The growing trend amongst clients these days is to publish their corporate credentials. Anything counts it seems from standard corporate social responsibility missives to statements about “touching and improving lives” and “making life better”. Wikipedia use the phrase “honoring of a triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit.”

The practice of corporate social responsibility or governance has been subject to much debate and criticism over the last few years. Proponents argue that there is a strong business case for it, in that corporations benefit in numerous ways by operating with a perspective broader and longer than their own immediate, short-term profits. However critics argue that governance distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses and others still argue that it is nothing more than superficial whitewash, with others yet arguing that it is an attempt to pre-empt the role of governments as a watchdog over powerful corporate organisations. Corporate Social Responsibility has been constantly redefined throughout the years. However, it essentially is conceived to aid an organisation’s mission as well as act as a guide to what the company stands for and will uphold to its consumers. Yet it seems that exhibitors have been so focussed with measuring their ‘Return on Investment’ (ROI) that it appears evidence of social responsibility is rarely evident on stand. Are the two exclusive? Taking a cynical view I have witnessed it at defence shows, as if cloaking weapons of destruction soften their payload and on ‘Green’ events where many items are recycled. Is that it?

Surely modern businesses should be making their values and initiatives more public and evident on their exhibiting presence? If the zeitgeist exists, are private organisations not all in the business of supply and demand?

Rather than adding ever more creative floral displays or yet more gimmicky gimmicks, could the attraction be linked to these purported values? To my mind, an exhibiting energy company, as an example, dishing out freebie energy saving light bulbs smacks of tokenism. How refreshing would it be if an exhibitor went the extra mile and practiced what they preached on their stand as a beacon to others? Come on you ‘corporates’ out there – wow us with your beliefs and philosophies and let us see your true colours shining brightly from your exhibits. You never know, it might start a new trend . . .


What started as an ‘economic slowdown’ rapidly plummeted into the dreaded condition we called the Credit Crunch and then morphed into a full blown recession. Doom, gloom and our rather proficient national ability to talk ourselves into a recession self-fulfilled the proverbial prophesy.

What is it exactly that we feared so much? Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, is quoted as saying: “I was asked what I thought of the recession. I thought about it and decided not to take part.” Positive attitude or a scandalous disregard of the facts?

Well, let’s just look at the facts shall we?

Both casualties and victors littered the last recession in the nineties. Unfortunately we have a tendency to remember the horror stories and not the success stories. In fact, Renault, Whipsnade, De Beers, BMW, Barclaycard, Nescafé and many others all performed brilliantly during that period. Why? They are just a few examples of corporations who increased their spend rather than cut back on entering the recession. Research shows that businesses who cut spend during a recession make the slowest profit improvement once recovery has started and conversely those that increase spend grow faster, indeed up to 3 times as much.

Think about your attitude or policy towards sales training. Are you a cutter or a spender? Sales people are facing challenging times, morale is lower, commissions are lower and sales are lower. Cutting back or holding off is a guaranteed way to further depress sales potential. Increasing their confidence and skill levels, however, will generate more sales, and with their success will come quicker recovery.

What other facts are we aware of? We know it is harder to see clients, there are more fiscal objections, competition is more intense and discounts are constantly being sought. This should not come as a surprise. Plan for it and use it. If it is harder to see clients, expound the value of exhibitions as a remedy. If there are more objections provide sales training in objection handling. Become sharper than the competition and if discounts are sought, do not crumble and give it all away, fight and negotiate real value so that everybody wins.

My realisation is that generally we fail to realise that real life is happening now. The good times are just that. The problem we face is that many sales people believe the good times are the norm and the recession is a plague. Train them. Swap their perception and you will swap any negative attitudes for positive results.


(10 steps to success)

Having attended the events industry conference I detected an air of uncertainty amongst us. Is the economic climate improving (albeit based on one quarter that included December trading) or are we in for a bumpy ride? If economists are to be believed, we have six to nine months of positive trading before we dip back again momentarily  before a slow recovery. Will budgets be released or will caution remain the key phrase? Well at the risk of sounding all ‘trans-Atlantic’ I am advocating ten things you can do to ride high.

Firstly do be positive – see that glass half full rather than half empty – we are still here and in some cases doing well actually. How many colleagues can say the same? We still have orders and the mortgage is somehow still being paid.  Decide to be outstanding rather than good. How can you over deliver and delight your clients? Often small inexpensive gestures can make a big difference to the overall relationship.  Build your contacts and take advantage of networking opportunities. A chat with a friend or colleague costs little but the information gathered and passed on may be quite valuable to someone else. Cultivate the habit of going above and beyond. Make one extra call or send one more proposal. Think what a failure would do and do the opposite! Sounds simple yet makes a big difference to how you view problems and address them. Stand there and ask yourself “What can I do to really balls this up?” Then diametrically oppose that action. Don’t rationalise failure away as an inevitable consequence of the recession. People were and are still buying and doing business – how can you tempt them more to do business with you? Don’t ever quit. As the adage goes; if at first you don’t succeed try and try again. Eventually you will succeed and the effort will have been worth it.  Be a progressive thinker – look at your event through your customers’ eyes. What would they want to see, what would make your visitors smile more? Just because we have always done something that way in the past doesn’t mean we should carry on blindly. Think how other services and products have evolved over the last few years and scare yourself!  Consider the telephone’s metamorphosis from car-phone, trans portable, mobile and touch screen offerings to date. It’s still a phone but so different to the original. Can you say the same with your event?

Perhaps the best tip is really to remember that people buy from you not from your company. It’s a people thing! So be human, smile, laugh and be genuine. If you build a reputation for being sincere, honest and professional that will permeate all your transactions. Finally be a winner and not a loser. You are much more in control of your results and your life than it sometimes might feel. No one is going to do it for you and no one owes you a living. Make one for yourself and if you can enjoy the process you will certainly be onto a winner.


Recent research suggests that typical SME’s (Small to Medium sized Enterprises) who make up 80% of all UK businesses are getting a pounding. On average your cold call to that organisation is competing with another 54 that day! Here are some tips to stand out and get through.

“Good morning, Mr Blot. My name is Simon Naudi from LoofahsRus.”

Is it likely they have heard of LoofahsRus? Does my company name need a short explanation? If you are calling from a household name or a well-known multinational then this may not be necessary. It is possible that you work for a well-known organisation yet trade under a lesser-known trading division or product range. Make sure where possible that the buyer is likely to be familiar with the name you use as your opening line.

“Good morning, Mr Blot. My name is Simon Naudi from LoofahsRus – the largest supplier of loofahs and accessories.”

Mr Blot now knows who I am and where I’m calling from. He is probably still suspicious because he will want to know why I am ringing him or at least the purpose of my telephone call. We also need to get his attention – and quickly before his hand spasms and the receiver drops silently, plunging you into the great telephonic abyss.

Many sales people will feel the need to elaborate in detail about their product or service and what great enhancements have recently taken place and how long they have been in business and so on. This is too long! There is an aide memoir called A.I.D.A.






The first part of the process will have actually been done for you. The telephone ringing on the desk is a pretty effective attention-getter.

The next step is to get their interest and then convert it into desire. And we must get that quickly. There is no point gradually building up to it. Now you cannot just phone up and say, “Hi! My name is Simon Naudi and I have got some great ways to improve your sex drive. But first let me ask you about your loofah requirements. . .” Well, having said that it may work. I suspect, however, that unless you can deliver your promises, the early interest will evaporate along with the prospect of a sale. But you need something like that. What we need is something that the majority of your prospects would be interested in. The more you know your target the better poised you are to identify topical and interesting issues. For the sake of illustration here are words that should be interesting to most prospects:


New Novel Unique Different

First Tested Proven Savings (qualified)

Local Unusual Foolproof Cost-effective

Special Limited Compact Multi-functional


“Good morning, Mr Blot. My name is Simon Naudi from LoofahsRus – the largest supplier of loofahs and accessories. The purpose of my call is to let you know that we have developed a new retail package that has measurable returns for bathroom designers.” Now he knows who I am, where I’m from, why I’m calling and hopefully, as a bathroom designer, an interest in the retail package! Finally I need to qualify that he is the decision maker.



“Good morning, Mr Blot. My name is Simon Naudi from LoofahsRus – the largest supplier of loofahs and accessories. Are you visiting BathroomEx 2010 this year?”


“Great, the purpose of my call is to invite you to view a new package we are revealing on our stand that has measurable returns for bathroom designers.”


Have you noticed the subtle shift in buying patterns? An interesting consequence of the strange times we live in is emerging and multiplying itself in the hearts and minds of buyers – or rather to be more accurate, just in their minds.  It concerns the difference between “Need” and “Want”. Traditionally we as consumers have bought something we like the look of or the feel of whether it is a nice suit or dress, a house or participation at an event. A ‘heart’ decision if you will.

Let’s take the example of buying a dress or a suit. Whilst historically we might have impulsively bought something that felt good or looked different (stunning / racy / divine or other suitable emotive descriptor) we are now being altogether more practical. Now we tend to consider how future proof the item is, how many “wears” we can squeeze from it, how practical or hard-wearing it is and certainly the price. Spontaneity is being replaced by waiting for the chance the garment will feature in the sale and that risk is becoming more palatable and worth taking now more than at any other time I can remember. The ‘simply-must-have’ item is rapidly becoming a ‘simply-must-consider-if-the-price-drops’ item.  A house you were considering a few years ago that ticked all the boxes you required (4 bedrooms, home office, double garage, hot tub, large garden, views of the open countryside etc) may still have been rejected because it didn’t ‘feel’ right. Now that same shortlist of rejected houses is being re-examined because whilst it didn’t feel great at the time, the price erosion now warrants re-appraising that decision. Is the passion evaporating from our buying decisions?

Let’s consider participation at an event next. The checklist is still there, but priorities allocated to each item have certainly been altered. The great exhibitor party and gala dinner have dropped down the list, networking meetings up a few points; cost has erupted to the top as has value for money and return on the investment.  The ability to justify and quantify spend has scrambled to the uppermost heights. Early adoption and commitment have dropped down a few rungs and waiting for drop out and cancellation opportunities are more eagerly sought. The potential downside of not having a hyperlink and your logo in the pre-show publicity has been replaced by the chance of a late booking bargain – a reckless gamble or is it the new shrewd decision making?  Visitor numbers no longer outstrip demographics in terms of importance and re-usable stands and economy hotels are the new rising stars. I have heard someone refer to their decision as the ‘sensible’ thing to do. Priorities are the new norm and the ‘heart’ is playing second fiddle to the new CEO – the logical and far less emotional head. Be sure to consider the practicalities of participation at your event but don’t forget that if we can have fun and enjoy the process we will still gravitate towards that decision. After all, we know what all work and no play did to young Jack . . .


I am feeling very buoyant at the moment for I have detected small but significant changes in the economic climate. Specifically I have witnessed a more positive shift in business levels within my on organisation as well as with some of my clients. They are witnessing booking and enquiry levels well up on this time last year and it looks like this upsurge is sustainable. Is this a reflection of the overall economy? Well perhaps although analysts predict this double dip effect which I believe my clients will manage quite well. Why then are they so resilient to the vagaries of economics and different to many?  I suspect it is because they have begun laying the foundations for recovery even before there were financial measures injected into the economy. These brave band of clients were able (and clever enough) to invest in their people when times were hard and their competitors were tightening their belts. They spent money on training and development and set up formalised structures to manage their accounts more efficiently. Their sales teams are now finding leads and taking enquiries and are feeling buffered from what’s going on around them.


The most common (and ill-conceived) phrase bandied around by them is: “I was really lucky to get that piece of business”. ‘Luck’ is the key word they are using more frequently today. How frustrating that (a) they cannot see that they make their own luck and (b) had they not called them in the first place there would be no enquiry to process and close today.


During a recession clients get used to not calling you or not hearing from you and so when they are ready to book business loyalty sometimes takes a nose dive if competition is fierce. As a result you either have to call all your clients with a legitimate reason for doing so or you risk missing out when the time is right. Are your sales teams jaded and expecting to hear a ‘no’ even before they pick up the phone or are they adhering to good practice and maintaining a dialogue even through the past few months? What we can see is that sales people who are calling having maintained contact with their clients through difficult times are receiving a better welcome and reception from their customers than those who had battened down the hatches, maintained a low profile and are now behaving in an obviously predatory fashion. Likewise those sales people who have had a reminder and refresher on good sales techniques are making greater inroads than their neglected colleagues.


The selection and type of objections are changing and so the techniques to address them have changed. What used to work before we dived off that cliff do not all work any more and we need to understand where our clients have been and where they wish to go now. Their internal politics may have changed. Financial directors have probably had more of a say in the recent past and as risk management becomes key to unlocking budgets. Remember that purse strings do not suddenly get released as if nothing has happened. They have got into the habit of managing their money and your sales people need to understand how to unlock that potential and divert funds from their bank accounts into yours.


OK so we have all heard the office clichés like “I’m working from home” and “It’s not a piss-up it’s networking!” My question is therefore, “Is it, really?” Done properly, networking is probably one of the most important tools a sales person has at their disposal. Done badly, it is probably one of the leading causes of liver failure!


A fact that might surprise you is the sheer volume of networking training courses we are running (and have been throughout the recession). I have to be honest with you and confess that when I was asked to deliver a day’s session on networking I smirked, although I disguised it to the client. How difficult can it be? You just meet up and network. Then came the tricky part -how do you teach something that is predominantly instinctive? Something that you have always done without analysing or even being conscious of the steps involved.


Initially set objectives. If you are lucky enough to receive a training course, you may begin with introductions and setting objectives. You may be asked questions like; Who are you? What do you do? Why are you here? What do you want from this session? When networking realise others in the room will be thinking the same; i.e. Who are you? What do you do? Why are you at this function? What do you want from this interaction? So now you have something in common to build on. My advice would be to be genuine and open and be interested in them and their agenda. As in the sales situation, ask lots of open questions. Maximise your listening and don’t interrupt. Use the meeting in much the same way as a bank account. Sometimes you make deposits other times withdrawals. You may have to give telephone numbers and ideas or web links for the first few exchanges but every so often they will give you a lead or the inside track on a particular client or prospect. You are allowed to go overdrawn as many times as you like, but one day you will get something that is more than worth it. Have fun doing it also – it doesn’t have to be clinical or dull. If you enjoy yourself others around you will as well and that is a far healthier atmosphere in which to do business.


If you go “with a friend” be careful not to spend all that time networking with each other. Your objective is to learn something new and build your balance up. Just like at the disco-a-go-go on a Saturday night be aware of body language – both your and theirs. You can judge those who do and do not wish to be interrupted and you can make introductions to help you move on. Keep moving is also another good tip. No one wants to be pinned against the wall all evening no matter how fascinating you are! They have also got an agenda so they will probably be grateful of the change also. Finally make notes after the event and follow up. If you say you would do something make sure you do it. Build yourself a reputation and your success is guaranteed.


Q: When is a floor plan not a floor plan? A: When it is a sales tool.


Using your floor plan to help with the sales process is one of the simplest and most underutilised tools in the sales person’s armoury. Clients often take comfort in scanning for leading names and those of their competitors as well as location and size of these respective stands. Some are also pedants in terms of where they wish to be located (near to or away from their direct competitors, by the toilets or next to the press office or seminar area). We also know that buyers are visual in terms of buying habits and so we should capitalise on this more. There is also some interesting work being done with floor plans. Think of a low cost or budget airline as a parallel. Think about how they sell their seats. Typically if one books months in advance they offer some lower priced seats than if booked last minute and additionally they offer reduced cost seats for certain routes and at certain times. If you wish to fly back home on a Friday evening that seat will typically cost you more than if you were willing to travel on the Saturday evening for example.  With exhibitors we ALMOST have it right. Many organisers will offer an early bird scheme but then doubly reward them by also giving them a free choice of stands. Could we learn something from the airlines and organise ourselves so that prime location stands are more expensive? Often so called prime locations are reserved or pencilled in for the big sexy name exhibitor who will draw in a crowd or either visitors or fellow exhibitors or both. One organiser at the cutting edge of floor plan strategies negotiated a deal with such a key exhibitor and establishing that visitors would come no matter where the big name was located, proposed a less ‘prime’ location, reduced the rate which pleased the exhibitor and still left the prime locations free for the ‘wanna-be’ big names to pay a premium for. They used these tactics successfully and greatly improved the profitability of their event. The difficulty is that different people have different perceptions about what constitutes a prime location. Some would rather have an island site at the front of the hall whereas others might opt for one that is open on two sides next to the main feature area. Perhaps the solution lies in how we treat the ‘open on one side towards the back’ stands?

Clearly the hardest floor plan to fill is that of a launch event, or when you are at the start of your show cycle. The first bit of advice would be to populate the floor plan with as many ‘knows’ as possible. This might be trade partners, sponsors, associations and possibly the location marked out of any foreign ‘pavilions’. The location of any feature areas, seminar areas, demo areas and press office could all be highlighted. If you then cast your minds back to the different buyer types you will also be able to prioritise where your first bookings are likely to come from. You may be aware that we have identified three main buyer types – Profit buyers, Pride or Prestige buyers and finally Fear buyers. Briefly profit buyers are after ROI (Return on Investment), metric assessment (cost per thousand) and demographic spend. Their decision to participate in an event is based upon numbers, it is fairly un-emotional and would have no qualms about being first (especially if there was an early bird incentive!) on the floor plan. The second category who will populate your floor plan will be the Prestige or Pride buyers. They will be swayed by location, other competitors or big names and the relative size of stands already taken up. Their decisions are typically more emotive and certainly affected by whether the Jones’ have already booked. Next will come the Fear buyers. They are so scared of risk that rather than take a risky decision they would rather not make one at all. They will be the next category to sign up as they will be swayed by a fuller floor plan. It’s not so much a case of ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ as much as ‘If it’s good enough for Jones then it’s safe enough for us’. Beware though that the story is not over – there is a final category that will try to slide onto your floor plan at the last minute. The Profit buyers will rear their heads again. They will have been waiting in the hope that you would rather sell them a stand at a knock down price at the last minute rather than suffer an empty space at your event. They can be a blessing or a curse depending upon how well you sell using your floor plan.


I thought that it might be useful this month to share some outputs from a Negotiation Skills workshop delivered recently. The objectives were twofold; firstly how to resist pressure from clients demanding discounts and secondly how to maximise deals when buying on behalf of your company. Top line is that strategies have changed recently and will continue to be affected by the remnants of the recession. Whilst financial controllers may be losing their grip in the boardrooms, buyers have developed a habit of asking for discounts and the better ones demanding extra value for their budgetary spend. That is critical because in many instances we know that once we progress the sale to the point where money is discussed, it’s time for them to start to negotiate.


There are a number of tips that may help you defend against this and hopefully protect your margins. The key is preparation – identify your highest and lowest limits and aim high and expect the best. Put yourself in their shoes – what type of person are they and what would they consider to be a satisfactory deal? Plan your initial stance carefully and set the ‘atmosphere’ you aim to generate maybe by indicating how few stands are left or how popular speaking slots are. Get them to reveal their shopping list before you reveal yours and extract all the points they want to negotiate before you negotiate any of them. As a rule of thumb, never give a concession, trade them, (reluctantly, preferably at a profit) and justify each one. Remember generosity is not contagious – it is often seen as a weakness to be exploited. Keep the whole package in mind all the time and keep searching for variables. Examine the concessions you usually make in your business and be sure you have stressed the worth of each – there is no point granting, say, a hyperlink to your web site if they fail to see the true value and worth of this variable. Learn how to defend yourself by raising the value of what you offer and reduce the worth of their concessions in return. Also be sure to make them work hard for any concessions – people place a greater value on things they have had to struggle to get so be stingy and play hard to get.


Think carefully about deadlines – he or she who has time on their side has a powerful ally. Make offers conditional upon early commitment or payment terms. Do remember that it is not personal – you are employed to do the best deal you can for your company – so are they for theirs.


The mantra is Love the person – Hate the deal! Let them feel that they have done the better deal despite the fact that you are a good negotiator. It is also a useful strategy to summarise clearly and often – his reminds them of progress, value and worth. It also is a proven strategy to avoid confusion and avoids the moving goalpost syndrome! Finally do make sure you keep the door open completely, even if negotiations appear to have failed. Time is a wonderful thing and situations do change in some cases as quickly as overnight. So long as they can save face and re-approach you (or the other way round) there is always the possibility of future business or additional revenue coming in.


Whilst meditating this month’s article and awaiting the muse to settle upon me, I had an e-mail from one of my delegates. He was involved with an account management programme and despite following all the rules on the phone and by e-mail felt he was getting no where fast. So he thought, ended that story and the account in question relegated to the amorphous database for a new recruit to revive in a few years’ time.  He attended an unrelated client event where his agency provided the after dinner speaker and band to ensure his ‘talent’ was well received and to make his client feel loved. During the course of the networking session prior to dining he introduced himself to a random gentleman who was nursing his glass in a corner of the room and struck up a conversation. This wine drinker appeared very friendly and proceeded to invite my delegate to join him for dinner at his table. As my delegate would ordinarily be housed at the back of the room (behind a pillar) he accepted enthusiastically. He was further surprised when it emerged that the table in question was slap bang in the middle of the room just in front of the stage. Feeling honoured and more than a little surprised he gingerly engaged his new host in conversation and went through the usual gamut of exchanges; who are you, what do you do and so forth. By an amazing twist of fate, the wine drinker turned out to be none other than the chief executive officer from the hitherto relegated account, who amongst other things was lamenting the fact that his wife was having a birthday party soon and he was looking to book a band for her bash. . .


Now the question is, was that luck, coincidence or further proof that networking is alive and well and yielding the results that had thwarted previous attempts at account management?  The older I get the more I have come to realise that business is not just about the application of rules or formulae. It is a combination of good practice, being personable and distribution or exposure. It is increasingly clear that there are patterns if you look for them. A certain gentleman (who used to work for a well known trade association) was often ridiculed by his colleagues and bosses for having the reputation for ‘attending the opening of an envelope’.  What I will say in his defence is that he was utterly successful in delivering the results he was charged with. He might not have had the best sales techniques in the world, his interpersonal skills might at times have been suspect, his telephone manner may have been interpreted as quirky,  but his distribution / exposure rating was first class. Now that we are constantly assured to be well on the road to financial recovery are we ‘getting amongst it’ and using all the tools in our armoury? Open your mind and think beyond the phone and e-mail funnels.