< View all issues of Sphere

Mind Your Ps and Qs

belly boardIn November my Mum will be 86 – an extraordinary woman (who gave birth to an amazing son) who still skis black runs every year in the Alps. This summer she invested in a new belly board from The Original Surfboard Company but for the first time ever resorted to wearing a wetsuit in the boisterous and cool Cornish waters.

As you might expect from a British stalwart she is still very firm and ticks me off when I use bad language or incorrect grammar, so I have to mind my Ps and Qs.

“Ps and Qs” refer to good manners, saying your Pleases and Thank Yous (although Wikipedia does have some other theories on the definition).

It’s also good manners to listen and show genuine interest when people are talking. Not listening and talking about yourself is considered bad manners.

This brings me nicely onto another type of Ps and Qs and I confess, one of my hobby-horses – Proposals and Quotes. As a sales coach I love to look at proposals, or so-called proposals, because they are a clue to where a salesperson, team or company is focused. Nine times out of ten they aren’t a proposal at all but a product specification and a price with no expression of interest in the customer. How very rude!

For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a CFO or CEO choosing between two suppliers:

Supplier A: who just sends a Quote – product specification and a price; or

Supplier B: who takes more care and sends a Proposal – that opens with your objectives, why these are important to you and your key issues and challenges.

Who would you choose?