So you’re deciding to teach yourself how to sell.  Not a bad idea at all.  After all, whatever your walk in life, it can never be a bad idea have the skills to persuade people to at least see your point of view.  Even your partner!  You can call it what you like: persuading, negotiating, selling.  It’s all very much the same thing.  It’s the way you present your argument.  The better you do it, the more likely you are to produce the agreement you are seeking.

When you think about it, it was your mother who started you off on your selling career.  If she liked what you said, she smiled and maybe gave you a piece of chocolate.  If she didn’t, she will have told you so in no uncertain terms, maybe even accompanied by a clip around the ear.  What you learned from her you improved as you grew up and as you found some things you did and said worked better than others.

Mind you, no-one said your mother was such a great sales lady.  Or your Dad a great sales man for that matter.  But it was the way you started off.  It was the base on which you built what skills and ability of persuasion you have.  Probably it’s not a bad idea then to go back to the beginning again.

The fact is that selling is not a new language.  It doesn’t require any acting ability either.  You use much the same words.  You stay exactly the same person that you are.  You just put the words in a different order, basically to help the person you’re talking to to understand exactly what you are talking about so he or she  has the confidence to accept your advice.

What you’re doing is taking out the risk of failure?  I am sure you will agree, there is no point in setting out to persuade if you don’t care whether you succeed or not.  When I worked at Rank Xerox selling Xerox copiers and duplicators, all sellers went through the same training and went on to similar, measured-opportunity territories.  Rank Xerox kept sellers if they sold 40 machines a year.  Most sellers sold between 40 and 80 machines.  80 is twice 40. The top sellers sold up to 120 machines.  That is 3 times 40.  These are huge differences in outcomes.

What are the reasons for these differences.  It was in the learning and understanding of the sales skills by each individual and their discipline in applying them. If the top seller sells one order for every 3 calls, the sellers on 40 machines sells one every 9 calls.  They of course have the choice of doing 3 times as many calls but, at the end of the day, it is just easier to make sure you sell only to decision makers and doubly sure you didn’t fail for stupid, self-induced reasons.  Learning to sell is a lot about the postmortem you hold with yourself after every call you make, even the ones where you succeed, and learning from the things you did and said well and those which you could have done better.

So where should I start?  You’ll probably want to start by reading a book.  Which book?  Now there’s a question?  There are literally hundreds to choose from.  Not much has changed in the ways humans persuade humans; but there are plenty of writers who think they have next best solution/offering.  This makes choosing the book difficult.  There is everything from self-flattering “How I made my first million $s in Selling” to endless tomes on “Selling Benefits”  or “Closing that Sale” to pseudo-scientific treatise on the inner workings of the human mind.

Even though not much has changed on how humans persuade humans, the world has changed and with it the way we live our lives, the products we use and the way they are made.  My first piece of advice is to choose a book that represents the kind of world you live in, something you can relate too with examples you recognise.

I remember the first sales book I read was that classic The Five Great Rules of Selling by the famous Percy H Whiting.  If I remember correctly, the first great rule was to make sure you wore shoes that fitted.  Why?  Because tight shoes would cause pain and the pain would show on your face!  No doubt very true for the door to door Fuller Brush salesman (Fuller who, you ask..?) but not really applicable to a ‘seller’ representing a FTSE 100 or a NASDAQ§ company.  ….except perhaps the message to make sure you dress sensibly & appropriately.

This is my advice.  Below are the elements involved in a sale or a negotiation (or persuasion as applicable).  I doubt if anyone involved in ‘selling’ would disagree.  You need to plan to sell before you start, to get your ducks in a row on the things you will need at hand.  You also need to be able to identify whom you will approach and who will make the decision.


Planning to Sell

Identifying the customer & decision maker


Stage 1 -  - ‘Does he want it?’

Opening the interview
Getting information
Establishing the customer’s criteria for ordering Prehandling objections
Handling competition
Summarising for agreement (and for trial close)

Stage 2 – ‘Does he want it from you?’

Selling benefits
Overcoming objections
Summarising prior to closing the sale

Stage 3- ‘How can he have it?’

Closing the sale
Keeping the customer sold


In front of the ‘customer’ or person you will persuade, you need to start the meeting and to get the information you will need to position your offering.  You will need to establish the criteria he/she will want to satisfy in their decision and their relative values in the decision.  You’ll need to understand the alternative choices they have available to them and prehandle any obvious pitfalls, like the price!  You will need to summarise this to make quite sure you have the story straight, so you don’t fall into the first and obvious hole.

Then you will have to persuade them that your solution is for them, how the benefits that flow from your solution will satisfy the criteria they are seeking to satisfy.  Obviously you will have to answer any question pertinent to the decision, and ask again to make sure there is nothing outstanding; and that there is happiness on all points: in fact the customer is ready to go ahead on the basis you have outlined.

Simple isn’t it?  Well not really unless you do it very, very well.  The only thing left to do is to sign the paperwork or agree the way forward and put in place the backup you have arranged to deliver the solution as promised.

Now, as I have said, a lot of books talk about establishing need, selling benefits, closing and so on.  You can know everything there is to know about these things; but the key enabler is YOU MUST KNOW HOW THE WHOLE THINGS FITS TOGETHER.  A ‘sale’ is not a random happening.  It has a structure that delivers the emotional decision of acceptance.  It has a beginning, a middle and and end.  It is a series of logical steps so you can move from one step to the next, and then the next and the next until you have covered all the ground successfully enough close the agreement.  If you never find out your way this energy, you will never know exactly how to finalise negotiations.  You will frequently be left with that totally frustrating feeling that the decision should have been yours if only you have done ‘something’ differently.  This frustration has a double impact too.  If you have failed to persuade, your customer will go on to make the wrong decision; and that will be your fault too!



Or don’t believe everything you read or hear, as my grandmother used to say.

We were selling car recovery equipment.  We had become the major supplier in the UK and were now looking to extend our markets into Europe.  At this moment, we were in France.

France is not an easy country to sell mechanical equipment into.  The market is split into two.  The Southerner largely do not come to Paris to buy and, conversely, the Northerners do not come South.

We had good competition in France too: Jige run by Jean Georges and the Fiaults, both Northern companies.  In addition, we had Spanish company that made simple, effective but inexpensive equipment.  To protect the guilty, let me call it Ramos; and it was run by Antonio.  As by name, he could have doubled as a Spanish waiter; but he was a pleasant, amusing fellow about 35 years old.  A lot of challenging, competitive comment would pass between us as we met at different shows.  In the end, I’m afraid, he had the last laugh.  A big laugh.

We were actively looking at a way to sell into Southern France when we heard this rumour.  There was to be one of those marvellous French Foires or Fairs in Bordeaux: ‘Foire Internationale de Bordeaux, Bordeaux.  Le plus grand rendez vous du Sud Ouest.’  It was to be held at the huge Parc des Expositions de Bordeaux Lac.  What was more the Fiault brothers would be there.  If they were there we must be on to a winner.  Bordeaux (avec les vins) would be fun too.  So we booked our stand, a cheap hotel, we loaded our demonstration vehicle and, at due date, we were off.

(A small aside here. We used to get our vehicles on loan from a large Ford dealer in the area.  We got to know the Commercial Vehicle Sales Manager there very well.  After some time he changed his job and subsequently we met up with him.  We asked him what was the big difference in his new job.  He said, I suspect half in truth, that for the first time he could now tell the truth when he met with customers!)

And so we arrived.  La Foire was amazing, thousands of people, thousands of everything. There were meats from the Ardennes, fruits from the Drome, wine from the Var.  And there stands representing the far flung colonies of French Africa: tie dyed fabrics from the Cote d’Ivoire, carvings from Senegal and so on.  There was every type of face and there was every type and colour of clothing.  There was laughing and singing. There was everything…..except. Except there wasn’t much in the way or vehicle recovery equipment there, only Fiault and Ramos.

We sat in Les Halles des Expositions for 10 days, for 10 whole days, intermittently though periods of long silence or while people sang and danced about us.  Just about no-one was interested in car recovery equipment.  Occasionally we spoke to the Fiaults, occasionally to Antonio.  Once we had lunch with Antonio and a long term woman friend.  That was about it.  Otherwise we wandered about the stands: a baguette or two with dried ham from the Ardennes; I even bought a tie-dyed cotton wall hanging of Don Quixote de la Mancha on his trusted steed, Rocinante.

Nights in Bordeaux were not good for our health either.  My work colleague, Tony, was like a ‘kid away from school’.  Everything had to be tried.  There was plenty of it.  The show ended late so we ate late.  Bordeaux wine tends to be expensive, so the cheaper end is the younger end; and the younger end, after a few long nights, starts eating holes in your stomach.

The 10 days came and went.  We hadn’t gained a single lead for a future sale.  We were lucky to sell the demonstration system cheaply off the stand at the end.  And we were both thoroughly liverish and exhausted.

On the last day, I went to one of the Fiault brothers.  Had they sold anything? NO.  Why had they come here?  Because Ramos and Antonio had come here.

So I went to see Antonio.  Had he sold anything?  No. Just about nothing.  Well, why had he come here?  He smiled.  His answer went something like this. “You see, Philippe, I have a lover here in Bordeaux.  I like her very much.  The only way I can come and spend time with her for a few days is to come to this Foire. Then my wife is happy I am away.”  It must have been the young woman he had introduced us too.

I don’t know what the sales message is that comes out of this experience and story.  It was an expensive ‘liaison’ whichever way you look at it.  Antonio was also closer to the order than we were..

My grandmother clearly knew a thing or two. I can now just about laugh about this ‘Bordeaux Episode’ in my life!










HMS Vigilant



I joined HMS Vigilant as a seaman.  HMS Vigilant (numbered F93) was one of the Type 15 Frigates.  These were fast destroyers from WW2, converted to frigates to meet the challenges set in the development of submarines technology.  The conversion meant much of the heavy gunnery was removed to be replaced by anti-submarine armaments, the bridge enclosed and the main deck raised to give sailors’ some protection when the ship was in action in a nuclear age.  The ships complement at my time was 240 rather than the 170 ‘fighting weight’.  The trouble with the ‘extra’ deck is it made the ship top-heavy, or so the sailors said, which meant rough seas became rougher!

At the time Vigilant was command ship of the Dartmouth Training Squadron along with HMS Roebuck (F195) and occasionally one or two of those wooden minesweepers that didn’t attract magnetic mines.  Obviously the squadron was there to train the midshipmen from the Britannia Royal Naval College above the river Dart.  This is a fast running river.  The ships would tie up in the middle of the river.  Buoy jumpers would attach mooring wire through the bullring to the buoy and the ships would swing around with the tide.

There was no initiation ceremony.  There was a time at sea, the folklore says, when the older sailors would tell the boy seaman about the golden rivet.  This, they said, was the last build rivet to be put into the ship; and it was gold.  He would have to look for it. He wouldn’t find it.  Inevitably they would have to show him.  It was just outside and above that porthole.  The young seaman would put his head through the port hole, the heavily framed port hole glass would be lowered on the back of his neck.  Suitably secured, he would be introduced to the golden rivet.  I am sure this is just an old sea story.

The first thing you learn on a ship is to go down the ladders facing outwards. Much faster. They had handrails either side.  We were kept very busy. And interested.  It was a life of constant sea exercises.  You can imagine, they didn’t ask the midshipmen to do the work.  One day it might be jackstay transfers at sea where one or two lucky guys would be passed in a cradle to a ship running in parallel and back.  Or similarly fuelling at sea.  Another day it could be gunnery practice.  This might mean first loading the shells packed in canisters.  Thank God they didn’t go off being dropped!  The sister ship would tow a target at some distance and the other ship would pop away with only one or two close shaves.

Another day we might run paravanes, a towed underwater “glider” (as Wikipedia tells us).  These marvellous things are let out on cables and run in parallel with the ship, the idea being the cable would either cut the cable of an underwater mine or the paravane would hit and explode it.  Most fun was practicing with the SQUIDS, the then modern depth charges.  Our job would be to sit around and watch as the ship accelerated, at the right moment a pattern of ‘squids’ were fired to fly over the mast and explode behind us when they had reached the required depth.  All big boys toys.

You can picture a ship as 3 sections, the front, the middle and the back: the forecastle, or foc’sle, with the bull ring and the front winches on deck; and the main sailors’ mess underneath, hence the idiom ‘Before the Mast’; the Top where the deck equipment was stored  (and the spuds if you wanted a quick snack), with the junior mess underneath; and the quarter deck where the rear deck winches, the ‘Squid’ tubes and the steering gear were housed at the original destroyer height, though foreshortened.  I was stationed on the Top Deck and in the junior mess.

The mess slept 23 sailors with only 13 slinging spaces for hammocks.  People slept everywhere, under tables, on benches.  That’s what sailors can do.  They can sleep anywhere.  If you go to a mainline railway station and there are military guys around, it will be the sailors who are sleeping.  At break time during the day, the race was on.  Who could get to the benches first?  Then they would be asleep immediately.  A great skill to take into later life.

As the junior mess, you came last in everything.  If one mess lost a bucket at sea, they would take a bucket from the junior mess.  We had one bucket.  It was used variously to wash the floor, wash the dishes and, when at sea and it’s rough, to throw up in.  When you go to sea covering distances, there is just about nothing to do.  If it’s rough, most sailors throw up.  They would sit in a big circle passing the bucket between them.

You can imagine living in close confinement made for pressure; and, inevitably, there were outbursts.  On one occasion while we were at sea, another frustrated National Serviceman, announced to the assembled company, most of them locked into 12 contracts, words to this effect: “This is a really shitty life.  I don’t know how you can stand it.  I can’t.  I am given jobs so menial I wouldn’t give them to a dog”.  For a moment I thought I would have to fight for life, his life.  As it was, the sailors shrugged and the incident passed by.  No doubt though, the boys who had been to boarding school survived in this world better than the boys who hadn’t.  They had lived here before.

Jonno was the Petty Officer in change of the Top deck.  He scheduled me to do some painting for an inspection and I was chipping away at the old paint on the deck with a chipping hammer.  ‘Not too hard’, he said.  ‘We don’t want a hole in it’.  The deck was aluminium.  It made me wonder what happened when a ship like this went into action and was strafed with gunfire  Would the bullets just zing around on the deck below.  I was glad we didn’t see action while I was there.  The Writers are sent below to pass up the shells.  If the ship gets badly hit, they shut the flood doors.  I’d seen too many movies.

Other times I had to paint the side of the ship.  Battleship grey.  Two of you sit on a trestle with the paint tin on a rope, start at the top and lower yourselves down the side.  I couldn’t climb ropes at that time so they would pull me up on the trestle, we’d swing it round, and down we’d go again for the next section.  Well, that was until one day.  Beautiful blue skies.  I was painting the side down by the quarterdeck, relaxed as they come, when I happened to look round only to see the liberty (shore) boat coming straight for me.  It’s way they came alongside.  They would bump the boat into the ship’s side to spin the back round and get a rope across.  I had three choices.  Stay on the trestle and get squashed like a fly on a windscreen, jump in the water and get run over, or…….  I could have been mistaken for a monkey; and the applause of my colleagues was considerable.

Jonno was one of the good guys.  I was working on the railings with a marlin spike (like a  big pig sticker) in bad weather and a lot of rain.  ‘Weather’s too bad to be doing this”, he said.  “Anyway you couldn’t do it if you didn’t have a marlin spike and that’s the only one there is”.  With that he took the marlin spike and chucked it overboard.  I retired below.

Jonno also was very aware just how dangerous the sea really can be.  It all looks to be fine and manageable then suddenly something goes wrong and someone’s gone.  You read it all the time in the papers.  In fact we did lose a guy overboard when some railings managed to undo themselves.  The watch on the quarter deck spotted him, gave the alarm and threw over a life ring.  You can imagine the size of the circle, and the cost, it took to turn the ship around and get him out which, thankfully they did.  If you fell in in the North Sea in winter, they gave you about 3 minutes.

Jonno made his opinion clear.  His simple line was

“I believe in terra firma.  The more the firma, the less the terra”

Whenever we arrived at any port, Jonno and the heads of the foc’sle and the quarterdeck lined up on the dock in their party best and marched off with military precision.  They were all long service men.  No doubt off to see some old girl friends in the ‘street of the thousand arse-holes’.  Every port has one, the sailors say.  We never did see them though until they were back onboard.

The worst day in my time with the squadron was a Sunday on the river.  The ship needed re-victualing with potatoes.  I was playing rugby so was out of it.  The Lieutenant in charge thought otherwise and cancelled me out of the game.  Potatoes first.  It was raining.  The bags of potatoes were dockside.  They had to be moved to where on the small motor boat could reach them.  Maybe a 150 yards walk with a bag of potatoes on your back.  We lowered the boat from the davits.  About 9.00am. Took it ashore.  It started raining.  We had to wear wet weather gear.  The sacks were numberless, it was hot in waterproofs; and mud from the potatoes was running down our necks.  Finally loaded.  We took the boat to the ship and started heaving the spuds up on to the quarterdeck,  above shoulder height.  Then we noticed river water was coming in.  The weight of the spuds had spread the boards on the clinker-built boat.  Real haste now.  The boat was finally unloaded and raised again on the davits.  Now all we had to coil the heavy sisal ropes.  But the ropes had been left lying around all over the place in the rain.  They had become what sailors call ‘a bunch of bastards’.  It took hours to uncink them and put them away.  At 1800 hours, the job was finished.  Wet, muddy and exhausted.  Couldn’t wait for the next day.  It had to be better.

After I left the Navy, people would say things like ‘the Navy knows how to sail if anyone knows how to sail’.  But the fact was ‘things happen’ in the Navy just like they ‘happen’ with amateur sailors.  A few examples.  We were tying up on the Dart one day, the buoy jumpers attached the wire to the buoy, the order went down to bring the ship up to the buoy but, instead of quarter ahead and easy, it went down a quarter astern.  The result: the bullring on the prow, and a foot or two of prow, were pulled at a rakish angle sharply seawards.  A good piece of welding to be done in port.  The postmortem proved the inevitable.  No officer was responsible.  All the fault lay with a Leading Seaman!

Another time we tried to tie up to the dock in Kiel, next to that important but seldom mentioned Kiel Canal that connects The North Sea to the Baltic at the base of Denmark.  The ship came alongside the dock, the sailors feverishly threw lines (weighted with ‘monkey fists’ knots) trying to get the wires ashore to winch the ship into the dock; but to no avail.  The strong wind was against us, the lines wouldn’t reach.  The ship slowly drifted away from the dock.  Wry smiles and not a few ‘f**kits’.  After the second attempt, the officer on the bridge had to bring the prow right up to the dock to get the first line ashore before the aft wire could be connected.

At some stage too, I spent a short time on the HMS Undine (F141).  We spent a lot of the time patrolling the English Channel and helping a surprising number of commercial ships that got into trouble. Sailing close by the Queen Elizabeth was like going by a big black cliff. There were so many incidents when we re-entered port that the Harbour Master apparently told the Captain that he would prefer the ship not to tie up at the dock if he kept on knocking bits off it.  We certainly managed to dent a few ‘friendly’ ships anyway.

One day we set off to the port of Vigo in Spain.  The direct route was across the Bay of Biscay.  The sea in the Bay is different from other seas.  Everyone you meet who has been across it talks about being seasick.  The sea has a particular motion.  You go up each wave in one big lurch; then you come down the other side in what is almost 2 or 3 smaller, steep waves.  On occasions, it certainly made our top heavy frigate bucket about.  Then you’re best on the bow which is where the senior seamen messed.

I was doing a lone spell on the quarterdeck for the middle (20.00-0000) and morning (0000-0400) watches.  The moon was bright shining across the sea, the air was heavy with condensation; and my mind was already forming the high pitched whine from the steering gear into classical melodies for orchestra and strings.  Every now and then I would relieve the loneliness by going up for a steaming mug of kai.  This is a sugared dark chocolate drink with a sea of cocoa butter floating on the top,  Delicious and very sustaining.

On this particular night a couple of chefs turned up for a last smoke before turning in.  They had a well rehearsed story.  They started talking about the extraordinary effect of music coming out of the steering gear.  Then one of them said “Have you heard about that story during the war….”  “No,” said the other “don’t tell him.  You’ll only upset him”.  “No” I said. ‘You won’t upset me.  I can cope with a story”.  Well, after a lot of persuasion, this is what they told me.

Apparently, during  the War, on a night just like this, a whole ship’s watch had been lost overboard.  No-one knows quite why but the story is that an image of a beautiful woman, ‘clothed in white samite, mystic wonderful’ kind of thing, rose from the moonlit sea and beckoned the men to come to her.  Which one by one they did.  It happened a second time to another ship but fortunately some were able to resist.  “Probably just a load of old rubbish” they said; and they went on their way.

Well it does sound like a load of old rubbish but, when you are standing there with the dampness, the brightness of the moon on a calm sea, the ancient melodies filling the air around you, the mind starts doing strange things.  ‘No that can’t have happened”. “They seemed to be talking about something that actually happened.  “No”.  “What would it look like if she suddenly appeared in the sea over there?”  “Surely, if it did happen, you’d resist it.”  “But how could you know you wouldn’t find it totally compelling?”  When the watch was over, no man ever ran faster from his watch station than I did that night.  And for some nights afterwards.

We arrived in Vigo.  We all headed of to ‘the street of a thousand arse-holes’.  Had a few drinks, the girls came out in profusion, offering a feel here and there, going and coming back every 30 minutes or so.  A good time was had by all and we were back on the ship and heading back out to sea.

I’m not quite sure if it was at this time we went on to Gibraltar.  One time or another we did arrive there.  The thing about sailors is, when they have a drink, they do like to conclude the evening with a good fight.  If there’s no-one obvious like a pongo (soldier), they’ll have a fight with one of their mates.  Fortunately, when we arrived in Gibraltar, there was an American ship in.  Perfect.  So everyone got together; and they had a very good drink together.  Swopping sea yarns. Arms over the shoulder stuff.  Probably drank far too much!  Anyway the street bars were going full tilt; and then it started.  The Brits started singing “We are all good kids in harbour, but Oh my god at sea………..”  It’s jealousy really.  The  Brits sleep in hammocks while the Yanks have bunks.  The Yanks have machines that chuck out cokes and chocolate, the Brits have sweet FA.  Hence the ‘Oh my God at sea’ reference.  Anyway, once a few roundels of the song have been sung, someone puts a wine bottle upside down in a bucket and the fight is on.  The place gets wrecked, there’s blood and vomit everywhere.  A cost to the Gibraltarians for staying British.  But remember also, we need these boys when it comes to war!

So I had had a quiet night out with a mate but decided to set off back early.  There was already talk of me going to America and I didn’t want to risk a clean sheet.  As I walked back there were sailors lying about all over the place in a considerable state of disrepair.  I passed one pissing on someone’s front door.  “Good thing it’s not your front door,” I said in passing.  Stupid really.  I’d gone a few yards when I heard these footsteps running up behind me.  Here we go, I thought.  “What did you say, mate?  What did you say?”  He was in the crouched boxer position, fists raised.  I muttered something, then something else.  And then I heard another pair of feet running up.  “I’ll take him mate.  I’ll take him.”

I walked on maybe 20 paces and looked back to see them squaring up to each other.  Then I saw my saviour lean forward with a straight left to the mouth.  Excellent punch.  Heavy.  My assailant stumbled back, hands to his mouth.  It was over.

As it turned out, they were both from Vigilant.  Both were stokers i.e. they worked in the engine room.  While I was washing before turning in, my assailant turned up in the washroom.  “Sorry about that, mate.  It wasn’t serious. I was just messing about.  But look what he’s done to my teeth. He shouldn’t have done that.”  And with that he showed me his bruised and bleeding gums with some teeth looking a bit loose.  The guy who hit him turned out to be an amateur boxing champion.  Nice guy.  Nice smile.  I suppose I would have a nice smile if I was an amateur boxing champion.  Anyway I thanked him.  Probably bought him a drink.  Now that’s what I call LUCKY.

The visit to Poland was the most memorable time in my naval career.   Poland was just beginning to feel its way tentatively to a democracy that didn’t include the Russians.  Wladyshaw Gromulka had returned as Party Leader.  Momentarily the ice was melting.

The Poles have a great military tradition with the Brits.  Their brigades fought bravely with us at Monte Cassino where 1000 of them died.  And, of course, the Polish ‘Kosciuszko’ Squadron flew out of Northolt during the Battle of Britain.  The Memorial to their Dead is still to be seen beside the A40 there.

So you can imagine the scene as our squadron hove into harbour at Gdynia.  We were the first British warships to arrive there since the War.  The docks were crowded with thousands of Poles there to welcome us – shouting, cheering, singing, waving.  The comradeship, the shared history between the Poles and the Brits was obvious and very moving.  When we went ashore with our zlotys it was impossible to drink or eat alone; and difficult to pay for any thing.  It was their time to give hospitality and, though they had little, they were determined it should be this way.  For the number of days we were there, we lived on a diet of vodka and goose.  And, of course, the vodka could only be drunk one way: straight back & chilled.

Needless to say, we went about our duties during the day.  Our Captain was the very well known and likeable Captain Morgan Giles.  He held cocktail parties on board for the local dignitaries which we served (and became at least as inebriated as the guests on the left overs!)  Captain Morgan Giles was a player too.  He brought his own little car with him on these trips, driven perilously from the dockside on to the quarterdeck over a couple of planks when the tide was the right height.  Now that is influence.  The car was something like a CinqueCento.  How he fitted into it, and where he went in it in foreign ports, is still a mystery to me.  I think he may even have flown his wife over to join him on this visit too.  He retired a Rear Admiral.  He had the contacts.  Perhaps that’s the link.

One of my duties during the visit was shore patrol.  We sat around on the ship waiting for the trouble.  We got it.  There was a brawl in a local night club.  The duty Petty Officer was from the Supply side and unpracticed in the rougher parts of naval life.  He chose me to accompany him, not because I was skilled in hand-to-hand fighting with a drunken rabble but just because I was bigger than the others!  A Polish Maria picked us up.  As we rattled on our way to the site of the brawl, he confided his plan with me.  When we arrived, I was to go in first because it was a much worse naval crime if they hit him, a Petty Officer.  I felt assured.  We had the right team.

When we got there, thankfully the brawling was over, just the usual sight of broken fittings, blood, vomit and a body or two.  Our candidate had decided to hit his image in a mirror with an open hand.  Result: broken mirror and a badly cut hand.  We picked up and put him on the floor in the back of the van.  He was covered in blood and sick, murmuring to himself in his drunkenness.  We were on our way to a doctor.  The doctor had him put flat on his back on the table.  It was a bad cut on the fleshy base of the thumb.  The flesh was bulging out.  There was no need for an anaesthetic.  The doctor started cleaning and sewing when suddenly there was a ‘low moan’ as our Petty Officer crumpled to the floor.  The sight was too much for him.  We got him on his feet with smelling salts; and soon we and the bandaged sailor were on our way back to the ship.

If our arrival had been dramatic, our departure was tear jerking.  We had a Marine band on board.  Another lovely day.  Can you imagine thousands of Poles on the docks waving and weeping? The squadron wheeling and hooting our departure with the marine band on the quarterdeck, dressed in their red jackets and white pith helmets, playing their favourite marches and no doubt the national anthems of the two countries.  It was a moment to be embedded in our memories forever.

On the way back, a ship medic brought me back to reality.  He told me that 30% of the ships company had caught gonorrhoea there.  That was free too.

That time had come, the time was done.  I was sent back to Pompey for demob.  I had finished my 2 years and I lined up with men who had just finished 18 months.  National Service was coming to an end.


“Thanks be to God for all the mercies he has shown him,” said the captive; “for to my mind there is no happiness on earth to compare with recovering lost liberty.”  from Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes




I didn’t choose to do National Service.  If I had had the choice I would have refused it.  As I travel through life, I am surprise at the number of people who did manage to avoid it.  But, if life is something about filling yourself up with great memories, then National Service played a huge part in mine.


HMS VICTORY (Renamed HMS Nelson with Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory now reposing in Portsmouth Dockyard)

So it was back to Pompey Barracks to practice my new skills as a Writer.  I began in the Supply Office, me, a manager and a couple of Wrens.  A dark, Dickensian place.  There I learned one important lesson about the Royal Navy.  I was the young firebrand.  I want everything to change.  There must be better ways.  But the fact was that most of everything had been going on since Nelson was a boy; and it just wasn’t going to change now for me.

After a while, I was moved to the Pay Office.  The PO in charge, I believe Petty Officer Chalk aka Chalky, specialised in making alcohol out of just about anything. Bread and rhubarb, I remember.  And all of it was made in his bath at home.  His pallid complexion suggested he succeeded as a distiller though what he used instead of a bath I never found out.  There was a young, shy Wren working with us.  She had just taken up with a bandsman.  Every morning, when she came in, Chalky asked her how her lessons were coming on learning to play the one-eyed piccolo.

It was lovely walking across the parade on a nice summer’s day.  Surprisingly very calming.  Perhaps, once in a while, a group of guys from Detention Quarters (DQs) would jog by in line doing so many circuits, rifles above their heads; or they could be doing press-ups.  Made a nice change from sitting in their cells picking oakum strand by strand (‘a loose, dusty hemp or jute fibre used chiefly for caulking seams in wooden ships and packing pipe joints’).  This wasn’t used for anything except to be a complete and utter waste of time.  Just mixed up and put back in the sack afterwards. They had to do so much of it a day or they wouldn’t get their smoke.  This meant lining up in a row.  A Petty Officer would walk down giving each of them a cigarette, then he would to the top again and go down lighting them.  Then back to the top and walk down chucking them in a bucket.  The Navy wasn’t going to give in.  A punishment was a punishment.

It was about this time I was interviewed to see if I could be officer material. Nothing came of it.  The sub-plot was the Navy didn’t want National Servicemen in the first place and took as few as they could get away with.  This obviously reduced the number of National Servicemen they made up to officer.  Whether I would have made it anyway is another question.  Some time later, an officer friend read me the report of this interview.  It appeared I had upset the lady Lieutenant Commander interviewer.  No doubt I thought I was being fascinating at the time.  Story of my life really.

I started playing rugby for the Barracks, moving from full back to fly-half as my eyesight got worse.  It was a bit off and on.  The officer players liked to play on duty weekends but not on free weekends.  The lower decks made up the numbers.  I remember one weekend I had a really severe, cricked neck.  The medics told me they knew the answer.  One of them grabbed my feet, the other one my neck.  The neck medic drew my head and neck back and wrenched it sharply to the left.  The pain was extraordinary. But I played the game; with a severely cricked and wrenched neck.

The other thing I remember was borrowing someone’s spare jockstrap.  I’d managed to leave mine behind.  It is always a mistake to borrow someone’s jockstrap.  This one gave me an itch, you know that itch in-between, which went on so long I can’t remember when it stopped.

(An aside – Let me tell go about this itch.  At times it drove me crazy.  I had it even when I left the Navy.  I had had a polio injection and didn’t feel good.  My mother called the doctor.  Just a mild reaction, he said.  Then he saw the tube of tineafax cream (treatment of tinea cruris – jock itch) on the bedside table.  We all used it.  ‘What’s this for?’ he said.  I told him.  Instantaneously the bedclothes were flung back and my legs were in the air.  ‘There’s nothing wrong with you, he said.  ‘It’s all in the head.’

Some time later, I was off to be a student in America. America at the time insisted I get a doctor to sign off that I didn’t have VD.  Girls too had to sign off they weren’t going to be whores.  Nothing much has changed.  Anyway, while I was in there, I reminded him about the itch; and this is how the conversation went

Me:  ‘I’m off to America.  I still have the itch and, whether it is in my head or not, I should appreciate your help in getting rid of it.’

Dr: ‘What’s the problem with it?’

Me: ‘Well, for example, today I was in the barber’s and had this terrible urge to scratch myself.’

Dr: ‘No-one minds you scratching yourself in the barbers”

Me: ‘I know.  But sometimes I can be in mixed company.’

Dr: ‘So, are you saying you get this itch when you’re with girls?’

Me: ‘No.  But the other night I was at the theatre with a girl and, while we were having a drink at the interval, I got this itch again.’

Dr: ‘Well the thing to do is to get up very close to her, look her directly in the eyes, and have a jolly good scratch.  She’ll never know.’


My father had just bought me an old car.  Remember the Flying Standard with its flared mudguards and its stand-up-and-beg headlights.  More like a Flying Deathtrap to my mind.  The flared wings had rusted and the headlights turned in.  The brakes only just worked.  I spent weekend after weekend haring up the A3 for the joys of London; and down again the next day.  Most of it was like driving in a black-out, the twisted lights occasionally catching the cats eyes or a white line to guide me on my way.

I also met a girl called Molly.  Some local nurses wanted a few sailors to dance with at their party.  So I danced with Molly.  She was an assistant nurse.  She had a small flat in Southsea.  She was a sweetheart.  I wasn’t very good at these things.  I had spent most of my time as a teenager improving my golf handicap.  Molly taught me that there are better things in life than a low score. “Do I have to send you a telegram” she had said.

One evening I was driving through Southsea when I was stopped by the police.  ‘Do you mind asking your young lady if she would mind sitting in her own seat while you are driving?” he said.

These were my halcyon days in the Navy.  Duties were light.  Occasionally we did a march past and occasionally one of the team would lead the contingent.  On my day, there I was leading the continent, barking out the commands like a good one: quick march, eyes left, this kind of thing.  Went off like clockwork.  ‘Sounds a bit sergeant majorish’ said a snotty nosed subby (sub-lieutenant) to his colleague.  Surely that is what it is all about, I thought.

They were a bit like that, these midshipmen.  We had a kit inspection competition.  Mine was perfect.  His mother must have done it, said the midshipman.  So what, I thought.  Mind you, there was only one thing worse that a recently graduated boy midshipman; and that was one made up from the lower deck.  They were just a pain in the arse.

We would get our own back on these Middies.  Kim, a mate of mine, and I joined a small club in Southsea, The Golden nugget would you believe.  It was an Officers’ Club.  We must have sounded right.  There we could have beers, talk to some pretty girls and do a little dancing all in a nice environment with nice people and dimmed lights.  The evening’s sport would be to find a likely sub-lieutenant, who was making the Navy his life, and ask him what it was like to be a sub-lieutenant making the Navy his life.  Well.  This was wonderful (wow) and that was marvellous (geewizz) and so it went on for a week or two.  Then the time would come for our turn.  What about this?  How do you cope with that?  And what would you do if this happened?  By the time we were finished, he would be totally deflated, maybe even considering resigning his commission.

It was pretty safe walking around Portsmouth at night too.  If the local thugs picked on someone, they would have it coming back to them.  When he got back to barracks, the shore patrol would set off looking for them and, when they found them, set about them.  It was standard for many these leading seaman apparently, when they had done their time with the Navy, to join the Police Force.

And, as the months rolled by, I had all the guard house sorted.  Whether it was ‘sippers’ or ‘gulpers’, I would roll up in the Flying Standard, they would open the gate for me, sign me in while I parked the car and strolled off to the dormitory.  After I had learned the ropes, very few weekends too were ruined by tiresome things like duty responsibilities.

But, as we know, all good things must come to an end.  Life must move on to pastures new.  And let’s face it, what is a sailor if he doesn’t have a ship, one that floats?  And what is a sailor if he doesn’t go to sea.  That was my next assignment, HMS VIGILANT.  To hell with wearing glasses!   (To be continued 11/11)






So the time had come.  We were off to HMS Ceres to earn our gold star Writer’s badge.  Sounded hopeful too.  Ceres: the Greek Goddess of Fertility no less (or was it TV Programmes?).  HMS Ceres was a brick battleship, the type that doesn’t float but doesn’t sink.

HMS Ceres was in Wetherby in Yorkshire.  It’s a lovely part of the world.  Near Harrogate, near York and its magnificently Gothic Cathedral, near Ripon Cathedral, with its Saxon Crypt, and Fountains Abbey, the beautifully preserved but ruined Cistercian Abbey; and, indeed, near Wetherby Race Track.  We even took expeditions into the Yorkshire Dales, hopping from rock to rock as the streams gurgled beside us.  In fact one chap fell over on the rocks and ignited a box of Swan matches in his trouser pocket.  For a while he did a bit more hopping about than the rest of us.  The downside was Wetherby was very cold in winter, at least for those sailors who hailed from ‘south of the Thames’.

The camp itself was charming too, all low level buildings, pathways running between them with little green verges and rose beds bounded by diagonally-set bricks.  If people weren’t walking around in uniform, we might of thought we were somewhere else. It was all very relaxed.

One day two of us were walking with the rubbish bin between us having just emptied it.  A trainee chef with a beaming smile decided it was such a lovely day he would run up from behind and jump over it.  Would we mind? No, we said.  What skills he had in cooking evidently did not rely on logic.  He hadn’t worked out that, from the moment he took off, we would have walked on a couple of steps while he was in the air.  Sure enough, up he galloped, took off and landed right in the middle of the empty bin, the whole lot going head over heels.  We were shaking with laughter as we walked on while he sat on the path rubbing away at the bruised bits.

As you walked in the gates of HMS Ceres, generally speaking the billets or dormitories were to the left.  To the immediate right was a huge parade ground, facing inwards with the large flag pole centre edge and, behind it, a low level brick building, with a small rectangular water tower in the centre of the roof.  The officers would step out with this building behind them in full uniform and address the morning parade facing them.  The guard would present arms.  The Union Jack would be unfolded and raised on the pole.  The parson would hold prayers.  We would all sing a hymn or two to a small mobile organ which had been pushed out and opened ready. Then we would march past stiffly with the officers returning the salute.  Something like that anyway.

The dormitories were like Nissen huts, quite comfortable with double bunking beds end-to-end down each side and a double row of steel lockers facing outwards down the middle.  Toilet and wash facilities were the other side of the entry door at one end.  I chose the upper bunk as near to the door on the left side as I could.  I had already learned, when right handed people walked into a room like that, they tended to turn right; and most people are right handed.  This gave me a few seconds more in bed most mornings.

The biggest problem with the dormitories was we had to share them with the trainees chefs who were also trained at HMS Ceres.  Chefs tended to be rather more basic than us Writers and, when they got drunk, occasionally chose to piss in their own lockers rather waste sleep time staggering off to the toilets.  If you were unlucky, they mistook your locker for theirs.

We hadn’t been to Ceres long before our Chief Petty Officer (CPO) gave us our welcome and our warning.  There was a local young lady, he said, who couldn’t wait till evening leave time came to earn her pennies.  She had taken to offering herself through the surrounding chain linked fence.  Our CPO gave his advice with these succinct words.

          ” She’s got it, you want it.  She’s got it, you’ll get it”.

For our group, that was advice enough.

Our group was a nice bunch, mostly quite well educated and from all over the country.  There were 12 of us.  We would all take of evening ‘shore’ leave together.  That meant 12 pints of beer which was pretty inebriating; and you had to be careful.  You had to be able to walk back through the gate and check in unaided.

On one of this outings, one of the guys became desperate for a crap.  He dived behind a hedge.  We were well in the country.  He came out smiling and off we all walked together back to the camp.  Suddenly, after about 300 yards, he discovered he had left his belt behind, a pretty difficult thing to do.  Navy belts are wide bits of webbing which go round your waist to be locked in place by the front flap of the trousers.  Anyway, back we all went.  He dived back behind the hedge and had some difficulty finding it.  Oops.  There it is.  Underneath.  He carried it back to the camp very gingerly.  I am not quite sure how we navigated it past the guard house.

Even now, after all these years, I remember those nights waking up, freezing cold, sitting on the toilet.

So life went on.  We were all given duties outside our training sessions.  Mine was cleaning up the kitchen vessels after meals in the camp cook house.  Those huge steel vats.  Not long, everything began to stink of rotten cabbage, you, your hair, your clothes.  You took them off at night.  They stunk at the end of your bed.  And you put them on in the morning. You just couldn’t get away from it.

The other side of it was the long waits between meals and washing duties.  We used this time playing draughts.  Endlessly.  Draughts.  After a month or so, everything I saw became draughts.  I’d stand talking to people and, before long, my mind was moving them around on a draughts board; and, when I slept, the same games were played over and over again.  It took months afterwards to get it out of my head.

When I was relieved these duties, I became one of the camp gaolers.  I had to sit in the cells and make sure everyone had what they needed!!  The camp had quite a big, residential contingent just to keep the place running.  Inevitably, some of these transgressed and some got locked up.  Most of them had tattoos; and most of the tattoos were pierced hearts or scrolls with the mother’s or girl friend’s name; or vertical swords and banners with things like Death before Dishonour written on them.  It was here I discover how unbelievably hard some of these kind of guys are.  There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that would make them change their mind – no insult, no hardship, no bribe.  They were resolute.

Some of the guys in the cells were there, trying to work their ticket, trying to get out of the Navy.  In those day, there was a 12 Continuous Service contract.  They would sign on at the age of 16 as a boy seaman.   You see them in those old photos standing on the top of the mast.  But the contract didn’t begin until they were 18.  By 19, they hated the place and wanted to get out.  But there was no way out.  They couldn’t usually buy their way out, even if they could find the money.  So the choice was to do things where the penalty was detention for 13 weeks.  Three of these and you could be chucked out.  So some of them would go out and pick fights with shore patrols, do their three months, take a rest, have a few beers; and then set about a valuable bit of Naval property, like a kitchen with a fire axe.

Another way was to piss in your bed.  As we know, some people have this problem they can’t help. The Navy couldn’t have people in a mess at sea pissing in their hammocks, then trussing them closed for storage.  Clearly it would be a health hazard, even if you could cope with the flies.  So the brighter ones would have a good night’s sleep, then piss in their bed before they got up in the morning.  One of my ‘cell’ jobs was to go round every hour through the night, wake them up and ask “Want a piss?”  It was then a question who would give in first.

As we know, all good things must come to an end.  We had passed our exams.  In the next few days we would graduate.  The question then was what could we do to be remembered  at Ceres forever.  We formed discussion groups.  Over and over it we went.  Suggestions came and went.  Ho ho ho, we said.  That won’t work, we said.  We could put a live chicken in the organ.  We could fill the flag with confetti so it would blow all over the parade ground.  That’s nothing, we said,  That’s be done before, we said.  Then my friend Jerry Guiton came up his his idea.  Ho, ho, ho, we said.  That’s impossible, we said.

But not for Jerry. It was possible; and he had worked out the timings.  He must have been an engineer. I helped him.  We crept out in the dead of night.  We gathered bricks from the garden and built a low, false wall in front of the water tower on that low flat roofed building by the parade ground.  A mattress cover cut open made a 12 foot (3.7m) banner.  Jerry found 2 x12 foot sticks to attach to keep it open.  He found a ball of strong twine and a good number of vine eye hooks to run the twine through.  He was ready.  The night before our graduation day Jerry was up on the roof for the final touches.

We did not have to attend the parade on the day of graduation because we were meeting the Camp Commander directly afterwards.  We waited at the back of the long, low building, in fact just where the end of the piece of twine was hanging.  We heard the parade set up and we saw the officers step out.  This was the moment.  Jerry pulled on the twine.  Amazingly it worked.  Slowly a banner rose up in front of the assembled sailors.  Of course the officers couldn’t see it.  It was behind them.  Beautifully scripted the words said


Well you are not meant to laugh on parade or even smile.  You’re certainly not meant to laugh out-loud.  The guard of honour fell about about.  Arms didn’t present.  The morning service collapsed and, of course, those marching past marched past the banner, and those saluting saluted the banner.  Tears were running down the faces.  It was chaotic. I think the march past was made to run again.

Jerry.  You were a star and still a very fond memory.  And I have to hand it to the Camp Commander too.  We could have been in real trouble, maybe even cell dwellers.  But the Commander took it in good heart.  I suppose it is one of those thing, if you do it well enough, you’ll get forgiven.  He merely stated his suspicion we were involved, advised us that, if it was us, we would be better not to do something like this again, and formally handed us our golden Writer star.  We saluted, about turned and marched out.  Goodbye HMS Ceres.  You’re a fond memory too.

We we off for our first assignment, for me HMS Victory in Portsmouth.                      (To be continued 9/11)



‘I joined the Navy 

To See the World……

…..and what did I see?

I saw the sea.’

(Author’s note:  All this happened a long time ago.  What happened actually happened , but some of the details and timings could well be muddled)

It was my future brother-in-law’s fault.  He was still in the dating stage with my sister. We shared a bedroom when the family went on holiday to San Remo.  He was doing his National Service and had already made it to Sub-Lieutenant.  For a couple of weeks, when everyone had gone to bed, we sat around smoking his blue liners (Navy issue cigarettes with a blue line on them. 4p per pack!) while he told this ‘innocent’ all his eye-widening stories about life in the Navy.  In a nutshell, they all boiled down to this: all girls love a sailor.  It took me two years to find it out for myself: they absolutely don’t.  In fact they all run a mile.

The other decision factor was this.  At Haileybury, we all had a Combined Cadet Corps; and we had to do cadet training.  It was mainly about marching around, ‘judging distance’, and ‘presenting arms’ on Wednesday afternoons; but it was different on Field Day.  While the army cadets crept around, and did leopard crawl, in the mud & field ditches and in the rain, shooting blanks (and occasionally their foot), the navy cadets caught a bus to London to visit HMS President, built when ‘the ships were wood and the men were steel’ and ‘parked’ on the Thames.  After a bit of nosing round the gun decks and canons in the dry, there was usually time for a couple of pints before we set off back.  Game, set and match.  I signed on.

Inevitably the day of reckoning came.  I graduated from school, dug a few ditches for the toilet system for the London Bible College which was then in build.

(I must add a note here about Harry.  Harry was an Irishman who dug ditches.  In those days, we would all have a laugh about Irish ditch diggers who we always saw leaning around on their spades.  Well, let me assure you, Harry taught me what you see was not what you get.  He gave me the choice, dig the ditch or push the barrow.  If I dug the ditch, I had to keep up with the speed with which Harry took his barrow over the boards to empty it and to return for the barrow I was filling.  Or, if I did the barrow, I had to get my barrow back quickly enough over the slithery, slidey boards before the barrow he was filling became too heavy.  Whatever whichway I did it, and try as I may, I just couldn’t keep up with him; the easiest, most amusing day’s work Harry probably had ever done too).

The ‘Queen requests and requires…’ letter arrived.  I was a GUZ rating which means my home port was Devonport, as a probationary writer actually, clerical not seaman branch as I wore glasses.  I can’t quite remember where I signed on, Portsmouth, or Pompey as it is known, or Devonport; but I do remember vividly the gates of the Portsmouth Barracks ,with the huge crest above them, ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ or, as they say, ‘Evil is he who evil thinks’.  I cleared my mind of any bad thoughts, shrugged my shoulders and walked in, ‘prison’ for two, whole years starts now.

So initation at Pompey barracks was all about togging up to look like a sailor, marching around (I had become good at that), sloping arms and presenting arms; and settling into one of the huge dormitories. The dormitories were split into four sections, with double bunk beds in two rows facing each other, and a passageway through the middle.  Metal lockers in between and at the end of each bed.  Maybe, 15 beds in a row which meant 60 men in a section and 240 in the dormitory.

The toilets were at one end, of the modern flushing variety, OK until payday when half the place got Mozart (and Liszt or pissed) and continued to throw up in the stand ups which would go on flushing until we had a flood running out into the corridor and down the stairs.  Next day, broke, they would go round bumming pennies until they could afford two pints of scrumpy (high alcohol rough cider).  Then they could be back in the toilet again doing the same thing the next night.  Most sailors spent everything they were paid on outings; and moderation was not their forte.  As National Service men, I seem to remember we were paid 21 shillings and 6 pence (£1.075) each week from which we had two or three shillings taken out for social security!  This was 1957.  So it didn’t leave much to do anything with.

We had our inoculations at Pompey.  We lined up in a row and were injected.  I think it was smallpox that they dabbed on the top arm and gave us a little metal thing to pummel away at the spot.  Presumably the blood would rise up and take the antibodies into the body through the skin.  The trouble was they didn’t wipe the arm clean afterwards.  So we put on our heavy naval sweaters again and those with sensitive skins inoculated themselves again.  One guy even put his sweater on the other way round the next day and managed to inoculate himself a third time.  I think they called it double & triple vaccine poisoning.

Crabs and bedbugs were a bit of an issue.  The sailors cure for crabs, they say, is to cut a parting in the pubic hair with a razor, rub in plenty of alcohol and then some sand in the hope that the little critters would get pissed, start fighting and stone each other to death.  One hirsute leading seaman would come in to the barracks on his duty nights and be given a regular issue grey navy blanket.  Time and again he caught crabs in his body hair.  I can’t imagine what he used to tell his wife.

One of the first pieces of advice came from a Petty Officer.  There were only three things in the Navy that could really get you into trouble: rum, bum and ‘baccy (tobacco).

Sailors in these times would get a tot of rum every day.  It went back into naval history when a squadron of British fighting ships had saved a West Indian island.  In thanks, the islanders  had bequeathed the navy a supply of their heavy dark rum in perpetuity, either freely or for a peppercorn payment.  This meant every day, as we lined up along the hot plates to collect our lunch, we would pass a tray with these tumblers of rum on them, one part rum, two parts water.  After drinking it, you could feel your shoulders ache a little as a haze of relaxation came over you.  A sailor one day sat on the stainless steel food counter to drink his rum.  “Hoy” bawled a chef, “Gerroff.  This is for rissoles not arseholes”

You could get into a lot of trouble passing your rum around; but a wonderful subculture had developed around it.  Sippers (a monitored sip only) meant someone would do you a favour, gulpers (a monitored gulp) would probably get you off a night’s duty while, with the whole tot, you would probably never have a duty to do again.

At this stage, the navy hadn’t got its head around gay sailors or mixed sex ships.  These days they both are accepted.  But in my time there was always a fear that ‘love’ affairs springing up could affect the ship’s wellbeing and fighting capability.  Then, bum was a sackable offence.

Going back to bum and bedbugs, at one point I had a real issue with a bedbug.  Night after night, I would check out the bed before I got into it; and day after day I would wake up with patches of bites on me.  So this night, I went to bed with no pyjamas.  I woke up, in that half light you get around 2.00am near the sea, to see someone at the end of my bed going through my pockets, looking for my wallet.  “Oy” I shouted and off he fled with me, naked and in hot pursuit, yelling at the top of my voice “Stop that man”.  Down one side of the dormitory, up the other.  Heads popping out above the bedclothes.  Anyhow, to  cut the story short, someone else took up the chase, pursued him out into the parade ground where the guy was apprehended as I sloped back to bed.  The upshot was, he was brought forward for questioning.  Fortunately the ‘tribunal’ accepted my reasons for pursuing him through the dormitory naked, late at night.

‘Baccy’ was the blue liner cigarettes again.  The monthly issue was 200 at 4p per pack.  If you drank as a group, no-one missed their round of cigarettes either.  Knowing what we know now, it would be interesting to see an estimate of how many lives this privilege cost.  Buying someone else’s ration was strictly verboten.

But enough.  We were kitted out and ready to begin our Navy career.  Next stop HMS CERES (to follow 7/11)










Most Helpful Customer Reviews UK (shown on Amazon)

By Tony Jones on 18 May 2012

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

This is a good book, a very good book. I first read Compelling Selling many years ago and of all the books on selling I had read it was, and still is, the best. And although I had re read it several times over the years, it was only when I read Keynotes that I realised how little of what I had learned I was actually putting into practice.Keynotes made me realise how lazy I’d become and that I wasn’t structuring the sale properly. When you’ve been selling a long time it’s easy to get into bad habits and reading it reminded me of how I should be approaching the sale process.It’s too easy to be unstructured; you have a pleasant conversation and end up believing that if the prospect likes you, you are going to take the order. And it doesn’t work that way. Without a well structured approach to the sale you will end up having a lot of pleasant conversations going nowhere. So whether you are new to selling or someone who has been selling for years, buy this book, you won’t regret it.

Tony Jones
Managing Director
Truk Holdings Ltd

Format: Paperback

This book is the ultimate companion for all salespersons and for all those who are simply trying to persuade others, be they peers, employees or their bosses.
The key sales techniques and avoidable pitfalls that all good sales people know, but often forget, are here in this slim pocketbook and could produce a couple of memorable sound bites if scanned just before going into that important presentation.
Like Napoleon’s baton, every salesperson should have this book in his knapsack and every parent should give one to their children on their seventeenth birthday.
Implement the advice in this book and every aspect of your life should improve.

By Adam Taylor on 3 Feb 2012
Format: Paperback

A fantastic read and of huge value to all those in sales…its punchy and easy to read format allows you to ‘pick up’ and ‘put down’ at your leisure and acts as a great road map to making that all important sell. Digging deeper into philosophy of selling this book has given me the confidence and know-how to convert interest into a sale.Compelling Selling will take pride of place on my desk for years to come!Adam Taylor
Managing Director
Taylor Nicol Trading Ltd



Most Helpful Customer Reviews  USA (shown on Amazon)

Format: Paperback

I bought this book back in the 1970′s. It’s been my manual or Bible ever since. Lund knows his craft well and is able to explain it in clear concise language. This book changed my whole approach to selling, because in my opinion he began the whole principle that instead of blabbing about: product, feature, benefits; he shows how a series of questions will allow you to discover the “what” the prospect is buying from a product stand point and the “why” from his own personal and professional perspective. The “why” gives you the emotional reasons behind the purchase and this is where you can yield incredible power over the sales process.If selling to corporate customers, purchasing large ticket items requires you to get each influential executive’s needs and requirements and then address them individually. Lund is a master of questioning that permits the customer to tell you exactly the what and the why he is buying. It’s kind of like the story of the 7 blind men descibing an elephant. One thinks the elephant is lke a large snake, because of it’s trunk, another thinks the elephant is like a tree trunk, because of his large straight leg etc. This is what selling to large corporations is like ,as well as, small companies and individuals.Lund also goes over the trial close, as the key to taking the customers temperature and commitment and handling objections and all the other things you must know to be at the top of your game, but he does it in such an interesting way that you will go back to this book again and again. It made me a top 10% performer in several Fortune 100 company sale’s forces and much of what is in this book helped me achieve this.Read more ›

By A Customer on February 28, 1999

Format: Paperback

Mr Lund exudes real-selling life experience and gives a true boost to all sales professionals. Down to earth, practical, funny and inspiring, I have had this book in pride of place in my office for 10 years and it’s still the best one I’ve ever read.

Format: Kindle Edition

This is an excellent read and provides a well-rounded review and reference of all aspects of the sales process. Few books cover the `shape’ of the sale as well as this text. For the salesman or woman who frustrate themselves by attempting to close too early or who just don’t understand why people will not buy from them, this is a must read. As the author explains in the introduction, the book repeats at times, for effect and to make the message stick as much as anything else. I didn’t really need this although it didn’t distract from the reading. I would recommend this book because it provides a basis and an understanding of what sales is about; ‘a logical process which achieves an emotional objective’. Having spent the first chapters explaining what makes people buy and how to identify the real customer, the author then sets out to describe the over-arching sales process using how-to examples and recommendations: how to develop an effective sales plan, how to use questioning techniques and communication styles in order to understand the needs of the customer, how to structure sales information to create a pipeline and structure reporting, how to handle competition and objections and finally how to close the sale. This is a great reference book for both the frustrated salesperson looking to understand what or where they may be going wrong or equally for successful sellers who need the odd reference from someone who has been equally successful in the world of sales. James Higgins, CEO, Cincinnati, USA

By Bob on September 6, 2010

Format: Hardcover

This book is clear, lucid, well-organized and highly informed. Read, re-read and highlight it. Top salesmen will learn things and be reminded of what they may have forgotten. Newer people will have a strong foundation on which to build. Recommended.

By Amazon Customer on December 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

This book is a remake of an older one that I have. This version has been improved with some visuals. The information is still absolutely amazing.


Most Helpful Customer Reviews UK (shown on Amazon)

By B. W. Ramsay on 2 Dec 2007

Format: Paperback

The art of persuasion – people selling to people – does not change over time. While some have tried to formulate the process with mnemonics and software, this often just dilutes and over simplifies the time-honoured practice of selling. Compelling Selling is the definitive classic on the subject, and an absolute must for anyone who wishes to learn to actually sell successfully, and not just to tick boxes on multi-coloured forms.

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

40 years ago Philip Lund, a Harvard Graduate and expert salseman, homed in on the core issues of selling. The result was the outstanding hands-on book for everyone who wants to persuade: Compelling Selling. In the intervening thirty years, a lot of changes have rapidly taken place. But the knowledge of the workings of human persuasion can be still distilled into a few key areas and steps. This is what Philip has done: kept the invaluable core material but made it relate to us in today’s world in his republication of the original masterpiece. This book fires you up with enthusiasm but not hot air. The highly organized and analytical mind of Lund keeps your feet planted firmly on the ground and, importantly, the orders rolling in. Buy it today and you’ll never regret it. I still have my copy from the 1970s and have mentioned it and waved it at many people over the years. I’m not kidding, it’s the best book I’ve ever read on sales (and I have read a few in my time!). Don’t reinvent the wheel, just keep it true! Ivor Coward (Brit living in Venice Italy)


Subject: To Philip Lund – a note of appreciation 
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 2:52 AM
Dear Philip,
A short note of appreciation for you.

Before I went for my first sales job interview with a prestigious medical organisation in 1987 in the UK the headhunter told me to get and read “Compelling Selling”. I did, got the job despite having zero sales experience and tough competition, and still have the engraved watch I was given for sales achievement in my first year.

You therefore had a profound and positive impact on my career development – THANKS!

Now that one of your other fans has pointed out that you have a latest edition I will be sending one to each of the team in my own company, for whom I hope it will help to achieve the same success.

Kind regards

Laurence Heron
Managing Director
Focus Medical Technologies


I was born a New Zealander.  Lived beside the Waihopi River in Invercagill, bottom of the South Island where the Bluff oysters come from.  Dad had fought in the NZAF with the Americans in the Pacific.  Never said a word about it.  Spent some time in America teaching aircraft recognition, somewhere on the East Coast. My first memory of seeing him was when I was about 4 years.  Now he was Editor of the Southland Times.

I went to Waihopi School.  Kind of place where most of the kids went bare foot.  Can’t remember much about it.  Dropped a desk on my big toe carrying it back after sports day; so my big toe still carries one memory.  I suspect I was a pretty poor student.  Classes of 40 or so.  I remember the teacher’s fame was measured by what he had done to make the strap he used to beat his students particularly painful.  Baked in the oven, treated with special oils and so on.  I suddenly became famous because Dad got a job in London. Lund was going to London or ‘home’, as New Zealanders like to call it.  I remember my Maths teacher pulling me out in front of the class. I had to pay the penalty for some misdemeanour.  Yet again: 4 wacks on the hand with the strap.  ”Lund” he said (wack), ‘you may be going to London”(wack) “but you’ll never” (wack), “never know how to divide” (wack).  He was right.  And it took about 4 days for the welt on my wrist to subside.

We took the Rangitata to England in 1947.  One of the New Zealand Shipping Line ships famous for taking the assisted UK migrants to Australia and New Zealand.  Dad went on ahead to find a home.  How Mum put up with 3 squabbling kids in a small cabin for more than 5 weeks heaven only knows.  We chugged our way across the Pacilic and through the Panama Canal, broke down outside Caracas where I saw my first dead ‘monkey’, all with the NZ Scouts on their way to the 6th World Scout Jamboree in France.  So we learned the Haka, crossed the Line, raced to catch apples floating in buckets of water; and my elder sister had a scout to kiss in one of the lifeboats.  Smoggy, damp Tilbury was my first glimpse of ‘home’.  And there was Dad with his new car too.

Dad took us to our new home in Northwood, just outside London on the Metropolitan Line.  My first English School was St Martins Preparatory, founded by Lionel Woodroffe, then the Headmaster. He had been persuaded to take me on mid-term.  Imagine this nervous 9 year old schoolboy standing there waiting as the doors from morning roll call burst open and what seemed like 100 boys descended on him: “Who are you?” ‘What’s your name?” ‘Where are you from?”  ”Why do you talk like that?” and so on.  But it was a lovely little school and I was introduced to Latin and French and Art.  Great sport, the ‘playing fields of England’ type of thing, cricket, soccer, rugby, swimming, all in its own facilities.  Early on at my first rugby training session I was thrown the rugby ball with the words ‘Go on then. Show us how to play rugby’.  Embarrassingly rugby was started a little later then in NZ.

A few enjoyable years rolled by and then the conversations started on which public school I should be sent to.  You can imagine my father’s excitement sending his son to an English Public School.  Stowe and Haileybury were the choices.  My father was persuaded to chose Haileybury.  I was sent to learn to board at St. Martins.  Passed common entrance and I was on my way.  I don’t think my father understood at the time that St Martins was a funnel for better sportsmen to arrive at Allenby House with the key purpose that Allenby should continue to be Cock House (Cock of the Roost?) at Haileybury.  That is, with the dominating theme of inter-House sporting rivalry then at Haileybury, Allenby should succeed in its quest to win just about every competition there was in order to be nominated Cock House at the end of the year.


Arriving at Haileybury was a pretty daunting experience for a 13 year old in the 1950s.  Mum and Dad dropped him off and were told not to contact him for three months ‘to give him a chance to settle in’.

Haileybury was the old East India Company College which trained administrators for the Colonies, you know, the people who set off into the unknown of distant lands with the confidence to cope with whatever they should find.  In 1942 it merged with the Imperial Service College, which itself had subsumed the United Services College, to become known as Haileybury & ISC.  So you can see it was a pretty tough tradition to live with.

Allenby House, presumably named after Field Marshall Allenby (nicknamed Bloody Bull), was unusual at Haileybury in that it sat separately from the main school and grew its own strong identity and ethic.  In a nutshell, you just had to fit in.  You couldn’t just ‘escape’ by nipping across to the Library or a friend in another House.  My House Master for a short period was the very well known RL Ashcroft who, when he died, drew the headline ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’.

So the new boy would be taken down narrow corridors, whose pavings were hollowed out by the feet of history, to the dormitory where he would sleep.  You know, everything painted in that ageing, ‘dark’ yellow and green. After a few days to find his way around he had to undergo the initiation ceremony.  That meant standing on a chest of drawers at the end of the dormitory while previous years hurled slippers and generally not too hard things at him before he ran the gauntlet through them.  He then became the fag of one of the House Prefects.  This meant getting up early throughout the term to polish his prefect’s shoes and wash the dishes from the Prefects’ Common Room’s previous evenings cooked snacks, usually things like bacon and eggs and baked beans.  The difficulty here was there was no hot water at the basin; and the free running mice had left their teeth and claw marks and shit embedded in the frying pan fat.  He also had to prepare his prefect’s kit, blanco, brass and boots, for the Combined Cadet Force Wednesday activities, well-known at Haileybury.

I was unlucky with my intake.  There were only two of us.  There were 4 the previous year which meant they exercised power over us easily.  This was made rather worse by the fact that the previous year had a successful sportsman amongst who became ‘king’, and a rather unpleasant one as I thought then.  Unfortunately, I also knew him from St Martins and would not ‘buckle down’.  I paid the price.

There were certain rules at Allenby which the previous year policed.  For example, you weren’t allowed to talk to anyone more than two terms senior to you unless spoken to first.  And you had to stand back sharply in the corridor to let the older years pass.  If you failed in this, or a complaint came through, you were ‘nervy’ and the senior term punished you as they thought fit.

Interestingly the House Masters very seldom came into the boys part of the house.  Authority was exercised by the boys themselves, varying by seniority.  The House Prefects also carried out the caning for certain misdemeanours.  For example, you got beaten if you did not exercise daily.  If there were no sports, you had to run round a prescribed run.  The caning meant kneeling on a hard-backed chair, reaching over the back to hold the legs near the floor.  Makes an good target.  These 18 year old prefects, who did the beating, also amused themselves by seeing each day who amongst them could deliver the longest, complete turd.  This meant a judged measuring with a ruler.

The living conditions were spartan too.  Allenby was lucky to have 3 dormitories.  Most of the Houses had one dormitory where 60 or 70 boys slept.  Cold baths every morning, only to be relaxed when snow was on the ground.  Water froze in the mugs in the dormitory.

I remember I cut my foot badly on a bottle neck while getting my rugby boots from the locker room.  House waste was collected in the same room.  Anyway there was blood everywhere.  I was half carried to the Sanitorium.  The doctor there, a retired Navy Commander Medic, put 4 stitches into my foot without anaesthetic.  It was immensely painful, the needle pushing through the thick skin while I lay on my stomach clutching at the bed rails.  The doctor commented to my housemaster on how well I  had coped with the pain.

The toilets at Haileybury are worth a comment.  At Allenby they were few in number and pretty disgusting, harking back to times immemorial.  Three or four stand-ups and three or four sit downs, the seat made into the china, with raised partition cubicles.  The lights frequently didn’t work and it wasn’t unusual to hear your delivery landing in dry paper.  I can’t remember basins but, if they were there, there certainly wasn’t soap. (Maybe we were being immunised against what we could catch in the Colonies.)  Haileybury’s food was very poor (though served in a magnificent communal dining room) and not unusually, for 2 or 3 days every week, everything stank of rotten cabbage, even the boys.

The toilet for the main part of the school was a work of art.  It should have been Grade 1 listed.  It was known as White City.  Imagine entering a place and walking into an open area with perhaps 50 stand-up porcelain toilets in a semi-circle in front of you, magnificently white with gleaming fittings.  Overhead a short glass roof, just enough to stop the rain hitting you while you are peeing.  Completing the semi-circle in a straight line were the sit-downs, maybe another 40 of them, two rows facing each other with a raised partition in-between, just enough so you couldn’t see the person opposite.  Each toilet had embedded strips of wood as a seat and fitted into a cubicle with raised partitions and no door.  Presumably this was to reduce the risk of you playing with yourself while you were in there.  Again, a short glass roof meant the rain couldn’t hit you (unless in exceptional weather) and the wind whistling around everywhere meant there was no smell and presumably little bacterial action.  Unfortunately it has now been removed; but the Old Boys will miss it.

There was an undertone of homosexuality at the school, not surprising, you think, with all that testosterone locked in there.  But it made it very difficult for the new, young boys who were ‘smooth’ skinned, pretty and very much out of their depth.  They were known as ‘tarts’. I don’t know what went on but presumably something did; and the House Masters were seldom to be seen in the House except perhaps just to say goodnight.

For me this came to a head, surprisingly, at my German class.  Books were handed round and collected at the end of each lesson.  Inevitably it meant the boys could write comments about each other in the fly leaf; and inevitably one boy started writing sexual comments about other boys.  It was exposed.  I was taken before the Headmaster and asked if I had written it.  ”No”, I said.  I was called back again a few days later and told they had sent the books away to handwriting experts who had agreed it was my handwriting.  ”No”, I said.”It is not mine”.  Anyway the boy who faulted was sacked (the Headmaster had the nickname The Boot); and I was beaten for good measure.

I was aflame with the injustice of it all.  I complained to everyone who would listen.  At last I was hauled before the House Master. “Lund”, he said  (and I paraphrase) “I hear you have been complaining about your beating by The Master.  Right or wrong, it is over now and, at Haileybury, you must accept your punishment like a man, and without complaint”.

I still feel rather sorry for the boy who was sacked.  He had been drawn into the practised idiom and had acted unwisely. I hope he found his way.  On my ‘final farewells’ when I left, I told The Boot that I had been unfairly treated to which he replied that he was glad I brought this up with him and that he would note it in his report and mention it to my House master.  All very East India Company stuff.

The sport at Haileybury was great, particularly if you played rugby or cricket, which I did with some success.  If you played tennis or rowed you were probably slightly ‘wet’.  Squash, Fives and Raquets happened somewhere else distantly.

The classroom stuff was pretty humdrum but no doubt learning was there if you wanted to find it.  The teachers were largely left over from the war years, people like Blimp, Bugger, Boot and Bogue (all the Bs!). One day my House Master gave me the key advice on how I should manage my stay at Haileybury.  ”Play for the Eleven and the Fifteen, become a College Prefect; and do as well as you can with your exams”.  As it happens, it was only the Navy who asked if I played for the Eleven or the Fifteen; and I didn’t really want to be there doing National Service anyway.  Everyone else, including the American University I went to, asked me for my grades.  I hadn’t a clue!

The new, young cadre of teachers came in towards the end of my stay.  One at least put his foot down, insisting that the rugby master be sacked or at least removed from his 1st team prematch, evening get-togethers during which, apparently, he would spend much of his time on his hands and knees polishing their shoes.

After Haileybury, I was conscripted into the Royal Navy as a National Service man.  Life on an HMS frigate, training midshipmen in heavy seas and weather in the English Channel, living in a junior mess with 23 people and only 14 hammock slinging spaces, using one bucket variously to wash the floor, wash the dishes and throw up in…….no problem at all.


Probably the single, great learning from the Haileybury experience and similar is that you, the individual, come second to the greater good.  This lesson learnt made life much easier for those who went on for National Service and is, perhaps, the reason why so many people have regretted its passing.  In my case, the other two significant impacts of the Haileybury experience are that now I can survive well on my own, possibly not the greatest asset if you are planning to stay married; and I am very driven to succeed competitively (if only on a ‘I’ll show you bastards’ basis).  And one more thing.  I almost forgot.  If ever I am faced with calamity (like when I heard, while working in New York, of Kennedy’s death) I find myself in a church.  Chapel at Haileybury every day, and 3 times on Sunday, has done that.  And another thing, I am only really happy if I do some exercise every day.  The threat of canings must have imprinted that.

Putting all this stuff down on paper makes me think of one of Merchant Taylors greatest old boys, Robert Clive, a.k.a. Clive of India.  The report I heard was that he was a huge success in India ‘securing the military and political supremacy of the East India Company’; but, when he came back to England, things didn’t go so well.  Maybe people were just jealous.  The parliamentarians made his life a misery.  So what did he do.  One evening he held a dinner party at his home.  At the end of the meal, possibly after port, he excused himself from the table and went to the toilet…where he committed suicide.  As he said: “Take my fortune but not my honour”.  To my mind, he could have been an Old Haileyburian.

Incidentally Haileybury also boasts, amongst its Old Boys, 18 Victoria Crosses and 3 George Medals.


Our favourite newspaper diarist, Nigel Dempster, when asked what he had gained most from the public school(s) he had attended, said that, if he got 8 years in prison, he would come out reasonably sane.  Yes.  I can understand that.

Rumour has it that a very wealthy, famous industrialist and Old Haileyburian was asked to contribute significantly to a Haileybury Fund.  ’You must be joking” he apparently said, “my years at Haileybury were the most miserable and unhappy years of my life”.

I revisited Haileybury in the 1990s.  A business colleague of mine, who had had State education and had made some money, wanted his son to go to Public School (as they do!).  We had a business meeting in Hertford so it was easy to detour for a brief visit.  The main quadrangle and the classical terrace at Haileybury are clearly magnificent.  Seeing them again, I thought to myself “What have you been going on about?”  Then we went into some of the Houses and classrooms.  It had barely changed since I was there: the same gnarled and ancient dilapidation.  ”So how will your boy enjoy this”, I asked.  ”I think James will miss his home comforts” came back the reply.

It may have looked the same visually. No doubt though the new generations of teachers have made their mark; and girls as students there must help too.

I had spoken to a number of business colleagues over the years who had ‘suffered’ similarly at their schools and vowed never to expose their children to the same experience. But they have, almost to a man, relented.  They didn’t want to endanger their children’s future in any way.  It’s a thing about England’s better off middle classes, both with health and education: if you have paid for it, at least you have tried.

My view, for what it is worth, is that children of 14 and younger should not be sent away from the love and support of their own families unless there are exceptional circumstances.  And again, if it is true 50% of education should be gained from the parents, then I should prefer my children to grow up to benefit from my family standards and experience rather than those of people I know nothing about and perhaps have never met.

Mottoes Fear God, Honour The King
Sursum Corda (Lift up your Hearts)










Click here -  Compelling Selling – The Lund Fish


* All skilled sales negotiations have a structure: a beginning, a middle and an end.  You must start at the beginning, handle the middle with no stone unturned, and sail through to the end, closing successfully on the enticing offer.  They are not conversations that drift around in the hope you will somehow arrive in the right place

* The 3 areas you must succeed in covering are

  1. Does the customer want your product or service?
  2. Does the customer want it from you?
  3. And how is (s)he going to have it??


* Questions give you control of the subject under discussion

* As Kipling said, “I keep six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. Their names were HOW and WHY and WHEN and WHAT and WHERE and WHO

Questions beginning HOW, WHY, WHEN, WHERE, WHAT & WHO elicit qualitative response which tells you what the customer actually thinks about it

* Questioning begins with the general and moves to the specific – the objective: Is there a market for your product or service here?  They start with the weather, or something you notice in the office (not too long but you are clearly a nice, interesting & interested guy), move on to the markets the customer competes in, then on to the area in which the customer works and manages; and finally on to the specific subject of future discussion

*Remember.  You only have one chance to make a good first impression

*Two key decsions have to be reached now. Are there issues here which your product or service can resolve?  And is the customer you are speaking to the decision maker?  Make sure he is




*With the customer’s operational issues identified, you must now determine the criteria he will wish to satisfy to remedy them in the decision

*The customer knows more about the issues; but you know more about the solutions and how they will innovate on the customer’s needs.  You continue with your same Kiplingesque question patterns.

*The customer will tell you his view of the best solutions for each of the operational needs; and with your expertise you can weight and agree the order of their importance. You can even add new solution deliveries particular to your ‘product’; and outweigh those where you are a little weaker or where your competitor perhaps has an advantage.

*If you do this beautifully, the customer will agree a description for the total solution sought which, surprise surprise, matches almost exactly the benefits your product or service deliver

*Make sure nothing is omitted: “Are there any aspects you would like to add to your list?” And then resummarise: “You said you want this for this very good reason, and also this (2) which is equally important too, and this (3)…; and you said this (4) was’nt particulary important (funnily enough, a competitor benefit too!) if you could have this (5) instead…..” etc

*Personalise your comments with YOU and YOUR

*During this phase, you must prehandle any likely objections such delay in ordering: “If the solution only sorted out this one issue, it would be worth doing immediately, wouldn’t it?

*Same with value. Value reduces cost. You must add value to the decision wherever you can: “Imagine the saving this would bring you alone”  “It would be worth buying the product or service if it only added this attribute to your operational performance, wouldn’t it? It’s a game changer!

*But never mention competition by name.  It is only free advertising.  If competition does come up, kill it with faint praise: “Yes.  This is a very good product or service and an excellent competitor.  Unfortunately (and as it happens, I am plesed to say) in your particular circumstance it would not fit in with your particular requirements.

*And then the TRIAL CLOSE: “IF I COULD show you that my product or service would solve all these issues we have discussed and solve them cost effectively, WOULD YOU place your order with me?”

*Note you have not discussed your product or service yet in any detail!!


*But you do now.  You talk about your product for the first time.  You show how the benefits that flow from the feautures of your product or service meet each of the customer’s decision criterion, one by one

*You extend each benefit with the words “which means……which means… and which in turn means” to extend the implications of each benefit as they apply to the customers criterion, so creating a benefit chain.  “This is quite exciting” says the customer

*And you add weight to each positive benefit chain by comparing it with the negative benefit chain.  What would happen if the customer did not have these benefits: “Imagine what would happen if you stayed where you are. This would happen which means your staff would be thrown into confusion which means you would suffer these organisation failures which means you would have to face these crippling costs as well as unhappy customers”

*As you handle each criterion for ordering, you check to make sure the customer agrees your product does in fact handle this particular issue: “Are you happy that this approach will provide the solution you are looking for with this particular issue?”

*Each of the criteria now handled, you must now check the customer is happy with the total solution: “You said your current system gave this major problem which is the reason you wanted to talk with me in the first place;  and you agreed that our offering more than gave you the solution you are seeking.  You also said that you have these other issues 2..3..& 5 and agreed our benefits 2..3..& 4 would create the ideal environment for you.  Are you still in agreement with this way forward?  Or is there anything I have omitted?

*Yes” says the customer. “I am extremely happy with this solution.  Your product for service is exactly what I have been looking for for a number of years.  In fact it gives me far more than I could have hoped for”

* You are now ready to close.  “Are you now happy to proceed on this basis?”

*You have shown the customer what the customer wants.  Now you must show how it can happen.


*Objections will show exactly what must be done for the order to be placed, for the ‘sale’ to go ahead.  They are ‘the signposts’ for the way to the decision

*Price is always an objection.  No-one buys things because they are cheap.  They must want it first.  They will want it if you show it to be particularly good value.  It will be cheap if the value to be delivered far outweighs the cost of purchase; and vice versa

*Price should never be discussed until now, until you have successfully showed value

*First you must check if it is a ‘sincere’ objection: “If I could sort this out for you, would you be ready to go ahead on the basis we have discussed?”  The trial close again

*I would have one if it were blue?…Where could I install it?….What are the payment terms?… When could you deliver it?…are all buying signals.  The customer is ready to place the order.  Make sure you cover off any remaining key points…..and close



*There are 5 closing techniques to keep in mind -

  • The alternative close.  You reduce the pressure by offering a choice instead of asking directly: “Would you like the big one or would you prefer to start with the small one?”  “Would you prefer a red one of a blue one?” It’s a great way to set an appointment: Shall we meet Monday at 3; or would you prefer Wednesday at 11.30?”
  • The assumptive close. Again you reduce the pressure by assuming the decision is made and it is only a question of – “Where would you like it installed?” or “When would you like it delivered” or “How would you like to arrange payment?”
  • The trial close.  “If I could….would you…?”  “If I could sort out this issue for you, would you be happy to go ahead with your order?”
  • The provisional order close. “As this has to go to the Board, may I suggest you place your order now, provisional on Board acceptance.  This will expedite delivery for you.”
  • The direct close.  “Are you happy to place your order now?” A positive negotiation, a positive agreement to proceed, a positive close.  There is nothing stronger when you have done it beautifully and, so, nothing better.

*Remeber. For the customer signing the order is an emotional moment.  It precludes any further choice.  Be sure you have made the decision easy

*Remember too the power of SILENCE.  When you have asked for the acceptance of anything throughout the sale, say what you have to say and be SILENT.  Never be drawn in by the customer’s silence to answer the question for him, to offer compensatory remarks.  Decisions take time for the customer.  Give that respect

*With the decision made, put the order in your pocket, congratulate a good decision, detail the steps to be taken to assure a good delivery; AND LEAVE.  Be a good leaver


*…is made even more enticing by the high value the customer perceives he will gain by buying your product or service


*If you want to fill in the details of the sale, go to

*If you know the details but want a handbook of reminders, go to

*If you know the details, and don’t need any reminding, go to Confucius