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Regardless whether the economy is recovering, or sinking in your specific region or industry, one thing remains constant: you need to drive up sales to boost your business.


While most sales people are valued for their assertiveness and action-orientation, sometimes it makes sense to stay calm and observe before making your move.  After all, moving too fast and over-committing yourself in the market could drain your resources too fast, leading to wastage.


Hence, this month's topics:

  1. Zen and the Art of Sales & Marketing; and

  2. Having the Winning Attitude at Work, and in Life

This issue's main article is on "Zen and the Art of Sales & Marketing", and we will share with you some tips and insights on how sales people and business leaders can sometimes be more aware of their external surroundings and internal thoughts to achieve greater results.


In brief:

  • If you are not awake, you are asleep.  And if you are asleep, your customers will buy from someone else;

  • You can observe a lot by "just watching".  You can observe and learn a lot from success and failure stories.  You can also spot hidden opportunities and resources if you look hard enough;

  • Be an empty cup.  Many sales people make the mistake of making way too many assumptions and quick judgments about customers, competitors, markets and even themselves.  It may make sense to slow down and reflect once in a while.   Read on... ...

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Zen and the Art of Sales & Marketing


by c.j. Ng



Anthony was given the task of doubling the sales target of his region again this year.  He has been doubling his team's sales targets consecutively for the past 3 years, that everyone thought he is a Superman. 


Everyone, except Anthony himself.


3 years ago, the company Anthony had just launched a winning product that had a huge demand in the market.  Prior to this, the company had very little sales, and was still struggling.


With the launch of the new product, sales shot up like a rocket.  Anthony was part of the action too.  After all, it's not enough to just have a winning product.  Someone has to sell it too.


Anthony worked hard to educate the market.  Soon enough, he had to build a sales team to get the product out to as many customers as possible in a short time.  Hence, sales has been doubling for the last 3 years.


However, when Anthony received news that he had to double sales again in the 4th year, he's beginning to have doubts.  He had built such a sizable market now, and to double that is going to be a lot more harder.  Furthermore, competitors had also come in to his market with new competing products.  It's not like 3 years ago where he had the definitive winning product without any competitor.


One thing is clear in Anthony's mind.  If he merely repeated his tried-and-proven sales strategies, he won't be hitting a 100% growth.  He might not even maintain the same level of sales results as well, and competition is fierce.  He had to do something different, and unlike most sales people, Anthony decided to think and observe first, before taking action.


If You are Not Awake, You are Asleep

It is common knowledge amongst many sales people that the first couple of years in the sales job are the toughest.  You start out without much customer contacts, and you don't have a customer base.
When you start making sales, you will also get more customers who could be repeat buyers, and this forms your customer base.  The good thing about having a customer base is that you can have some peace of mind knowing that a certain percentage of your sales targets will be provided by your existing customer base.  In some cases, some sales people have as high as 80% or even 100% of their sales targets contributed by their existing customer base.
However, the downside of your customer base is that it may give you a false sense of security, so much so that you may over-rely on your customer base, and not working hard enough to develop new leads and get new customers.
More importantly, if you feel too comfortable, you may not be awake enough to notice subtle changes that are taking place within your customers, or in the marketplace such as:
  • Customers could be completely satisfied with you, but due to changes in their emerging purchasing strategies or policies, they may reduce their purchase from you;
  • Customers could be making a change in their purchasing criteria, and you may not be best positioned to meet their new needs;
  • Competitors could have crept in and have been slowly stealing your customer without you noticing;
  • There are new customers out there in the market that could have provided you with new sales opportunities that you are not aware of;
  • Your current sales and marketing strategy may have been outdated, and is not generating your expected levels of business results;
Hence, if you are not being wide awake in keeping your eyes open to your customers, your competitors, the market place and other factors that could affect you, you are in fact sleeping.  And if you are asleep for too long, your customers will just simply switch and buy from someone else.
Whenever you feel comfortable about achieving your sales targets, you may just want to help yourself stay awake by asking yourself:
  • If there's a change in the customers' management, will there be a reason for them to buy from someone else, and not from us?
  • If you are your competitor, how would you want to steal this customer away?  What are some ways of preventing or reducing the likelihood that this could happen?
  • Are there changes in the market that will make it less desirable for the customer to buy from you?  What can you do to make yourself more appealing to your existing and potential customers?

You can Observe a Lot by Just Watching


Being awake allows you to keep your eyes open to potential opportunities and threats.  You still need to figure out how you can capitalise on certain opportunities, and resolve the threats you face.


One way of finding out what you could do next by watching and observing what goes around you.  You can choose to observe:

The success of in China comes at the expense of eBay in China.  Essentially, was able to win over a lot of eBay China's online merchants, thus making itself the bigger platform with more choices available for end users.  It was successful in getting a majority market share from eBay China within the first 3 years of its launch, from 2002 to 2005. started as an imitation of eBay.  However, it had been keenly observing how their merchant and end users interact with eBay and itself, and was able to customised its user interface and services to enhance the user experience such as:

  • Shifting from auctions to fixed-price-selling, since most of its online merchants are small business owners, NOT individuals auctioning of some used items;

  • Providing an escrow payment facility, so that if end customers need a refund, their rights will be protected;

  • Allowing end users to choose the desired size, or colour, or other preferences with just a few clicks, etc.  In this instance, probably had gotten the inspiration from other online shopping sites, beyond just looking at eBay.

Legend has it that the home button of iPhones, iPads and by extension most smartphones and tablets got the inspiration from something unrelated.


According to the legend, the engineer who was tasked to design the first iPhone with no more than one button on the phone got his inspiration from the toilet.  Apparently, he was finishing his business in the toilet when he flushed the toilet bowl, and then he realised that the flush was also a "one button solution" for the toilet bowl.


You could push for a half-flush, or a full-flush or even flush-and-hold.  And if one flush does not finsih the work for you, you may need to flush twice.  Hence, we get similar functions with the home button, whether we press once or twice to get us where we want to go on our smart devices.


Be an Empty Cup


While we could draw inspiration from just about anywhere, from our customers to our competitors to something that's totally unrelated, most of us either reject such observations as rubbish, or that such observations simply go unnoticed.


Some of the reasons why we don't learn from our observations could be:

  • We might be overly judgmental, and could kill ideas and discourage ourselves or other to contribute new ideas;

  • We may not want to take risks in trying out new ideas or new ways of doing things, since some of those new ideas WILL fail;

  • We had tried something similar in the past before, and it didn't work.  However, since times have changed so whatever didn't work before could have a new application that could work out well in a different situation;

  • We might have a "not invented here" mindset, whereby new ways of doing things (not to mention the competitor's way of working) are much less readily accepted in our organisation;

  • We may need to communicate and gain buy-in with our internal colleagues, so that they see the value of our observations and ideas. etc.

Hence, in the case of our opening scenario, if Anthony were to make any attempts to try to grow sales by 100%, here are some suggestions on what ideas he could try out:

  • Make a list of new, potential ways of prospecting customers that Anthony and his team had not thought of, or had not really put into practice;

  • Make a list of the people in the current customers' organisations that could have some impact on their buying process, but the sales team hasn't really been in contact with them much;

  • Make a list of other usages and applications that the products that the sales team is selling, of which could appeal to a totally different group of customers;

  • Make a list of potential prospects or market segments that the sales team have not really gone into contact with;

  • Make a list of the ways which the sales force handles customers' objections, price pressures and concerns, and then make another list of ways not used by the sales force before.

As the definition of insanity could to to use the same strategies over and over again and expect a better result, sometimes a touch of Zen in looking at the world differently and take some non-linear actions could produce some quantum improvements in your business results.


Need help in coming up with innovative and unusual strategies that could help you exceed your sales targets? Simply e-mail info@directions-consulting.comm or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

Power Breakfast Hour:  18 Jul 2013

Zen and the Art of Sales & Marketing

  • How to stay wide awake so that you observe and take notice of the subtle changes in your customers, competitors and market sentiments;

  • How you can draw inspiration and find workable solutions by observing your customers, competitors and just about everything else;

  • What needs to be done BEFORE  you can implement breakthrough ideas and solutions that deliver quantum improvements in your business results.

VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)

DATE: Thursday,  18 Jul 2013

TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.




To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations to


Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Tips for Working Professionals:

Having the Winning Attitude at Work, and in Life

c.j. Ng
Master Trainer, Asia, Leadership IQ


Recently, the Acting Manpower Minister of Singapore made a speech about work ethic.  He said, "The best form of welfare is work, because the dignity that comes with work is very important.  To be able to provide for your own family, to stand on your own two feet, I think there's a value that comes from that that public assistance cannot replace."


Being an entrepreneur, those words resonated with what my values are, and what I personally believe will be values that will lead to success, regardless if you run your own business, or work as an employee.

Unfortunately, responses on social media take it that the Minister meant one has to work till he/ she drops dead, and that one has to end up working as toilet cleaners after retirement in order to support oneself.  Some responses even suggests that desirable work is to have a comfortable pay-check without having to learn new skills.

While there are statistics pointing that Singapore has the highest income inequality compared to the OECD countries, having a defeatist or passive-aggressive attitude is not going to help anyone get better outcomes at work, as well as in life.


There's ONLY 2 Kinds of Attitude

Generally speaking, we can catergorise attitudes in 2 broad catergories:

  • Problem-bringers; and

  • Problem-solvers

Problem-bringers are those who saw a problem, then complains incessantly about those problems, lay blame on others who (might) have cause those problems, and do absolutely nothing about it.


In a certain way, some political analysts believe that part of the reason why Mitt Romney lost the American Presidential Election of 2012 was that he complained too much, and suggested too little possible solutions.


Problem-Solvers, on the other hand, are NOT the Super-men or women who have solutions to every problem.  Instead, they are the ones who will try to suggest solutions, consult with others to help get a solution, or at least get people explore ways to tackle the causes of the problems that we could not solve today.


Problem-Solvers are what we would normally call a "positive attitude" or a "winning attitude", and this is usually what we advocate as the attitude to look out for when we hire people.


However, personally I believe that this is also the attitude if one wants to get a better outcome at work, and in life.  It's the attitude that helps us to pick ourselves up when we have stumbled, and learn from our mistakes or acquire new skills so that we can achieve more.


As it is, way too many people complain too much about their jobs, bosses, and yes their governments.  While it's true that some governments are corrupted, some companies are dysfunctional, and some bosses are simply a*****es, you can choose to change them, or leave them if it gets real bad.  However, if the attitude remains as the "Problem-Bringer" negative attitude, then you will ALWAYS face difficulties and obstacles wherever you go.  You will also gain less support and buy-in from your colleagues, friends and family members in whatever you do.  In other words, life will be miserable because of a negative attitude.


Hence, if you want to be happier or give yourself a leg-up in face of difficult challenges, sometimes it's a matter of adjusting your attitude.  Even if you fail today, you can still stand-up and move forward another day.  In the words of Sun Tzu, "If you can march 1,000 miles and NOT feel tired, you are undefeatable."  Because your adversaries, be they people or circumstances, will have given up, but not you.


To find out how you develop good Attitude and 39 other eLearning topics by Leadership IQ, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001


About Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


Raybattle is the strategic partner of Directions Management Consulting specialising in experiential learning events and management retreats.


Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Freudenberg etc.


Through collaboration with consultancies such as Forum Corporation, MTI, de Bono China, ProWay etc., the consultants in Directions Management Consulting have served clients such as PwC, Air Products, Evonik, Wacker, Epson amongst others.


Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


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