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Who has the most power, the buyer or the seller?

I joined Procter & Gamble because they had the reputation for being a great training ground – they were known as ‘The University of Marketing’. After a week’s one-to-one induction on understanding the company, product knowledge, customer types, business systems and most importantly selling processes and techniques (the steps of the call and the consultative sales process) I was then accompanied on my first visit to a variety of customers. I found the sales proces quite uncomfortable at first as it felt forced and overly mechanistic especially as I had recently lived in North Devon where bartering and exchanging mutal favours with people was how things worked down there.

After 6 months of selling on my own with some coaching from my manager I was invited to attend the sales training course at a hotel near the head office (then in Newcastle). The course brought together a group of very motivated and competitive sales people who had recently joined the company and mostly from University. It was quite a pressurised environment where you were being monitored by trainers, a senior manager and filmed on videos to then watch yourself and be critiqued by everyone else!

The key take-out that I took away from that experience, apart from a number of life long friends, was a question asked of us by a grizzled sales trainer at dinner the last night ‘ Who has the most power, the buyer or the seller?’ Although at the time we thought he was a bit past his sell-by date and eccentric he was right to challenge us in our automatic thoughts that the buyer typically has more power and encouraged us to think that the seller also has power when they offer something that is unique, scarce or with a more trusted and reliable service than the alternatives.

I have gone on to use this question frequently in my work with clients to help them focus on their areas of strength, their uniqueness and to build the value of their business products and services in the eyes and experience of their customers (buyers). So thanks very much Hedley Grey for asking that question all those years ago and I recommend that you use it to help build the value of your business.

Focused passion and commitment, the key ingredients

Rugby boys

I felt really lucky last week to be invited to the Wales v England rugby match as the decider for the six nations championship by a friend who had a won the VIP tickets in a competition. It was a great occasion, the stadium was very impressive, plenty of food and drink on tap in a box that had it’s own bar, a tv to watch the other games and an amazing view of the pitch from inside and outside on the balcony.

So what else do you need as an England rugby fan? Well, for anyone who didn’t see what was billed as the game of the championship, you need to bring total commitment and passion as well as all the normal skills that you must have to play rugby – which Wales did with the backing of a very partisan crowd (and nation!) but which England seemed to have left behind when crossing the river severn. I went from feeling that I had won the lottery to knowing that we had lost a major sporting event and with the worst result against Wales in the history of the competition.

What has this got to do with a blog about business I can imagine you asking. It made me realise that we can’t assume that experience, skills and clever strategies will be enough when the going gets tough. In business as in sport we need to draw on the key ingredients of each individual’s passion and commitment within the team which must then be focused together on how to ‘play the game’ in the right way. Adding passion and commitment in our approach to work will help us to feel more connected to what we do and more confident that the results will be achieved in the right way for the right reason. However, as with defeat on the sport’s field it is important to accept the setbacks in the business world and to always look for the lessons from that experience to help you improve the next time you enter the arena.

Problems don’t have to be bad news

The natural reaction to a problem is to wish it hadn’t happened and to feel frustration, especially when you are the one that has caused it!

There is a potential upside to causing a problem if the aftermath is handled in the right way as this can help you get even closer to your customer and it can help you move the business forward together. Admittedly it can be difficult at the moment you realise that you’ve made a mistake to think positively but if you can swiftly move towards acknowledging your own responsibility for the problem, apologising to your customers and then seeking to make amends then you could on the right track to make significant changes to how you do business.

If for example you are not a naturally good planner and you tend to deliver your product or service ‘just in time’ but you make a mistake and miss an important deadline what can you do? Following the suggested route above you quickly accept your personal and business responsibility, apologise immediately to the customer, look for ways to help them now and review your systems to identify how this mistake can never be repeated again. This approach won’t guarantee that your customer won’t walk away from your business but it may give you a second chance which most reasonable customers would consider. Most importantly for the long term health of your business if you manage to change your planning and delivery systems to be more effective then you will have a more viable and secure business with customers who have confidence and trust in your service. When you can take the learning from problems everyone’s a winner!