• Marathon Blog

    This is worse than cold calling! Or 5 Lessons Learned from running my first marathon.

    A few weeks ago I ran a marathon.  26.2 miles was certainly a challenge.  It seemed completely do-able when I signed up on Christmas Day 2014 (after perhaps a glass of champagne too many).  Up to this point, I had never raced further than 10km and many people suggested a half marathon first but I decided I might as well set a big goal, so a marathon it was.  Now that a few weeks have gone past, and the legs have stopped hurting and I no longer need to wince when going down stairs, I can reflect on what I learned from completing this.

    1. You cannot be too clear with your goals.

    A question people have asked me is, “Did you think you wouldn’t finish?” To be truthful at no point did I feel I wouldn’t finish.  I felt I wanted it to end quicker than the 26.2 miles, I felt my muscles were sore and I felt it was a stupid thing to have signed up for, but never that I wouldn’t finish it.  I had set out with the goal that I would complete this before they closed the race down and the time to complete the marathon I wanted to be between 4 and a half hour and 5.  I also decided before I started that I would really enjoy the first half.  And I did.

    2. It’s OK to rely on a support team.

    For those of you who know me well, you will be aware I am a rather independent person. It is one of the things I value about myself so it was tricky for me to admit that I could not have done this without the help of my parents.  They were stationed at every 5 miles and this simple fact made the miles just tick past.  The most it would ever be on the mile counter until I saw them again was 4 miles. It made the 26.2 miles seems like merely 4 checkpoints and then the end.

    3. Preparation – not hitting wall

    As I have competed in triathlon for a number of years, I have consulted a professional sports nutritionist to help me with endurance races.  She has helped me with the calculation for race preparation and also for the nutrition needed whilst racing.  This meant that with the help of my amazing parents (see previous point), every time I saw them, they handed my next nutrition pack.  The beauty of this was I did not hit the wall (when your body runs out of fuel to keep going).

    4. Hills occur. Whether you want them to or not

    The marathon I completed was hilly.  I knew this before I started but still the sheer amount of hills surprised me.  Coming from Oxfordshire, we have a few hills but not like these ones on the outskirts of Bath.  One of these “hills” went up for over a mile and a half – surely, surely that counts as a mountain? It’s not dissimilar to when we set ourselves goals, we know there is likely to be something that makes it difficult but still we are surprised when it happens.  The main point is the hills didn’t last forever.  They certainly weren’t easy, but they finished.

    5. You are unremarkable.

    This comes down to some advice someone gave me the night before the race.  At the time, I didn’t think it was very helpful but it turned out to really help.  They said, “you’re not going to come first, you’re not going to come last.  You are just there as a grid filler, a body to make the race go ahead. They need lots of people like you.” From about mile 14 onwards, when the whole race became less enjoyable, I thought about this.  I thought about how hundreds of thousands of people complete marathons every year if not more and there was nothing special about me. This helped me to keep going as if all these other people could finish it, I was just like them, there was nothing special about me that would make me not finish, so I did.

    So that all important question…. Will I do it again?  Absolutely!  Not this year though and on a flat course by choice – I mean why make more obstacles than you have to!

    Anneli Thomson is MD of Sandler Training in Oxfordshire.  She ran the marathon to raise money for Myton Hospice as a family member had been helped by them last year.  If you would like to check her progress or sponsor her – the link is here (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Annelismarathon).

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Venting. The Success Killer

    Do you know a “venter”? They tell you their industry is in a lull, their market isn’t a good place right now, and management can’t get their stuff together so it makes it impossible to do their job. They unload all of their issues on you time and again, simply to get it off their chest. Do you ever feel the need to vent? Why?

    Some people feel they need to ‘talk things out’ in order to understand how to deal with things. Do we ever trick ourselves into thinking venting is productive? How can we tell whether or not we are addressing a situation with an analytical eye or just complaining about it? If you assessed what you’ve gained from venting your frustrations, what would you be left with? Most people would admit: nothing.

    How do we have a productive conversation about our issues instead of simply being negative?

    Try these four steps:

    1. 1. Assess the facts of the situation free of emotion. Look at only the reality of the situation, and focus only on the things that you can control. No: “but she does this” or “he never does that”. Avoid placing blame, instead look for areas where you can take self-responsibility.
    2. 2. Brainstorm your ideal situation. What would the scenario look like if you were happy and comfortable with it? Explore the positive potential of the issue.
    3. 3. Identify the gaps. What are you responsible for in your current reality that is keeping you from your ideal situation? What are the things that need to change in order to remove roadblocks from getting there?
    4. 4. Use your understanding of the gaps and make a plan. How can you take action to move out of your current situation and into the ideal situation? How can you affect positive change in the environment?

    Above all: execute the plan. We can’t move forward venting about the same problems over and over again. Sometimes we have to go above and beyond the call of duty to make positive changes. If you are waiting around for other people to change, you may be waiting a long time. Sandler always said: “You must be a willing participant in your own rescue”.

    When you find yourself needing to vent or unload a negative situation on someone – stop. Assess analytically, and act. Addressing the reality of a situation doesn’t have to be a negative conversation. That’s a choice you have to make.

    By Anneli Thomson, MD of Sandler in Oxford.  Anneli is an expert in sales force development and hiring sales A players.  In her spare time, she is also a keen champagne drinker and extreme sports fan.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Stop Selling Features & Benefits

    Traditionalists have been preaching ‘feature & benefit’ selling for ages with a documented track record for results. . . “Hmm, don’t you love that new car smell?” After all it’s an easy way to sell (ex: stick to the script). Customers hang on to every word until, with mounting anticipation; you do the ‘trial close’.

    One problem with ‘feature & benefit’ selling is, while it may convince prospects to buy, it can also motivate them to shop the competition and take the knowledge you have just given them. We call this free consulting. ‘Feature & benefit’ selling only aims for the target, never the bulls eye.

    If features and benefits don’t convince people to buy, what does? Emotions. Technically there are five, that when aroused, may lead the prospect to a buying decision:

    • Pain in the present
    • Pain in the future
    • Pleasure in the present
    • Pleasure in the future
    • Interest/Curiosity

    Traditional sales people will pursue the last three using ‘feature & benefit selling’ to appeal to the prospect’s intelligence in an attempt to stimulate a connection about what their product and service can do.

    While decisions tend to be justified intellectually, they are made emotionally. “What’s in it for me” is the basic question for prospects.

    When you sell, pursue only PAIN. It requires you to understand more than the simple surface needs. You need to dig deeper to have a complete understanding of the client’s buying motivation.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Take Your Job Seriously, But Not Yourself

    It’s the end of the year. You may be stressed about making end-of-the-year budgets, working overtime in order to take vacation, or just trying to tie up loose ends before 2015. While all of this is happening, make sure you take some time to remember why it is you work so hard. Make sure you’re checking your fun meter. The job is a means to an end. The end is what you want for you and your family. Have fun in the process.

    Here are 10 rules to keep you on track:

    1. STOP focusing only on the money
    2. STOP thinking the sales call is about you
    3. STOP trying so hard
    4. STOP trying to be perfect
    5. STOP being afraid of making mistakes
    6. STOP listening to negative ‘head trash’
    7. STOP hanging out with negative people
    8. STOP worrying about price
    9. STOP using the same old process
    10. STOP forgetting to check your ‘fun meter’

    Take some time not only to plan for 2015 and your future success, but also to celebrate your successes of 2014.

     

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Asking Great Questions

    Learning to ask great questions is better than learning to say great things. Initially the prospect should be doing 70% of the talking. How else will you get to know about them, their business or if they have problems you can help with?

    Unfortunately, many times this is not the case and many feel the mark of a dynamic salesperson is their ability to thoroughly answer a prospect’s questions (even the unasked questions), demonstrate knowledge and expertise and provide detailed information about their product or service.

    In the situation where you’re unloading everything you have, but you’re not getting qualified information from the prospect, who’s in control? After they have all your information, what happens next? Any chance they’ll decide they can fix the problem themselves with the information you’ve provided? Would they take your information and shop it around or use it to keep their current supplier ‘honest?’

    Here are three reasons why asking great questions is important:

    1. Great questions focus on the buyer’s concerns, not features and benefits. Is it more likely they’ll buy for their reasons or yours?
    2. Questions help uncover the prospect’s PAIN and how critical it is to them, both from a business perspective and personally.
    3. The highest form of respect is listening. When you ask a question and they respond, ask another question to show you not only listened but are interested in knowing more. They just may give you more.

    The more time you spend talking, the greater risk of doing a lot of ‘unpaid consulting’. You’re not in business to be an ‘unpaid consultant’ and you can’t help solve prospect problems with features and benefits that don’t fit.

    Ask great questions. Discover and understand the problems. Only then is it time for the features and benefits that fit.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Get Tough!

    The situations sales professionals face on a day-to-day basis can take a tremendous toll on your emotional and mental well-being. You deal with rejections, frustration, disappointment, and possibly disrespect on a daily basis. You probably experience more emotional ups and downs than most other professionals. And, no matter how successful you are, your income is less predictable than that of salaried employees. As a salesperson, your level of mental and emotional toughness affects you every day, both on and off the job.

    How do we create a sales culture of being mentally and emotionally tough? Perhaps more importantly, why do we need one?

    Being mentally and emotionally tough is less about what you say and do than it is about how you feel about what you say and do. For example, if your feelings about asking a prospect to make a decision keep you from asking, then you start a downward spiral to nowhere. First, you’re uncomfortable asking, so you don’t ask and end up wasting time with a non-qualified prospect. You get angry with yourself and/or the prospect for wasting time. All these negative feelings and actions only serve to tear down your emotional and mental well-being.

    Here’s a Sandler rule: “Never become emotionally involved in a sales call, especially a cold call.” Being emotionally tough doesn’t mean that you have no emotions or that you are a cold person. It means that you have learned how to control your emotions so they don’t keep you from doing what you have to do

    How often do you have to be tough in sales?

    Only for five minutes at a time. There is no need to put undue pressure on yourself to be tough all the time. What’s really important is to be tough during those times when you need to be. It only takes five minutes to be tough enough and bolster your courage to do the things and ask the questions that we find personally difficult.

    Most salespeople have reluctance to pick up that 900 pound phone and make that first cold call. It only takes five minutes. Salespeople are also uncomfortable asking about the money. There are comfortable ways to do this. Learn them and then get tough with yourself for five minutes to ask the question that will get you the answer. Another issue is asking for the business. We all have trouble with this but boosting your toughness for five minutes will improve your chances of obtaining a new business relationship.

    Can you spare five minutes?

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Mediocre Standards Will Kill You

    Regardless of how well you performed on the last appointment, you can always do better, right?  It’s amazing how many sales and management “pros” lull themselves into believing that there is absolutely nothing they can do or change to improve results.  Average salespeople (i.e. the 60% sandwiched between the winners and strugglers) quickly shirk accountability for the outcome of their actions and behaviours…and average managers accept their excuses.

    Let’s face it.  The majority of us come from average stock.  The difference for some, however, is that at some point in their life and career they “get it”.  They get the fact that they will never be perfect and strive to get better all the time.  Those that “get it” can admit there is room for improvement and are open to the possibility that they can grow and continually achieve extraordinary results.

    Less successful individuals will never get there because they think they are already there!  They have closed themselves off from opportunities to find out just how much better they actually could be and fail to maximize their true potential.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • What Are People Buying?

    What’s the quick one-word answer you come up with to that question? Most likely, many of you named your product or service; others may have said quality, my expertise or me. I believe what every prospect buys is confidence – both yours and theirs.

    If they don’t have confidence in you, your products, your service, etc., they won’t have the confidence to write you a cheque or a purchase order. They need to have a ‘peer to peer’ relationship with you; one where they believe that you are more than a vendor or solution provider and more of a consultant, advisor and partner.

    We all sell good products and services but buyers may see one product as much the same as its competitor. You have to differentiate yourself. If you want to avoid the decision coming down to price, you had better find a better way to instil confidence in the buyer that the choice to buy your product or service is the best decision. As we move into 2014 and a new year of sales targets, are you confident in your ability to help your prospect make a confident buying decision?

    Buyers need to trust you. If you’re doing well in a sales role, then you already have some ability to communicate clearly and find out what it is your prospect is looking for. Ask yourself though, do you have the ability to craft compelling questions to find out not only what the prospect needs, but why they need it and how of the purchase will solve their issues on a surface, business and personal level. Most sales people are only dealing with the ‘what’ is needed. It’s important you also define what it will take to do business. Buyers need to see you as credible.

    Your reputation, the level of understanding of the client’s issues and helping them discover the importance of those issues and how committed they are to fixing them is equally paramount to developing confidence in the buyer-seller relationship. As we round out 2013 and move into 2014 with a new target and new goals, are you prepared to focus on the things that will create confidence? It’s got to be less about features and benefits and more about how you develop client’s needs and your mutual understanding of each other’s ability to work together to get the right solution.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Ancora Imparo – are you?

    At the age of 86, Michelangelo scribbled the Latin phrase: “Ancora Imparo” into the margin of one of his last dissertations. It means: “Still, I am learning.”

    The world of professional sales is often misunderstood by those who have not worked in the day-to-day competitive world of business development. Many think it’s all about being the gregarious, extravert who can sweet-talk his/her way to the prospect’s wallet. Others may perceive the job to be simply showing up with an armful of information and brochures and simply the prospect will buy. If it were that easy, everyone would want to do it.

    Professional selling requires ongoing education in three areas.

    First you must be a professional communicator. Understanding people’s preferred communication style, developing the relationship and working to craft compelling questions is essential.

    Second, we need to constantly counter the high-rejection that comes with the job. Business development is a career where failure is daily. People say “NO” to you and developing a strong ‘backbone’ is required if you are to survive and excel in this business.

    Finally, you must be planned and disciplined. Every day you have to start fresh and be proactive.

    We’re talking about the elements of the “Success Triangle” – Techniques, Attitudes and Behaviours. These things are not static. They change with the customer, the market and the times. Continuing to upgrade your techniques, attitudes and behaviours is essential in any profession. Those who believe that this process has an end are undermining the profession.

    The moment we think we know everything is the moment we stand in the way of our own success. What was the result of Michelangelo continuing to learn at 86 years old? Genius, respect and success.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • A Christmas Carol for the 2013 Business Owner

    Christmas wreath with red bow

    The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is well known to many.  Scrooge is a mean-spirited miserly man sitting on his counting house ignoring the joys of Christmas.

    He returns home and is visited by 3 ghosts.  The first is the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Let’s pretend you were shown your last 5 years by your ghost – would you be pleased with what you see?  It is not healthy for us to live by regrets as Scrooge does but occasionally we can forget this.  Take a minute now and make a list of all the things you are grateful from this year.  Gratitude is something easy to over look but should not be ignored as it helps us to realize that even when things do not work out as planned,  we are incredibly lucky and fortunate.

    Secondly, he meets the Ghost of Christmas Present who shows Scrooge how the day will be if he does not change his ways.  Obviously hindsight is a wonderful tool, yet as business owners we often need to jump in and take the risk, and believe it will work out.  As 2013 rolls over to 2014, decide 3 things you will change.  Make them small, but make them something that has led to a negative behaviour pattern.  For example, if you have to keep correcting a colleagues work – don’t change it for them next time, instead make it a priority to spend 5 minutes with them so they can change it for themselves.

    Lastly, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come attends.  This is the one that Scrooge is most fearful of.  The scepter of things yet to come.  As business owners, this often applies to us.  We can be scared of the unknown. It means we pick what we know, what we’ve always done and stay there – our comfort zone.  Make 2014 the year you break free from your comfort zone chains!  Set your goals for 2014  and make them SMARTER!  Raise your game and don’t be scared of the unknown.  We’re with you. We believe in you.

    So remember, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

    Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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