Why Aiming for Second Place can be a Winning Sales Strategy

When I train business professionals and trades from BNI Berkshire about winning referrals I demonstrate a technique called ‘Second on the List’ which is ideal for any sector brimming with competitors.

Consider accountants. Most businesses will already have an accountant so it is rarely straightforward to get a referral for your own accountant or an accountant in your chapter. You are much more likely say, to encounter a business without a website or an out of date site that needs updating.

So imagine you are chatting with a business owner who would be an ideal referral for the accountant in your BNI Chapter and the conversation is going well – after all this isn’t going to be your opening question!

You say: “Tell me, do you have a good accountant?”

They reply: “Yes, I do…”

You respond: “Oh… that’s a shame…”

Then you shut up. Zip! Say nothing and as hard as this can be it is important you let them speak next as they are most likely to ask the one question that will bring you nearer that referral.

“Why?” they almost always ask, or variations of that question. This opens the way for you to explain something along the following lines:

“It is just that I know a great accountant who I think would be great for your business… but I understand you already have one… Just a thought though if you are ever less than 100% happy with your accountant you should speak to my guy…”

At this point they are most likely considering whether they are 100% happy and there is a good chance they are not. It is said that only a third of businesses are happy with a supplier, another third are indifferent and a final third are actually unhappy.

Time to secure that referral:

“Do you imagine it could help to speak to them?” Which prompts them imagine just that.

“Shall I ask them to give you a call, so at least you have a relationship when you need a second opinion or have any questions your accountant cannot answer…?”

Now, there is no guarantee they will say “yes”, but there is a very real likelihood they actually would and at that point you have your referral to pass to the accountant.

Remember to fully brief the accountant or whoever on the nature of the referral. It is important that they understand they are going to be ‘second on the list’ and it may be a slow – but effective burn.

This works with other professions and trades too and it is worth exploring how best you can use this approach during a one-to-one. For example if you can also ask specific questions that may differentiate who you are talking about from their current supplier, this too can open up the opportunity for a referral – and remember it is only a referral if they are expecting the call.

What do you think of this approach? Do you have any tried and tested methods for winning referrals in these circumstances?

How to Triple Your Return from BNI with No Extra Effort

Bread and butter referrals

If all you ask for bread and butter referrals you are missing out! You need cream or dream referrals!

Is that to good to be true? Only if you do not want to put in a little extra work first before watching your return from BNI treble, so delegates at a recent BNI Berkshire training session discovered.

Like all networking you get out what you put in and with BNI you get out even more when you recognise that Givers Gain and at the ‘Profitable Networking’ was firmly focused on this principle by helping members to ask for better referrals and equip specific referral partners with better information to find the best opportunities for you, and indeed you for them.

We were divided into Power Teams – these are associated categories who share the same type of clients and mirrored the approach of successful chapters who use Power Teams to supercharge their referrals.

As Executive Director Nick Forgham explained, first you need to distinguish between your bread and butter referrals, cream referrals and dream referrals. All too often members can focus on the first and miss the richer opportunities that come from the latter.

Bread and butter referrals

These keep you ticking over and are typically one off customers or clients where once that job has been completed then no other work is likely to come from that referral.

Cream referrals

Naturally these are better. These are the big contracts, or introductions that will generate lots more referrals. So referral partners would qualify. Another way to look at it would be to say this kind of referral might pay for that family holiday!

Dream referrals

These are the life changing referrals. One that would lead to retirement! More likely it could see your business expand with new staff needed to meet the demand for your professional services.

Armed with this knowledge and within their Power Teams everyone set about listing example of Cream Referrals and an example of a Dream Referral.

Then we came up with proactive questions that people could ask to trigger these Cream Referrals – for example (and I was lucky enough to be working with business coach Rob Pickering) a Cream Referral for us would be a franchisor who might want case studies for each of his franchisees. So asking a franchisee ‘Does your franchisor help you get more business by providing case studies’ could generate such a referral.

We expanded this to create scenarios where different questions could be used to trigger the ‘… is it okay if they give you a call’ which in turn leads to a Cream Referral.

Finally, and having done all this work it is the final step that will triple your return from BNI, we were asked to list eight people we are proactively finding referrals for – and eight people who are proactively trying to find referrals for me. This needed to be an agreement above and beyond the normal approach within BNI where you try and find the referrals your fellow members ask for weekly.

Winding up with a trio of actions (mine were to email each of my eight by the end of the week, have one-to-ones with each of them by the end of June and to blog about the training!) we had already made the extra effort that should mean we can triple our return from BNI with not a lot more extra effort to exert!

What would be the take away for you? Well, apart from the obvious benefit of being in BNI, you should strive to know who your cream referrals would be and work out your referral partners who can find you these and better still your dream referral. However, always remember that Givers Gain!

Adidas score own goal with Brazil 2014 World Cup tee-shirts


A pair of 2014 World Cup tee-shirts has landed sportswear giant Adidas in hot water after Brazil objected to the sexualisation of its image in the run up to the sporting event – of which Adidas is a major sponsor. Cue PR crisis and uproar on social media!

I’m not sure what makes you a PR Crisis Expert, however I do have that tee-shirt from BBC 5 Live and in recent months have spoken about problems as diverse as the Co-op’s ‘Crystal Methodist’ Paul Flowers, the NHS and today on the breakfast show it was Adidas.

There is a certain inevitability of stories like this and with the enthusiasm for the Winter Olympics at Sochi thawing the focus will soon switch to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Adidas has made an early run for most spectacular own goal by creating these woefully predictable and stereotypical tee-shirts.

I was chatting to BBC 5 Live Sport presenter Adam Parsons and recalled that back when I was at school Adidas stood for ‘All Day I Dream About Sex’, which is presumably what the designer who created these tee-shirts was doing.

I suspect they went through on the nod from some small department and were anticipated to sell in sufficient numbers to make it worth manufacturing them. If they sold they’d make more and if they didn’t they would bin them. No-one considered this might happen.

And what has happened? Brazil complains, Adidas withdraws the tee-shirts and everyone gets briefly excited, but not convinced this will capture the imaginations – not least as the tee-shirts were not being worn by models or anyone famous.

I think the BBC may have been hoping I would predict this will be The Next Big Thing in social media disasters, but honestly I do not think it will and honestly, I cannot see Adidas losing much sleep over this own goal and a quick search on Twitter doesn’t show this has been embraced in the way some problems are. Of course, it could soon be trending as it does have the ‘sex’ factor which does excite many of those adept at making the most of 140 characters.

What is the lesson here? Swift action has mitigated the fallout for Adidas for sure and they haven’t at this stage put up a spokesperson, which is why the BBC is talking to a PR Crisis Expert such as myself. Nor is Brazil so while it is not necessarily wise to only issue a statement, in this circumstance it has limited the story.

A word of caution and one that I shared on air; Brazil is fighting hard to combat its sex tourism image which is why it challenged these tee-shirts. However, in doing so it raises interest in looking more closely at how the country prepares for the World Cup and a quick Google search reveals plenty of stories far more damaging than these tee-shirts for Brazil’s reputation.
What do you think about the Adidas tee-shirts? Tell us in the comments below? 

The 29% Solution – Master the Top Ten Networking Traits

Week Seven – Master the Top Ten Traits – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

Do you know what the top ten traits of the master networker are? Could you hazard a guess? Well if networking is working rather than not working for you then the chances are you will recognise a good few of the following traits:

  1. Timely follow-up on referrals: Following up with what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, builds your credibility and trust.
  2. Positive Attitude: Positive attitudes are contagious. People want to be around you. Being positive contributes to your determination, internal motivation, and ultimate business success.
  3. Enthusiasm: Enthusiastic and motivated people make things happen for themselves – and for the people they know.
  4. Trustworthiness: Trust, as we have been taught, is earned. It develops over time and throughout the time of a relationship. Trust is the foundation of your Credibility.
  5. Good listening skills: Listening and understanding the needs and problems of others can position you to engage the services of people you know. Communication well takes focus and effective listening.
  6. Commitment to Networking 24/7: Master Networkers are never formally of duty. Networking is so natural to them that they can be found networking in Waitrose, doctor’s office and at their children’s school and well as in networking functions. They operate on the Givers Gain mind-set where ever they are.
  7. Gratitude: Thanking others at every opportunity will help you stand out from the crowd. Expressing sincere gratitude to the people who will one day be there to help you is not just a courtesy — it’s the right thing to do.
  8. Helpfulness: Master networkers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to advance other people’s interests because they really want to. Master networkers get joy out of helping other people succeed.
  9. Sincerity: Those who have developed successful networking skills conver their sincerity at every turn. No multi-tasking here. Master networkers give their full attention to the task at hand. Make eye contact when you are speaking to people in person. Sincerely show that you care and give your complete attention to the person in front of you.
  10. Dedicated to Working One’s Network: Master networkers don’t let any opportunity to work their networks pass them by. They set up appointments to get better acquainted with new contacts and learn about them quickly so the path to Visibility and Credibility can be initiated. This is particularly true with respect to new members and visitors to your BNI chapter or other networking events.

In The 29% Solution they provide a worksheet that gets you to score yourself on each of the traits, with 1-5 points per trait depending on whether you never, rarely, sometimes, usually or always display each trait. As the book jokes, if you score 50 it is time to stop reading!

This concludes the first section of the book ‘Create your Future’, and the remains 45 weeks promise to expand on these traits and the amazing places they can take you.

Do scroll back through this blog if you want to check out our thoughts on the other chapters of The 29% Solution.

Could taking the tablet be the best medicine for sales?

Do you have a tablet? Is it an iPad, Android or maybe the Kindle Fire? It seems like everyone has a tablet these days and for anyone involved in sales they might just be the best medicine to enhance your sales.

And remember, if you work for yourself or are customer facing in your role… guess what? You are in sales. If that makes you shudder you definitely need to read on as taking the tablet could be the cure!

Photographers were the first professionals I saw bringing tablets along to networking meetings and using them to scroll through their work. Often they would have also set up folders for different categories of photographs so when they had the one-to-one meetings that good networkers always do they could go straight to relevant images.

Here at Morgan PR we use our tablet to showcase collateral that we have created and to illustrate how different social media platforms operate when we are mentoring clients in the best ways to use social media.

The tablet also allows for preparation en route to the meeting if you’re a passenger and similarly you can get cracking with any actions travelling after the meeting too and of course for taking notes during the meeting. Cloud based apps will sync merrily next time you’re logged on to Wi-Fi if you are not plugged in during a meeting or don’t have 3G.

Incidentally I tend to use Evernote for note taking and assign tasks directly to my all-time favourite to do app, the apply named Todoist, one of the few freemium modelled apps that I paid to go pro with! Yes, that good!

Incidentally, when it comes to note taking do let me know if you hear of an app for translating shorthand. I could exist with only a tablet if there were a killer app to transform the Teeline shorthand I have used since learning 100 words per minute as a journalist, into the written word!

Just as with a smartphone you could also tell your network where you are working via your tablet if appropriate and this can lead to fresh opportunities simply because they discover where you are. Just last week we ended up having coffee with a prospect after an invite to pop in came from them spotting we were around the corner!

One word of caution if you are a smitten tablet kitten… while there is now doubt whisking out the tablet has a wow factor, do consider if it will actually intimidate the audience. There can be no quicker way to lose a sale than making your prospect feel daft! So do think how it will be received!

How do you use a tablet when out and about? Tell us how in the comments below.

Facebook reviews… turns out you cannot have your cake and eat it

(UPDATE: In the wake of this blog The Shed sought to retain Morgan PR to manage this situation. It is significant that at no stage has the client asked for this blog, or critical comments we made on social media,  to be removed.)

There is an interesting social media car crash spinning in the carriageway of the web traffic, with a bistro in Bath objecting rather strongly to a customer’s negative comments.

A negative review on The Shed’s Facebook page from a paying customer, which still gave the venue three stars (the average is three-and-a-half stars based on 46 reviews) prompted an astonishing foul-mouthed response from the venue.

You can see the screengrab right where Helen Forsyth, a sales consultant from Bath had coffee there on Friday, but was clearly a little worried about the cakes…

“The cakes looked amazing and I wanted to try every single one BUT the cakes were on very open display with every customer essentially leaning over them to order. So all the cakes were getting breathed on (or worse) by every single passing person, plus the staff. Which is a crying shame as they really did look extremely good. And at £3 per standard sized brownie, they really do need to be good too! But due to the above, we just had coffee.”

Fair enough? Sure it is going to smart if you own the joint, but does it warrant this nuclear response to a mosquito bite? A response that singlehandedly guaranteed that this tale would go viral.

The Shed responded:

“Please don’t come back – your feedback is b****cks ! You would need to be a midget with a neck of a giraffe to be able to breath (sic) over them – stupid woman!”

(Those expletive undermining stars are ours by the way, they actually swore at paying customer on Facebook!).

And so it began… News crews are probably coming back from the floods in Somerset to cover this debacle and while many people will hear of The Shed, how many who are local will take a view on whether to visit?

Twitter, far more than Facebook, is where this story is unfolding with @theshedbath seemingly responding to every tweet with gusto.

At Morgan PR we often have businesses come to us when negative reviews or online material has been published and the first thing we try to do is quote George Bernard Shaw.

“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

That usually gives them pause to think and honestly that is what you need to do if you get negative reviews.

How differently would it have gone if The Shed had thanked Helen for her feedback and mentioned displaying cakes in this way meets with food safety standards (everyone does it so it surely must?).

There is a trend for venues to go postal against negative reviewers and they nearly always make the headlines. Who is left the most dirty by this depends on the content of the negative review – if the response is proportionate it tends to come out in favour of the venue. However if as in this case when it seems somewhat over the top…

Incidentally, it is worth examining the law surrounding defamation as The Shed is making all sorts of threats relating to what is calls “libellous/defamatory comments”.

The Defamation Act 2013 came into force at the start of the year and has substantially changed the defences to claims of libel, chief among them is the ‘Requirement of Serious Harm’ – which would need The Shed to prove serious financial loss. Assuming such loss occurred I wonder how much would be deemed to be caused by their responses rather than the original comment?

The customers leaving a review also have the defence of ‘Truth’ if what they have said is actually true, however it may be more straightforward to rely upon

If it was an ‘honest opinion’ then they have a defence. This hefty protection replaced ‘Fair Comment’ but remains the reviewer’s friend. The defence of honest opinion will apply where the defendant can show that the following three conditions are met: 

  • That the statement complained of was a statement of opinion;
  • That an honest person could have held the opinion on the basis of any fact which existed at the time the statement complained of was published.
  • That an honest person could have held the opinion on the basis of any fact which existed at the time the statement complained of was published

So speaking as a journalist quick test based on the available facts: Yes, it is an opinion. Yes the statement is the basis of the opinion and if the cakes were on show as they are in photos on The Shed’s Facebook page, it is an honest opinion that it could be unhygienic, whether or not it actually is.

So today’s social media car wreck is tomorrow’s forgotten bookmark and it is way too early in 2014 to know if this will make the top 10 social media fails just yet… but it might!

So if you want some advice before you go nuclear at some perceived slight contact Morgan PR for some friendly, professional advice – and be prepared for us to quote George Bernard Shaw.

The 29% Solution – Create your Network Relationship Database


Week Six – Create a Network Relationship Database – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

I remember once seeing someone demonstrate the typical small business CRM system – that’s their Customer Relationship Management – by emptying a carrier bag of business cards on to the floor!

It might have been a bit extreme, but the truth is many businesses rely upon their contacts system within email, like Outlook or Gmail, to manage their contacts. Or if they do have a system it holds little more information than contact details.

You need more for that for your business and as Week Six of The 29% Solution reveals, you’ll need a lot more if you want a Network Relationship Database that works. It succinctly explains what you need to capture:

You need to keep more than just contact information. Record every word-of-mouth referral that you receive from your network… who gave you the referral, how it developed, and whether it led to any further business.

It is worth mentioning that if you are a member of BNI you receive your word-of-mouth referrals through a handy referral slip that separates into three parts – one for the recipient, one for the chapter and one for the giver to keep track of.

And if you believe the mantra ‘Givers Gain’ then surely your database needs to include the kind of referrals that you network members are looking for to remind you how you can help them.

Here at Morgan PR we are trialling different systems right now, looking for one that will suit both business and our network and ideally it will be in the cloud and work on tablets and smart phones so that information can be accessed and updated anywhere. We’ll post when we discover the right CRM!

Incidentally one of our associates, Jules Varnham from Go Live, specialises in corporate CRM systems so do check her out if your need is greater than a Network Referral Database.

The 29% Solution: Give to Others First

Week Five – Give to Others First – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

Have you heard the phrase ‘Givers Gain’? It is the ethos of the networking organisation BNI and underlines everything its members do; it is the principle that you give to others first – if I refer business to you, you will want to refer business to me.

This is the timely focus of Week Five of The 29% Solution – so after creating your networking plan, blocking out time to network, profiling your ideal client and recruiting your word-of-mouth marketing team it is time to put others first!

Whoever you are, you have a wealth of referrals to find and give to those in your network, in your word-of-mouth marketing team. Yet this can prove tricky and as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire it is the question I am most often asked – ‘how do I find referrals?’

As the authors Dr. Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donvovan put it:

You are the gatekeeper to the resources locked inside your network.

Within BNI we offer training for finding referrals as there are so many different approaching to unlock those gates and belying the American origins of BNI they use good old Charlie Brown and his catchphrase of ‘Good grief’ which he utters every time life doesn’t go his way.

The book argues you can use ‘good grief’ to find referrals to match with others in your network. It suggests when people complain about their problems and challenges, as they so often do, instead of nodding sympathetically, why not solve them by telling them about someone in your network who can solve the problem – and then when you have permission you can ask the problem solver to get in touch with them.

Establish a reputation for this and people will seek you out for help with their problems and deliver you a wealth of potential referrals, making it easy for you to give to others first.

This networking strategy can go one step further the book explains, you could email your network listing the proven professionals and trades in your network and inviting people to contact you if they need help from any of them. Clever eh?

It suggests a text for this email or letter and urges you to send it out to your network as one of the actions and the other action is to ensure you have a ready supply of business cards from all those people you refer business to.

What do you do to find referrals? Share you tips here as after all, Givers Gain!

The 29% Solution: Recruit your Word of Mouth Marketing Team

Week Four – recruit your word of mouth marketing team – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

When you ask business people where most of their enquiries comes from they will nearly always say: ‘word of mouth’ – which is why we always say great PR is about getting people talking!

This is especially true if you go networking. I’ve belonged to and visited many different networking organisations, have chaired some and set up others and know that great referrals only come when people know what kind of business you are looking for.

Last week ‘The 29% Solution’ talked about understanding your ideal clients so you could as for the right kind of referrals and in the fourth of 52 networking strategies it talks about recruiting a word of mouth marketing team to find those ideal clients.

Now there is no mention of BNI here so unless you are familiar with the world’s biggest networking organisation you might not know that when you belong to a chapter of BNI you are part of a word of mouth marketing team! Your fellow members are your team and will actively go out looking for referrals for you, just as you go out looking for the referrals they have asked for!

This is achieved through a structured approach which has an underlying philosophy of ‘Givers Gain’ and if I give you business, you will give me business. That means if you know who your ideal client is you can ask for it and people will try and help, just as you do them. I’ve never seen this happen outside of BNI!

Obviously you do not need to be in BNI to recruit a word of mouth marketing team! It just makes it easier and certainly once you have experienced it you can actually clearly understand how to recruit other people to your team – for example many of our clients know what kind of companies we want to work with and actively look for chances to refer us.

Naturally, I scored well on the questions that related to this part of networking in the quiz I took at the beginning of adopting ‘The 29% Solution’ and I am proud of my word of mouth marketing team – and thrilled to be part of many other people’s team too!

Want to see a word of mouth marketing team in action? Visiting your local BNI chapter is a good start and probably the best way to grasp just how powerful such a team can be for your business whether you go networking or not. If you are Berkshire then please contact me for as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire I can help you.


The 29% Solution: Profile your preferred client to win more business

Week Three – profile your preferred client – working through the 29% Solution in 2014

Another hefty dose of uncommon common sense in Week 3 of The 29% Solution is all about working out who your preferred clients are – which I know from when I offer help during one-to-ones is not always known.

Or as the book’s author and BNI founder Dr. Ivan Misner puts it:

Imagine what your business would be like if you had a Rolodex filled with only the people and businesses you most like to work with.

Apart from quipping my business would be in 1995 with a Rolodex, you can get the idea – instead of playing the numbers game with an ill-considered database you would have a CRM system that is brimming with genuine opportunities to do business.

It offers a worksheet which neatly displays the approach to profiling your preferred client and differentiates between B2C and B2B clients. It is actually quite simple like the best ideas and presumably is something that the book will build on as it works through its 52 networking strategies.

Another approach could be to analyse your existing clients – the ones that deliver for your business that is… not the right proper nuisance clients. Where are they based? How many staff do they have? What is their turnover – look for common factors especially as these will contribute to the profile of the preferred clients.

Also, and here is some bonus thoughts from Morgan PR, do consider creating case studies for these preferred clients to act as social proof for your preferred prospects. A case study focuses on the benefits your clients enjoy and demonstrate why someone should work with you. We do these and have clients enjoying as much as an 80% conversion rate courtesy of our case studies.

Please do contact Morgan PR if you would like to discover the power of case studies for winning business from your preferred clients.

Finally do remember you can discover about setting your networking goals and blocking out time for networking in our earlier blogs. And do tell us in the comments below how you profile your preferred client? Any helpful tips?