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‘Sales’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word

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‘Sales’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word 1

By Alex Moyle

NEW BOOK: Why taking sales culture beyond the sales team is the key to surviving the digital revolution

Why this book matters:

  • Digitization and automation have radically altered buyer behaviour and killed businesses that were too slow to adapt their models. Professional services firms have been relatively insulated from this digital revolution so far, but change is coming. And it is happening fast.
  • As prices become more transparent, knowledge is more freely available and markets become more competitive, simply being good at what you do and delivering on time is no longer enough for firms to attract and retain customers.
  • Many people still see selling as something that is beyond (or even below) them, but the reality is that generating profit should be a concern for every member of staff, and every touchpoint with customers is an opportunity to sell.
  • Businesses must change or die – a sales-focused business culture that extends beyond the sales team is now an essential ingredient for profitability, and this book explains how to change mindsets and build a sales culture in any organisation.

The digital revolution has caused a fundamental shift in the way we buy and consume goods and services.

Household name brands have been wiped out because they failed to adapt their business model, while in other sectors, such as professional services, firms are still bracing themselves for the major disruptions that are inevitably on their way.

The harsh reality of today’s world is that information is more freely available than ever before, technological changes are happening quicker, prices are more transparent, processes are more automated and customer loyalty is decreasing. This means companies are having to dedicate more time and effort every day to winning and retaining customers.

So, whose job is it to make sure a firm continues to expand its customer base in such a competitive market? The sales team? Marketing?

In his new book, Business Development Culture, sales leadership expert Alex Moyle argues that selling and generating business profit should be an objective shared by the whole organisation, not just the sales team. He challenges the misconception that sales is somehow unseemly, or that it requires people to be pushy, and provides practical tools and strategies to build a business culture where everyone is proactively working to win and retain customers at every touchpoint, whatever their role.

Drawing on the author’s experience of working with sales teams and exclusive insights from leaders of well-known companies, Business Development Culture provides practical advice for people who have never previously had to sell, people whose role involves delivering a service, and people who have switched from selling products to selling solutions. It enables every department to actively contribute to long-term business growth, and encourages business leaders to:

  • Avoid the smart dumb paradox – don’t hire smart people and treat them like they are stupid. Ensure everyone is involved in identifying and solving business problems and creating of strategy
  • Empower teams with knowledge of how the market is changing and how your strategy helps you steal market share
  • Acknowledge that sales is less about closing a deal, and increasingly about relationship building so that your clients come to you
  • Encourage sales teams to talk about the problems you solve for the customer, but also what problems you don’t solve. If you don’t, your competitors will!
  • Align sales and marketing and remember that the two increasingly overlap
  • Know your employees, and understand that their motivation is key to unlocking their effort

Business Development Culture: Taking Sales Culture Beyond the Sales Team by Alex Moyle is out now, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99

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UK offers ‘super deduction’ to temper 25% corporation tax hike

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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will raise corporation tax to 25% from 19% from 2023 to help pay for the cost of the COVID crisis but tempered the tax rise with a “super deduction” to spur investment, finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday.

“The government is providing businesses with over 100 billion pounds of support to get through this pandemic so it is fair and necessary to ask them to contribute to our recovery,” Sunak told parliament.

“Even after this change, the United Kingdom will still have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7,” Sunak said.

Sunak said he would encourage businesses to invest their cash reserves with a so-called “super deduction” to reduce their tax bill by 130% of the cost.

He said that under existing rules, a construction firm buying 10 million pounds of new equipment could reduce their taxable income in the year they invest by 2.6 million pounds but with the “super deduction” they could reduce it by 13 million pounds.

“We’ve never tried this before in our country,” Sunak said.

Sunak quoted the Office for Budget Responsibility as saying it would boost investment by 10%; around 20 billion higher per year.

“It makes our tax regime for business investment truly world-leading, lifting us from 30th in the OECD, to 1st,” he said.

“This will be the biggest business tax cut in modern British history.”

The United Kingdom introduced corporation tax at a rate of 40% in 1965. It rose to a high of 52% in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, the main rate was cut to 35% under Margaret Thatcher, then during the 1990s from 35% to 30% and eventually to 20%.

The rate was cut to 19% from 2017 and was supposed to be reduced further to 18% and then 17% but has been held at 19%.

Sunak said small businesses with profits of less than 50,000 pounds a year would be charged only 19% – so around 70% of businesses would be unaffected.

He also said the government would taper in the tax on profits above 50,000 pounds so that only businesses with profits of 250,000 pounds or more – around 10% of companies – would be taxed at the full 25% rate.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Estelle Shirbon)

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Acting as an attorney during Covid-19: Duties, safeguards and dealing with disputes

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Acting as an attorney during Covid-19: Duties, safeguards and dealing with disputes 3

By Philip Collins, Partner at Winckworth Sherwood

For many elderly and vulnerable people, March 2021 will mark one year since they began heeding the government’s advice to stay at home. For the fit and healthy amongst us, last summer and autumn provided a welcome break from lockdown, but for those who were shielding, didn’t have a reason or didn’t feel safe to leave their homes, it has been a long twelve months of isolation from friends, neighbours and in many cases family.  This extended period of isolation has also caused many practical problems as people have had to rely on neighbours, paid helpers and sometimes strangers who have stepped forward or been called upon to help with shopping, paying bills, collecting prescriptions and other day-to-day tasks.

Whilst this has led to new friendships and community connections for many, there is concern that this reliance on others has led to a growing number of cases of both overt and more subtle forms of financial abuse.

What is financial abuse

Financial abuse can take many forms but ranges from deliberate financial scams such as phishing and doorstep crime to more minor and unintended abuse such as an unscrupulous “helper” using an elderly person’s bank card to pay for their own shopping whilst buying essential supplies for the card’s owner.  As the more vulnerable in society are not going to the bank or a cashpoint on a regular basis, it can be a long time before they notice that their account has been used or they may not notice at all.

The scale of Covid-related financial abuse is not yet, and may never be, fully known but there is anecdotal evidence that such scams and schemes are increasing.  In particular at Winckworth Sherwood we have begun to receive troubling reports from family members of large sums of money having been taken from their loved ones’ bank accounts, that relatives have been coerced into signing important legal documents and even that they have changed their Wills in favour of individuals that they have only recently met.

Using a Lasting Power of Attorney to prevent financial abus

For those concerned that a loved one may be at risk of financial abuse, we strongly recommend putting Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPAs”) in place, and in particular an LPA for Property and Financial Affairs.  This LPA allows the person making the document (the “donor”) to appoint a trusted person or persons to act as their attorney, who can then manage their bank accounts and sign financial documents on their behalf when they are physically unable to do so and also if they were to lose the mental capacity to make financial decisions themselves.  Attorneys have a duty under the LPA to always act in the best interests of the donor and if they do not do so, they may be investigated by the Office of the Public Guardian (the “OPG”). While the donor has capacity to make financial decisions, the attorney must involve them in each decision and take their wishes into account. 

Where shielding and repeated lockdowns are keeping many people at home, a Property and Financial Affairs LPA allows attorneys to monitor and manage bank accounts, organise and pay for online shopping, pay for cleaners and carers, reimburse neighbours who have helped out, and pay bills on the donor’s behalf.  It also allows attorneys to keep an eye out for targeted financial abuse as they can monitor bank accounts and look out for unusual payments or withdrawals of unexpectedly large sums. 

It takes a few months to complete the formalities of making an LPA, but there are short term measures such as a general power of attorney that can be put in place while the LPA is being registered.  We suggest this is discussed with your solicitor when you make your LPA.

The attorney’s role during lockdow

The last year has also created challenges for attorneys acting under LPAs, particularly if the attorney lives at a distance from the donor or if the attorney has also been shielding.   The OPG has issued guidance to attorneys reminding them that their role and responsibilities remain the same during the pandemic and that an attorney is not permitted to temporarily step down during lockdowns and then step back into the role at a later date.  The OPG has also made it clear that in discharging their duties under an LPA, attorneys must follow government guidance on social distancing and self-isolation and must observe any national and local lockdown rules. 

Our advice to attorneys throughout the pandemic has been to:

         Keep involving the donor in decisions that you make and keep at the forefront of your mind that every decision must be in the donor’s best interests.

         Keep in regular contact with the donor and see where you can help.  If you cannot visit in person, have regular phone and/or video calls and consider asking a care worker to pass on messages and keep you up-to-date. Try to obtain contact details for the donor’s neighbours and local friends, who you can call on to help, or to check in with the donor if you are unable to make contact.

         If the donor is happy for you to do so, register the LPA at their bank so you can pay bills and keep an eye on payments in and out.  If the donor is worried about bills sitting unpaid, register the LPA with the utility companies so that bills go directly to the attorney.

         If you need to talk to the donor about a specific decision, think about how urgent it is and whether the decision could be delayed. If it is urgent and you cannot discuss it with the donor remotely, think about decisions and written statements the person has made in the past.

         Although an attorney cannot ask a third party to make decisions for them, once a decision has been made, you can ask someone to help with the task in question.  For example, you can ask the donor’s neighbour to buy food for the donor and provide you with a copy of the receipt.

         Ensure any care visits, property repairs etc. that either you or the donor arrange are formally documented, that prices are agreed beforehand, and that you check credentials and take up references for anyone visiting the donor’s home. Remember that if a decision relates to the donor’s living arrangements or daily routine and care, then you must discuss this with the donor’s Health and Welfare attorney, if they have one.

If you suspect undue influence or financial abus

As the year has gone on and the initial neighbourly offers of help have dwindled, we are hearing that many vulnerable people have had to turn to strangers to help instead. This is a worrying trend as it allows fraudsters and unscrupulous new friends to exert influence on the elderly and vulnerable and put pressure on them to make poor decisions, give away control of their finances, or even give away money and assets.  

Remember that not all strangers have bad intentions and that not all financial abuse is deliberate, so attorneys should be careful not to jump to conclusions.  Our advice is to keep in regular contact with the donor to ensure you find out about any new acquaintances and so that you can stay alert to possible abuse. Red flags range from changes in spending habits, notices that bills have not been paid and unexplained transfers or withdrawals from bank accounts to less obvious signs such as a change in the donor’s behaviour.  These more subtle warning signs include the donor becoming secretive with you and others in their close circle, a seeming reluctance to spend money even on everyday supplies and an uncharacteristic lack of confidence in their abilities to deal with paperwork and carry out day-to-day tasks.    

If the donor has made a decision that you feel is unwise, for example if you discover they have given away property or changed their Will, get as much information as you can about what has happened and who was involved. If you think the donor has been coerced into making the decision or you are worried that they did not have the capacity to have made that decision, attorneys can use their power under the LPA to instruct a solicitor on the donor’s behalf.  A solicitor can arrange for a mental capacity specialist to visit the donor to talk through the decision they made and, if issues are discovered quickly enough, they may be able to intervene before any property has been formally transferred.   If fraud has already taken place or money or property has been given away, you should report the incident to the police.  The police alongside your solicitor can then advise on any steps that could be taken to recover those assets. 

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European telcos cash in on tower assets as high-cost 5G investment looms

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European telcos cash in on tower assets as high-cost 5G investment looms 4

By Isla Binnie and Supantha Mukherjee

MADRID/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – European telecoms firms are cashing in on the money-making power of masts, as tower companies line up to pay multi-billion dollar price tags for antennas buzzing with ever more data ahead of the advent of 5G.

Faced with straitened revenue growth and stubbornly high debt built up during the last network upgrade, telecoms companies are relishing the quick cash injections they can get from selling these portfolios, or future income from spin-offs.

Upgrading networks, including towers, for 5G – which promises an age of self-driving cars and brain surgery performed at a distance – will soak up some $890 billion between 2020 and 2025, the GSMA industry body says.

European operators are increasingly willing to exploit assets to help finance those build-outs. While selling towers outright brings piles of cash, many are also looking to create separate tower units or launch joint ventures with independent companies as a way to keep a chunk of potential future growth.

So far this year, Vodafone has lined up its towers business for the European sector’s biggest listing since 2014, while Orange created a separate towers unit.

Independent tower companies have proved hungry to buy, snapping up more than 14 billion euros worth of assets so far this year to access the steady, inflation-linked returns antenna-topped towers generate.

But around 66% of sites in Europe are still wholly or partially owned by phone companies, Barclays estimates, compared with less than 10% in the United States.

“The market is unlocking,” said Julian Plumstead, Chief Executive for Europe at American Tower, which bought more than 30,000 towers from Spain’s Telefonica in January.

Compared to the United States, Plumstead told Reuters, “We are still in the early to middle ages of our industrial development, but looking forward I think the trend will continue and possibly accelerate.”

GRADUALLY RELINQUISHING

In cases where operators and tower companies have signed joint ventures, the tower companies say they usually have the option to buy out the operators after a number of years.

This means some are gradually relinquishing these unlikely trophies in stages. Telefonica netted more than $9 billion with the sale to American Tower of sites it had already hived off into a separate unit in 2016.

“We fully understand the interest of the operators in going for this two-stage approach,” Cellnex Deputy Chief Executive Alex Mestre told Reuters. “There is revalorization of the asset … and the operators can seize that.”

Plumstead said American Tower had managed to beef up its portfolio – from an admittedly low base – in Europe this year despite restrictions on movement.

“Getting people into the field has not been as easy… but we’ve built more towers this year than in Europe last year and we’ll plan to do the same again this year.” Towers are prized assets partly because contracts to use them are like an “infinite marriage” in which operators pay steady rates for decades, in the words of one industry expert.

Shares of both American Tower and Cellnex touched record highs last year during the pandemic after more than doubling and more than tripling respectively in value in the last half decade.

TOWERING OVER EUROPE

Deal-making has been concentrated in Western Europe until now, but regional leader Cellnex and American Tower, whose buy from Telefonica increased its presence in Europe sevenfold, are both now looking further east and in Scandinavia.

“We are looking at a wider geographic scope,” Cellnex’s Mestre said. “We have started also in the Nordics, we have started in Poland and in all those areas in our core geographies where we believe there are still a lot of towers yet to be outsourced.”

Almost all European operators are now discussing what they should do with their tower assets, industry executives say.

High multiples paid for recent deals have piqued their interest. American Tower paid Telefonica around 30x its tower unit’s most recent core earnings for the assets, according to analysts at Moody’s.

Operators willing to part with their towers have commanded average valuations 22.1 times higher than the assets’ core earnings since mid-2018, Moody’s also said. Cellnex clinched the lowest price among recent deals, paying 16x earnings for a portfolio from Poland’s Play last October.

“If you conclude that it’s not really a competitive advantage to own the towers, then you should dispose of them because the multiple arbitrage is high,” said Nikos Stathopoulos, chairman of mobile operator United Group, which owns 6,000 towers in Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia.

Sweden’s Telia is also considering wringing money out of its more than 9,000 towers by partnering with external investors, a spokeswoman told Reuters, while Telenor is also aiming to generate value from its tower portfolio, a representative said.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie in Madrid and Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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