Death of the sales force!

In loving memoryIn the second of this series of three blog posts I want to review how changes in our world have led to the inevitable demise of the sales force focused on delivering those artful, imaginative and skilful sales pitches. This is the second reason why selling nowadays is inappropriate, is ineffective and is inefficient – our world has changed and this demands changes in our behaviours.

No pitchThe second reason stems from the nature of the roles people play in the modern world of work. Previously, sales people sold and those not in sales roles didn’t. That was the conventional wisdom that led to companies investing large amounts of their resources in developing professional sales forces trained in all sorts of different sales methodologies, techniques and motivational mechanisms. A huge proportion of corporate training spend went on sales training. Graduates and those at the very top of the tree also enjoyed focus on them and were allocated precious funds. That was pretty much it – sales, senior management and graduates were developed through training; the rest got very meagre pickings.

Daniel H. Pink, in his excellent book ‘To sell is human – the surprising truth about persuading, convincing, and influencing others’, points out that one out of every nine workers in the USA works in sales (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). In the EU, approximately 13% of the workforce is in sales, according to Eurostat. In Japan, the number is 1 in 8. In these large and developed economies, around 1 in 8 people are in sales. Pink develops his argument thus; his point is that the other 7 out of 8 are engaged in ‘non-sales selling’. This is the art of moving opinions, advancing arguments and persuading others to your point of view.

The conventional view of economic activity is that the two most important activities are producing and consuming. Pink argues that nowadays we spend very large amounts of resource on a third economic activity – moving. That is we spend a huge amount of our time moving people in order that they part with resources (tangible assets such as money, and intangible assets such as time and attention) so that both parties get what they want. This activity isn’t easily classified and quantified. People do have titles such as ‘Sales Manager’ which the statisticians can capture; we don’t have ‘Moving Managers’.

Pink commissioned a survey of over 9,000 respondents titled ‘what do you do at work?’ Two major findings emerged:-

  • People now spend about 40% of the time at work in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing and convincing people in ways that don’t involve anybody making a purchase.
  • People consider this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success – even in excess of the considerable amount of time they spend doing it.

The skills needed for moving, Pink argues, are not those traditionally associated with sales. The traditional view is that successful sales people are generally extroverts and that introverted people are less likely to be successful in sales. Pink argues that the movers today need to be ambiverts. He references research showing, on a 1-7 scale of introvert to extrovert (when 1 is very introverted and 7 is very extroverted), the highest performing sales people actually score 4 – right at the mid-point and the place where ambiverts are found. Peak revenue per head occurred in those scoring between 4.0 and 4.5, and tailed off over 4.5.These most successful sales people were neither highly extroverted nor very introverted.
extrovert_ambivert_introvertOur contemporary world requires us to have different skills that enable us to be effective at moving people rather than selling to them. Teaching the sales force various techniques and processes and trying to improve their performance through motivation, inspiration and positive mental attitudes is no longer a sound investment. Different soft skills, such as understanding and improving emotional intelligence, are what is required and this soft-skills focus is the way to go both now and in the future.

If you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here

Don't sell


Enabling clients and prospects enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ – final post of series

We have reached the final post in this series covering the ALIGNED framework that enables clients enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ to doing business with us without us needing to be expert in the (nowadays inappropriate) ways of Sales. It will be brief because it is a very simple point simply put. The final stage of the ALIGNED framework is ‘Decide or die’.

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die

Alignment_MandhyanBy this I mean that the prospective client should make a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision. As the professional, you should confidently ask for a decision. Don’t permit the option of thinking about it because, if you allow them to defer their decision, the opportunity is dead to you. Mourn if you must, but move on elegantly, having built a greater connection with your prospective customer. You have had the opportunity to deploy effectively several ‘Weapons of Influence’. You should have used all six of them in a very skilled and engaging way. You will have strengthened the person’s propensity to buy from you in the future.

no or yesThere is no right or wrong here, just reality. There is no failure here, only feedback. If they say ‘no’ you won’t waste time chasing the currently unachievable, but you will have strengthened a relationship. In my experience, a ‘no’ can turn into a subsequent ‘yes’ without me expending any more effort.

By doing your job well, you have substantially improved the likelihood that they will enthusiastically say ‘Yes!’ to you. They will be so enthusiastic that they will become a fan and want to tell others about how great their experience has been. In this case, remember to celebrate!

Remember the words of the old song, ‘don’t you mess with Mister In-Between!’ Any response that is neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ is Mister In-Between!

accentuate scriptThe seven stages of the ALIGNED framework are available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the precursor materials based on Robert Cialdini’s ‘Weapons of Influence’ are available as the Congruent Client Attraction System™. Both systems can be delivered into your business in a variety of ways that are tailored to your specific desires, needs and situation. Unsurprisingly, I work with you to use the ALIGNED framework to enable us to determine the best solution for your business. If either system or both prove not to be the ideal solution then I will try to help you find an alternative from another source. I certainly won’t be messing with Mister In-Between!

There is greater detail about the ALIGNED framework in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ available from



Enabling clients and prospects enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ – post 6 of 7

So here we are at last, you are going to be able to fulfil that natural desire to problem-solve, to finally construct your solution, to meet all the needs of your prospective client. We are at the penultimate stage of the ALIGNED framework – ‘Elegant Solutions’.


A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die

aligned posture

Once you have permission to move to the next stage, pause to explain briefly what will happen next. You are going to take a moment to consider everything that has been discussed and will now, for the first time, think about whether or not you can provide the solution that is the best for them. Remind them of what was discussed right at the beginning of your conversation with them – that you will only have them as a client if you have the best solutions for them, and that you will try to find an alternative if you and your company do not have the best solutions for them. At this stage, I may choose to also remind them of my commitment to them (that is, to enable them to be the best they want to be).

Now take some time to weigh up everything you now know. Be creative in building your possible solutions for them. Don’t just trot out in your mind the ‘same old, same old’ for you to consider using. Honour and respect your prospective client by diligently answering the questions ‘Can I provide the perfect fit?’, ‘Can I truly delight them as a client?’, ‘Can this client become one of my fans?’ Ensure your solution is elegant in form, that it enables them to achieve their nirvana and that it addresses any barriers to success you discovered earlier. This is the most important moment in determining whether they will say an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ to you.

Don't sellIn crafting your solution, give them what they want or graciously decline their business. It is time for a congruence check before you outline your proposed solutions. Are you absolutely certain you are the best fit? Have you truly taken into account everything you know? On a scale of 1 to 10, how certain are you? If you do not have the best solution, the perfect way of addressing all their needs and desires, that which will make them an ardent fan and advocate, tell them that and agree that you are not the best provider for them at this time.

If you rate 10, then it’s time to present your proposed solution. How you present your proposal must be congruent with you, so you must develop a way of presenting it that shows your genuine sincerity and your congruence. This is another learnable skill.

What you present should cover your proposed solution, how it will solve the problem and what consequences it will have for your prospective client. Bear in mind your ‘Weapons of Influence’ when presenting your ‘what’. For example, emphasise the scarcity of the totally bespoke solution you have crafted and honed for them alone, if that is what you have done. Explain how the Well-Formed Outcome will be achieved, what life will be like for them as a result and the value they will get, from the least valuable to the highest. (In our previous example, that would be everything from saving time in unproductive conversations, through more sales and more profits, and everything else leading to the more highly valued quality time with their loved ones.) You should also cover the pain that will be taken away and the value that will be created for them as your client. You should outline how your solution elegantly avoids any of the potential obstacles identified earlier. Outline your proposal using appropriate and collaborative language (‘you’, ‘your’, ‘our’, ‘we’ and so on).

jigsawDon’t rush when presenting your solution. Make sure you do so at a pace that is comfortable for your client. Remember to match their words and their body language. Allow them sufficient opportunity to assimilate your solution so that it can become your joint commitment. Then ask if they think they fully understand the solution and the consequent impacts on their pain (using their words) and the value that will be created for them (in their words). If they indicate they do fully understand, and you agree that they do, tell them you know they understand. Specific and explicit agreements should be verbalised, honoured and celebrated.

The next post is the last in this series – ‘Decide or die’.

There is greater detail about the ALIGNED framework in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ available from

Enabling clients and prospects enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ – post 5 of 7

We have reached the fifth stage of the ALIGNED framework for enabling clients enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ to doing business with us. To manage expectations right from the beginning, we are still not yet at the point of identifying what our solution might be, although we are getting close. So stay focused on the prospective client, and guard against thinking about possible solutions for a little while longer.

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die


Nirvana: the Well-Formed Outcome

The next logical step is to build the Well-Formed Outcome with your prospective client in order to create their nirvana, their state of perfection. The Well-Formed Outcome is their Big Dream, Crafted Well, Engaging All, as outlined in ‘Dance with the Elephants’. Building the Well-Formed Outcome with potential clients is a learnable skill that improves with practice. Remember to get them to express their Well-Formed Outcome using all of their senses – hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting and smelling.


Over time, you will form your own unique and congruent way of building the Well-Formed Outcome with prospective clients. I am deliberately not giving you the words, questions and interventions that work for me as these are only congruent with me. You must find a way of building the Well-Formed Outcome with prospective clients that is congruent with you.

At the same time, help your prospective client to discover those things that might stop them going ahead. It is far better to recognise these things at this stage. The more skilled you are at building the Well-Formed Outcome, the more committed your client will be to getting around the obstacles that could prevent them achieving their Big Dreams. The bigger the Well-Formed Outcome, the more trivial the potential obstacles seem to the client.


When you and the client have finished building the Well-Formed Outcome, summarise and reprise it, playing their exact words back to them. Tell the client you think you have fully understood everything. If there is anything at all that you are not totally clear about, resolve that lack of clarity with the client now. Don’t be tempted to proceed based on the 90% you do understand. You must be congruent here – if you have not really understood it all, you won’t be able to decide whether or not you can provide the perfect solution that will truly delight your prospective client and enable them to attain their Well-Formed Outcome. When you are certain you have understood it all and are ready to decide, question them to find out whether they think that you have understood everything. It is important for you to obtain their permission to decide whether or not you have the perfect solution. I might ask questions such as ‘Are you as sure as you can be that I understand?’ or ‘Is there any doubt in your mind?’ When you have their permission, you can move to the penultimate and most important stage. Only now are you finally about to be freed from the confines of staying on task, focusing on them.

We will explore how you can use your newly-found freedom in the next post as we examine the next stage in the ALIGNED framework – ‘Elegant Solutions’.

There is greater detail about the ALIGNED framework in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ available from




Enabling clients & prospects enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ – post 4

In this 4th post in a series of 7 covering the ALIGNED framework we reach ‘Get commitment’ on our journey to enabling people enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ to working with us without deploying any sales techniques.

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die


Alignment_MandhyanSo far we have assumed control, learned about their situation and desires, and their injuries and pains. It is now time to find out how much your prospective client would like to change their current world of pain. Will they make the sacrifices needed to move from what they have tried in the past to the wonderful world that will exist when they realise their Big Dreams? The sacrifices may be in the form of financial outlay, changes of behaviour or working with different people (including you) in the future.

Be specific when asking how committed they are. Use questions such as: ‘In order to realise your Big Dream of … (use their exact words), how committed are you to absorbing the pain it will take, on a scale of 1 to 10?’ Don’t be judgemental about their rating, but do challenge their responses to reveal their level of passionate commitment. A rating of 7 or less probably means they are not sufficiently committed. If they answer with an 8 or 9, ask them what would be needed to make them change their answer to a 10. If a client answers quickly with a 10 (or 11 or 12), I will mildly challenge with a gentle ‘Really?’ in order test the veracity of it in their minds.

1 to 10Check they have the necessary power to deliver on their commitments, or can get that power. Help them understand what they can control and what is outside their control. But neither of you should assume that they will be limited by the confines of their span of control. Just because something is not within their direct control does not mean that thing cannot be changed in favour of their Big Dream. It depends on the balance between worth and cost.

So now you are at the point where they really, really, really know what they want. They really, really, really know their pains. They really, really, really are committed to the solutions. They just don’t yet know what the solutions are. Nor do you, if you have truly been focused on questioning and listening, and on building rapport and empathy.

Don’t worry if you have had a fleeting thought about the solution which you had to extinguish to get back ‘on task’. The ability to focus on the task is a learnable skill that comes with practice. Even when you are very skilled at staying ‘on task’, the other-than-conscious mind will occasionally fire a random thought about the solution into your conscious mind. Just get your conscious mind to banish it. Stay with this focus on them to the exclusion of any thoughts of solutions. We are still not at the point to think about solutions, so hold your nerve a little longer yet.

subconsciousWe are exactly half-way through the ALIGNED framework. In the next post, we will go through the next step, ‘Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome’.

There is greater detail about the ALIGNED framework in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ available from







Helping clients and prospects to say ‘Yes!’

In this first in a series of 7 posts, I offer you an alternative approach to getting the clients you really want for your business. It’s an alternative seven-stage approach to them saying ‘yes’ to you heartily, eagerly and joyfully. The seven stages become relevant after you have attracted them to considering doing business with you by deploying Cialdini’s six ‘Weapons of Influence’ Influence’ which were covered in an earlier series of posts. They are considering buying from you, and so you now have the opportunity for them to say ‘yes’ to you and your business. Use the ALIGNED framework:

A        Assume control

L        Learn their situation and desires

I         Injuries and pains

G       Get commitment

N       Nirvana – their Well-Formed Outcome

E       Elegant Solutions

D       Decide or Die


In this series of posts, I will go through each step in turn, starting with Assume Control. The prospective client has indicated that they want you to provide a solution, be it in the form of a product, a service or a combination of the two. They have an identified need, quite possibly a problem, that is causing them pain, and they want a professional to resolve it for them. They expect you to assume control, to take charge and to demonstrate authority and competence.

So assume control and tell them the process that your interaction with them will follow. Explain that you wish to fully understand what they want and their current situation. Tell them it is only when you reach a full understanding that you will be able to tell them whether you can help – and mean it! Do not have a pre-prepared solution in mind that you are looking to persuade them to buy from you. Congruence is all!

The quality of your listening needs to be outstandingly high. The quality of your listening will affect the quality of their thinking. It is quite often the case that they have not fully thought through their situation, and quality listening from you will help them do so.

Be prepared to not make the sale if your solution is not the perfect fit for them. You will not regret it. You want your customers to be delighted, not merely satisfied. Only delighted customers can become your fan club. Tell them that you will only work with them if you have a solution or solutions that are perfect for them. Tell them that you will not do business with them unless you can provide what is best for them (and mean it!). Tell them that, if there is not a ‘best fit’ you will try to suggest an alternative other than you or your company – so they know the conversation will not be entirely wasted if you don’t do business together, and so they know you care.


This first stage will sound almost like a monologue from you. This is because you are taking control, as expected. While it resembles a monologue, there are two elements that will ease the process and build confidence within your prospective client. First, make it very clear that they have your full attention, using body language. Direct eye contact is key, demonstrating your sincerity, integrity and commitment.

The second element that eases this stage is the words that you use. It is a monologue that you should practise many times to make it perfect. Practise it with a friend or colleague, and record it so you can play it back and learn from it. Your monologue is designed explicitly to outline the process. The implicit messages are just as important, if not more so. You are demonstrating your sincerity, integrity and commitment. Make explicit your commitment to the person receiving the monologue – ‘My commitment to you is ….’ (Mine is ‘My commitment to you is to enable you to be the best you want to be’.) Implicitly demonstrate your commitment to them by focusing your language on them. For every use of the words ‘I’, ‘My’, ‘Mine’ and ‘Our’ (where it refers to your company, not to you and the client), there should be at least one ‘You’, ‘Your’, ‘Yours’.

Implementing the ALIGNED framework in your business requires diligence, determination and a systematic approach. The Congruent Business Development System™ provides the framework you need to implement effective business development to get your business the clients you want saying ‘Yes!’ by making the most of you and the least of sales techniques.

In the next post, I will go through the ‘L’ of ALIGNED.

Improving the customer/client experience

This blog is one of a series looking at how you can drive significant improvements in your organisation at very little cost. Improving Employee Engagement has been shown to lead to step-change improvements in all of the following areas:-

  1. Income growth
  2. Productivity and performance
  3. Customer/client satisfaction
  4. Innovation
  5. Absence and well-being
  6. Staff retention
  7. Health and safety

This post will focus on what is happening in the real world in the area of Customer/client satisfaction.


  • Serco uses the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer loyalty; customers are asked to assess the likelihood that they would recommend the company to others. Those who score the question highly are classed as ‘promoters’, those who score the question poorly are classed as ‘detractors’, and those in between classed as ‘passives’. Serco worked with Aon Hewitt to look at 274 Serco client contracts and found correlation between Employee Engagement and the NPS. Those contracts serviced by employees whose engagement had improved over the year had NPS scores 24% higher than those employees whose engagement had declined.
  • AON also found in a wider study companies classified as being in a “high performance zone for engagement” had a 37% Net Promoter Score (NPS) compared to only a 10% NPS for those outside of the “high performance zone for engagement.”
  • 70% of the more engaged have a good understanding of customer needs against only 17% of the disengaged (PWC). Similarly, 67% of engaged employees were happy to advocate their organisations compared to only 3% of the disengaged.
  • 78% of the more engaged employees in the public sector felt they could impact public service delivery positively; only 29% of the disengaged felt the same way (Towers Watson 2007).
  • A CBI-AXA report from 2007 found that 70% of engaged employees indicated a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; while only 17% of non-engaged employees said the same. Another study found 85% of engaged employees reporting that they can positively affect customer service. This falls to 42% (half) amongst those who are not engaged.
  • An hotel chain study found that a 10% increase in “the extent to which employees try to satisfy customers” resulted in a 22% increase in customer spending per hotel visit.

Studies have found that companies with high employee engagement scores had twice the customer loyalty (repeat purchases, recommendations to friends) than companies with average employee engagement levels. (Are They Really ‘On the Job’?, Pont 2004) The impact that engaged employees have on customer loyalty has a multiplier effect as dissatisfied customers have a tendency to broadcast their dissatisfaction to many of their contacts whilst satisfied customers tend to tell fewer people that they are happy. The Technical Assistance Research Program (TARP) found that customers who complain to an organisation, and have their complaints satisfactorily resolved, tell an average of 5 people about their good treatment. If they receive poor treatment, they tell an average of 20 people about their poor experience.

Customer referncing

  • We know that satisfied customers buy more from us. Both Sainsburys and Dorothy Perkins found that stores with higher levels of employee engagement captured mores sales growth from more satisfied customers.
  • One way to really improve the impact that Engaged Employees can have on customer/client satisfaction (once you have got them engaged) is to improve their communications skills by investing a little in training them to be more aware of how we communicate with each other. This is particularly effective for customer-facing staff, helping them to understand how customers are communicating with them. Training enables them not only to understand this, but also enables them to also respond appropriately. This increases their customer connectedness, leading to improved customer engagement. More engaged customers buy more.

It is clear that levels of Employee Engagement can substantially increase customer/client satisfaction. Satisfied customers are more loyal and spend more. Many organisations are looking at how to reap these benefits as a way of responding to the current economic climate. Organisations can put in place sensible programmes to improve Employee Engagement that do not cost a great deal and deliver great bottom line results. Organisations win when they thoughtfully and consistently implement well-designed programmes to increase Employee Engagement.