SSES Sales Workshop

Lately I was in a weekend workshop that was arranged by Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship (SSES). The workshop leader was James Barlow who is the CEO of the Scottish Institute for Enterprise. The topic of the workshop was : Sales. James Barlow started his career as a door-to-door salesman when he was seventeen. Throughout his career he made millions of pounds of sales in Britain and other countries in executive positions. So he experienced all types of sales in the business life.

Here are my notes from the workshop as he didn’t use any slides. (It was more funny without slides though.)


The first concept was the E+R=O equation. (E= Event, R=Response, O=Outcome)

The main point of the concept was that the outcomes are not only dependent on the events they are also dependent on our responses. So the responses can change a bad event into something good and a good event into something bad.

One of the problems with the responses was that generalizations, filters, dilutions and even prejudgements affect the way we understand the events. It’s known that a person does 7 assumptions in the first 11 seconds that he meets someone. So he assumes many things before he even gets any information about him/her. James calls this :


to emphasize what a wrong behaviour it’s to assume everything without learning. He gives an example of a famous manager that starts with the fact that his decision is wrong and then tries to make it right instead of starting with the fact that he is right at the beginning.

He also mentioned dividing big problems into smaller pieces with an example of business plans. The next simple figure shows an entrepreneur with a good plan and an entrepreneur with a bad plan.

Figure 1 – Good Plan vs Bad Plan

The good plan has small milestones so even if you do make mistakes along the way, you can always turn back to track. But a bad plan does not have this characteristics and contains a lot of assumptions and it’s hard to turn back to track once you start executing the plan.

Features vs. Benefits

I think this part is especially for engineers who want to do things just because they can be done versus the business people who want to do things because they need to be done. So we listed some of the features of our mobile phones and wrote down the benefits of these features.

Example :

Feature: Calendar
You’ll never forget your anniversary again.

So we need to have a “which means that” part in our sentence.

Example :

This phone has a calendar which means that you’ll never forget your anniversary again.

I totally agree with this opinion as it reveals the customer value. Guy Kawasaki also writes about this in his book “Art of the Start” and says that we always need to feel a guy who is sitting on our right shoulder and asking “so what ?” question. Then we need to answer it everytime we talk about a feature of our product. Actually, if you come to Istanbul and try to shop in Grand Bazaar they’ll immediately find a common thing between you and them and associate the benefits with this common thing of you two.

Example :

– You also support Manchester United ? Then you can watch the games of Manchester United with this mobile phone.

You can also have this benefit list for different customer groups like students, adults, girls or etc. In our courses we have learned about a term “product positioning” which is similar to this. Here is how it goes:

Figure 2 – Product Positioning

So you got the idea ! Fill in the blanks and you’ll be able to see your product positioning better.

Well it’s not an easy task to summarize an 8 hours workshop into a couple of paragraphs but here are just some “aha!” moments of me and then notes around them:

  • Man forms the habits and then habits from the man.
  • The market has all the resources to teach you what you need to learn. All you have to do is to listen to the market not only your gut feeling.
  • Test and judge instead of talking. Follow Nike “Just Do It” and it’ll be done.
  • Be open to the fact that your assumptions may be wrong and possibly they are wrong.
  • Listening to customers is more important than talking to them. You have two ears and only one mouth, try to listen to your customers more in a sales pitch. Let them express themselves and they’ll give you all the information you need to sell them.
  • Understand how your customers see the world.
  • Break down the sales, make it easier to buy.
  • Let the customers try the thing that you’re selling to them before they buy it. Example: Handing the mobile phone into your potential customer’s hand is an effective way of creating an ownership feeling.
  • Don’t sell against competition. Instead of criticizing your competitors, praise your product and better make a product/service that’ll be praised.
  • Have objectives before going to meetings, sometimes this objective can even be getting a nother meeting.
  • If you can’t get back to someone whom you had a meeting with in a week, you didn’t make a good job !

Well, I hope I was able to summarize what I have learned in this workshop. Please comment and we can share our knowledge. James Barlow will also feature in Start-up Day in Stockholm on 8th of November 2008.


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