Writing (and speaking) made easy – Part 1 – The Pervasive Nature of Selling

It’s funny how coincidences happen. In the last few days, I’ve been in conversation with three different clusters of people all of whom were trying to do similar things – they either had to prepare a document for publication, deliver a speech, or start blogging.

Are they the same thing? Well, although there are obvious differences, to my way of thinking they are almost identical – they are each trying to sell something. They have an idea and they want others to be interested in it.

If you think about it, almost all the interactions we have at work are somehow or other involved in selling – we’re selling an expectation of a level of performance, a way of doing something, the desire to do it in the first place, and so on. In every case, we want someone else to do something and they don’t have to do so, and therein lies the sale. Some will be easy, some will be hard, but all involve selling of some kind.


Businesses are steeped in processes. They have procedures for this, procedures for that, rules, dictats, systems, and so on. Some people kid themselves that they invented this, that, or the other, methodology and then go on to make it out to be their intellectual property (IP). Of course, some such claims are legitimate – somewhere I used to have a copy of the patent application for putting bubbles in chocolate bars – now that IS a neat bit of IP. Sadly, though I reckon that many of these approaches are actually nothing more than one person’s attempt to appear clever.

A long time ago, I worked for a guy who figured he had invented the definitive approach to organisational change. Don’t get me wrong – he knew his stuff – he could quote all the original authors and so on – but he produced a simple six step diagram and by repeating it to himself so many times, he began to believe that he had invented the new sliced bread. One of his favourite quotes was from Alvin Toffler – that “change is the only constant”. He could rattle it off with a wonderful dramatic emphasis. One day, he was working through his standard pitch when a business leader stopped him and said, “Mr R, thank you, but your model simply takes us from one state of stasis to another, that’s not what anyone needs – as you said; ‘change is the only constant’ – I suggest that you rethink your model and come back when you’ve tried out the new version somewhere else.”

Over lunch a few months ago, I demonstrated to one prospective consultant that I too could create a super-model to describe group dynamics – their field. Let’s try it as I type…

We’ll think of a topic… With COP15 on the horizon, let’s try something to do with climate adaptation – I know.. a model for the collection and validation of research data will do.


We begin with a sexy acronym – a short word that anyone can relate to, albeit in different ways. Let’s try STOOL. Nice word, conveys images of Val Doonican to some, milking parlours to others.

Problem solving methodologies have been around since pre-civilisation, and although they differ a little, most have two phases – a divergent one and a convergent one. This is just a simple case of problem solving and decision making, so let’s try diverging and converging steps in our STOOL model…

We begin with something nice and big – a SURVEY, which generates lots of information, though it’s not easy to relate the different strands, because they are in different languages, from different sources, and different disciplines. So we have to TRANSLATE the data. It is critical to get new opinions whenever we do anything otherwise we are in danger of missing something, so we need to take our newly translated findings and make them OPEN so others can comment. Collecting their feedback we ORGANISE both the old and the new data and then we produce a report about it – we LITERATE. There you go, we have a STOOL model for the collection and validation of climate adaptation data.

Of course, we then have to sell that model to the world’s scientists, academics, and politicians. But first, we’ll say it over and over to ourselves until we are convinced that it is ‘robust’ and then we’ll slap a little TM or (C) on it so others will think it is more profound than it really was.

Now, I’m sure that you and I would never be so stupid as to think that this model had any potential what-so-ever, however there are a lot of folks out there who do exactly the same thing as I have just done, and then they sell that model. Having the idea is only a tiny part of the journey to success – the toughest bit is in the selling!


Now, I am very fortunate, because donkey’s years ago, I was offered the chance to attend a course. It was one of a series, delivered by one of the most successful management and leadership training institutions around – with a track record that stretched back to the 1920s. They taught lots of topics within their portfolio, but the consistent theme in them all was that getting anything done involved people relating to one another and specifically, getting someone else to do something that you wanted them to do.

They too had a model. It was exactly the same kind of thing as I have illustrated just now, with exactly the same health warnings. But they knew that. They weren’t so silly as to think that the secret lay in the model; they knew that the difference lay in the relationship between people. It was in the application of the model rather than the words themselves.

Their model was just a way of helping us structure our approach to influencing the other person.

I’m about to share that model with you, because I happen to find it incredibly useful, but I don’t want you to forget that it is still only a model.

Time to go on to part two…

Best wishes
Graham Wilson

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