Hallmarks of beauty
So can a business be environmental and sustainable and still turn a handy profit for the owner? According to the authors of Business is Beautiful (LID Publishing, £19.99) they can.
The authors, Jean-Baptiste Danet, Nick Liddell, Lynne Dobney, Dorothy Mackenzie and Tony Allen, are all senior executives at Dragon Rouge, a major branding and design group.
They divide the book into five ‘hallmarks’ of ‘beautiful business’. Under ‘Craft’, they note: “We like to see evidence of a human hand in the products we buy and the services we experience.”
Howard Schultz, founder of the controversial Starbucks coffee chain, found that belief in the company’s purpose “gave us the courage and will to turn the ship around. Values are not luxuries for prosperous times. They are necessary in all times”.
This gives us an idea of the guiding spirit of the book, particularly for those involved in sales. Jeremy Moon, for instance, founder of the winter sportswear group Icebreaker, says: “For me, I’m not interested in just making and selling clothes. I want to create meaning that is based on truth and is executed to a high standard.”
But perhaps the most imaginative seller is Pao de Acucar the Brazilian retail chain, which contains a ‘Casa do Client’ or Customer House, separate from the company, and which is charged with “making sure that the customer is satisfied”. This involves changing processes at a store level so the customer is affected “in a positive way”.
All together 20 businesses are examined for their human qualities as well as their profit and loss. They offer something we may not have given enough time to.
The joy of talking
As a salesperson, you need to be able to talk and to talk well to anyone at any time. How to talk to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Rhodes (Capstone £10.99) gives some handy hints on situations you will find yourself in and how to handle yourself both in tone of voice and content.
The book even deals with the problem of talking to strangers and concludes that speaking to strangers can become ‘an adventure’ when you engage with someone who is new and interesting. And in any case you already do speak to strangers at the station or in the shops, etc.
Rhodes writes that there are four stages to a conversation: getting attention; creating curiosity and interest; building a rapport; and getting them to take action. All four stages are particularly important in sales situations.
If you do arrange a business meeting, you should always be observant for photographs, etc, for clues as to what they like to interest them. Some of the things in the book do seem rather obvious.
For instance, a man describes how a meeting with someone went badly then reveals the pair were standing in line in a bank. “My client could not believe how he had let all logic and common sense fly out the widow,” he writes.
Still, there are enough sensible points to make this book useful for sales personnel.