I am very lucky, I have a wonderful assistant called Jessica, who is also my son’s partner.
We both have a saying about her – ‘I don’t know how any business could operate without Jess!’
The other day, we were recording some training courses for the soon to be launched ‘Slow Sellers Association’ and she said to me: ‘Why don’t you share your story? How you came across the principles and ideas in Slow Selling. The principles and ideas are great, but it’s so much more real and powerful when you talk about your experiences and how you came across these ideas’.
I promised her that I would, so, knowing that she’ll hold me accountable. Here goes.
I’m not going to write a huge, long blog on this: these sorts of personal stories are so much more powerful and real when told verbally. So, all I’ll do is outline a few principles here and direct you to the podcast and encourage you to go there and have a listen.
When you understand people’s personal stories and experiences, and how these have influenced what they believe and do, you can really understand the key principles, and learn ways you can apply these principles to your own personal situation.
So, please go to the podcast to hear the full story in glorious stereo, but, for now, here are the key principles, and how I learned them.
Principle 1: The way to really sell stuff and build a business is to GENUINELY focus on what THEY want, and what you can do to help THEM reach their GOALS … not yours!
I learnt this as a beer rep in the clubs and pubs of Kent: I took on a failing area and turned it round by focusing on this principle (I didn’t know it at the time, it just seemed like the only thing I knew how to do!).
Principle 2: Manners matter. Customers will judge you on the way you behave with them … especially when you don’t have to. How good are you at returning calls, being on time, and listening attentively to them? How good are you at thinking of them and making suggestions to help them, even when there’s nothing in it for you?
These are a few of the things that were hammered into me at school (and by my mother), and I’ve always found that they’ve served me well, even though they can make life hard in the short term!
Principle 3: common sense is vital, but it’s rarely common practice … so if you can put systems in place to ensure your behaviour sticks to the principles of common sense, you’re bound to be onto a winner.
When I was at a very low ebb in my life at one time, I was introduced to a piece of work called ‘The 7 habits of Highly Effective People’. I can honestly say that it changed my life: of was one of those lightbulb moments. I said to myself: ‘Yes, these habits are all common sense, but I’m not doing any of them … no wonder my life is in a mess!’
Principle 4: Customers are driven by emotional, not physical, needs.
When we were running our first pub, on Dartmoor, we’d built the business from bankrupt (and being repossessed) into a busy and thriving pub, through grit and hard work. Needless to say, being tired and stressed was a normal state of affairs! One day I was feeling very frustrated about a myriad of small issues, as I was preparing the bar for opening, and snapped at my wife over some trivial matter. She called me aside and said: ‘Guy, you ned to get a grip on yourself. Customers don’t mind if the boards aren’t perfect, the back bar isn’t 100% organised and the yard hasn’t been swept … but they REALLY mind if you’re in a bad mood and don’t welcome them wholeheartedly the minute they step through the door!’. I’ve never forgotten that!
Principle 5: You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
I was the Field Operations Director at a FTSE 100 pub Company for a number of years: responsible for developing our ‘Retailers in Partnership’ approach for our 9000+ pubs: developing support systems and ideas to help these publicans thrive, so that their business improved (and we would have a more stable business and sell more beer). We had a significant budget and invited 14 training & development firms to come and present to us: what could they do to help us develop our ‘Retailers in Partnership’?
They presented some very powerful and positive ideas, but, at the end of every session, I asked one question, which was this: ‘Thankyou for your time and excellent work: there’s only one thing that matters to us, and that’s results. There’s no point in undertaking any activity (especially one with such a large budget and such a large amount at stake) unless we can guarantee results. Bearing in mind that you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink … how does this approach develop ‘Thirsty Horses’ who have the right water to get to … and are you confident enough in what you’ve presented to stake 100% of your fee on achieving this?’
Amazingly, not one of the 14 organisations were prepared to put their arse on the line like this!
From this experience, I’ve learnt not only about the ‘Thirsty Horses’ approach (always offering a 100% guarantee on all my work), and that most approaches to training and developing customer experience, reputation and loyalty are more smoke and mirrors than results. It’s an easy area to understand, and it’s even easier to undertake a lot of activity without a lot of results … and from these issues and this experience I started to develop my own material that eventually became ‘Slow Selling’.
Principle 6: small steps matter.
In any area of life, we all seek big results. And so often we’re tempted to by ‘quick fixes’ and wild promises in order to achieve these. The truth, as I learnt from ‘The 7 Habits’ is that the ONLY way to achieve proper and long-lasting results is through simple, common-sense, small step systems repeated continually over time. Since learning this in ‘The 7 Habits’, I’ve studied this principle, and applied it continuously in my own life. I’d particularly recommend the work on ‘Kaizen’ by Robert Maurer in this area if you fancy further study. Needless to say, all the systems in ‘Slow Selling’ operate on this principle. Go the extra inch!
My recent blog, ‘How to make 2021 truly successful without the BS’ talks a lot about this,
Principle 7: systems deliver results.
This is another principle I learnt from ‘The 7 Habits’. I count it as one of my great blessings that I came across this material, and that I actually met Dr Covey on 3 occasions: one of which we had a brief, but wonderful proper chat. I remember asking him:
- I agree with everything you’re saying, but it seems to be so much harder to put it into practice: what’s your advice on this?
- He responded: ‘The 7 habits was not invented by me: it’s just a few principles of common sense that are universal and timeless, that we’ve organised into one overall system, with each habit having it’s own systems. An airliner on its journey is off course 90% of the time, and often so are we. The airliner has systems, tools and people to continually get it back on course so it lands at the right place at the right time. That’s all you need: systems, tools and people: and that’s what ‘The 7 habits’ delivers for you.’
If asked by anyone in a one to one situation, I hope I’d have the intelligence and presence of mind to say the same thing about ‘Slow Selling’.
Principle 8: what gets measured gets done. Be very careful about what results you want, what you interpret as ‘success’ … these things will dictate how the people around you behave.
This is another principle I learnt from Dr Covey: most organisations (and people) measure success by results. But we don’t control our results, we only control our actions (see principle 9 below). So if we want to improve our results, the only sensible thing to do is to take the time to identify what actions we think will produce those results, and then measure how well we’re taking these actions.
For example, if we want to get fitter, it’s far better to measure our exercise, diet and rest rather than focus endlessly on what the scales and other fitness measuring machines tell us!
It’s common sense, but VERY rarely common practice … especially in business!
Principle 9: the only REAL success in life is sticking to your principles and doing the best you can with them every day: everything else is out of your control.
This idea really keeps me going … especially over the long years it’s taken to develop my ideas ‘Great or poor’ and ‘Slow Selling’ … and, of course, it’s common sense. We cannot control what happens, we can only control what we do about what happens … our beliefs, emotions, actions and measures: if we get these right, the rest will follow. This is the whole basis of ‘Slow Selling’
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Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and managers in independent businesses.
Our systems deliver peace of mind and confidence to caring leaders and managers who have limited time and resources, and want to grow their business … all without sacrificing principles or profits.
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