5 Must See Movie Scenes for Sales People (Including Video)

The following five movie clips are not simply scenes that I like -they have been watched over and over again, forming part of my own private collection of motivational tools. Each one has a different place in my heart, but they are all absolute gold. Some of the content will not be suitable for kids, so viewer discretion is advised!

1. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) – Alec Baldwin Hosts a Sales Meeting:

The sales meeting is the space in which you either discuss the deals you are working on, or are reminded that you have more work to do. This has to be my favourite movie scene of all time. Alec Baldwin’s character delivers the best ‘get your ass in shape’ message I think the big screen has ever seen. What I love about this scene is the body language of the underperformers – they really are the victims. If you have worked in sales, you will have met guys just like them. What I also love about this scene is that the character that Al Pacino plays isn’t even present. Why? Well, he is out having dinner with a prospective client and closing business. By far the best line in Baldwin’s cameo is: “Put the coffee down! Coffee is for closers only!”

2. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006) – Booking the Meeting:

If you are in sales, then it’s a fair assumption that you have made many, many cold calls. It is hard graft, and you have to stay emotionally strong. This clip demonstrates just how hard you need to work, and how a bit of basic maths can show you how to get ahead. Some people may think that the ‘never put the phone down’ approach is maybe a little ‘old school’ and outdated, but I firmly believe that the only substitute for how good you are is how hard you work. When I watched this movie  for the first time, I actually made an audible cheering sound and looked around to see if others were as happy as me… clearly I was the only sales person in the theatre!

3. There Will Be Blood (2007) – I’m an Oil Man:

This is one of my favourite scenes, from one of my favourite movies. This is the scene where Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is introducing himself to a community of people who have oil on their land. He is clear about who he is, and the added value he can bring to his potential customers. What I also admire about this is the way he presents this value as a story, rather than a stuffy list of benefits and features. Of course, the movie reveals that his intentions were not all good, but nevertheless an amazing pitch!

4. The Wolf of Wall Street – Sales Motivation:

Everybody has had a terrible boss – and while Jordon Belfort could hardly be described as a scrupulously honest man, he was absolutely stellar at getting his troops ready for battle. This clip is a great one to watch first thing in the morning, to prepare yourself for a day of calls. Leonardo DiCaprio’s widely acclaimed character, Jordan, makes it abundantly clear that they will not be dialling themselves, and that the more effort you put in, the greater results you will see. I am not so sure about throwing a gold Rolex at your team though!

5. Tropic Thunder (2008) – The Tom Cruise Dance:
Okay, so this one is just a bit of fun. If you work in sales, you will undoubtedly know what it is like to get rejected. So on those occasions when things DO go your way, it’s time to celebrate! Tom Cruise is hilarious in this scene and portrays an amazing parody of a corporate head, who only cares about money and … flying in a G5!It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and I would love to hear about the movie scenes which inspire and motivate you. Please share some golden sales moments from the silver screen below!
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Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio) in the Wolf of Wall Street

No Idea … No Problem!

One of the biggest reasons I hear for people not becoming an entrepreneur is that they simply don’t have an idea. Well, I am here to tell you that this is not a problem at all. In fact, this is probably a good thing. Here is why…

Firstly, if you have a totally new idea, then part of your challenge will be getting people to see why it is a good idea. This is a lot harder than you think and requires lots of time and money. In most cases, entrepreneurs don’t have spare money, let alone time. So why not just copy someone else? After all, did Richard Branson create aviation? Did Conrad Hilton create the concept of hotels?

When I created E-Tale, I took something that had been around for a while and approached it from a new angle and produced a better product. I provided a better service to the customers and made it easier for customers to join. This approach resonated with the wider market and ultimately lead us to become a market leader in our field within a pretty short period (around five years).

Here are a few ways you can take an existing idea and make it your own.

Apply a fresh business model
In recent years, we have even seen Microsoft promote new business models for things like Microsoft Office. What used to be a CD purchased from a local computer store, is now a subscription that will ensure you always have the latest version as well as some cloud storage for your precious documents.

So take a look at some of the market leaders in your chosen sector and see if you can change they way people buy (make it easier). Remember things that only ten years ago were complicated and require deep integration, could probably be made much more user-friendly and operated from the cloud.

Provide Better features:
‘The bigger the ship, the longer it takes to turn’. This is VERY true; you should burn this belief into the centre of your brain. There may be huge, well-funded companies leading your industry, but the chances are they are not able to act quickly to customer needs. This is for the simple reason that the bigger your product, the harder it is to add new features.

This presents an opportunity for you. By asking a few potential client ‘what they really want’ you will be able to make a new product that could actually outflank the big guys. Look at things like ‘Xero’ the online accountancy package! Do you think Sage were worried when they got started… probably not. But Xero now has over 100,000 paying customers, not a small chunk of change.

Create a Better Sales Model:
This is a simple one, but in the real word most companies are pretty bad at sales. So if you are good at sales, and you have an almost identical product to another company, you will win.

You may be competing with a company with a huge sales force, and that may seem scary. However, trust me that your lower cost model and highly focused small sales team can be just as scary to them. When we sold E-Tale we had two sales people, and I was one of them. However, we took on many contracts from much larger and well-funded businesses.

So if you don’t have an idea, just open your eyes and look around. A good place to start is the exhibitor list of the most recent conference in your chosen sector. Take a look at their websites, speak to prospects and find out what you can do to make the product even better.

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The Rocket Ship Drawing Rant

Here is something that is going to sound maybe a tad negative, but I promise there is also some positive takeaways, so be patient!

My hope is that this slight rant may help some people who are in the process of trying to attract early stage investors prevent an embarrassing situation. Here it goes…

A friend contacted me a couple of weeks ago and said that he had developed a new app, and was looking for some advice. When we met, he made it clear that he was looking for investment and wanted me to point him in the right direction. I asked to see the app, and he said that it was still in development. When I asked what framework he was using, he looked at me with a blank expression. I asked if the ‘coding’ had begun, and he said that it had not. “So what do you have?” I asked. “The designs” he replied “and they need polishing” he added.

Okay, rant time! …. Let’s be totally clear, designs are not enough (in the real world) to claim you have built something unless the end product is a drawing. Therefore, the app that you claim to have ‘built’ is as real as if I drew a picture of a rocket ship, and expected to use it to fly me and all my friends to the moon.

When you are making/drawing a shiny mock-up, you are not limited by real life. So you can literally do anything without actually thinking about the ‘how’. I promise you that any developer will tell you that the challenges starts with the code, not to mention when you actually take the product market.

I am not saying it’s not a good idea to make shiny mock ups. In fact, making something that looks ‘real’ is a really good way to lock your idea down and get early feedback. However, if you are after investment you need to go a few steps further. As a bare minimum you should have:

1. Software Specification: This is a document that outlines the features of the software and essentially demonstrates how the product will behave. I would also include wireframes to show every part of the user journey has really been thought through.

2. Architectural Overview: If you are not a developer, then you will need one for this part. This document is the ‘how’. You don’t need to write code, but you do need to show that you are actually able to build this ‘rocket ship’ if you had the money. This is also your chance to highlight how you would overcome common failures like over complicated registration processes or poor security standards.

So let me summarise! Showing you have an idea means next to nothing. However showing you have a clear plan to execute the idea makes a huge difference.

I hope this has in some way helped. I would love to hear other people’s stories. Has anyone ever got investment from mockups alone? Leave a comment below.

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Bad Exam Results? Startup Entrepreneurs Rise Up!

Today is A-level results day. I am sure there are plenty of people either celebrating or commiserating. If you did well, then great. If not then hopefully I can help put some perspective on the matter.

 

One thing I remember about when I was at school (94-99) was being told that without qualifications I stood ‘no chance’ in life. My parents were told the same thing, and young adults are still being told this today. Apart from the obvious reason teachers say this (they are targeted on results), they are also likely to have spent their entire lives in the education system, so to accept any other option could devalue the work they have put in.

 

Personally, I hated school and did not continue into colleage or university. I actually believe that children are forced to learn too quickly, and this puts their relationship with education at risk. My feelings on this mean I lean maybe a little bit towards the far left, so keep this in mind as you read on!

 

Clearly there are some jobs that absolutely require certain qualifications, and rightfully so as these tend to be jobs where health is involved. Whether that be physical health, mental health or general safety such as a structural engineer.

 

However, in most other jobs it is about getting your foot in the door and then working hard. The issue is getting your foot in the door.

 

To do this, you have to be persistent and committed to walking from door to door pestering companies to employ you. Don’t do something passive like send a letter and then hope for a response. If you really want something, go and make it happen. Would you take the same approach if you were waiting for tickets to your favourite sporting event, or music concert? No, you would relentlessly call the ticket office and go and wait in line all night if need be. Look at how many people queue up when an iPhone is released!

 

I know this sounds mad, but if someone had turned up at E-Tale HQ at 7 am and waited at the doors for me, then demanded that I allow them to give me a presentation on why I should employ them, I would have found them a job even if I was not hiring. This would show a huge demonstration that they have the drive to get up, turn-up and execute a plan. So why not pick 30 companies you would like to work for and try it? Stalk the CEO on Twitter, find out what projects they are working on, contact them and demand a job (politely). Trust me any CEO of a startup company will admire your courage and persistence. If they don’t, then you would not want to work for them anyway.

 

The truth is that it’s hard to make it through life with or without A-Levels. The myth that the grades alone will get you a job is pure fiction. For me as an employer, I only see qualifications as a demonstration that someone can apply themselves. If they don’t have qualifications, I personally will take any other proof of this. This could be a personal project, charity work, raising children or even writing a book. Look at the founder of dating site ‘Plenty of Fish’. He started that company as something to use on his CV to show he had skills. He sold this company this year for $575 million…. in cash!

 

I left school and decided university was not for me, for numerous reasons. I went onto set up my own startup company and sold it a few years later. It probably equalled the same amount of stress and hard work that University brings, but it was the right thing for me to do.

 

So what I am saying here is that qualifications are one factor, but they are not the only factor. If your grades are good, then great. If they are not good then maybe take this as a sign that structured education is not for you and get out and crack on immediately. I promise you that if you look hard enough, you will find plenty of people like me who are always looking for the next startup superstar!

 

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Managing a Team Through an Acquisition

I wanted to write this week about a topic that is pretty much always in the forefront of my mind, and that is my team. While this is going to sound like a total cliché, it is true that you are only as good as your team. If one member is underperforming, then you are underperforming. This is especially true when you are selling your business!

When beginning the process of selling your company, one thing that should not be missed is aligning your team to the desire of the exiting. It goes without saying that your potential buyer will need to feel confident that things are not going to crumble when they become the new owner.

I have seen a number of people sell their companies and within 12 months everything has fallen to pieces! A very common reason for this is that the leadership team lose faith. The reality is that they are now part of a bigger entity, and they have just seen ‘the owners cash out’. So it’s not unreasonable that they will feel somewhat disheartened.  Well, luckily for you, this does not need to be the case. In fact, it is very possible to create an environment that will ensure everyone is not only aligned for the sale, but remain used for years ‘Post Sale’.

Let’s start with sharing the love (Shares)! Giving away shares is very complicated. If you decide just to give shares away to anyone who works for you, you will be in for a big surprise. Owning shares comes with lots of different rights and these rights don’t end with employment. So, if you decide to give a percentage of your company’s shares to someone, they will own these until the end of time. This is not a great methodology to motivate staff as your headcount will change, and if you can’t claim the shares back, you won’t have many left after a few years. So what is the solution?

In the UK, you can use what is called an EMI scheme. This essentially grants key staff a certain amount of shares. Then at the point the company is sold, they can realise the value. If they leave before this happens, then they cannot claim access to the shares. This means only the guys at the finish line get the medals!

Also, they are only required to pay tax based on the share price at the point the shares were granted. So if they work for five years and the shares become worth millions, they will only pay tax on the value of the shares when they received them. If the shares are granted when the company is new, or not making profit, I suggest applying to HMRC to get a certificate to confirm they are worth nothing. This will prevent a potentially ugly tax debate later on.

Read about EMI schemes at the HMRC website by clicking here

This may all sound great, but these shares need to make enough money to motivate the team to share your desired outcome. This means some frank discussions need to take place. Start by agreeing on what the expected valuation is and make sure the shares ‘Make Sense’. If your Sales Director made 100K in his last year and he has 1% of the shares. Then you decide to sell for 1m. They will make 10k! Hardly enough to make him motivated to sell. In fact this is more likely to demotivate them.

As a rule of thumb, I would be aiming to achieve two years of salary as a payout. This amount will always be life changing and motivate that individual to help the company sale go through. Also, keep in mind that if they qualify, they are likely to only pay 10% tax under entrepreneur’s tax relief. In summary, agree on a compelling percentage and the price you are willing to sell for.

Read about entrepreneurs tax relief on the GOV UK website by clicking here

One of the key reasons you need your teams alignment throughout the sale process is how intense DD is likely to be. Unless you are and have been an absolute saint, you are going to need to locate important documents, answer difficult question and attend meeting with your potential buyers. This will be very tough if your team would rather you didn’t sell!

Presuming that all goes well, what about once the company has been sold? In Addition to your team’s normal compensation plan, the ideal situation is to have some kind of performance based bonus structure. Typically, this will be linked to the post sale financial targets. Again, this figure needs to be compelling and ensure that the team will not leave when they are tempted away. Remember that once you sell, this will become public information and your team will be hot property. Headhunters from near and far will be approaching them, and it’s likely they will be able to command a premium now that have been part of a successful acquisition.

In addition, they will have just been given a fair sum of money. This means they are also prime candidates to leave and set up their own businesses, and this presents a huge risk to you.

My guess is that your team are a critical part of your success, so if you plan to continue that success into the acquisition, you will need them by your side.

It is also a good idea to dedicate time to speak with your team post sale on a regular basis to discuss how happy they are and how they feel the integration is going. I know that our team remain extremely tight and communicate almost daily.

Finally, I have learned that life is about sharing success. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a loyal team buying their new houses, new cars or even just going on a well deserved break. These type of life changing events are what make it all worthwhile. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, think about any future teams that you will want to build. A history of helping others is far more likely to encourage others to join you on your journey, than a track record of only looking after number one!

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My most productive places!

I decided to write this blog while on a flight. I always seem to get things done when I don’t have distractions from things like messenger and email. It got me thinking about where my favourite places to work are. So here they are:

  1. Langham Hotel – This is where I was when I sold ‘E-Tale’. It’s nice to sit and work while remembering that life changing day. It gives me that entrepreneurial feeling about anything being possible.
  1. Emirates flight – I enjoy working on a flight, and I also tend to use a notepad as this seems to get the ideas flowing. The only downside is that sometimes when you land, you go to Google and realise that your new idea is well…. Old.
  1. Altapura Hotel – Val Thorens France – Snowboarding is a big passion for me. A lot of people like Apres Ski drinking, but I am always too tired.  So sitting by the fire thinking about the next feature, product or business is where I am most happy.
  1. Jetty Lounge – Dubai: Living in Dubai has some benefits. One of them being the sunshine and amazing hotels. My favourite place in Dubai to work is a beach bar called the jetty lounge. It overlooks the bay by the Palm Jumeriah. Something is very relaxing about watching people wakeboard while you respond to emails.
  1. Our Cambridgeshire home: While I love living in Dubai, my home in the UK is a very special place to my family. It’s the house where both of my children were born and remains our true happy place. It’s very rural, and the open space just seems to make everything seem okay.

I think it’s really important to know where in the world you feel the most productive. Do some places make ideas flow? Do other places help you get your head down? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below about your most productive places.

Jetty Lounge in Dubai!

Jetty Lounge in Dubai!

Is startup culture a corruption?

I read a news article recently titled ‘Start-up culture is corrupting our youth, and killing real entrepreneurship’ by The Guardian. You can read it here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/11765609/Start-up-culture-is-corrupting-our-youth-and-killing-real-entrepreneurship.html

Coming from the startup world myself, I can agree that there is an element of delusions from some people in the startup community. However, the concept of it corrupting the youth is a bit mad.

One of two things will happen:

1. They will fail and learn it’s not that easy.
2. They will go on to be a success.

As The Guardian states, more than half of today’s youth would ideally want to start their own business. They’re inspired by entrepreneurs before them such as Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. They rush straight out of school or university with what they think is a great idea, without having any backbone behind it. A key lesson we should learn from this is if we want entrepreneurship and startups to thrive, why don’t our schools offer lessons in it?

I disagree that startup or entrepreneurialism is dead, in recent years alone there has been a boom in small businesses starting up. Yes, the notion of what a startup or entrepreneur is may have changed, but if we are comparing it to Richard Branson, he started out nearly 40 years ago. Times are modernising, and we have come a long way since the 1970’s.

This notion that a kid starts an app and then gets the £50m worth of investment that’s needed straight away is also somewhat naive. I think it’s natural that as the big companies get bigger, there is more need for small startups to provide more nimble and innovative technology.

We shouldn’t see startup culture as a corruption but more of a chance for future generations. Some of the greatest inventions and products come from young entrepreneurs, so why are we so quick to judge a culture that everyone may not be so clear on?

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Great dinner with some interesting people!

Last night I attended a dinner with a number of other successful entrepreneurs in the digital space, as well as a few people from the offline world looking to learn more about digital. I attended the event knowing that I would be able to talk freely to like-minded people, that share the same interests as myself.

I would firstly like to say a massive thank you to Duncan Gledhill for reaching out to me on Twitter and inviting me along. I met Duncan and few other people when I arrived at Browns in Covent Garden. We began with dinner, everyone had a chance to speak for 10 minutes or so about what they have been up to and then shared advice to the group.

There were some great stories, and discussions on tech trends. As well as hearing from all the members, I spoke about setting up my startup company ‘E-Tale’ back in 2009. I spoke about the process of starting a company and preparing it for sale and also about how my company evolved over the years towards that sale point.

What I found really interesting from the discussion was hearing about how the CRM market is changing and how strict ISP’s have become. I also found it really interesting to hear about the work that emailmovers were doing to combat this and provide a better service to their clients. For example Mailflow (https://mailflow.com) offers a compelling product for people looking to improve on their email marketing efforts.

According to Forbes there are over 50% of small businesses in the working population, with that statistic in mind, I think that more people should attend similar dinners or conferences that Duncan holds. They can share their knowledge and advice to others as it could be very beneficial to both parties!

I definitely want to attend this event again when I’m in the UK and similar events, but I also want to help spread this concept to the UAE, which is where I am currently living.

Once again a big thank you to Duncan and all the guys at the dinner last night, I was welcomed in with open arms. I am super excited for what the future holds for us and can’t wait for the next dinner!

To find out more about Duncan and his dinner meet-ups you can find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/digentre or search the hashtag #digidinner to find out more!

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My Top 5.5 Influencers

1. Tony Robbins:

Tony is my top influencer. For those who need some background information on him, he is a motivational speaker, life coach, self-help author and personal finance instructor. He’s most well-known for his self-help books: ‘Unlimited power’, ‘Unleash the power within’ and ‘Awaken the giant within’. Tony’s success skyrocketed in 2007; he has been listed in the ‘Celebrity 100’ list in Forbes magazine. Forbes estimated he had earnt $30 million USD in that year alone, his talk on TED is one of the most popular ever. One of the reasons Tony is my top influencer is because of his work ethic and background. Tony never attended college and didn’t have a stable home life. Despite all of this Tony took on menial jobs, before eventually realising he had a talent for promoting others, before beginning his journey as a self-help coach. Tony is also a great philanthropist, donating numerous amounts of money to charity over the last few years, which makes him an admirable inspiration.

2. Felix Dennis:

Felix, unfortunately, died in 2014, I wish I could have met him and learnt more from him. I first was influenced by him when I read his book ‘How to get rich’, his writing style alone is in incredible, but the advice he gives is invaluable. Felix was most well known for his writing – a respected philanthropist, poet and publisher, owning publishing offices in New York and London. The reason I respect Felix the most is because of the honest insights he always gave on his life and his work in his books, including revealing his struggle with drug addiction. He was also the first person to say the C word on British television! Felix amassed most of his wealth from selling his mail order company which went public on NASDAQ in 1992.

3 & 4. Bill Caskey and Bryan Neale:

Bill and Bryan host a podcast together called the ‘Advanced selling podcast’. What I like about them is they give their time to others by listening and giving advice, but this has also led to business opportunities for them and they have managed to monetize on their podcast. Bills background involves a period in sales, before moving onto broadcasting, he often speaks about the importance of education – you can see this on his LinkedIn.

Bryan also has a background in sales, he now works in training and coaching sales people. He has a passion for keynote speaking and public speaking, which is why he probably joined up with Bill for the podcast.

5. Richard Branson:

Probably a very generic answer, but he is a very inspirational man and now one of the richest men on the planet. Richard is best known for being a British businessman and investor, and the founder of the ‘Virgin’ group. According to Forbes, Richard is now worth $4.9 billion, not bad for a guy who started out at 16 on a magazine venture called ‘Student’! His record business began with a mail-order company in 1970, expanding to stores in 1972, with the most growth seen in the 80’s period. He went on to expand the business in various areas such as aviation, mobile and the internet. The rest is history! Richard is also a philanthropist and a fun-loving world record breaker! The reason I respect Richard is because he worked hard for his success, he didn’t have great academic results and struggled as he had dyslexia. I think his biggest spur on came from his headmaster when he told him he would either ‘end up in prison or become a millionaire’.

5.5: Bradley Keenan:

Lastly myself, Bradley Keenan. You won’t achieve your dreams unless you inspire yourself, you are your biggest influence. Of course, all the previous people I have listed are massive inspirations and mentors to a lot of people, but sometimes you know what is best for you. You can only give yourself the best advice.

Would love to hear who inspires or influences you the most, please leave a comment!

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Will Virtual Reality Take Over Actual Reality?

I was reading recently about the expansion of virtual reality. Facebook announced last week it was introducing ‘virtual assistants’ into the social media world, gaming industries are producing more virtual reality games, and there was even a game where you could feel the pain your character feels. I am not sure I’m completely onboard with that idea!

What is with our fascination with virtual reality, and how can this be used to help people buy online?

For many years, product videos have been commonplace, but could we soon have a situation where we could use virtual reality to have a product sold to us? Clearly you will never replace the human element of an in-store shopping experience, but maybe this could work in the online world.

So onto the tech side of things – Wearable technology comes in the form of goggles that you put on your head and over your eyes. Combining this with pre-recorded VR content will allow a shopper to look essentially at the product, and even have a sales person deliver a sales pitch. It would even be possible to use gesture control to ask questions and add the product to a shopping basket.

Another example of how VR can help would be by allowing customers to visit past events such as product launches, product training and even live performances. Ultimately becoming an incredible opportunity for people who sell cars and even musical instruments.

Will VR actually take off? Well, the technology is there for sure, but this will really come down to two things. User adoption, and content creators. In the case of content creators in shopping, this is likely the manufacturers of products and their retailers. However, they are unlikely to do this without customer adoption.

For customer adoption, this will probably be decided by the same group of people that chose VHS over Betamax, Blu-ray over HD disk and so on!

I would love to hear your thought on this, and any examples of where people have used VR to improve the shopper journey!

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