Regarding the sales conference on Thursday – we had a BBQ at the back of the hotel, but the efficient bastards ensured that they cleared the food and booze just as soon as we’d been round for our first sitting. These days hotel staff simply know the meaning of the words ‘customer service’. They’re clinical in the extreme and all they seem intent on is moving you along so they can nick the unused booze and go home.
We had one of those hideous group games just after dinner. We were divided into teams and each team was given a seaside themed object. Being salesmen, we then had to sell this object to a person who represented one of the bosses from BP.
My team was given a plastic bucket and spade; another got a beach ball; a 3rd got a ball of string (buggered if I know what connection string has with the seaside, except perhaps men in string vests), etc.
In a very entrepreneurial manner, the team with the string went around the other teams offering to sell them a license to use their string in their product. We ‘bought’ some string in order to fashion a prototype oily water separator that could also separate sand. The mechanism was a centrifuge – i.e. a bucket whirled around one’s head. Sand lies at the bottom, water in the next layer and oil on top. Brilliant!
I even went on to demonstrate a novel device comprising a subsea platform (the upturned bucket) surmounted by a paddle (the spade) that swung back and forth and if deployed in great numbers would divert the North Atlantic Drift and take the oil spillage far out into the Atlantic, where it would either disperse in the rough seas or be carried to the UK, thus taking the problem away from America and to where it belonged – BP’s home.
The string team won due to the fact that whoever else won, they would make money through the license. However, none of the rest of could win, as it transpired we’d all focused on a solution to BPs oil problem, whereas we were eventually told that the representative boss was from their gas division.
The moral of the exercise was to teach us to not make assumptions and to determine the customer’s critical business issues before going off and developing solutions.
We got a rather interesting presentation on sales presentations from a psychologist. He was telling us that the human brain looks for simplicity and we should not therefore use presentations crammed with text. His presentation was elegantly simple, but so simple that I can’t remember any of it.