Exeter City Futures: Sales mindset

Written by Martin Lucas

Exeter City Futures has a vision:

An increasing population and an expanding travel to work region is attracting more commuters from across Devon and putting a significant strain on the Exeter region’s roads, energy resources and the well-being of its citizens. Exeter City Futures has set a bold goal to make the region congestion-free and energy-independent by 2025.

Their Programme Manager, Gos Chagula, asked us to help them out by creating a training program, here is what asked us to do:

“Work with groups of entrepreneurs to help them overcome the fear of selling their services and products, many of which were in the early stage. Crucially, get entrepreneurs used to the idea of selling ideas and concepts which are far from finished.”

That was the start and this was the outcome as Gos saw it:

“Great understanding of what makes people ‘tick’. [Mastermindset] knows how to get inside the various challenges that entrepreneurs face, great delivery style.”

We got from A to B by putting together a course that matched the objectives of Exeter City Futures. Here was our process and WHY:

Business concept analysis: As I’ve written about previously, 90% of startups fail and my studies and experience show that a key reason for this is a lack of research into the problem the proposed business solves and the viability and demand for their solution. We began this process by evaluating each of the companies, where their opportunities sat and whether they were connected to those opportunities. When consulting, you aren’t impeded by an emotional connection to an idea so you can see the wood for the trees. This outside point of view can unlock observations the startups can’t see themselves.

Sales UX: Next, we looked at the user experience (UX) of the potential clients and this is where we have a different kind of outlook to most as we sit on the bridge (as we call it) between sales and marketing. Sales begins with what you say on social media, in your articles, the layout of your website and how you manage 1:1 communication (in person and email). Sales UX is about your process and how you solve problems for clients. Often in Startupland we can end up looking inwards way too much; we worry, we become self obsessed and that then causes startups to miss out on opportunities. So, we created a hit list of items to help improve the UX of these businesses.

Mindset: You cannot grow a concept or business you do not believe in; this is a psychological condition that is a lot more common than we realise - the old Fraud Syndrome. For startups, the first phase of growth is critical; it’s also the most emotional and can often be taken very personally. To combat this, we have a range of mindset methods to teach which are anchored in the Creatures of Habit:


Simon invented the Creatures of Habit to help people understand their most common habits and where they can cause them problems. We leverage this throughout the course as one of the key wins in education (and work, and life) is to be able to point to something externally - in this case the Creatures. This makes it less personal and more relatable and thus the person receiving the insight is more open to change.

Let’s pause and see what Gos had to say about this:

“We saw increased confidence within the participants of the programmes and a new way of examining the way in which they approach their own sales process.This helped us realise the importance of making no assumptions, especially when it comes to talented entrepreneurs and their ability to sell a product or service.”  

Target market: To ice the cake we always (startups, enterprise and all in between) work on the persona of the target market. We don’t do this the old way (e.g. Persona A is 25 years old, uses Snapchat, like Bieber etc); we are much more focused on the product and the mindset of the target market when considering whether to buy from a business (or not). We call this the Science of Decision-Making’; it’s simpler and more focused. It allows businesses to have clarity in their thinking and production so the target market is given more of what they want and everybody wins.

Overall, this was what Gos has to say about the output:

“They helped us put ourselves in the shoes of the entrepreneurs, understand their challenges – the various blind spots they may have, the fears which are festering below the surface. It’s helped us adapt our offering in future to focus more so on key fundamentals of any business.”

A happy customer is one who sees results. We have since been asked back multiple times to help Exeter City Futures deliver on their vision. Gos can tell you why he has used us again and again:

“Mastermindset gave a great injection of empathy to our programme. It was important to have someone who’s walked the walk and talked the talk as it were.”

Gos Chagula, Programme Manager, Exeter City Futures