When people are asked to describe what elements are needed to set up a company, the answers often tend to come in boxes – a leadership box, a finance box, a manufacturing box and a selling box.

However, in today’s multichannel world, traditional methods of operating a company and marketing and selling its products have changed. The very definition of each department has altered beyond what people in the mid 20th century would have thought of as normal.

The UK public relations industry has always nervously eyed the role of sales in its organizational structure because, well, we should walk the talk. We should attract new business by doing what we do best, which is raising our brand and our profile through the subtle art of media management and influence.

But if all of your competitors are also doing this, how do you become “different”? How do you stand out?

Phil Lewis runs a management consultancy called Corporate Punk. Every day, he meets expert leaders seeking to plow a different furrow. Looking for new ways to shape their business and improve its position through a clever retooling of the company collective mindset.

I asked Phil whether it was possible to create a culture of selling across an entire organization, tailored for the 21st Century. How does he help companies take a different view of their commercial ecosystem and help them to make the best of it and have his entire team on board?

Years ago, when we first met, you were looking after strategy for an advertising agency. Even then, your focus on the intent and purpose of any campaign was refreshingly different. How does this approach parlay into the bigger picture of management consultancy and what is Corporate Punk’s ‘special sauce’?

“I’m not sure we could have developed our approach without our collective creative industry experience. Watching agencies succeeding and failing to bring the creative and innovative best out of their people over many years was the inspiration behind Corporate Punk.

“Traditional management consultants interpret people as figures in a spreadsheet. Rational units who work in uniform ways. Robots needing a tune-up! That was fine in the 20th century, where success was driven by efficiency – by optimising performance on the factory floor. But these days success is driven by increasing revenues not decreasing costs, and by competing on differentiators other than price. That means that the humanity and creativity of people is most business’s biggest asset. Most management consultancies have no idea how to maximise this. We do.”

How does a company maximize its potential to attract new business and grow in an increasingly noisy cluttered marketplace?

“You have to be unafraid to be radically different. That doesn’t mean looking different, it means behaving differently to everyone else. The world does not need another mediocre creative industry or consulting business.

“Take your convictions to their end point: explore them, state them firmly, and build what you do around them. Most businesses lack the courage to do this. In turn, they end up missing their mark. People think that it’s brave to be different. I’d argue it’s braver to be bland: your survival chances are lower.”

What do you think has been the biggest millstone for companies that traditionally rely on their sales people to be its only selling tool?

“Businesses only have two functions; to make things and to sell things. These are company-wide responsibilities: if you are not doing or supporting one or the other (occasionally both), you are not really contributing. People’s failure to grasp this fundamental truth is a major millstone in my experience. Within the creative industries, a belief that selling is not critical to success – or that it’s someone else’s responsibility – has long held many businesses back.”

How does a company get all of its employees to buy in to the idea of being part of its selling culture, and what are the advantages of doing so?

“I remember hearing Alan Weiss, a famous US consultant, describing selling as ‘identifying whether we have an opportunity to contribute’. And that was a major lightbulb moment for me. I went from perceiving sales as a grubby, ‘wide boy’ style endeavour to a process that can be genuinely additive to both parties involved. Overnight, it pretty much cured me of my fear of selling.

“Businesses that have a strong and healthy sales culture are those that can mobilise most effectively to achieve new, interesting and disruptive things. Find a successful disruptor that can’t sell! No-one at Corporate Punk gets away without selling. And they wouldn’t want to. That’s how it should be.”

When employees tell you “I’m not a sales person” or “I can’t sell” how do you respond?

“Seek to understand what’s driving their fear of sales – because fear is all that’s holding them back. Fear of rejection is the most common problem. But if the sales process is about identifying opportunities to contribute, then by definition it’s two-way. A client that needs your contribution will rarely reject you if that need is clear. A client that doesn’t need your contribution is one that you should be happy to walk away from. Fear plays no part in that equation.”

Companies love to say “We’re different” but it’s often the case that they are all saying the same thing. How do you help companies to identify their unique elements and turn them into selling points?

“I think it starts with understanding what – if anything – an organisation is doing that is genuinely different. Difference can’t come from personality or promises; it is only driven by expertise and experience. In my mentoring practice I work with agencies and other creative businesses who need to uncover this. You might be surprised by the extent to which companies bury, ignore or walk away from their actual points of difference. That’s another common way that fear shows up.”

What gives you the most reward when you have completed a project?

“I only care about the answer to one question: were things better as a result of my and the team’s involvement? I don’t care how hard the journey is, if the answer’s yes, that’s reward enough for me. Corporate Punk is my attempt to cut away everything that doesn’t directly deliver that outcome. “

There is a maxim in the world of sales that goes “Always be selling”. In this commercial world of multiple, noisy routes to market, PR agencies need to create not just a point of difference in their communications, they need to create a point of difference in their mindset; the whole approach to the generation of new prospects and opportunities.

That difference comes when a company has a visible personality and – to quote another sales aphorism: “The buyer buys the seller, not the salt”.

Phil Lewis runs Corporate Punk, a management consultancy… that isn’t. Because it doesn’t slash for efficiency. It helps clients build for innovation, resilience, growth. Instilling agility, embedding better, happier ways of working. You can contact him on 07972 143966 or by email.

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If the three founding partners at Beehive were likened to a band, it would have to be a supergroup.

Like most of these epic collaborations have done to the music industry, Martin Galton, Greg Jordan and Tim Hollins’ roots in the creative industry have had seismic effects on where it is now.

Galton is a magnet for creative awards, having picked up over 120 global gongs for his creative direction. He’s also a poet and when he’s not coming up with alliterative couplets, he’s running his creative oasis – Beehive.

Jordan is a celluloid sensei. His knowledge of working in film and TV is unparalleled. From Hollywood to Hoxton, Jordan’s canny production skills have earned him cult status in the ad world.

Hollins’ brand planning expertise and his ability to simplify, means he’s in demand for brand consulting coaching all around the world.

Together, they represent an awesomely knowledgeable and seasoned triumvirate that has the power to make the jargon and complication go away and say something original.

So it behooves every CMO reading this, to take responsibility for owning their own copy of The Beehive team’s creative compendium – How to Avoid Brand Bullshit, a no-nonsense guide to branding. Like modern day Lightermen, Galton, Jordan and Hollins will help you steer your brand ship, through today’s acronym-riddled, jargon-infested marketing waters.

And I’ve got copies of this book to give away, free (well for the price of a few keystrokes anyway). But more of that later, allow me to whet your appetite further.

This book is a must-read for brand managers, offering quick reference bon mots that will help any modern brand-savvy manager filter out the white noise and hone in on the perfect pitch. But it’s more than that; it’s a general guide to running a business too. In today’s marketing-driven business world, there’s something for everyone. There are innovative ideas you may not have thought about and there are neat aphorisms that you need to be reminded about.

How to Avoid Brand Bullshit is a stripped-down, full of wisdom, no-nonsense book to help businesses and brands. It’s a pocket-sized tool box, designed to be practical. It’s also been art directed by the legendary Paul Belford, who has commanded the creative wellspring of agencies such as TBWA, Ogilvy and AMV BBDO, to name but a few.

The book simply breaks down the subject of ‘Brand’ into its four main components: The Brand thing, the Communication thing, the Creative thing and the Production thing. Each section is seasoned with the essence of each “thing”, allowing the reader to shoot their particular brand issue through the prism of our elders, betters and wisers.

Simply put, Galton, Jordan and Hollins run a factory that makes creative things whose buyers are agencies and in-house brand teams seeking the exceptional. When their advice is given, it’s worth lending your ear.

You can buy their witty tome at Amazon or direct from their website:

What a complex animal we are. We’re full of contradictions and ironies; it’s what makes us human, after all.

One week, we’re heading helter-skelter towards new technological frontiers and the very next day, we’re moaning because our online bank has changed the login process and we’re suddenly greeted with the unfamiliar when it should be the familiar.

“Why do they keep changing things?” we say. Only yesterday, we were pushing the envelope but today, we literally wish we still used envelopes.

We wake up every day to an increasingly unfamiliar world.

So why do we feel so torn between what we know and what we want? When we get what we want it’s often like trying to take a drink from a fire hose and we’re presented with multiple changes to multiple areas of our lives.

So many changes, sometimes that we begin to feel overwhelmed.

If you’ve ever read 1970’s book Future Shock by futurist Alvin Toffler, you’ll see a pattern so familiar that it’s as relevant today as it was when your mother was hot stuff.

Change is accelerating. Changes bombard our nervous systems, requiring quick decisions. New values and new technologies flood into our lives. The pressure of fast change forces us to question all we’ve been taught.

And if products and services, people and their lifestyles, employers and work life change so rapidly, how do the experts slow that roll to a manageable rate that doesn’t shock our system?

There is a maxim in the world of Futurism:

To sell something familiar, you have to make it surprising; to sell something surprising, you have to make it familiar.

It speaks for itself but it implies that too much change, too quickly can lose consumers. Change needs to mature like wine and it needs references that consumers can identify with.

I was chatting recently with leading UK brand expert Rob Bloxham, who runs the recently enlarged Orb brand design agency and he offered some insight into this increasingly rapid rate of evolution in our lives – specifically, the question of how to future-proof a brand and whether the experts build redundancy into a brand’s lifespan:

“I think we need to look at disposability from two lenses,” he said. “There is one lens where we are looking at an actual product or service that customers use and there is another that goes beyond the tangible and into the emotional connection that brands have with users.

Rob continued: “When we are building a brand for an organisation, we’re looking to create something that doesn’t have a shelf life; One that’s built on a clear set of values and a purpose that serves as the basis for inspiration for all the products and services to come. You future-proof this through thorough research—if you can build a brand after one session then it’s probably not going to be something that sticks around for long.

“You have to do immersive internal and external research to match what inspires the team with what inspires customers. When it comes to products or services, that’s a conversation we need to have with the client up front, e.g. how long do you think this will last in the current market? You want and need to be savvy with your investment. If it’s a trendy product then we can build a brand that fades along with the trend. If it’s a company with ambition to last 100 years then we need to think as forward as we can.”

And there is a unique difference between B2C brands and B2B brands. B2C brands usually require a lot more research and evaluation before launching onto the market.

Rob explains: “The process is the same it’s just the methodology that slightly changes. We start with internal research and then challenge those insights with external research. Therefore, with B2B we might facilitate 1:1 client interviews to gauge the audience needs, whereas with B2C we might need to look at focus groups, surveys or a new innovative way of capturing insight. “

With B2B brands, there tends to be a greater degree of permanence, not affected by quickly evolving generations of users, whereas consumer brands need agility. Rob cites the case of British Home Stores, which was a great brand that ultimately failed to adapt to the modern British shopper.

And it’s not just products, but entire organisations that evolve, morph and rebuild more rapidly than ever. At the time of writing Future Shock in 1970’s, Toffler reported that McKinsey & Company proposed internal restructuring for the Top 100 companies every two years. These days, says Bloxham it needs to be prioritised a lot more regularly: “Strong brands will make brand an item on every management meeting agenda–monthly, half-yearly, annually, whatever your organisation’s timings look like. If you wait two years to figure out whether or not you’ve upheld your brand promises you’ll turn off both staff and customers.

“You’ve got to create proof every day that your brand is more than words and pretty pictures. Your brand spells out your purpose as an organisation outside of the nuts and bolts. If you’re not using that purpose to motivate your staff and inspire better customer experiences then you’re wasting your investment.”

Future Shock also highlights the speed of decision making as a contributor to this illness of progress. In days of old, hierarchical structures meant that decisions made on the front line, needed approving and referring up the food chain to the Directors and then actions to be taken were bounced back down the chain, causing a natural lag between cause and effect. These days, with more flat, open company structures and delegation skills in play, decisions can be made and acted upon in real time. This means that brands and products can evolve at a quicker pace for some and not so for others. So how does this impact on the branding process?

“Flat structures tend to be much quicker,” says Bloxham “[but] even hierarchical structures can make quick decisions if they prioritise the project and put the right people in the room when new information is presented and recommendations are suggested.”

Bloxham is adamant that focus is the key to executing a quick, relatively painless brand evolution; “Projects slow down when businesses get their heads stuck back into the day-to-day and stop paying attention. Every phone call, meeting, report, and presentation could change the future of your business. Make those touch points matter and you’ll be in for a smooth ride.”

This brings us back to the fear of change: the scary view of all the things to be considered during a rebrand. What started out as a neat idea in the boardroom suddenly seems too big of a project to complete. Professionals like Bloxham usually undertake research insights, which gives the branding group an accurate portrayal of where the business is, “warts and all,” says Bloxham.

Some changes impact a company right across its business. Clients can sometimes find this too daunting to undertake but, like all of us wishing we still operated with hand-written letters, we need to realise that growth means change and companies like Orb are geared up to help guide a company through those changes.

As Bloxham says, his clients often don’t realise how connected they are to the old brand and they forget to think about all of the things they liked – probably like Jerry Hall felt about leaving Bryan Ferry – especially when we compare him against old Ebenezer Murdoch.

It’s a big decision, not to be taken lightly but necessary all the same. Fear of change can be alleviated by preparing yourself for change: “If you wanted the same design just slightly tweaked you wouldn’t have come to a brand agency,” says Bloxham.

Assemble your team, choose only the key people that need to be involved and make it clear who has the final decision.

Your brand’s Avalon can be reached if you apply more haste and less speed, which is, I think, the key to avoiding Future Shock.

Always be prepared to accept change in all areas of your life – especially in business but embrace it with due diligence, focus, and attention to detail.

Rushing into Mick Jagger’s arms from the Ferry man’s warm caress could well end in Sticky Fingers and leave you Stranded.