• 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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  • The 3 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring Sales Talent

    steve bWe consistently have clients coming to us for help with fixing their underperforming sales people. Often we can help but sometimes we have to advise that the person concerned is wrong for the role and there is little that can be done to fix the problem. Better, by far, to hire the right people in the first place.

    Over the years we’ve learned some pretty important lessons around interviewing sales people. Here are three common interview pitfalls you should really try to avoid.

    Mistake 1: Interviewing the CV.

    Fast forward to your next interview. It is five minutes before the candidate will be on the phone or in front of you. You say to yourself, who is this guy? You then frantically print out the resume and skim it. You then proceed to interview the CV. “Tell me about the job you had? What was your success there? Why did you leave? Blah, Blah, Blah…”

    I’m sure your process isn’t as bad as this, however, here’s the mistake: you need to know what you are looking for. Define your needs beyond the CV and the clichés. Start with understanding what the key job functions actually are and rank the importance of each one.

    Mistake 2: Placing emphasis on the wrong selling skills.

    You only have a certain amount of time with your candidates. Make sure you know which skills are most important for success. For example, we sometimes hear clients say that they ask a candidate to “do a presentation” during the interview. Having them do a presentation is not a bad idea, however, what’s your process for understanding the candidate’s ability to prospect or question and qualify what the client actually needs? In your world, is that more important than the presentation?

    In the past have you hired people that love to present and then spend their days and nights “chasing” and “following up?” What are the top 10 skills they need to execute to be successful? We often see this list vary however presentation skills are rarely in the top 5.

    Mistake 3: Assuming that because they can do something, they actually will.

    “Will Do” is the hardest thing to judge during an interview. Attitude and motivation can sometimes be faked long enough to get a candidate through an interview. Sales people can have talent but can lose their drive and motivation. Ask yourself the question, especially of sales people in the latter stages of their career – why have they not succeeded in past roles and are now applying for a new job? Sometimes there is a good reason but beware of people with careers that have stalled or are in decline.

    We recommend you use hiring assessments to measure core competencies around:

    • Ambition and drive
    • Takes action
    • Resists stall and objections
    • Accepts responsibility

    Without these assessments, you are relying on likability and gut feel. Your odds of finding an effective candidate will suffer.

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool is Managing Director of Sandler Training in Cheltenham. He works with companies who wish to increase their return on the investment made in their sales team and with local business owners who need to improve their own business development skills. Prior to starting Sandler Cheltenham, Steve had a 25 year sales career including Sales Director positions with CapGemini and Capita. He also specialised in leading major deals in the IT, BPO and consulting markets. Tel: 01242 420750 Mobile: 0750 750 5996

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  • Finding pain

    Finding “pain” is core to the Sandler sales process. At first I found that offensive. Why would we deliberately look for what is making our potential clients uncomfortable? Is that not really creating dissatisfaction? Have we not swapped persuading people to do something through our positive merits for making them squirm so they have to act?

    Then I realised that the real offence comes when we arrogantly assume we know what the prospect wants when we unilaterally decide what the solution should be and then get assertive when the prospect dives out of sight.

    If we do not find out what the real issue is, we cannot be effective in fixing it. If the prospect does not know, or cannot articulate, the real seriousness of the problem, the client-to-be cannot appreciate our expertise. If we are determined to avoid painful questions but retreat to the safety of features and benefits, then we cannot have the right to be the only organisation they are talking to.

    So “finding pain” is simply finding out what the problem is, how serious the problem is, and how that problem impacts the decision maker in front of us.  They are unlikely to have experienced this ever before.

    How we do that is through a simple set of questions, the famous “pain funnel”. To make sure the prospect understands that the best option to help create a solution with us, we need to go through those questions more than once, two, even better, three strong pains and the need to shop around starts to dissipate. Budget is easier to find, decision cycles are easier to implement, and the need for detailed presentations often disappears entirely.

    Do you want to get good at these gentle, yet powerful questions? It needs a complete change in habit, but perhaps worth asking your local Sandler trainer?

    Paul Glynn

    Paul Glynn

    Paul’s experience spans over twenty years of selling, sales management and training. He has worked in the financial services sector including accountancy and has been responsible for the commercial success of sales departments at director level in advertising. His clients report up to 300% increase in turnover by working with him. He is dedicated to helping businesses grow through assessments, training, coaching and mentoring. Tel: 01784 390623 Mobile: 07866 518848

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  • Is your message getting through or lost in your words?

    So you have done your research on your big prospect, you have used LinkedIn and all other avenues to gain access to the account and, ultimately, the person you want to speak to. You have the appointment; perhaps you have even prepped your meeting.

    You could just be about to fail.

    While a fair few sales people fail because they can’t get appointments many more fail when they do have appointments.

    You see when they go in they are full of hope, full of their research, full of their company information, full of their assumptions and perhaps full of xxx.

    In my experience most salespeople fail because they don’t have a sales process and they don’t communicate well enough.

    You see communication is the response you get.

    The response you get will be influenced by several factors and this applies to both the salesperson and the prospect.

    Those factors are the filters they use (distortion, deletion, generalisation) and their beliefs and values.

    Our brain has so much information coming from our senses and our recollections and feelings that the brain has to shortcut the information to make sense of it all. Another way of looking at that is that it filters, looking for things that are important or useful or dangerous.

    The distortion filter is one we use to convert any information to suit our pre-existing views. All politicians are liars, there are no good estate agents, IT never works etc are examples of that. As is cold calling never works.

    The deletion filter is similar, we chose to delete information. When someone says they are happy with their existing supplier. What are they really saying? What is it we hear? Are they saying they are absolutely delighted with absolutely everything their current supplier does? – Unlikely. Does the sales person hear something like “no thanks we don’t want to buy from you?”

    Generalisations are used to short cut or pigeon hole. “No one ever got sacked buying from IBM”. “Your company never gives great service”. “Big IT companies overcharge”.

    So if the seller isn’t aware of his or her own filters and how they work against him or her and, is not aware of the prospect’s filters, then how can they communicate effectively?

    The seller’s job should be to spot these filters and ask great questions to get behind any statements or to test any generalisations they hear.

    Great salespeople are great communicators, but that is very different from the stereotype who could “Talk the hind leg of a donkey”.

    Great communicators get great responses by asking great insightful questions. Ones that the prospect may never have even thought to ask themselves.

    After all communication is the response you get. Great questions get great responses… ask them and you will win.

    Alan Mackie

    Alan Mackie

    Alan has been in various sales roles for 25 years and works with businesses struggling to grow revenue and profitability to the levels they wish. Often their sales people are using excuses to hide lack of prospecting or perhaps saying everything is down to price when really it’s their ability. Often the business doesn't have a successful sales culture.

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  • Interview Questions

    Developing no-nonsense questions for sales interviews.

    Interview questions nigel

    Let’s face it; every sales person has a great CV. And they all interview well. Those that don’t just get a lot more practice before they eventually turn up at your office.

    We also know there is a huge difference between those that can sell, and those that actually will. Those that say all the right things and those that can actually execute the plan.

    “Sell me this pen”. Do you remember that popular interview question from the eighties?

    Those of us that asked it quickly discovered that answers to this question and many others failed to predict accurately whether the hopeful candidate would actually be able to sell.

    So what questioning strategies might work better?

    1. Cheat! Using targeted interview questions derived from a thorough skills and competencies assessment tool, such as the Devine Inventory. These enable the interviewer to probe essential competencies such as “ambition and Drive”, “ positive outlook” “self-responsibility” and even “sales prospecting”. The report suggests questions to ask, quickly turning an amateur interviewer into a professional.
    1. Collect a list of tough questions that work for you. Here are 5 from my top 40.

    “ Why do people buy, and how do they make decisions?”

    “Successful sales people are always getting referrals and regularly prospecting. I’m sure you keep a list of prospects to call. Would you mind making a couple of calls now while I listen in?”

    “ Tell me about the prospecting plan you have developed for your job search?”

    “ What questions do you ask a prospect on the phone in order to determine whether they qualify for a meeting?”

    “We have a culture of accountability. That means we’re going to have measurements of behaviors – cold calling, follow up calls, appointments set, and of course sales closed.  Accountability means that you’ll be reporting these behaviors on a weekly basis.  What’s your opinion and past experience with accountability?”

    The interview is often a meeting between 2 needy parties. The candidate who needs a job, and the company that needs to hire. Tough questions are just one way to avoid hiring mistakes.


    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand runs Sandler Training in the Midlands based at the Innovation Centre in Longbridge.

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  • Successful People

    Thinking about the attributes and qualities of successful people provides a great benchmark for us to audit our own ‘success factor’.  Look at the list below of 8 attributes of successful people that I have pulled together.  Augment the list if you think there is something missing – and let us know so we can build up a super list.

    Or you could take the list and using it as a benchmark rate yourself –

    1. Successful People Embrace change. Unsuccessful People Fear change.

    Change is always going to occur around us, indeed the only thing that will not change is the fact that change is inevitable.  Given this you have a choice.  Either you choose to adapt and flourish or slowly fail.  Some changes are incremental so unless you are vigilant you might not even notice things changing around you.  In some ways this is the most dangerous since those less attuned and focused on changing and growing (as a person, as a business) will, possibly without even realising it, decline.  Abrupt changes, whilst potentially more frightening, at least jolt us into action, albeit often late and less effective than if the change is anticipated and managed.  To be successful you need to set your own change agenda and work on this.

    1. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope others fail.

    Spending all your time hoping someone fails not only attracts bad energy, it’s simply a waste of time. All those times thinking about the demise of others is time that can be spent doing things to help you become more successful.  It is having the attitude of plentifulness versus the attitude of scarcity.  The attitude of plentifulness means that you do not need to worry about others, indeed you can see endless possibilities if the people around you succeed.  The attitude of scarcity means that you work on the premise the only one person can succeed so the more that fail the better your chances.  The problem with this latter position is that it creates failure.  If you believe success if scarce, it become scare and you suffer from this.

    1. Successful people accept responsibly for their failures. Unsuccessful blame others for their failures.

    Being a true leader takes one who will be honest when they screw up. It puts you in a position of solving the problem instead of complaining about it. This is the difference between taking responsibility and having the mindset “I am responsible for everything that happens to me” as opposed to one where you defend and justify.  If you are late it is the fault of the traffic rather than the fact that you choose to not get up 30 minutes earlier ‘just in case the traffic is bad’.  This choice may not have been a bad choice in itself (indeed over time it probably saves you a considerable amount of down time; the key is that it was your choice.

    1. Successful people talk about ideas. Unsuccessful people talk about other people’s failures.

    Talking about other people’s failure or faults is a waste of time. However, it can become very addictive.  It is an example of externalising responsibility. Thinking more positively and focusing on ideas and possibilities will have an uplifting effect on everything that you do.  Think about how much time you currently spend taking about other people in a negative way.  Imagine the benefits if all that time is spent on brainstorming the next big idea that changes the world, or even your world.

    1. Successful people give people all the credit for their victories. Unsuccessful people take all the credit from others.

    No matter who you are, it takes an amazing team of talented people to help you attain success. Spending time making sure the people you work with are appreciated will not only help attract the best talents to you, but help ensure everyone is giving their best efforts to complete the end-goal.  Taking the time to thank people who have helped you achieve each success is integral to how successful people operate.

    1. Successful people operate from a transformational perspective. Unsuccessful people operate from a transactional perspective.

    True leaders focus on growth and ways to make him/herself and the people around them better. It’s not always about just getting as much out of people as possible. This is not only short term thinking, but doesn’t set you up as a person people would want to be around with.  Taking the longer term view might take a bit more time in the short term but pays dividends longer term.  In response to a request for help ‘Here, let me do it, it will be quicker’ vs ‘let’s take the time to run through it together and then you have a go so you can do it next time’.

    1. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful People hold grudges.

    Successful people are always forward thinking and know that holding grudges can hold them back. Take Steve Jobs for example, even with his bouts with Bill Gates, it was ultimately Gates who took part in investing his own dollars to help save Apple. You can’t do stuff like that when you hold grudges with people.

    1. Successful people have gratitude. Unsuccessful people don’t appreciate others and the world around them.

    Being appreciative of the things around you keeps you grounded and makes you realise the beauty of the world. You can’t change the world if you hate it.  Successful people appreciate others and are comfortable complimenting, or even challenging them.  Unsuccessful people tend to do little more than criticise.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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    The 4th step in the Sandler sales process is Budget, having a direct, honest conversation about what that individual/company would be willing and able to invest in addressing their issues.  Written down on paper it sounds like a straight-forward conversation but we all know that in reality it’s far from that simple.   So often people either avoid this step completely or do it in a token way that neither helps them nor the prospect.

    Why do we struggle so much with talking about money?  One word, headtrash. Transactional analysis teaches us that we all grow up hearing messages from our parents that we adopt (often inappropriately) as our own and some of those messages can include ‘Its rude to talk about money’ ‘Don’t talk about money in front of other people’ ‘Don’t ask questions about money’. Those of us (myself included) who grew up with these types of messages have to overcome that scripting to have effective budget conversations.  And remember your prospect may well have the same hang-ups, which can end up with everyone trying to avoid the topic or at least skipping over it as quickly as possible.

    So why does this matter? Well, if we accept that selling should be about both parties having very honest, direct conversations so they can both work out if it makes sense to work together, knowing the budget is fundamental to that.  For so many of my clients the solutions they could provide to a client can be tailored according to budget so not having this conversation is equivalent to having a stab in the dark that ‘this is what they can afford’.  Based on what?  What cars they drive?  How smart their offices are?  Or the prospect ends up getting a massive shock when they open your quote/proposal which either means the end of your opportunity (after you have invested a lot of time and effort) or you end up on the back foot having to justify your prices.

    The alternative is to bite the bullet, plant your feet, ask the budget questions and not movie on until you have the answer. Not accepting phrases like ‘no we don’t have a budget for this, you tell me how much it should cost’ or ‘money’s no object’.  Making the end goal of the budget discussion a figure that you can both work within.  Or if the budget isn’t enough agreeing how to move forwards, if at all.

    The push-back I get from some people is that their prospects won’t give them an honest answer.    If that happens regularly to you then I would suggest that there are more fundamental challenges in your sales approach than just talking about budget.

    One of the differences between being average or really good at selling often comes down to a few seconds at a time, being brave and asking those difficult questions, planting your feet and not moving on until you have got the information that you need.  If you are uncomfortable talking about money then this may be the part of the sales process that takes the most guts. So next time you are in a selling situation set yourself a goal of having an effective budget discussion and don’t allow yourself or your prospect to duck out of it.  Trust me, once you’ve done it you can walk that little bit taller and next time it will be a little bit easier.

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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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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  • Finding the Assertive Path

    Would you like to feel more confident in communicating your opinions? – Or to be able to “hold your own” in a meeting? Do you want to be able to express your feelings (whether positive or negative) in an authentic way? Or do you want to curb your habit of losing control and get angry at those who may not deserve it? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then why not throw one tiny pebble into the pond of ‘Assertiveness’ and watch the rich ripples appear.

    Being assertive does not come natural to many people, it can feel like being between a rock and a hard place, or what has been described as “a middle ground between being a bully and a doormat” (Barnette, 2000).

    Write the word aggressive on a piece of paper. Now list how you describe aggressive, what are the behaviours you would see displayed, what would they might be thinking etc. Then do the same with the word assertive. Notice any difference?  And, while you’re at it try the same with the word submissive.

    Most people find that the descriptions of aggressive are predominately negative. Assertive on the other hand, doesn’t have that negative connotation.  It is strong not weak, but in a positive way that respects both parties in the interaction.

    I’d like to have you consider the notion that as a sales professional, you have rights. If you are denied your rights in a sales situation, you should be wondering whether or not you are sitting in front of the right person.

    Your rights include getting answers to questions that tell you: Does this person/company have issues that need to be solved? Does my company have a solution to the issues? Is there a budget to address these issues? How does this prospect go about making a decision to take care of these issues?

    Getting answers to these concerns means asking a lot of questions. To get the needed information, you will have to be assertive, but not aggressive. Being aggressive will usually get you a request to “send me some literature, and I’ll call you.”  Being assertive is gently, but relentlessly nurturing the prospect into giving you the information that you need, and in so doing, becoming aware of the answers themselves.

    Being assertive means getting clarification on specific issues. For example, when a prospect tells you “We’re probably going to be replacing this machine soon”. An assertive reply would be something like “Does this mean you’re not sure?” Get clarification and you won’t find yourself in a chasing mode, leaving voicemails that never get you a return call. You will more quickly be able to qualify out the people who are not going to buy so you can spend more time finding, and listening to, the ones that will.

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • How to differentiate your business

    As businesses continue through uncertain times, I thought I would look at how differentiation could be the key to your success.

    Has the word “differentiation” started to sound a little tired? If so, this is because it is both misused and over used.

    We need to pause and think about what differentiation actually means to businesses. In business, when we talk about differentiation we are talking about separating ourselves from our competitors. Ideally, we want to achieve two things by doing this. Firstly, to attract customers to buy from us, and secondly, to have them buy at our price. Working with businesses from a number of sectors, I find that they don’t always realise that a key purpose for striving for differentiation is to maintain their price point; as a result they often end up selling themselves short. This doesn’t look like real success to me.

    Differentiation should therefore not be seen as an end in itself but a means to an end, namely to sell on terms that make sense. Additionally we need to adapt our attempt to differentiate our businesses to today’s tough and increasingly cluttered marketplace.

    In a series of 2 blogs I have looked at the 5 things you need to consider when striving for that all important differentiation.

    1. Know your competitors

    Understanding your competitors is at the crux of differentiation – it’s only by doing this, that you can carve out your own market segment. However, this again requires a new way of thinking.

    Your competitor isn’t necessarily the shop next door. You need to think wider than this.  There are obvious competitors here such as similar products/services, geographies or employee pools. There are also the less obvious ones such as people who provide a very different solution but one that fixes the same problem, meets the same need as yours.  There is also the frequently overlooked ‘competitor’ which is the option to do nothing or to do it in-house.

    It is therefore important to think carefully about your competitors, know what they offer and know what you have to do differently to deliver a more attractive proposition for your customers.

    1. Authentic differentiation

    We hear a great deal about developing our unique selling proposition.  However, your USP, like differentiation, is a concept that can come across as trite and pedestrian in customer engagement as we all work so hard to prove how different we are from competitors and as a business. As brand-savvy consumers, expectation of differentiation had grown.

    There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to crystallising your USP or point of differentiation. I quote Steve Jobs here when I say, quite simply, “Brands are themselves”. You need to know – beyond making a profit – what the purpose of your business is and what you believe in it. There has to be that authentic core at the centre of what you do, rather than merely focusing on “What will sell more?” Customers today are sophisticated and discerning – they will see through the empty promise. Working with CEOs and business owners, I constantly encourage them to go back to the seed of their business.  To identify your business essence, get back in touch with yourself and your business to create that consistent and genuine proposition.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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