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Life is the Summation of Small Problems

Last Puzzle Piece


I learned a great deal from my mentor – Dermot Bradley – the inventor of the SCOTSMAN® qualification tool and Commitment Based Selling. I have a lot to thank him for and I’d like to share with you some of his wisdom that he passed on to me.

My tutor at college was Professor Sir Eric Ash. He later became a Director of BT and then the MD of the Student Loan Company. When I was leaving college, he left me with one final thought.

The man who believes that he cannot do something is probably right. And so is the man who believes he can.

“Remember”, he said, “as you go through life; life is the summation of small problems.” It was a
cryptic statement, made by an Electrical Engineer and I wasn’t sure I fully knew what he meant but somehow the phrase stuck.

Since then, I have come to respect it more and more. I have often noticed that even the most complex of projects can be broken down to a series of simple ones if they are properly thought through. For technical tasks, the statement is almost self-evident.

Building a Bridge across the River Avon is not a big job.

It is millions of small jobs!

But even in the sales world, when a large sale is being negotiated, the same principle applies. It is the idea of the Commitments which defines the building blocks for the whole project. The achievement of each objective is the sub problem along the way to achieving the whole project.

The only way to achieve the objective is to start working towards it. Planning in detail will tell us what to do this week towards meeting the objective.

An objective without a plan is just a good intention

During my career, I was fortunate to have been sent on lots of sales training courses from many different companies. These covered everything you could think of to do with sales and leadership. But what really stuck with me was what Dermot had created and delivered. It had the most impact and we all thought it was bottled common sense.

As one of our students once said, “Instinct is common sense, enough of it is genius.”

Dermot had turned the concept of Sales Qualification and Pipeline Management on its head. Combining his tools and concepts with customer commitments doubled its power.

For my team it became the most important planning tool for helping us to win deals and a valuable time management tool as they learned to replicate the best! They doubled their selling time and win rates. Dermot had seeded the simple thought; be first past the winning post or first out of the race! For me it made sales forecasting that much easier.

There is a twist in this tail. When I left Xerox, I bought his intellectual property. If you like, it was my “Victor Kiam moment.” Remember the American entrepreneur that liked the Remington Shaver so much he bought the company?

We talk to lots of Sales Leaders that all tell us how much they want to increase win rates, improve sales productivity and forecasting, plus be in control of their pipelines.

Advance are the leaders in sales qualification and pipeline management.

Get in touch on 0113 823 2877 or email if you’d like to see how we:

  • have redefined sales qualification,
  • can improve opportunity management in a simple yet powerful way,
  • can create immediate results irrespective of current processes and training.

If you’d like to explore in more depth, read our White Paper: Aggregation of marginal improvements

Mike Wilkinson
Managing Director

Mike Wilkinson
Mike Wilkinson
Managing Director Advance - Creators of SCOTSMAN®