Monday, 29 November 2010


I have been thinking about the role and reputation of selling recently and the fact that you are much less likely to hear anyone say they want to be in selling than you should be. Apparently the desire to sell is declining even in America where Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” has become a reality.

But not in China where it’s a prized job…now that should tell us something.

It’s baffling because all great businessmen and leaders have to be good salesmen and they are. Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Charlie Mayfield, Michael Dell, Jack Welch are or were great salesmen. Tony Hayward of BP was not – so he was the wrong man for that job.

The only two things that will get us out of this global mess are going to be great innovation and great salesmanship. And by salesmanship I mean not just the art of pitching or being a huckster, I mean the art of profound understanding of a product or service, the ability to present its benefits beautifully and engagingly, the ability to build long term relationships based on trust and an absolute commitment to customers needs.

The marketers meanwhile are brand building and creating social networks. Hell, I’ve been in marketing all my life and love it but the way some marketers talk about selling you’d think it was a very dirty word involving transactions and…money.

One-to-one selling is going to be the key to the future and you can forget the busted flush of Asian Contact Centres which have done perhaps more than anything else to damage the image of selling.

To be a great salesman you must be very bright, understand the business scene and what senior management have on their minds, be economics savvy, very intuitive, able to think on your feet, be a great presenter, think long term, be very margin focused and understand that real marketing is theatre. Like the incredibly rich Jamie Oliver.

Accountants can cut cost but they can’t increase sales income.

So it’s time to find out if you’re good enough to be a salesman now…and join the true, new heroes of the 21st century.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


I was wondering why I was in such an extremely good mood. It’s not the news - a mining disaster in New Zealand, the catastrophe of Haiti and the humiliation of the Irish (as the Times put it.)

At first I put it down to the impending ho, ho, ho of Christmas – the first time in years I’ve felt that surge of goodwill (is it flu? No it’s goodwill – an acute case of it.) It could be the effect of young grandchildren and great nieces but there’s more to it than children’s sense of wonder.

I genuinely believe if we set our minds to it we can be a lot more cheerful, productive and effective. Being in a good mood is as much up to us as it is to outside events. As Jack Welch put it (former head of GE) “determine your own destiny or someone else will.”

Which takes us back to the Irish for whom I feel a genuine affection and sympathy – they’ve been stuffed by the speculators as so many of us have been in the past. Do not confuse speculation with entrepreneurialism. The latter is about making calculated adventurous moves – like a new product launch – the former about betting the house and all your neighbour’s houses on red.

There’s only one way out – a dose of austerity which I’m afraid will taste like a powerful Bloody Mary – and a decision to laugh in the face of the doom mongers. As the recently spanked Lord Young said “honestly, you’ve never had it so good” Naughty Lord! The truth is that the way we really feel is in the mind not in the wallet.

And right now I’m feeling great. Positive, on song and up for it.

And they say it might even snow later this week.

Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I’ve been spending time recently thinking about the brands of the future and what they’ll look like. This has been helped by a recent survey.

The Times of October 15th published the Populus/YouGov list of the most influential brands. I’ve compared 2007 and today to see what’s changed in the “top ten”.

John LewisTesco
AmazonJohn Lewis
Co-op GroupGoldman Sachs
Co-op BankMcKinsey

In 2007 we were in the Vienna days of those good times before the economic war, so the reputational demise of Goldman Sachs and McKinsey since then isn’t so surprising. Virgin, M&S and Tesco are perhaps punished for their failure to keep up with the way people see the times and Microsoft and Tesco, I suspect, for being so big and bullying. But apart from John Lewis and the Co-op the “go-go” brands are young, all post war creations. Ten years ago half of them would have been establishment brands like Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Ford.

The big news is from the “we stand for an attitude to life and employees – employees always coming first” – John Lewis and the Co-op. Look at the Innocent website and you’ll see that they live in this same world of celebrating its employee/partners and its ethics (yes – good for them – they actually use that word).

The somewhat unworldly Co-op evoking as it has done a patronisingly sniffy “room-for-improvement” response from many marketers proves the power of staying true to principles and putting substance before style.

So welcome to real and sustainable brand values if you want to be taken seriously and maybe great product values too.

Monday, 8 November 2010


Women….can’t stop thinking about them…and that might not be so bad a thing nor even so unusual one but the thoughts about women fizzed dramatically into life for me three or four times during the week.

In reverse order – I met a 24 year old manager of a design group in London doing terrific work and feeling her way into the job with appealing modesty. She will be amazing in two years and is merely very impressive now.

Then, lunch with two women of power and a vast sense of curiosity and the endless desire to ask “why?” and to mean it. So you have to stay on your mettle because you are being asked to give their questions your genuinely best shot not because you’re joined in a male debating combat where he who blinks first loses.

And finally, a conference at Mercers in Tower Place. 100 very powerful women and about 8 not so powerful men. I was impressed by the observations of Margaret Hefferman (author of “The Naked Truth” and “Women on Top”) who’d researched successful female entrepreneurs in the States. And their success, she said,  was owing to a series of factors:-
  1. The motivation amongst these women was huge – far greater than their male equivalents – and they mainly wanted to create great companies that lasted not just create great wealth.
  2. Their sense of zeitgeist was profound…they noticed “gaps in markets…noticed…yes, that’s what women do, they notice things.
  3. They had an irrational love of their customers whom they really seemed to regard as being part of the family.
  4. They surrounded themselves with advisors and smart, interesting people who kept them alive, alert and on track.
  5. They had plans and to a person said wryly “but no-one really expects things to turn out that way”.
There was more but that will do for now….great stuff.

This is not about glass ceilings or feminism or Girl-Power…it’s about balance. About all this female right brain power battling with all that male left brain power.

As someone said to me during my troubled week….”how about finding a way of using the whole human brain for once?”

Monday, 1 November 2010


I’ve had three things on my mind in the last week:-
  1. The richness of sights and thoughts that happen when you look up rather than down
  2. The appeal of personal simplification enjoyed by Generation Zero
  3. The madness of the “cuts masochism”
First of all, “looking up” which in a care-worn world too few of us do. Look up and the see the wonders of London like the amazing sculpture of Elizabeth 1 at St Dunstans in Fleet Street. It survived the Great Fire in Ludgate Circus and was moved here in 1760. Apparently it’s the only sculpture of her that was done in her lifetime. So given my refrain about creativity being enhanced by our having an acuity of observation, start looking up and looking around.

Secondly, after Generation Y we now have Generation Zero according to the Times. These “zero” guys keep all their worldly possessions in one suitcase and everything they know on a laptop (and in their brain) and all they want to read, no doubt, on a Kindle. Their life and contacts are on Facebook and the other social network sites. No office. No ties. No mortgage. No need to shop. An invitation to Brazil is suddenly so easy to say “yes” to. They are global citizens with little to screw up their minds.

Finally that 29% cut in the arts budget. “Inevitable”, we winced. “Necessary”, we squirmed. Meanwhile in France they managed a budget increase of 2% to their arts budget raising it to £6.4 billion whereas our budget is just £400 million. What the hell is going on? Can the French be thinking more clearly than we are?
This is all about priorities.
Priorities about what we look out for – like Commissario Brunelli in Donna Leon’s novels about Venice who spends his days looking for the next discovery in the architecture of the city.
Priorities about what we need. In other words it’s about reducing our dependence on “stuff”.
And priorities about what really, really matters in our lives. It’s about real cuts not about symbolic ones.
Have a great week and see if anything changes in your life by looking up, simplifying and prioritising.