatever they turn out to be, society needs to pull together to make the situation work.

Which is where Marmite comes in.  Like Brexit, Trump, Remain or Hillary, you either love it or hate it.  And it is certainly a harbinger of things to come post-Brexit.  You see, until last night you couldn’t get Marmite in Tesco’s – or 150 other premium brands because Unilever wanted to put their prices up.  Why?  Because of Brexit and the catastrophic position of Sterling, or so said Unilever.  Tesco refused, to accept the hike and there was a stand-off. 

Some will say that Brexit has nothing to do with Marmite – it’s made in Burton-upon-Trent.  But much of what we make here relies on raw materials from abroad – and oil is paid for in US dollars.  So many firms who trade exclusively inside the UK will have costs increasing and those exporting will have the advantage of a weak pound at point of sale offset by costs back up the production line.

The love/hate dynamic with the US Presidential Election is just as stark and with the Global Security situation means that the next Presidency is probably going to be the most important Administration since FDR and the New Deal.

The Marmite thing has been resolved but the smart money is on the arrival of smaller jars for the same price.  As time goes by “Brexit means Brexit” will mean something else.  How the US deal goes, well who knows?

To the outsider it appears to be between a Liberal career politician who might have done some bad things and has been cleared on all counts and a pussy-grabbing misogynist who one UN Official today thinks would be a danger to the World.

Still, it might not happen – at a Florida Rally this week Donald told his supporters to get out and vote on the 28th of November…….yay, go Donald – that’s 20 days after the polls close.

I’m sending the both of them a jar of Marmite……. 

………When it’s back in stock

England Expects - Well The Sun, Daily Mail, and Express Do

I haven't bothered to look at the papers this morning.  I am guessing that there will be calls for Chris Robshaw's head and God-knows what body parts currently owned by Stuart Lancaster.  No doubt the cacophony generated from Sports Desks across England will drown out a question asked last night on ITV in the post-match post-mortem by one of the few pundits qualified to speak on the subject, Jonny Wilkinson.

His question was to ask the press whether they were interested in selling newspapers or, like him, winning the World Cup as soon as possible.  He's right in saying we have a good team, and further that the World Cup arrived a year or two too early.  It takes time to build a team and the career of an International Rugby Player is shorter than that of his counterparts in Football or Cricket.  If the All Blacks win this tournament it'll be the first time a team a) successfully defended the title and b) taken less than 8 years between wins.

The Group of Death had three teams that rightly have aspirations to win the whole thing, and most of the Press will ignore that.  Instead there will be a witch-hunt and sacrifices to sate the blood of the press pack. 

Who could possibly want to be the England Coach in any of our three main sports?  The only job more difficult right now is at St James' Park.  

In the past few weeks Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed that he had been approached twice to be England Football Manager and had turned it down for being a job too impossible, even for him, because of Press attention - it was as a second thought and a throwaway remark that being Scottish wouldn't necessarily help either.

Perhaps a starting point for the England Rugby Team is to take a look at what their counterparts up the Road in St. John's Wood did with the Cricket team.  It was a scant few months after the ignomy of being dumped out of the World Cup by Bangladesh (for goodness sake!) that The Ashes had been retained.

The transformation has to be put down in large part to the attitude of the new Coach Trevor Bayliss.  His philosophy is that the players he has are the best in the country.  They are the most talented.  Sometimes they WILL fail.  The law of averages says they should succeed more often.  The best way to get that average up is to go out and PLAY.  Without Restriction.  Because they are good enough.

For England to win anything worth putting in a trophy cabinet at Lords, Wembley or Twickenham, the Press have to lower their expectations.  Yes, a poor performance against Bangladesh needs to be derided, and if England had come a cropper like the Boks to Japan that too should lead to some criticism - but to lose to two teams who may well contest the Final, come on.

The sooner it is accepted that there are perhaps 12 or so teams capable of winning a Football World Cup - which means 4 won't make it past the Round of 16 - or currently 4 teams vying for the No 1 spot as top Cricket Test Nation and half a dozen teams still hoping to run out at Twickenham come the end of the month the sooner we will win something.

Turn the heat off a bit chaps, let our boys go out and play, and win.  Who knows, you might even sell some more papers.

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