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Anyone been to Circus School?


I'm looking for ways to give a serious injection of oomph into a lacklustre sales team. I am thinking along the lines of finding someone to teach them juggling skills and a bit of close up magic to engage them and give the wow factor. They have had the Fish! video before but lack of flow up meant it didn't really happen, and they need to be given relenvent ways to play.
They work on a shop floor so a lovely team building day is out of the question.

I have run a check on circus schools, but it seems they just do the full set of skills including trapeze work, I can't find anyone to come into the business to teach slightly less risky activities! Any ideas where I should head to?

If you have a better idea I would really like to hear it. Also, how do you begin to measure oomph and wow?

As ever many thanks,
Nikki Brun

21 Responses

  1. is something like this really what they need?
    Sorry to be the grinch but is this really what they need? In my experience the best you generally get from “fun” events like this is a happy time but little business result. The worst you get is resentiment that you spent money and time on an activity that THEY cannot relate to the real world (before I get lynched by all the people who really believe in the hueristic value of circus style training, let me say that I can see the value but it takes a lot of hard work to get delegates to really appreciate it).

    You know your team and I don’t but I’d suspect that there may be some more directly relevant activities, or changes in their business environment, that could put some life into them…you could try (if you haven’t already) asking them why they are lacklustre and are in need of oomph.
    Last time I tried this it became clear to me that juggling, firewalking or unicycling would have caused a mass walkout, what actually worked was an improvement in marketing support and a change in the commission system.
    Hope this is helpful rather than just negative.

  2. Fair point!
    I see what you mean Rus, and the decision certainly isn’t made yet – hence I posted the question! I appreciate all points of view, so thank you very much for yours.

  3. Talk to ’em
    I agree with Rus

    >>>I’m looking for ways to give a serious injection of oomph into a lacklustre sales team.>>>

    Why? Whats lacking? Have you completed a more specific and defined training needs analysis?
    How do you define what oomph is and if a member of your team has enough?
    Unless you examine what specifically they are lacking ie. skills or knowledge then you wont solve it with an unfocussed approach. Your trianing intervention must directly address said issues.

    Talk to them and find out what their issues are before imposing a solution on them, you’ll probably find their issues are completely different to your diagnosis.

    Take care

  4. Fun is good, but…
    I agree with the others about being sure that that’s what’s really lacking, though I find that some injection of fun rarely comes amiss. On the other hand, you just gave me a great idea for an awayday – I’ve been looking for something to follow last year’s survival skills day!
    Good luck

  5. TNA needed
    I’m with Rus and Juliet on this one, the reason Fish! doesn’t work is because it’s a customer care course not a sales course.

    The circus skills course would have led to my salesman self quitting whatever job I was in – how would it help me sell?

    If you want to give “oomph” to a salesforce you need to find out what is stopping them from selling and then help them through that (be prepared to find out that the lack of motivation is due to poor management or lousy comission structures rather than lack of ability).

    If it is a training need then train them in sales techniques etc. and train their managers too. Then make sure the managers have ownership of the success of the team and responsibility for coaching and implementation of the new skills.

    Otherwise save your money on juggling training and send them to the pub. Which, cultural mores aside, will motivate them far more than learning daft tricks.

  6. I forgot the “oomph” and “wow”
    Quite simply don’t measure these things, what you should be measuring is “volume of sales”, “margin on sales”, “average revenue per user”, “volume of repeat business” and the like.

    These are the “oomph” and “wow” of the sales department and more importantly of the board and shareholders too.

    As long as they are earning, then sales people are best left alone – non-sales people rarely understand the stresses of sales roles and the idiosyncratic personalities within these departments.

    And if they aren’t earning then you need to make sure they do by training them how to sell.

  7. Fishy juggling
    I’ve done some circus skills and I think they are great for self-development, but from what you seem to be saying is that you want them to build relationships within the team – you mentioned giving them relevant ways to play.

    Fish! isn’t a sales course (as previously pointed out), and would suggest that it isn’t really so much a ‘Customer care’ course but rather a way of being, or an attitude of mind. And it doesn’t surprise me that any application of Fish! fails when it isn’t applied to the ‘community’ of a business, rather than just a segment of it.
    I would suggest that rather than try to apply some structured approach, it might be better to look into how you could raise the profile of social interaction within the team. Get them to ‘play’ together – without relating it to ways of working. Using circus skills, outward bound, acting/theatre skills, etc, purely as a way of letting them socialise is a great idea – just don’t (in this instance) try to apply ‘sales’ or ‘Customer care’ meanings to it. I seem to recall that one place I used to work didn’t pay as much as their competitors, but people really loved working there. They promoted social events, took everyone out for drinks, offered to take people to the Proms, set up a culture that supported team sports, and we all worked our butts off.

    I get the feeling that we all spend too much time trying to apply training methods or finding ‘solutions’ to raising morale, team spirit, and such, and we forget that just doing stuff together is often really fulfilling.

    So – much as I would love to get you to do some teams skills using theatre and acting, I think it would be a waste of time. Invest some time and money in letting them get to know one another socially.

    Hope this helps,

  8. What I really meant but failed to say!
    Many thanks for your help everyone. The reason that I orginally thought of juggling was so they could literally play with the product. If you walked in to a retailer and saw someone juggling small teddies the wow factor would be there. Likewise if a keyring magically appears from behind your ear. I am proposing to use the skills to help sales technique, and if they have fun while they are at it so much the better!

  9. Not listening

    I really think you need to prove that juggling and magic tricks will improve sales. Otherwise this is pie in the sky. Hard bitten salespeople focus on the bottom lines and not gimmicks, however fun they are. If you cant prove it generates more sales however captivating it is to watch then you will never change the salesforce or improve sales.

  10. NLP
    Hi Nikki

    Just a thought as I am currently working on something simlar, but I am looking at how I can motivate the team in to motivating themselves through self belief using NLP techniques. Maybe this is a possibility you could look at, but again it depends on why there is a lack of Ooomp within the sales team.

    Hope this helps?

  11. Belt and Braces
    Strangely enough we talk of sales teams as teams, yet the job is one of the most lonely there is.
    A good manager should have a view on the problems. The firewalking etc. would be good for personal confidence and the increased skills and application that results from some time to think. I have used Starfire in the past and they can relate to negotiating and probing skills to help with the ‘tie-in’.

    BTW. All sales people relish new experiences to talk about, so don’t ‘diss’ the gimmicky stuff too much. They will, but they diss everything don’t they ?

    Why the heading Belt & Braces ? Well obviously their reward/commission structure has to be right as well.

  12. are you sorry you asked?
    Hi Nikki

    Having read some of the responses, I wonder if, rather than ask people who AREN’T sales people, you should ask a couple of members of your team what they think would give them their “oomph” back.

    I think a lot of HR people are concerned (and rightly) that what they do doesn’t add value to the bottom line – and training comes in for particular stick, here. So proven results are a requirement. What’s so difficult, however, is that very little training can prove directly that it adds value to the bottom line.

    To my mind, if it’s easier for you to sanction a “motivational” course in terms of budget, than it is to pay for a night down the pub, then I should do it. I don’t know if the results would be different, but it’s easier to remember a day which taught you the importance of timing and balance than a bog standard evening at a local hostelry….

  13. Try Talking Business
    Hi. I would take Nick Kellingley’s points further. Do these ‘salespeople’ actually understand their company model, where they fit in and how much difference they can make? Why sales volume; why a certain gross margin; what is their impact on accounts receivable and inventory (both high users of cash) etc? Involving people in ‘The Business’ can be highly motivating for them, Treating them as adults and helping them understand how they contribute to value creation can bring them together and could be the best thing you could do for them and your business. One warning: don’t ask the local accountant to do it!

  14. asking a salesperson
    Re the comment about asking a salesperson, well I was one – for over 25 years – and if the team’s performance is lacklustre, it is often to do with being let down by either product or management decisions.

    People need to feel enthusiastic about what they offer and that includes the after-sales service if relevant.

    Unless of course they really are not particularly good salespeople… in which case you need to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    As for beanos, as we used to call them, they were mostly used for reward rather than incentive.

    It makes it easier to enjoy.

    BTW the best way to incentivise is often money-related!

    Provide accumulators or gifts, weekends away (but not with the team!) etc…

    Hope this helps. Euphrosene

    PS I’m a bit confused with ‘sales team’ and ‘shop floor’..

    To me they are different mindsets.

  15. Oomph
    Hi Nikki

    As a certified firewalking instructor, NLP practioner and personal development expert, I’m in the business of delivering a serious oomph to teams. Although I have to say that most of the oomph is delived without hot coals as hardly any organisation is willing to take what they perceive to be such a big health and safety risk. ALthough the way I work, no one is forced or coerced to walk, they only walk if they decide to go for it.

    Most oomph needs to come from re-energising, motivating and invigorating people. Connecting them to past successes and to get their buy in on what needs to be achieved now. Their managers also need to know how to motivate effectively, even when they don’t feel like it, in fact most of all when they don’t feel like it. And to do that they need to be able to engage, generate trust and rapport, find the key for each individual and learn how to use it.

    It’s about going beyond thoughts and feelings – I don’t feel like it right now because… – is what most of us say when we have targets and challenges, but deciding to go for it regardless of the outcome (that bit follows later). The real key is putting people, both the sales team and their managers, in the driving seats of their own lives, showing them the consequences of great performance and outstanding results, and the massive boost to their esteem and confidence that will follow.

    All the best
    Teresa Garfield

  16. Circus School / Firewalking
    I concur with the earlier messages in this posting Nikki, a decent TNA is what’s required before I would venture down this route. But not withstanding this, what criteria, methods or specific standards have you thought about employing to measure the Return on Investment for people walking over embers or learning circus tricks, etc etc?

  17. Clarification / definition
    Reading through all these responses (you’ve obviously touched on something here!) I think there are 2 main issues – what ‘oomph’ consists of (how do you measure it? what does it look like? what behaviours would a person with ‘oomph’ actually display? why is ‘oomph’important?) and then the best way to achieve ‘oomph’. This may be any combination of what everyone else has mentioned – sales training, fun, bonding, commission reviews, incentives, rewards … or anything else.

    Like any TNA, a clear understanding of what the need is, will lead logically to the right intervention/s.

    Having worked in sales for many years, my 2 cents worth would be to look at the managers. Feling successful is highly motivating, and one of the best ways to make someone feel successful is to manage them so that they can succeed.

    Good luck!


  18. Still Considering Firewalking? – Read The Following
    Firewalking – Up in Smoke?

    There was a fascinating article on page 25 of the Daily Mail on Friday of last week (3/2/06). SI Corporate Development ran a fire walking exercise for a top City accountancy firm to ‘bond and form a tight-knit firm’. Unfortunately it appears to have gone disastrously wrong for everyone concerned especially one of the participants. Business Analyst Aoife Bird’s participation in this process resulted in her being taken to hospital with ‘blistered and painful’ feet and resulted in two weeks off work. SI Corporate Development had to pay out £7,655 after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety laws. (£3000 Fine and £4,655 Costs).

    The article also includes the following observation which gives prospective companies considering fire walking something to consider: ‘Unsurprisingly, the accountancy firm involved, Deloitte and Touche, has no plans to organise any more fire walking days for its staff. Other blue chip firms, which have increasingly sent employees on such adventure days are also likely to reconsider whether playing with fire is a good idea’. And all this despite the fact that the fire was ‘constructed by a qualified fire walk instructor’.

    Similar instances have occurred like this in the past:
    + Seven trainee insurance salesmen suffered burns during a firewalk at the Cheltenham/Gloucester Moathouse Hotel in 1998
    + Twelve Burger King employees suffered first and second-degree burns during a team-building fire walk in Florida in 2001

    For further information around this debacle you may look her:,,2022632,00.html

  19. Turning sales into a performance ?
    Re-reading the original post I wonder whether the ‘team’ in question is in a shop/retail outlet ?
    This is often a difficult area to manage. People drift in as ‘sales assistants’ or even ‘product specialists’ and then some unruly employer changes the spots into stripes and asks them to sell. OOPS I am starting to repeat some of the stuff below about purpose, fit etc.

    IF what you are after is some fun, something to make the place ‘different’ for the customers etc. how about singing ? Imagine a shop where, every so often, those staff not actually conversing with a customer would ‘jointly’ burst into song (rather than stand about chatting to their mates and ignoring the potential customer).
    It doesn’t get in the way of stacking shelves either.

    Good luck


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