How you really decide

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As the new UK PM Theresa May travels between EU leaders to ‘negotiate’ Brexit …the speed of Article 50 implementation….and all the other ‘exit’ details, she and the people she has to speak to  will have to make a lot of decisions. So it is interesting to remind ourselves of the truth behind complex human decision making: What should I do about this? : What is she thinking?  What do I want? Why do I want it? ……………………………How do we really ‘decide’?

Rational thought? …actually its largely an illusion

On the surface there is the official, written down, formal decision making process.. “Give us the all facts and we’ll decide!” The imagined process is that a draft proposal on some topic or other is arrived after initial discussions between relatively junior people on the opposing teams. This is made into some sort of hardcopy document which is then presented to ‘the next level up’ in the organisation. These middle management ‘officials’ then consider the proposal and send it back for tweaking after which it is resubmitted and ,if OK, passed to the next level up in the hierarchy and so on upwards and upwards until it reaches the boss.

If all is OK the boss will then sign it……..or if not he/she will send it back down the formal chain for further tweaking. And so it goes on backwards and forwards until everybody is happy. When that happens the boss will finally sign it and the decision will have been made.

That at least is the theory.

The reality (The neuro science) is quite different: facts are (in fact), very rarely , the basis for making decisions.  In fact the more valid reasons (or arguments) you use to try to persuade the other side about the reasonableness of your proposal the LESS likely you are to persuade them. This is because (Psychologists tell us) a weak argument always dilutes a strong one.

So the first rule to apply when trying to get someone to ‘decide’ in your favour is to concentrate on preferably just one strong argument. If you feel you must add something else to justify your proposal you may expand that to two strong reasons. And maybe…only maybe….if you’re really experienced just possibly three strong reasons…………BUT THAT’s IT!  Because facts are not very persuasive.

And once you have decided on the strong argument you will use, then look for the emotional triggers you can build your arguments around.

New research over the past decade shows that just about all (ALL) human decisions are driven not by facts but by EMOTIONS.  We make most of our decisions on the basis of likeability, feelings, friendships, familiarity, passion, desire. Very few important decisions are fact or ‘evidence or fact  based’. Even in a court of law good looking criminals get away with serious crimes because people (juries) just like the look of them.

And this isn’t new either; reflect on the culture some of the World’s most ancient civilisations in the Middle and Far East …..from Egypt to China.  In this 21st Century, to get natives of any countries in these areas to decide to do business with you, then you must first get them to like you. In order to do this you must first spend a considerable amount of time in their company NOT talking about the business you have in mind or the decisions you would like them to make. Only when they ‘have the measure of you’ and get to know you will they entertain the possibility of being persuaded by you. The informal structure which actually gets things done is always far more important than the ‘formal’ political hierarchy. And it isn’t JUST in these ancient cultures either….it is actually the same across all cultures but we just don’t admit it; Who ever said, “Its not WHAT you know but WHO you know!”  knew his fellow man alright.

So as you watch Prime Minister Theresa May on her charm offensive in these early days of her Prime Ministership see how she is using this knowledge of human persuasion and decision making. First ‘home’ visits (Charity begins at Home) to Scotland, then Wales and Northern Ireland all potential trip-wires in her quest for control. Not laying down the law about the need for a “UNITED KINGDOM!” but just listening and getting to know the senior people in each of these countries….making friends. Then on to Germany and France not starting negotiations just making friends. She knows it is so HARD to say NO to people that you know’ ….people who like you…even if their driving needs appear different from yours.

So if you too want to become a similar expert in the field of persuasive, human, decision-making, just follow these 10 steps: You will be amazed at the impact they will have on your life when dealing with other people:

  • Give honest and sincere appreciation
  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
  • Show respect for the other person’s feelings – never say “You’re wrong!”
  • If you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Let the other person do most of the talking
  • Try honestly to see the situation from the other person’s point of view
  • Be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Let the other person save face


Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

8 ways to shove your customers away

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The biggest driver of customer loyalty is not after all the things you may think like ‘value for money’, ‘customer service’, ‘ range of choices’ and so on. No…in fact it is the speed, effort and willingness with which you handle customer complaints.

In fact it so important a factor that any customer who has had a problem with your business which you have fixed to their entire satisfaction is almost always more loyal than a customer who has never had a problem.

An academic study by the Customer Contact Council has found that customer loyalty isn’t created by delighting the customer with your general service levels. Your customer’s loyalty is based on how little effort they have to put in to getting their complaint or dissatisfaction dealt with satisfactorily.

The Council has devised something they call the Customer Effort Score which has a 1-5 scale when this question is asked of customers: “ How much personal effort did you have to put in to get your request satisfied?”

Even a small reduction in effort is translated into a much greater increase in loyalty and by default ‘revenue’. On the other side an increase in ‘effort required’ has a 4 times greater ‘negative’ effect. Customers who have to put in a high amount of effort are 61% less likely to purchase again compared with your ‘average’ customer.

Right now I am waiting for the gardening company, who keep my garden in check on a fortnightly basis, to resolve two simple queries. They are easy fixes on work carried out (or not) in this case. The owner of the company could say (after 10 years of a satisfactory –customer delight- relationship and lost of my money): ”Look I don’t know who’s right or wrong here but why don’t we just forget about the disputed charges and carry on as before?”

I would be perfectly happy with that. And would tell my next door neighbour how happy I was.

But In fact the issue has now been dragging on for three weeks while they ‘look into’ my complaints. I have made several ‘chasing’ phone calls to them. I am still expending a great deal of effort with no conclusion in sight. I am not happy. If it doesn’t get resolved I will cancel their contract and go with a competitor. They will lose a loyal 10 year customer and all that future revenue. I will get a new gardener.

So, do you run a business (gardening or otherwise)? Do you know your CES score?

8 ways to upset your customers,,,,,

  1. It takes too long to fix a problem
  2. Promises are broken
  3. Being treated in an offhand manner by someone who wants to prove they’re ‘right’
  4. Being transferred from department to department.
  5. Having to chase the company
  6. Being held in uninformed suspension for days
  7. Being asked for more business when this problem is still unresolved.
  8. Finding the ‘Support’ facility on or off the website completely inadequate


And the single easy way to make them come back for more:

Next time a customer raises a query or complaint, who ever’s ‘fault’ you think it is, try saying this:

“I’m so sorry to hear that Mr Customer. What can I do to put things right immediately?”

Then just do it. You’ll be amazed at the resulting hapiness and loyalty. Remember…you’re not there to prove you’re ‘right’…you’re there to do more business.

It is 80% easier and less expensive to get more business from an existing happy customer than to go out and find a single new one.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

What will a sales trainer like you do for someone like me?

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Stop you making the mistakes still made by 95% of all sellers; the ‘also rans’ .

Start you making your first £million by becoming one of the 5% who know what really sells.

(And start you getting very rich indeed)

(FREE) The 8 key steps in selling….and how to do them properly for once:

  • Your customer learns about your product or service through this Directory or through prior experience or even by word of mouth.

The ‘also-ran’ 95% ….react by immediately launching into their one-size-fits-all presentation or demo and give away too much irrelevant information. They show lots of features their product without showing how those features could solve a problem for this customer. They do all this within a few minutes of their first meeting. They are then surprised when the customer quickly asks about the price.

The TOP 5% … Ask a lot of pre-planned questions about problems they know they can fix. The customer enjoys this as it develops a two way conversation rather than a one way pitch. These ‘top 5%’ never start with a presentation and probably don’t give one at all at the first meeting. When they finally ‘present’ their ideas they do it with panache, showmanship  and humour.


  • Your customer evaluates whether your recommended solution meets their needs

The ‘also ran’ 95%…react by pitching the company range whether the customer has asked about it or not.  They can’t wait to give answers and talk about solutions.

The TOP 5%….Ask about the knock-on effect of problems (ones they know they can fix) in the current situation if these problems are allowed to persist. (These ‘knock on effect’ questions are very powerful and persuasive and are always planned by top sellers in advance.) They show great insight from customer point of view.


  • Your customer prepares a request to their financial management.

The ‘also ran’ 95%…react by offering brochures and canned ‘boiler plate’ documentation and presentations to justify any price or cost issues. They quickly offer discounts in an effort to secure the business.

The TOP 5%   …Work with the customer and rehearse them in the best ways to present their price justification.


  • Senior management send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ) to your competitors (just for comparison and to keep you honest!! )

The ‘also ran’ 95%…..Wait for end users to make requests for content of the RFP/RFQ. Are paralysed with fear and believe they can do nothing. They often offer even more discounts.

The TOP 5%…Visit relevant customer departments in an effort to influence the RFP/RFQ content and focus it on their own particular Unique Selling Points which the customer has said it needs.


  • Customer’s ‘buying committee’ (or similar) interviews vendors (you and others) to screen for specification match to requirements  etc

The ‘also ran’ 95% …Show their usual canned demo again…oblivious to customer need to see specific relevant solution now. (I once saw a drinks transport company proudly showing their new Red Bull canned drink transport commercial to a potential fine wine customer. They lost it immediately and couldn’t understand why!)

The TOP 5% ….. Give focused presentation which deal specifically with problems and issues this client has said they need to fix. There is nothing superfluous.



  • Committee gives short-list approval to (usually) two vendors and requests final meeting/presentation

The ‘also ran’ 95% …Sell well only when they have a price advantage. Unable to differentiate themselves from low cost alternatives.

The TOP 5% … Show importance of unique features sought and stated by client which differentiate their higher priced offering from lower priced alternatives.



  • Customer is ready to sign contract but has final concerns which need clarifying (Liability, performance guarantees, contract length etc)

The ‘also ran’ 95%… Try to ignore difficult concerns or pretend they don’t exist. Say ‘Trust me’ when client has doubts.


The TOP 5%…Draw out customer concerns and help resolve them.  Introduce customer to existing satisfied clients. Acknowledge shortcomings but emphasise the importance of the unique things you can do for the client which client has said are really important.


  • Follow up after contract signed

The ‘also ran’ 95%…Give good support but no further attempt to promote other services. (They forget it is 80% easier [and 80% less expensive]  to get more business from an existing happy customer than it is to go out and find a new one)

The TOP 5%… Give good support but also use as an opportunity to sell more to other departments and end users.

Simple? You bet! But most sellers just don’t do it. So I get paid anything between £2500 to £25,000 a day to show my clients how….but you’re getting it for FREE. The trick, you see, is knowing precisely what you have to do at each step to make it work for you.

Give me a call…I will show you how to make a million or more too…..just like me.

(Or you can carry on doing it your way …..and not.)


Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]