The most useless opening line EVER!

A friend of mine has a small business selling blinds to homes and workplaces. He said a few weeks ago that he’d had a new colour brochure done and was going to post it out to around 200 of his past customers.

I told him he would multiply his hit-rate maybe 10-fold if he followed up with chaser phone calls, and he set about his campaign.

I met him again over the weekend and asked him how things were going.

“Waste of time!” he blurted. “Something wrong with the post!” he continued. “Hardly anybody got their brochures!”

He’d sent them out as planned, and then starting calling around, using the opening line – “It’s Craig here from Acme Blinds” (names changed to protect the stupid) “Just wondered if you got the brochure we sent out last week”


Hmmm…Craig, you just used the most useless opening line in the history of useless opening lines! Here’s why, mate –

1- The only people who need to know whether a piece of post has arrived or not are customer service researchers at the Royal Mail.

2 – If the customer answers no (he hasn’t received it) he’s either lying to stall any further conversation (most likely), or you have his address wrong. Either way, it leaves you with next-to-no chance of recovering to a selling situation.

3 – If the customer answers yes, where does that leave you? You’ve then got to hit him with another question to move the call forward; usually “so…was it of interest then?” He’s probably already rehearsed the answer to that one, and it’s the one you’re expecting.

4 – Asking a “yes-or-no” question as an opening line is, always has been and always will be a pretty lame idea.

“Craig” could have supercharged his chances of success with this kind of pitch –

“…as you’ve been a customer of ours before, I wanted to let you know about a great deal we’ve got on at the moment: [Insert short, sharp, sexy info-hook] I can pop over Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon to work out some prices for you…which would be better?”

An either/or question with an assumptive close built-in is a really powerful way to get what you want – in this case, a face-to-face appointment with the prospect.

And about that brochure – they definitely received it; it had either warmed them up nicely or they’d already thrown it away!

For a free one-hour business mentoring session with Jonny Cooper worth £175, leave a comment on this post below saying why you need and deserve it!

Jonny’s ten ways to avoid result-free meetings

Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered “what am I doing here?”, or worse still, “what is this for…why is anyone here?”?

If you have, chances are you will have been a participant in one of those all-too-common business gatherings which produce no useful outcome: the Result-Free Meeting.

Here’s Jonny’s top 10 tips to power your powwows and add get-up-and-go to your get-togethers!

1: Clarify the purpose of the meeting to all attendees. Make it clear what needs to be achieved and why.

2: Produce an agenda of no more than 5 items, and circulate to all invitees at least 48 hours in advance. This should allocate time to each item, and should not include an “Any other business” line. AOB encourages waffle, and distracts from any clear outcome you are trying to achieve.

3: Set personal objectives for the meeting beforehand. These need not be openly shared, but knowing what you need to achieve from the event will help to focus your input.

4: Don’t invite more than 5 people, plus you. Research shows that meeting effectiveness declines exponentially in inverse proportion to the number of attendees over six.

5: Encourage commitment by setting preparation tasks for your colleagues. They will be much more likely to support your objectives if they have already spent time working towards them beforehand.

6: Take minutes; preferably on a template, by hand or electronically. Arguing later over who said what, and over what was decided, is almost worse than not having a meeting at all.

7: Agree action points for every delegate to achieve following the meeting, and circulate to all within 48 hours.

8: Set a date for the next meeting, if any.

9: Critique effectiveness as a group before disbanding. Discuss what went well, and what could be improved next time you need to meet.

10: Don’t meet if a conference call, email, memo or intranet posting will do the job just as well. Your group will respond best when you impose on the smallest amount of their time, plus they will respect meetings more when they know you only call them when really necessary.

Have a question you’d like Jonny Cooper to address? You can submit it by either adding a comment to this post or by e-mailing it to


I don’t believe it!

One of the most common questions we hear from religious believers is, “How can you prove there isn’t a god?”

It’s a question that defies logical argument, of course, as it falls upon the person making the claim to provide evidence for it. I can simply say, “I have listened to your claim and don’t believe it”, and I have no further work to do.

To assist those who might wish to convince me and others of the existence of a mysterious, invisible yet all-seeing skyman, I have devised a simple 3-level ladder which explains the type of evidence I, and hopefully other thinking people, will always require to support different types of claims.


These are everyday, mundane claims made by a trusted friend or associate, and as such require no corroboration. The difference in consequences from believing it or not can be slight, and your life is barely changed either way. Therefore, there is little motivation to seek further evidence beyond taking the person at their word.

Here are some examples of a level 1 claim:

  • A friend tells you she is 2 months pregnant. Most people wouldn’t immediately ask to see the test results, but would be content to wait and see visual progress followed, hopefully, by a successful birth. It’s a horrible thing to lie about, and you never caught her making stuff up before, so unspoken trust is there.
  • A work colleague says he has booked a holiday to the Seychelles. You take him at his word, as it’s entirely possible he could have done so, and he has no reason to lie. You don’t need to demand to see the tickets, although he could be making the whole thing up. If he is, it’s his problem, not yours.
  • Your partner calls to say you have run out of milk and asks you to get some on the way home. It’s unlikely you’d go home first to check for yourself, as you trust their judgement on such matters. In any case, if they’re mistaken, the consequences of having too much milk at home are minimal. So, you seek no further evidence of their claim, and purchase the milk.


These are the types of claim which might make you go, “really?”, or ask further questions before you’re comfortable with believing it. A level 2 claim could, but doesn’t need to, concern a matter which affects you directly, and will generally be provable, one way or the other.

Practical jokes and spoofs are often based around level 2 claims, in the hope that the recipient of the claim will believe it without checking further – what we call “falling for it”. Satisfactory evidence is, however,  freely and easily available to you and anybody else who wants to obtain it.

Here are some examples of a level 2 claim:

  • A work colleague tells you the boss is laying off staff and you’re next. Concerned, you go and ask other workmates what they know. Subject to the consensus of replies, you may contact your HR department and get the official line. This is an important issue, so you are right to gather evidence before believing your colleague’s claim.
  • Your partner tells you she has found a lump in her neck and believes it’s cancer. You instruct her to go to the doctor, and go along with her. The ensuing medical diagnosis and written evidence will prove her claim one way or the other. Again, it’s a serious issue, and needs immediate investigation. You cannot believe her claim based on her instincts, and to do so would be irresponsible, given the ready availability of reliable evidence and the need for urgent treatment if she’s proven right.
  • Your friend calls you and tells you there’s a tsunami warning in place, and he’s heard your house is in the danger zone. You need to evacuate your family immediately. It’s possible he’s dead right, but you need to check for yourself. You switch on the TV, go online and call a few other people to find out what they know. Based on a consensus of readily available information, you make a decision whether to go or stay put after establishing the validity of your friend’s original claim.


Claims at this level are distinguished from the two lower levels by the lack of compelling evidence to support them. Not only is evidence in short supply to you, but no-one else is able to find any either. Bizarrely, level 3 claims are usually the most grandiose of all, therefore requiring standards of evidence way in excess of that required to support more mundane claims.

There are many millions of people making level 3 claims on a daily basis, and there has been for centuries past. Contrary to what you might expect, most go completely unchallenged, with global networks of people being prepared to believe the most far-fetched level 3 claims without a shred of evidence.

Here are some examples of a level 3 claim:

  • You meet a guy in a pub who says his grandma is 117 years old and flies to work on a winged badger every day. He appears sane, so you ask him for evidence, and he produces a picture on his smartphone, which shows an old woman straddling a woodland creature in the sky above a row of houses. You can’t accept what is almost certainly a faked image, so you ask to meet her in person. He declines, but offers to email you a copy of what you just saw on his phone, and insists that it is real, before slinking off to bother someone else. You reflect on how you could have believed his unusual claim, if only he had taken you to see his ancient airborne granny in action.
  • A student on the TV is being interviewed, passionately claiming that he was abducted by aliens from his bed last night and returned naked to his front garden at 6 am, from where he was arrested. He makes his case tearfully from his bed in the mental hospital where he now resides. He produces no evidence other than his verbal testimony, and is unable to provide any corroboration to his fantastic story now or at any time in the future. His friends pity him and the world ridicules him.
  • You hear a priest on the radio claiming that everlasting life is available to you after death if only you believe in an entity called god which no-one has ever seen or heard. God will forgive you any sins you might have committed, because his son was killed some millennia ago and came back to life before disappearing into the clouds. The priest provides no evidence for any of this, but claims he knows it to be true and refers to the availability of a book which he says backs up his story. Far from being ridiculed for making what is clearly a level 3 claim on a public broadcasting network, the priest is given a daily platform to repeat his nonsensical story. Oddly, he’s never been asked to make god available for an interview, or provide god’s email address or other contact details so he can be quizzed by the rest of us.


There is clearly a different approach to believing each of the 3 levels of claims. You would be churlish to call your partner a liar when she tells you there’s no milk left, and asking for further evidence is both unnecessary and unhelpful.

At level 2, no-one would criticise you for seeking evidence to support a claim that you were about to be fired, for instance, and it’s quite easy for you to find out for sure one way or the other.

Level 3 claims represent a different conundrum, given that your only choices are to believe the person making the claim, or to not believe, based on a lack of evidence.

The latter position, that of not believing, perfectly describes atheism. It’s not a belief system, so when a religious person tells you that you can believe what you want, and they will believe what they want, they’re missing the point.

The rational, logical, intelligent stance when faced with a level 3 claim is simply not to believe any of it.

The 5 secrets of getting past the gatekeeper…

So, you’ve got a brilliant product or service which blows all your competitors out of the water. Not only that, but you’ve priced it so well that your customers are never going to say no! If only you could get to them to tell them about it…

I’ve recently been working with a large organisation which sells vending machines to businesses throughout the UK. They were concerned that their telesales team had recently been connecting to decision makers less and less frequently.

As anyone who’s ever tried to sell by phone will know, many of your potential customers are surrounded by a human firewall, a virtual moat manned by PAs and receptionists charged with one simple task – to protect their executives from the white noise of uninvited sales calls.

Here’s a plan we put together, designed to overcome this perennial dilemma.

1: Call the company, and ask for the sales department, rather than the named decision maker. You will always be put through. Aim: Avoid immediate rebuttal from gatekeeper.

2: Explain to the salesperson that you’re in sales, just like they are, and you’d appreciate a little help. Aim: Get them to identify with you and open up.

3: Ask them who they currently use for supply of your product or service, and how they feel about that current supplier. Aim: Research the company’s need for change.

4: Ask who the decision maker would be where your product or service is concerned. Always ask for their direct extension number, so you “don’t have to bother them again” Aim: Enable contact with your buyer without risk of being blocked at the switchboard.

5: Contact the decision maker directly at their desk and mention your previous conversation with sales, where they suggested a need for your product or service. Aim: Create a perceived referral from someone else in the company.

We found that this approach increased direct conversations with decision makers by over 40%, and produced a call-to-appointment ratio 32% higher over the next quarter.

Of course, any aspirations to those kinds of improvements assume that your telesales personnel already display the essential attributes of honesty, integrity, credibility and humour, and possess a gentle yet persuasive phone manner.

Add any comments or questions, or e-mail Jonny


10 reasons why Smoking is like Religion

Bit of a fun blog today, stretching my mind around two of the many human activities I find quite baffling.

Here are my Top Ten Reasons why smoking is like following a religion:

1 – If they didn’t exist, no-one would invent them. Watch Bob Newhart’s legendary Raleigh sketch here, and you’ll get the idea. Then imagine him calling home to try and explain religion to a nation evolved purely on science and reason.

2 – If our kids didn’t learn about them from us, they wouldn’t discover them later. This is a great argument both for religious education and smoking in homes or close to children to be banned.

3 – Both are harmful to health. Smoking inarguably so; religion stifling to open enquiry and rational thought. The late great Christopher Hitchens referred to religion as a mental illness, and who am I to argue?

4 – There would be fewer premature deaths without either. Sure, we’ve all got to die sometime, but that’s no reason to wantonly leave the party early. Whether you choose to literally expire through self-inflicted respiratory destruction, or get caught up in an act of slaughter in the name-of-all-that’s-holy, either is a tragic waste of precious life.

5 – Both originated from our ignorance. Religions were invented to provide explanations where current knowledge failed. The sun rose – must be a big man upstairs. Washed away in a flood – that’s him again, punishing us for being bad. Smoking was promoted long before medicine caught on to its perils. Hell, we even thought it was good for us!

6 – Now we know better. The corollary to number 5. 21st Century Medics unanimously agree that smoking is among the easiest and surest of slow suicides yet discovered. Scientists are equally aligned that most things previously given a mystical status are now fully explained by science.

7 – Both are financially ruinous. I know people who spend more on fags than they do on a mortgage payment, for God’s sake. And no-one could make an argument of fiscal responsibility for the Vatican, hoarding looted treasures worth enough in cash terms to rid the world of all known diseases. Probably. If all the churches in the UK were converted into social housing, we’d solve the new homes shortage at a stroke. Maybe.

8 – They waste good people. Smoking, as we’ve agreed, truncates lives and thereby loses any future intellectual and social benefits those people may have yet had to bring. Organised religion is a huge sap of talent. I know several intelligent, intellectual and compassionate priests who could have contributed positively to our society in many other more useful ways.

9 – Both are widely practised, yet wrong. The argument that if enough people say or do something, it must be right, has never been disproved more effectively than through smoking and following religion. No-one needs to re-read the list of tobacco-related diseases to know that for sure, and here is a great rationale of why the same applies to religion.

10 – We’d be better off without them. You won’t find many people outside of the tobacco industry and HMRC arguing any positives for smoking. Even the smokers I know agree it’s plain silly. As for religion, John Lennon summed it up as perfectly as a man ever has.

So there you have it. Now you all know that I’m anti-smoking, and an unrelenting apologist for scientific reason!

Smoking Priest


4 reasons you can’t afford a McLaren sportscar (And why you really, really should)

I’m writing this on St George’s day, a celebration of all things English, and I’ve just been driving the sublime blend of art and science that is the Surrey-built McLaren MP4-12C, the latest hypercar to come from Lewis Hamilton’s employer.

It won’t surprise you to hear that it’s supremely fast, beautiful and obsessively desirable.

Another thing you probably already know is that you won’t be driving one off the forecourt anytime soon. Isn’t it about time you thought about why the 200 or so McLarens built for the home market in 2012 will belong to someone else, and not you?

Hint: It’s not because the MP4-12C is too expensive.

Far from it; given the amount of time, expertise, creativity and engineering genius that’s gone into crafting this 205mph British icon, it’s a positive bargain at £186k.

No, it’s most likely the flip side of “too expensive” that’s stopping you adding your name to one of the UK’s most exclusive waiting lists.

It’s because you’re not earning enough money yet. 

If you’ve chosen your path as an employee: an important cog in someone’s larger machine, then fair enough. Your country, and your employer needs you, and your rewards are likely to be other than massive piles of spare cash.

However, if you’ve taken the plunge into business, with all the responsibility, liability and downright stress that comes with that territory, then don’t you reckon you deserve a £200k car every couple of years?

Here are 4 reasons why you can’t afford your McLaren (yet) –

1 – Your business plan is too modest. (You do have a business plan. Don’t you?)

Solution – Revise your goals with some blue-sky thinking. How good could you be?

2 – Your marketing plan is ineffective. (You do have a marketing plan. Tell me you do.)

Solution – Get coaching, mentoring or practical help from marketers with proven success. NB – Social Media can be a magic bullet to linking you with customers.

3 – You’re doing everything yourself. If the business is YOU, and YOU are the business, then how do you expect to earn any more than any other single employee?

Solution – Step back, delegate, and expand whilst you oil the machine you’ve made with other people’s cogs.

4 – You don’t enjoy your business. Maybe the novelty’s worn off, and you’ve got bored and aren’t giving your best. Or maybe the market’s changed so much that it’s no fun anymore.

Solution – Recruit an exit strategist to groom the business for sale, and move on with cash in your pocket (Preferably, at least £186k!)

I reckon anyone with the drive and enthusiasm to start their own venture deserves rich rewards.

Don’t settle for less.

For a free one-hour business mentoring session with Jonny Cooper worth £175, leave a comment on this post below saying why you need and deserve it!

(PS – If you’re already where you need to be, call David Tibbetts, the sales director himself at McLaren Birmingham on 01564 787 180 and tell him I sent you. Nothing in it for me, but it’ll let him know it was worth giving me the ride today)




5 reasons too much choice sucks!

I recently finished uploading my venerable CD collection to my ipod so I can play what I want in the car. Proud as I was of being able to carry 8150 songs around in my glove box, I was startled to hear my girlfriend complaining.

“Too much on here” she whined, “I can’t decide what to listen to!” I had to concede that she had a point, and one well worth carrying over into the commercial realm.

Just when is enough enough, and when does too much choice start to repel your customers?

I’ve had contact with a number of businesses recently which are proving that they don’t need to be all things to all men in order to succeed.

One of my clients sells a walking shoe specifically designed to improve posture and back pain, and claims to reduce cellulite. With that one product, she turned over £600k last year.

Then there’s the “one-deal-a-day” websites like which has gathered an almost cult following. There are plenty more jumping on this easy-to-grasp bandwagon, all offering customers’ one simple choice – take it or leave it!

In a world dominated by multi-national conglomerates, the best chance for an SME is to own a large share of a market niche. Here are 5 reasons why you should focus your business on a simple range of offers –

1: Experts get paid more. If your roof leaks, you’d sooner give £2000 to a roofing contractor than a general builder.

2: Simplify marketing. One clear brand message carries a lot more weight, and is cheaper to promote, than a long list of products and services.

3: Improve cashflow. If you manufacture or sell a range of tangible products, customers expect you to stock them all. The fewer you offer, the less space and working capital you need.

4: Competitors become friends. Your niche offering will conflict with fewer of your rivals, so they can recommend you to customers to compliment their business.

5: Get more referrals. If there are not many of you in your field, customers will be much more likely to pass you around to anyone else they meet who needs you.

As for my ipod; I’m going to get a smaller version and download a few hours of my favourites – any more is just too much!

Jon Cooper is the founder of business coaching, and an Accredited Business Adviser with the IBD group. Exclusive to BLOG READERS – email for a free one-hour business mentoring session with Jon, worth £175.

Jonny Cooper: Your greatest asset can’t be bought, so don’t give it away!

It’s been a week full of raucous excitement and non-stop activity; from securing two major new clients and 2 days gigging with my best band buddies, to planning an Easter surprise and a trans-Atlantic summer trip, it seems as if every available minute has been fully spent.

In fact, the last 7 days reminded me of a parable told to me by one of my earliest mentors, a wise old sage charged with coaching me and 20 other eager students in the principles of business, back in the late…well, quite some time ago anyway!

He asked us to imagine having a bank account with £86,400 in it. The catch is: every night, the bank claims back whatever part of the balance you didn’t spend during the day.

Next morning though, there’s another £86,400 sitting in your account, ready to use.

Is there anybody who wouldn’t soon learn to draw out every penny, every day?

Well, we all have an account like that; it’s called TIME! Every day you have 86,400 seconds available to spend. Each evening, when the bank cancels every second you didn’t use, it’s lost forever. The loss is yours. There is no going back, and there is no dipping into tomorrow’s.

In case you don’t fully appreciate the value of time, think about this: if you’re 30 today, you’ve probably got about another 1,300 million of these little credits left, in total. That’s not so many, when you’re spending more than 31 million a year!

Ask a student who failed his finals how much a year is worth; the mother of a premature baby the value of a month, or the editor of a weekly newspaper how much he values 7 whole days!

If you think a minute is pretty worthless, try getting to the station sixty seconds after the train left, or ask a motorist who just near-missed a head-on collision what value he would now place on that last second.

So, like I did last week, you should treasure every moment of this precious, irreplaceable life and fill it with fun, fulfilment and your favourite people.

3 ways to tell if your friends are sabotaging your life

Last week I decided to “cancel” a friendship I had with a guy (let’s call him Gordon, for no particular reason) who, over the 12 years I’d known him, had always seemed to be in a parlous financial state, despite having a succession of reasonably paid sales jobs.

Worse, he perpetually blamed the Government, the tax-man, his divorce and recently the economic meltdown for his feeble position and lack of tangible success.

Sometimes, if my day hadn’t quite gone according to plan, I’d found it comforting, in a strange kind of way, to hang out with someone else whose day, year or entire life was going even worse.

Problem was, allowing him to sympathise over my occasional disappointments had saved me the trouble of doing anything constructive to stop the same things happening again. Even worse, after a half-hour of his desolate diatribes, I would find myself starting to think like him!

Believing as I do that our success is based almost entirely on the attitudes and behaviours of the people around us,  I had to let Gordon go.

Inspired by that experience, I’m now spring-cleaning and de-cluttering my whole network, exterminating any other Gordons who may be lurking in there masquerading as worthwhile associates. Try it for yourself, using these 3 simple criteria –

1: How are they fixed financially? It’s a spooky mathematical reality that if you take the five people closest to you, add up their salary and divide by five, you’ll have your annual earnings potential. Don’t tolerate anyone who drags down your average.

2: How much value can they bring to your life? Fruitful and rewarding associations are about a fair exchange of value, with each party adding to the other’s success. If it’s all their way, bin them!

3: Do they move in circles you’d like to penetrate? If they operate at a lower level than you do and never venture out of their discomfort zones, they’re unlikely to be capable of improving your life.

After you’ve ruthlessly culled your contact list, get to work on those you decided to keep, and resolve to spend a lot more time with them. That shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve done it properly; because there won’t be too many names left…