IT Sales Leaders Breakfast Event – Round Up

On Friday, IT Sales Leaders came together to discuss the challenges that they are facing and how to go forward to develop their sales teams. The event was an interesting insight into how to avoid the dreaded “no deal” by recognising how humans make decisions and utilising that.

Our breakfast event began with ESP’s Managing Director, Paul Thomson, asking the group to think back to their first professional sales job and shared a particularly amusing anecdote of his. A young, bright eyed and bushy tailed Paul turned up to the interview with a plastic bag with holes in instead of a briefcase. Unsurprisingly and perhaps warranted, Paul was absolutely hammered by the interviewer like an eye-covering brutal scene on The Apprentice. Nevertheless, he got the job! This shows the importance of using language and engaging effectively to impress and achieve your desired outcome, although we wouldn’t advise the Holey Plastic Bag Briefcase™ method.

Special thanks to Calum Kilgour and John Bissett from Slingshot Edge for their fantastic presentation! They started off the morning with a game which involved partnering with someone to negotiate a deal and of course, maximise the profit. The results showed that while we like to think we’re logical thinkers, the most logical answer isn’t always where we end up – really, we’re emotional decision makers. This nicely brings us to the bulk of the presentation – delving into your buyer’s head and understanding how humans make decisions.

Our wonderful speakers, Calum and John, drew on Steve Peter’s The Chimp Paradox to discuss two parts of the brain that are in contention – the chimp side and the human side. The chimp side being the emotional decision maker (the fun, drunk aunty at a family function) and the human side swooping in to act as the rational mediator (whoever tells her she’s had enough).

They ran us through these three ‘chimp ideologies’ on how to keep the buyer engaged and avoid that dreaded “no deal”.


  • A chimp’s primary objective is survival and that pertains to us regular human folk – we don’t want to fail or be left behind.
  • If a seller changes the perspective and shows the buyer that they’re going to make a guaranteed loss, they’re more likely to make a gamble.
  • A buyer will usually think they’re on safe ground and need to be shown why they need to change which could be a business and personal loss for their buyer – taps into that chimp emotional side.
  • Typically, ego will take control and want to share that they’re the ones saving the company
  • However, if the seller approaches the topic with fear then the buyer will run from this. They don’t want to be criticised, only shown what’s changed.


  • Calum and John introduced the idea of ‘storytelling’ to the group and the importance of discerning a ‘hero’ character in the negotiation process.
  • In the journeys between sellers and buyers, the seller typically thinks that they’re the hero but to enter that chimp/emotional side, the hero should be the buyer.
  • Story telling is an important and powerful for sellers and marketeers – Stanford University found a message wrapped in a story to be at least twenty-two times more memorable!
  • Think Beauty and the Beast – the message is essentially ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. Any guesses to how old the story is? We had 100, 200, 210, 212 (taking the mick now, Paul) but researchers believe the story to be over 4000 years old. If you want your message to be remembered, wrap it in a story!


  • A small but strong tip to deduce a person’s sense of self is a change in pronouns. Using “you” instead of “I” or “we” shifts the dynamic and makes the buyer the ‘hero’.
  • An example: “You can fix the issue that you’ve got” “you can take action” rather than “we can fix your issue”.
  • Want a sense of empathy with your buyer which doesn’t come from implying that they’re hurting their business. The message could be portrayed differently as, “we spoke to buyers like you that said they would have suffered if they didn’t buy this product”. Using the word “they” implies that this message is coming from someone in their ‘tribe’.

Discussion Points

  • Typically, a company’s competitors’ product and model will be the same. However, if you’re the one shaping it in a story then you’re the more trusted one.
  • A team was shown 27 of their competitors’ pages and asked to choose the one that stood out the most – while they all essentially said the same thing, they chose based on colour and the feeling they got from the colour.
  • The topic of PowerPoint presentations was raised with one of the attendees referring to it as “death by PowerPoint” and instructs his team to go into a sales pitch without a PowerPoint which sparks conversation.
  • Another attendee makes an interesting point – she states that the point of a conversation is learning something and going in with a presentation gives off the impression of a prescribed point of view which takes away from having an organic conversation.
  • A different point of view chimes in – going in without a presentation could make the buyers nervous if they don’t have an idea of the journey that you’re going to be taking them on.

Time to team up and discuss how to be a more ‘responsible business’

Team 1

  • Create an environment which is comfortable and performance driven
  • Asking for output rather than input
  • Evidence of social responsibility – supporting a charity, activity days, helping the wider environment and community. Organise that explicitly to make it easy for people to attend.

Team 2

  • Focussed on stress and wellbeing in the workplace – sales is typically a high-pressured work environment
  • Mindful communication, personalisation, understanding the people that are on your team and how they want to be managed.
  • Understanding how to create that environment and implementing it – timing of communication, not sending around bad news.
  • Ensuring that a healthy work/life balance is established which has got to start with the leaders. For example, making it know that you’re going to the gym or leaving early to attend a family event.
  • Be clearly about the outcomes that are expected of teams, if they are achieved and the results are there then the hours that they’re done in are trivial – the more autonomy you allow people, they better.
  • The UK has got a massive problem with productivity and the productivity results of a 4-day week is staggering. A study in New Zealand saw a 20% rise in productivity, no decrease in output, increased engagement and reduced stress.
  • Millennial way in the workforce has seen to a change in behaviours – much more in tune with work/life balance and they’re creating this demand for change.

We had a great time at the event! Thank you to Richard West at the Red Flag Alert office in Manchester City Centre for hosting us. Our attendees have found our events incredibly useful and informative in helping to advance their sales teams. We have an exciting event in the works surrounding women in the technology sector which is promised to be illuminating – keep your eyes peeled to register!

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