PC 163 Do I sell myself well?

For some of you this will be a meaningless question, given advancing age and complete comfort in one’s skin. For anyone else earning their crust, you need to grasp the importance, if you haven’t already, of being able to sell yourself.

Some things stay with one for a long time, such is their very fundamental impact. One such occasion was sometime in 1993 when I was working for an Australian company called Morgan & Banks. All the London Office consultants were gathered around the boardroom table, on which there was an old fashioned telephone. The ‘Sales’ trainer said he was going to ask one of us to make a cold call; a ‘cold call’ being one to an unsuspecting company, when you tried to interest them in the services your company offered. For those making the call it was the rump of the sales process, but very necessary; for those on the receiving end it was, 99 times out of 100, a nightmare.

You could see the outward behaviour of those around the table go onto a rollercoaster. For some, the head went down and their mind was screaming: “Don’t chose me!”; for others they simply looked neutral – for no one wanted to make the call.

OK! John. Here’s the number.”

John reddened and he felt his heart beat faster; the others visibly relaxed. But just as John picked up the receiver to dial the number, the trainer said: “I’ve changed my mind. Tim, could you do it?” Our emotions went haywire!

So why do we dislike the process of selling so much? My parents’ generation had a very firm distinction between the ‘professions’ and ‘trade’, and the salesman was very much part of the later, personified by Del Boy as a fast-talking archetypal South London ‘fly’ trader in a television series ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Fortunately we now all realise that ‘selling’ is as important to the manufacturer as it is to the lawyer. But as I grew up I never realised the importance of selling ‘myself’. Performance during one’s military career was marked annually by the Confidential Report, charting the highs and lows of one’s military career and I reflect I didn’t feel the need to ‘sell’ myself. At Short Brothers, despite a sales role, essentially I was approaching foreign governments with an offer to give a presentation of the weapon system. I hoped the system’s functionality and performance would sell itself.

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I just had to include this historic photo from 1909, showing the three Short brothers with aviation pioneers such as the Wright brothers and a Mr Rolls and a Mr Royce!

But then I got made redundant and had to set about selling my skills and abilities. Being one of life’s eternal optimists I always imagined there was someone out there that needed me! Three months later I joined Morgan & Banks. Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks, the two Australian owners, had built a hugely successful recruitment business …… by selling its benefits through us consultants. The system was focused, tough, and very results-driven. It was not unusual for Andrew Banks to call your desk from Sydney around 0830 (UK time!) on a Monday morning to go through your previous week’s activities; there was nowhere to hide.

Which brings me to the boardroom and the sales trainer. I was never very good to statistics but, roughly, for every 100 cold calls you made you might get a positive response from 10, which might be converted into one piece of business! The only way to succeed was to embrace the sales process at every turn. There is a large library of books covering ‘sales’, but none better that one that dealt with the psychology of sales ‘Call Reluctance’. The authors suggest there are twelve different behavioural traits that inhibit one’s ability to sell oneself.

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If you are really interested, read the book (SPQ*Gold) or take a course with Dom Waters (See Note one) ….. but  ………

There are those of us who are never ready to sell themselves, always wanting more time to prepare (the ‘OverPreparer); those who always imagine the negative response rather than the positive one (The Doomsayer); those who spend so long developing their ‘professional’ image they have no time for actually selling (The HyperPro) (note two); those for whom the idea of giving a sales pitch/presentation is a complete anathema (Stage Fright) (linked to the negative behaviour) and those for whom the idea of making an actual telephone call is too emotional to contemplate – and too easy these days to hide behind emails or texts (Those with Telephobia). These are all learned behaviours and can be unlearned! (If in doubt, talk to me!)

I remember trying to win business from the Human Resources Director of Manufacturers Hanover, a now defunct bank. After six months I managed to get a meeting and took along one of the search consultants. Our imagined one hour meeting was immediately cut to 30 minutes, so we both explained what we could offer to Malcolm at breakneck speed. Then it was over; hands shaken, gathering papers, I just had to ask the all-important question: “So when will I get some business from you?” My colleague later said that took courage!!

Another person on my list was the HR Director for Freemans, a large mail-order clothing company. After months of frustration, I telephoned them after the PA had gone home, and got the lady herself. “Can I have 5 minutes of your time to explain what I do?” “OK! You’ve got five minutes!” So I launched into my sales pitch, having put my watch on my desk. After 5 minutes, in mid-sentence, I stopped talking.

Hello? Are you still there?” she asked.

You’ve had 5 minutes. You want more?” I cheekily asked. We set up a face-to-face meeting!!

In addition to embracing the results of SPQ, I did a NLP course. So much came out of this but for those anxious to simply get on with someone quickly, try some rapport building, especially a technique called mirroring. You simply copy whatever body language the other exhibits.

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Aware that a Departmental Director was very uptight and unwelcoming to new ideas, at my ‘sales’ pitch I simply copied his body movements; it took a while, but after 10 minutes he suddenly opened up and became very receptive! It was strange, but our subconscious likes people like ourselves!!

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Richard 18th October 2019

PS I ran my own executive coaching business for 16 years – and like everyone self-employed, had to sell the product before I could deliver it.

Note 1. ‘Earning What You’re Worth. SPQ; The psychology of Sales Call Reluctance’ by Dudley & Goodson. Or contact Dom Waters at paulwatersassociates.co.uk (01635 202750)

Note 2 One of the behavourial traits of these types is to have a hugely flashy signature. Such as:


PC 162 What Moisturiser Do you Use?

The question “What moisturiser do you use?” was one I seriously was not expecting! And the truth is that I do not use any moisturiser on my face. In the last century I did and used so much E45 cream that I bought some shares in the company that made it; well, I certainly helped their turnover, as I slathered the cream on every morning, trying to reduce the flakiness of my dry facial skin. But since then three things have happened. One, I gave up smoking in1994; two, I gave up alcohol in 2002 and we all know how bad both alcohol and smoke are for one’s skin; and three, I started Hot Yoga. These have combined to ensure my skin has regenerated itself to something more youthful. I hadn’t really anticipated this but am delighted by the result. Of course, these days we men can pick from a vast range of grooming products!

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Men’s grooming – Tom Ford Serum (2) £255 (!!) or Baxter of California Skin Concentrate (7) £28 or Heath Eye Serum (10) £14

So who asked the question? PC Christina Lane of Sussex Roads Policing Unit. Why? Well, she was imputing my details into her iPad after arriving at the scene of my traffic accident on 3rd September when she suddenly looked up at me. Having read my date of birth on the DVLA website for Driving Licence registration, she obviously thought I must use some form of moisturiser!! “Hot Yoga” I replied ……. and explained that sweating every day keeps the pores of the skin supple and open and my lack of wrinkles is clear evidence of this.

I consider myself a reasonably good driver – just like anyone else, I guess? Back in 1970 I even took The Institute of Advanced Motorists’ Driving Test, an exacting 90 minute examination and had passed (See PC 111). On Tuesday 3rd September, having collected Celina’s mother and cousin from Gatwick airport, we were making our way back into Hove along Shirley Drive, a residential street of upmarket, detached houses. It is also a rat-run for commuters …… and it was the beginning of the rush hour. This is a photo of the last memory I have before impacting with a Volkswagen Up!!

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And this is what my brain was suddenly aware of ………

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The stupid young woman had come out of the road to my left, had, according to both Celina and cousin Tony, looked to her left but not to her right, and simply driven into the space about to be occupied by my Audi.

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It wasn’t until a little later I thought about this complete blank as to how it had happened. Did I brake? – there was no rubber on the dry road! Did I take any evasive action? – the wheels were still parallel with the road suggesting I didn’t! The frontal airbags didn’t deploy and a little question to Mr Google informs me that they would deploy when ‘striking a parked car of similar size at about 16 to 28 mph’. I had thought my speed was about 20 mph (in a 30 mph zone) ….. so that checks out. (See note 1)

Our innate ‘flight or fight’ response kicks in in moments of stress and trauma. Benedicte, a good friend training to be a Paramedic, tells me the brain triggers the release of hormones, mostly adrenaline, which cause physiological changes such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, rapid breathing and sharper senses. This hormone release can lead to memory loss because stress taxes the body resources; acute stress may disturb the process that collects and stores memories. So, a three second blank; complete blank!

There are moments in life when you wish, with all the breath in your body, that you could rewind time, turn the clock back. You may recall this was exactly how I felt in October 2015 when I looked at my thumb whose side I had neatly sliced off with a mandoline (PC 52). But the passage of time is always forward, so here was a ‘situation’ that needed dealing with, no time to reflect about rewinding the clock (!), not least for the poor woman in the front seat of her car covered in glass from her broken window and shaking in shock. My military training taught me to be calm in a crisis; add almost 20 years of practising yoga and I feel I project a calm and unflustered demeanour; inwardly it may be a different matter!! Celina helped Maddy, the VW driver, to get out of her car; we called the police (see note 2); Michelle, the driver of the Mini immediately behind me, kindly offered to be a witness; photographs were taken and I reversed the Audi and parked it off-road. With a foot on the door pillar of the VW, I managed to pull open the crumpled door, brushed the glass off the seat and moved the car to the verge.

PC Christina Lane and I flirted whilst she filled out the online forms; and why not? She was gorgeous, half my age and it was all innocent fun in the aftermath of what might have been a life-changing accident. Reduces the stress does flirting! And for the first time in my life I was breathalysed!!

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A souvenir!

The firm of solicitors that were instructed by my insurance company to get in touch did so …… and didn’t believe no one was hurt. “But surely ….? Symptoms appear after a day or so …..” and telephoned me four times to check!! We live in litigious times so being able to push back felt good. The claims process is so joined-up these days that online reporting, choice of repair garage, choice of hire car etc etc – no hassle at all. A month later the generality of the incident is now just that, an experience. Thankfully no one was physically hurt although I am hope Maddy, the VW driver, will remember for a long time the day she didn’t pay attention whilst driving.

Richard 3rd October 2019

Note 1: The Volkswagen Up! is a lightweight car compared with my Audi Q3, so probably absorbed some impact. Interestingly the repair garage said that if the air bags deployed, ‘most cars are written off, such is the complicated engineering around the dashboard’.

Note 2: In the UK apparently it isn’t necessary to call the police if no one is injured in an accident. A simple exchange of information is sufficient.