Behind Every Great Idea.. Is A Great Salesman (Lessons from Edison & Tesla)

Do you read Fortune Magazine? Tidying up in the loft, I picked up an old copy from 2008 and flicking through the pages I came across a great feature article on the co-founder of Google, Larry Page,.. in part of … Continue reading

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GOLDILOCKS AND THE ROI BEARS (a tale of ROI from Training) by John Gardiner

Few people know this, but after Goldilocks famous and dangerous encounter with the 3 Bears she became a business trainer. Goldi (as she liked to be called now) was indeed the most engaging and brightest trainer there ever was and although she fled the forest with the 3 Bears all those years ago she now found herself working in a different kind of forest; the corporate forest. Instead of the tall trees there were skyscrapers, rivers were roads and sunlight came from fluorescent strips in the ceiling. To Goldi, this new forest was just as exciting as the old one and she found herself deeper and deeper until one day she met a new kind of Bear, in fact 3 of them… the ROI Bears.

The biggest of the Bears was CEO Bear. He was full of his own importance and strutted around making declarations like “ Need more sales”, “Drive down costs”, “Protect margins” and “Aren’t I brilliant”. The second biggest bear was CFO Bear, he spoke a weird language and only understood numbers. He often spent his time following CEO Bear around counting things on his giant paws while mumbling to himself “profit, loss, accruals, accruals”. The third of the bears was HR Bear, the kindliest of all the bears. She sometimes had the most rewarding job in the forest but mostly had the toughest job clearing up the mess left behind by the CEO and CFO bears and even doing their dirty work for them.

One day, after another depressing economic report from Robert Pestonmist on the BBC (Bear Broadcasting Corporation) news, CEO Bear decided he should cut something to prepare from the impending doom forecast by the media. He declared to the mirror in his penthouse office “In these tough times I’m cutting everything that isn’t essential or doesn’t add to the bottom-line” then he picked up the phone, having now practice his declaration to a satisfactory pompous level and said it again to the CFO bear this time adding “Find me something to cut that doesn’t generate profit and is simply a cost”. The CFO Bear scampered off to look at his accounts singing “profit, loss, accruals, accruals” as he was privately delighted that CEO Bear knew that it was the numbers, and by association, he thatmattered. After a few seconds in shallow thought, CFO Bear cried out “I’ve found it” and scurried off to tell CEO Bear what he’d found.

What CFO Bear had found was that Training appeared as a “cost” in the accounts and their was no entry for “profit” under training. So he told CEO Bear that they could cut it and save straight away. The CEO Bear was delighted so decreed “Stop all non-essential training now” so loud that HR Bear could even hear it on the ground floor. She ran up the stairs to the penthouse suite (because the the lift was closed in earlier cuts to save power) to find CEO and CFO Bear doing a little jig, delighted with their saving. “We need training” pleaded HR Bear who was a little short of breath, “It shows people we care about them, (pant) that we are prepared to invest in them and develop them for the business (pant)”. “Nonsense” said CEO Bear, “I can’t care about people, I have to care about shareholder value and profit, that’s what matters” and carried on jigging. “But training does deliver revenue and profit” said HR Bear, “Show me exactly where on the accounts” sniggered CFO Bear in a condescending tone, “You can’t can you… training is cancelled”, “Yes training is cancelled” echoed CEO Bear. As the jig was winding down and CEO and CFO Bears were busy congratulating each other agreeing they were both very clever, a tear welled up in HR Bear’s left eye and spilled onto her reddened cheeks as she turned and left the penthouse suite and made her way to where Goldilocks was taking a training course to deliver the bad news.

Goldi was oblivious to all these goings on. She knew her results on Metrics That Matter and Net Promoter Score had always been fab. The only negative comment she had ever seen was that “there were too many questions on a Metrics That Matter survey”, and quite honestly, she agreed. She had saved emails detailing the millions that had been made and saved over the years from the many delegates that had chosen to stay in touch. Her favourite training format of 2 + 2 days, 30-days apart meant she achieved a deeper relationship with delegates and she found it gave people a chance to try out things they had learnt between the sessions. They discovered that the things they learnt in the first session really worked which meant they were hungry for more when they came back for the second session that accelerated learning and made it super sticky. People who left Goldi’s training were always inspired and full of confidence, ready to change things for the better, drive performance and deliver results. But all that didn’t seem to matter anymore when HR Bear stepped into the training room at lunch…

“Goldi, after this group we’re cancelling the programme. Sorry but CEO nad CFO Bear are cutting back to make this quarters profit targets and don’t believe training adds value” said HR Bear. “But it does add value” pleaded Goldi, “you know that”. “I do” said HR Bear, “but unless we can show real monetary return from each training, there won’t be anymore training”. “What if we can find a way to show real money” said Goldi, “Will they change their minds?”. “Oh Goldi dear, maybe they would but how can we do it in a way that will make them see it”. Goldi thought , and thought and thought some more until suddenly she looked up and said “ We can do it HR Bear, I have a magical plan”.

The plan really was magical. That afternoon, Goldi told the group she was with to come up with a project they thought would add money or save money for the company. Goldi knew that they would all have ideas because they are the ones that are closest to the customers and clients and to the business processes that make it all happen. Anyway, if you sit in any canteen you will know that people are full of ideas about ways to improve things, it is just that most businesses don’t want to know or don’t want to listen, but this was a chance for the ideas to come to life. When they had an idea, Goldi showed them how to shape it into a plan and how to measure the success. The aim was to use the next 30-days between the modules to put the plans into action, using all they had learnt to make it happen and get the result. Then, on the second module they would review the ideas and count up the value of the results to show the ROI Bears. It was going to be brilliant.

The group were nervous about the idea at first; “I’m just a small cog and can’t make any difference” said one. “I work in a team , its not me that can make decisions that make money” said another. “I’m not in sales, how can I contribute to the bottom line?”. “STOP” said Goldi “You all add real value to the business. Without you the business doesn’t work. Everything you do serves the customer in some way, your part of the chain that delivers value to the customer and profit to the business. You deliver value. Everything you do contributes to performance, you just have to recognise it and show it…we have just 30-days to save training and this business”. The lights went on in the groups minds and ideas for projects flew around the room.

30-days later the group came back for part 2 of the training and had smiles as broad as an ocean. One had got a client to commission something 6-months early worth £230K. Another had shortened a reporting process by 50% saving 120 man hours a week worth a staggering £144K per annum. Another had found an opportunity to get a new product line into a client worth an additional £400K within 12-months. In all, in just 30-days, Goldi’s group had found £3.1m of opportunity and savings over the next year. Everyone was happy and Goldi sent the results to HR Bear excited about the response.

“I’ve had push-back on the results” said HR Bear, “CEO Bear said it is too big to be real” and CFO Bear said “The numbers are too soft and I can’t see them in my revenue reports” so they are still cancelling the training. “But they are real numbers and you can guarantee there will be a conversion rate on opportunity that will deliver new revenue way above the cost of the training” said Goldi, “That’s as maybe” said HR Bear “but they just don’t believe them”.

Goldi was dismayed at this response but then seemed to jolt as an idea sprung into her head: “HR Bear, the programme cost just £30K right?”. “Yes” said HR Bear. “Then what if we just show £50K we can measure now then we have a return that’s not too big to embarrass the Big Bears, and not too small to disappoint, so it will be just right”.

Goldi went back through the projects and found one that was just perfect and presented it to the 3 ROI Bears. “Show me the money” said the CEO Bear, “I want real numbers” said the CFO Bear and Goldi gave them exactly what they wanted. It wasn’t too big or too small in fact it was just right.

CEO Bear went on to see a £1.2m lift in revenue in the next two quarters, and even more after that. He found his teams who had trained even more productive than ever before and a stream of new ideas and creativity was constantly pulsing through the company. Of course, he and CFO Bear didn’t believe it was training by Goldi or anyone else that contributed to the results. One day, even CEO Bear, in a moment of weakness said “CFO Bear, do you think that training has contributed to our good sales and profit this quarter?”, the CFO Bear was puzzled and looked at his accounts “I can’t see a line for it here in Sales so probably not sir, its all down to your strategy” he said. “Of course it is” agreed CEO Bear “How silly of me”, and looked to the mirror to count his chins, then decided to let the CFO Bear do it for him . But little HR Bear knew exactly where the new performance and culture had come from and believed that the small changes that begin in training with a new thought, a new behaviour or new skill grow into future profit and performance far greater than you can ever imagine. What HR Bear knows that we all know in our hearts is that ROI from learning is not about just profit tomorrow but for profit ever after.

From then on, HR Bear always showed “just enough” ROI to the short term Big Bears to keep them investing in training. She knew that it was adding millions, saving millions, inspiring contribution and change and making people feel truly valued. HR Bear kept on working with Goldi and her training friends happily ever after.

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Total Recall of Names & Faces

Got a mail from a friend last week that said:

“I’m currently rubbish at remembering names and faces, this needs to change. I’m very good and remembering places so my mind obviously works to some degree, it just needs some tuning. Do you know of any great strategies or courses that might help me?”

It is a problem I used to have myself. Social events were a world of blank looks and pathetic conversational fishing as people slowly sank into disappointment at not being remembered that only partially matched my embarrassment for not remembering. I was in awe of those that had, what appeared to be, the “gift of total recall” of names and faces.

Recognising the power and value of the ability I set on a path to discover the best way to achieve Total Recall of names and faces myself. Here’s the best of what I found on the journey:

Make the person important enough to you and you will remember their name!

Often the reason we forget is that we simply don’t care, value or believe the person can help us (the “selfish gene” is a powerful beast). Not saying your “selfish” only human. Make them important and suddenly you will store them differently in your mind.

In group situations like training there are lots of tactics I learned to use such as:

1. Repeat the name 3-times when you first engage the client- Repetition is the mother of memory
2. Association with what they are wearing or a characteristic ;big Ben, Tom the hat, Jenny the smile. (Funny, never had any problem remembering beautiful ladies)- We always remember images
3. Get below the first layer of conversation (Bill works at Honda, Hazel loves Paris etc.)- Create a story and you will remember the person in it
4. Create movies associated with the person you are remembering; being handed a Bill at a Honda garage, eating a Topic with (Hazel nut bar) in Paris- The wilder more outrageous it is the more you will remember

Nothing worse than not knowing the name of someone you meet. Here’s the advice I received:

1. Don’t bluff… go early with lines such as; “charming to meet you again though you have me at a disadvantage..”
2. Plan… ask others in the company who the person you know the face but can’t place the name before you meet them. They will be impressed.
3. Best advice.., Read their name badge, they never know (try this in ASDA)

Remembering names is a great ability to a have and some of the most successful people I have met seem to be amazing at it, people like… um… uh.. you now.. the football guy… his wife’s name is Nicole, beautiful eyes and that dress. Now… what’s his name?

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Ed Miliband on Sales & Training

So Ed Miliband has become a capitalist. Well maybe, maybe not. Every political party and politician needs the middle to get elected and they will say whatever they believe you want to hear. Democracy is based on promises. We vote on promises and then vote again for a whole new load of them when we are let down. I don’t believe we are falling for the same scam every time, just we have no alternative. Maybe it is our own fault because we would never elect someone who tells us the truth anyway.

Now to Ed and Sales. In his speech at the Labour Party Conference today, for a moment I was drawn to something he said, something I feel politicians have ignored for too long. If you want to get the country out of recession the only way is to sell your way out. Ed said we need to “… train, invest, invent ,sell”. Here, here Ed!

You and I know that if you don’t sell it it doesn’t move. If it doesn’t move then you stop making it. If you stop making it people lose their jobs. But why is there no focus on sales in education and why is sales so ignored as a key skill in the talent mix for British working population. You can’t study it at school, college or University and very strangely, Business Schools don’t focus on it either. What is it about Sales that stops the powers in the education and training establishment from grasping the opportunity?

Leaving it to companies to train their own sales teams is not enough. I have enjoyed a great career in sales with many different companies, but in reality had no more than a few days training and most of an unremarkable quality. The truth is most sales people are left to their own devices. Even at the highest level strategic sales, the kind of sales that BAE Systems need to secure the jobs of their workers, are not trained to a level that makes the difference. At TALENTStream we are committed to lift the quality and availability of Sales Training available in the UK.

In a competitive market the sale is won on value not price. Sales people build value, build relationships, build businesses and build countries. It is time to train more sales people to levels that mean we win more business at a higher price, that generates more profit leading to more investment and more jobs. I don’t think I’ll say this very often but Ed is right, but he has it the wrong way round. Ed, and any other politician listening, it’s “ Train, Sell, Invest, Invent” then add “Employ”. It is how nations are built and it might even get you elected!

TALENTStream are a Harrogate based Training company specialising in Sales and Management for Sales. More at

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Where Were You on 9/11?

The chances are you can remember exactly where you were, who told you and what you did when you heard about the attack on the World Trade Centre (Twin Towers) on September 11th, 2001. I do. I had just come out of a Sales Meeting on the 3rd floor of our building near Heathrow and everyone was crowded round various computer screens and televisions aghast at what was happening on a crystal clear September morning in New York. It is still as vivid today as it was the morning after and just a week from the event. So why do we hold on to such dramatic memories more than others?

A survey carried out by the University of Manchester, commissioned by Yesterday, a UK TV channel, sheds some light on what we remember and how. It looked at peoples recollection of events and compared shared high profile events with more personal landmarks. The findings are astonishing. It seems we remember shared high global events and personal successes more than family or personal landmarks. Take for example the following:

82% of people surveyed could recall the detail of their hearing of 9/11 compared with only 72% being able to recall the same level of detail about their wedding day.

62% were able to recall in detail their whereabouts on hearing of the death of Princess Diana compared with only 50% being able to recall details of their child’s first birthday.

Findings from the data clearly show that the dramatic shared experience is recalled more easily than personal and less dramatic events. Thinking about the implications of this in training I started to list and recall training events I attended as a delegate over the years (and there has been 50 or so). I set myself the task of trying to remember the trainers name, the name of the course and a single learning point from each.

When I reviewed my results I was shocked at the findings. I remember the training stars of course like Bandler, Robbins, Covey and Anderson and others, but most of the standard business trainers and training have drifted away. In fact of the 50 or so I know I’ve attended, I struggled to recall even 10. The only exceptions were the dramatic courses, the big changes and the ones that made me personally feel successful (strangely enough the most remembered personal event in the survey was a personal success; Passing your Driving Test at 79%).

Do your own personal survey and tell us your results;

Step 1. List the training events you have been on in the last 5 years or so. (Do you think you have them all down or have you even forgotten a few already?)

Step 2. Write down the trainers name next to the course. (What was his name again?)

Step 3. Write down the title of the course or what it was about. (Was it…?)

Step 4. Write down 1 key learning point you remember. (Nope! Gone.)

I’m guessing you have gaps everywhere and I know that you are not alone and everyone has a similar experience.

Does this mean that most business training is wasted? Only if it is boring. If it is dramatic (different) and makes delegates feel successful then recall is higher and learning is guaranteed.

The message from all this is obvious. In designing training make sure you have compelling events (not irrelevant icebreakers by the way, they are lame), shared experiences and built in success. In choosing a training provider make sure they are different, stand-out, excite, engage and make people feel good about themselves. Make sure their stories and metaphors are vivid and compelling and their teaching styles varied and flexible. If you do that then I know that your teams will be able to at least recall the three things you couldn’t and perhaps have learned a lot more.

For more information on outstanding presentation and to report “Boring Presentations” and “Trainings” go to

For the source report on the survey visit

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Shopping, Rioting and Related Behaviours

I was taken by Andrew Gilligan’s writing this week in the Telegraph ( He painted a very real and frightening picture of what was happening in the London riots and it got me thinking about why people do the things they do, like shop or riot.

We know that self-esteem or the like is essential in delivering our mood and that it shapes how we deal with the world around us. We also know that whenever we are praised, stroked or complimented endorphins are released in our brain that top up our self-esteem and make us feel good about ourselves. But what if no-one bothers to say nice things, do nice things or we feel ignored?

Well many people find they start other activities that release endorphins… like shopping for example. We all understand the term “retail therapy” and now you know it is simply making you feel good by releasing endorphins you are not finding elsewhere. You are literally buying happiness. The thing is once you have bought one thing, the endorphin buzz makes you want another. This is why you never leave the supermarket with just the one item you went in for. Endorphins make the next decision easier and taste even sweeter.

Rioting? Well the first point is the rioter has something missing (intelligence I hear you shout) and possibly we may find it is self-esteem (OK and any modicum of “respect for others”). Where you and I may shop to top up our joy, if you haven’t got the money, and it looks like you can get away with it, then you are a stones throw away from an endorphin rush (pun intended)… and you know what happens when you get one of those, you want more.

This rush may be one of the reasons riots escalate the way they do and when you add in the irresistible power of Social Proof you see why normally reasonable people (slightly stupid and morally void) somehow get drawn into the endorphin fueled frenzy of a riot.

To riot or loot is wrong and there is no excuse and I don’t have the answers. But there may be a clue in making people feel good about themselves; because when we do we don’t feel the need to shop too much or riot for our endorphin fix.

Be happy!


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