It takes a brave person to buck a trend, and when the issue under debate is the behaviour of a group of people, persuading enough of them to act differently and hold their nerve as they go against all of their learned experience is a big task. As we approached the General Election, it was widely accepted that the majority of the public who were prepared to give their opinions, find the antagonistic yah boo sucks debates which form the Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesdays at Noon puts them off tribal party politics. Yet at local and national level the blood sport that used to be confined to Westminster and certain Council Chambers, has been allowed to spill out into our streets, the front pages of most newspapers and is filling hours of broadcasting time.
Most of my work is currently taken up with sales and marketing activity for a micro enterprise which has grown its influence and market share over the last few years. We try to be honest with our clients, but avoid outright personalised criticism of our competitors, even when their work is clearly well below our own standards. We would instead explain about the standards we aspire to, and are usually rewarded for our positive approach. It is clear that few people buy from critics and even the worst performing companies are capable of doing a good job if they stretch themselves. If a client has previously had a relationship with one of our competitors, even if the company concerned is one we would cross the road to avoid, we cannot presume to know what aspects the client found appealing about their offer in the first place. We could easily waste precious minutes denigrating the very thing our prospective client liked about their previous supplier. We see our role to listen and learn from potential clients, supressing our own instincts to jump to a solution until we really do have a picture of what is needed and at what price and then attempt to offer a suitable solution. Sometimes clients want something that is impossible to achieve, or unrealistic (such as wanting lots of flexibility for almost zero budget) and our role is to attempt to clarify why their aspirations cannot be fully met, whilst at the same time inspiring them to either spend more or accept the impact of the limitations of their budget and our technology.
The lack of SME experience at a senior level in all Parties is very evident and sadly means that far too few of the leaders of the election campaigns that are currently invading our eyes and ears, really understand why so much of what they do and say repels rather than attracts us. What is tragic is when a few people bother to put their heads above the parapet and challenge the negative and incoherent promises or arguments, the politicians either ignore what is being said or try to argue that the sky really is not blue, despite the clear evidence to the contrary. We have about 4 more weeks of this public bloodletting before it resumes its place back in Council Chambers and the House of Commons. Unfortunately because this is Politics and not Business, we don’t even have the freedom to defer our purchase until a better offer comes along!