So you want to know where it all started?
Ok. Let me take you on a quick whistle stop tour so you know why I’m someone worth listening to.
My name’s Tony Armstrong and I remember I was sat in a hotel in Bournemouth when I came up with the name EXCEED9. Back in 2012. Early spring, I think.
It was originally going to be Exceed7. But changed to Exceed9 when I realised there were 9 core areas. I’ll explain more below.
But first, you’re probably wondering where it comes from?
Well, it started over 30 years ago when, to cut a long story short, I started as a merchandiser for Barclaycard. Before becoming a fully-fledged Field Sales Rep in a number of roles.
Over the next 12 years, I learnt my craft the hard way. I had all the knockbacks, lived in hotels, drove who knows how many miles, made all the mistakes. But eventually, I dragged myself to an OK level in Sales.
Then suddenly I was hit with a horrendous life-changing experience.
It started quite innocuously.
Just a dull pain in my leg. Which I first though was nothing serious.
I’m embarrassed to say that actually, for the first few days – I took it as an opportunity to work from home and not go out to visit customers; laughing and joking to colleagues and clients alike that this was a silly situation and it would all be over pretty soon! 31 and fully fit, I thought it was just one of those strange sporting injuries you pick up from time to time.
But it got worse. Until I had to do something – and fairly quickly, I was now unable to put my foot to the floor any more and it was really getting very painful indeed.
I remember limping into the local doctor’s surgery on a late Friday evening and by then, the pain was excruciating – I could only hop into his office, on my good leg.
I was now very worried.
My mother had told me on a telephone call that she didn’t want to be alarmist but that she hoped it wasn’t something like a thrombosis (which can be life-threatening if you get a Pulmonary Embolism).
But the doctor said, it was nothing.
If I was you, I’d stop wimping about and go home he said.
He phoned the hospital to speak to them and the way he explained what the situation was to them, they too had the same view, influenced by his view of things. They didn’t want me there!
Go home and stop moaning!
The next day, I trusted my own sixth sense and against all professional advice I’d been given, decided to take my situation into my own hands and dragged myself back into the accident and emergency department of the local hospital.
Probably one of the best decisions I have ever made! I wouldn’t be writing this now otherwise!
By now, I’d never experienced pain like it. There was something seriously wrong with my leg.
But again after much arguing (I still had to sell my story to get in!) The Hospital grudgingly decided to admit me, but not to take any emergency action you understand, simply just to observe me in a satellite Ward tucked away at the back and start me on a course of blood thinners (this was the crucial difference to my later survival in the end).
I had become a pain in their ass!
In those days, they didn’t have the equipment to do a quick check to see if I was having DVT (deep vein thrombosis) or not.
So I sat there, in hospital – looking as fit as a fiddle; trying to make the best of a bad situation and with nothing happening, apart from a few basic tests taking place over the weekend which proved nothing and being prescribed nothing more than enforced bed rest.
For a while….
Then on the fourth day… January 23rd, 1993, after a morning of what I can only describe as torture, having finally been given an available slot on a medical machine – a rotating bed that turned me upside down and round and round to ascertain the problem. Now in permanent excruciating pain because of the force of gravity on my leg when they put me back up to the upright position (which I hadn’t been in for three or four days by now).
…. I had returned to my sick bed from this test and while very washed out from my morning’s exploits received a very welcome visit from my concerned and worried mother and father.
Just as they were leaving the hospital and saying their goodbyes, I suddenly felt very dizzy (I now know that the blood clot had broken off and gone through my heart and into my lungs).
All that I had been worried about happening just hit the fan…
This was it – it was now life or death – plain and simple (the Pulmonary Embolism I feared had just happened).
I was in the hands of the gods as to whether or not I survived.
People die of this all the time.
Being in hospital and with luck and good fortune, Dr Hovell and his medical staff resuscitated me and I found myself on life support and oxygen to help me breathe and recover from this trauma.
As I lay on my bed wondering what the next attack might come, and whether I would survive that attack or not, I remember wanting to tell my closest relatives what I wanted on my gravestone..
At that time there was an advert on the television which I totally thought relevant.
.. Here lies TA – Lived life as an exclamation, not an explanation.
But something stopped me telling my relatives this – it was an inner belief that somehow I would survive this and things would be okay in the long run – and also in a way I would have given up on myself if I’d done this.
And thus I started my terrifying journey that was to last for over three months.
Yes, they released me from hospital after one week (way too early and no one still really understood the extent of the damage at that point);
Yes, my doctor came round to my house, having found out I’d returned home (the one who misdiagnosed me) arguing the toss and being very aggressive that I had admitted myself against his advice and that no one had told him what had happened (I was feeling awful still ). He was genuinely vicious and nasty with it (absolutely no remorse or apology). I have never forgiven him for that attitude (I accept that Docs are human and make mistakes – we all do, but his behaviour that day was nothing more than an outrageous way of protecting his own ass!).
Yes, I found myself often looking in the mirror at myself (sounds bizarre but true), to try and make sure I remembered what my face looked like, just in case I didn’t make it…
Wherever I was going in the afterlife was my theory, I felt it was really important that I would be able to remember my face and what I looked like – was the strange truth!
The clot was still there – it could have fired off again at any time, day or night 24 seven.
It was like Russian roulette – until finally, the re-admitted me to intensive care in hospital and administered a clot busting drug (which was a highly risky procedure to do at the time).
And I knew it was serious when the hospital staff called my family in to say goodbye. They didn’t think I was going to make the night.
While dosed up with morphine and floating on the high of the drug, thought well, what will be will be, there’s nothing I can do.
I turned a corner when I awoke up at around 5 AM with a pat on my leg from a nurse who simply said well done (I had survived!).
My sister Sarah (her having been a nurse herself), left her brown leather bag in the intensive care room – so I knew my family were still outside somewhere. It’s a moment of intelligence and subtlety that she intended and which instantly made me feel loved. I will never forget that simple gesture.
Now in 2018, I’ve just had my 25th anniversary of the event and I often still reflect that whilst things have been great ever since the recovery, there were moments in my life in those dark 12 weeks, where I didn’t know whether I was going to be here for the next 12 seconds; 12 minutes; 12 days or what?
The experience changed me.
Because I learnt the hard lesson as a 31 year old that life on this planet was brutally short.
And I realised I was on the wrong journey.
Because, though I was doing ok in sales, I felt driven to achieve more.
So I made the decision that if I survived, I was going to do my best to savour every minute, help as many people as I could and push myself to be the very best of my ability.
After three long months of painful rehabilitation I was eventually given the all clear.
So I started to make changes in my life.
First, I got rid of the negative stuff that was holding me back.
Then I took action because I wanted to accelerate the development of my selling skills.
So I thought long and hard. Because being in the front line of sales is good.
But there had to be a faster, way.
So I figured that maybe actually working with sales teams to directly help them get results would be better. Because, surely, you had to really understand the skills before you could effectively teach them.
But not theoretical sales training in a safe and cosy classroom.
I wanted to be out with salespeople in the field. On the coalface. In real situations that would test me, push my skills and give me the rapid learning I so desired.
So I joined a small and aggressive leading edge training company that did exactly that.
It was a tough gig because I had to find my own clients. As well as deliver the training.
And Salespeople are the tough prospects because they’re skeptical and don’t think they need training.
So the experience was a massive step change in my development.
Both learning how to sell training to a difficult audience. As well as working with sales teams of all sizes and sectors. Helping them through the difficulties they encountered and ensuring they had the skills they needed to get the best results.
But I felt I could still do it better.
So I took the brave decision to go independent and started my own training and consultancy, called “BMD Global”. Which is the company behind the EXCEED9 methodology.
And I chose to have the word “Global” in the name because I dreamed big and wanted to compete with the big guys.
As I developed the business, my experience deepened.
I found myself working with, not just the Sales Teams and Sales Directors but the entire boards of all company sizes. From small yet ambitious ten-man companies; up to massive billion dollar global corporations.
Every project was different. And every client had different requirements.
Sometimes I interimed as a Sales Director for the organisation whilst we recruited. Sometimes I coached and mentored the MD on aspects of their business development and sales management.
Sometimes it was just me. Other times I’ve brought in teams to deliver projects globally.
But almost every project meant I was working directly with the sales guys. Helping them sell by coaching them on the road, participating in calls and group mentoring.
Often I describe what I do as “top floor to shop floor”.
And I love it because every project pushes me to further hone my skills. As I never know what situation I’m going to encounter next.
And it’s meant I’ve always develop my own systems specifically tailored for the customer I was working with.
Meaning everything is real world. Directly from the trenches.
No fluff. Nothing theoretical. No boring classroom teaching.
And my skills continue to evolve every single day.
All of it borne out of real selling situations, difficulties and challenges. Not just in sales too. Everything from operations to marketing, strategy and finance.
And it has to continuously evolve.
Because I’m only as good as my last job.
Therefore, everything has to work and I’ve always got to deliver regardless of the challenges thrown at me. So I’m always adapting, testing and measuring so that I can give my clients the best results.
Anyway getting back to sitting in that hotel back in 2012.
So there I was, sitting there in the hotel conference room thinking about my own business strategy.
When I realised that I’d informally designed and created many different systems for clients, covering many aspects of business.
Which all fitted together.
So I decided I should actually formalise it into a system. And then write a book.
At the time, my goal was to put together “What Six Sigma does for Company Quality & Perfection is what EXCEED9 brings to Sales Management”.
But now it’s grown past that.
As it comprises of 81 components. All based around three core components which all break down to a further three. Hence EXCEED9.
- Effective Planning – Effective Sales Planning (Elements 1-3)
- Directed Effort – Managing Quantity, Quality and Direction (Elements 4-6)
- Cohesive Teamwork – Building an Effective Sales Team (Elements 7-9)
The Effective Planning theme consists of the following three elements
- Confront Reality
- Set Smart Objectives
- Align Strategy
The Directed Effort theme consists of
- Define Quantity
- Deliver Quality
- Focus Direction
The Cohesive Teamwork theme consists of
- Build Competence
- Gain Commitment
- Demonstrate Great Leadership
And in the last six years I’ve been continuing to test, evolve and adapt this methodology in a wide range of businesses to ensure the systems work for a wide range of businesses.
But now it’s time for me to step up a gear again.
As I want to now bring everything online so I can reach and help a wider audience of Business Owners, Sales Directors and Sales Professionals.
Yes, I know it’s a massive job.
I guess you’d say my life’s work.
Which I hope will continue to live, breathe and evolve longer than I do.
So with my team, I’m starting in the area where I’m most passionate. Sales.
So in 2018 there will be a number of new products released which will bring the core selling elements of EXCEED9 to any ambitious individual Sales Professional who wants to hone their skills. As well as for any Sales Director or Business Owner who wants to leverage their teams’ performance.