Life Coach at Large: HR gets loaded and happy

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On the couch this week is Andrew a seasoned HR professional who has a fear of all things sales-associated; Emma Ranson Bellamy reveals her tips for addressing his concerns.

Andrew has a dirty secret he has kept very close to his chest for 20 years. He can’t sell and he hates sales people selling to him. This vile-contempt for all things sales and anyone involved in it has never held him back, hanging proudly in his office is a most discreet sign which reads: We shoot every second salesman, the last one just left!

Twenty years ago Andrew and a few mates from University set up a company specialising in the provision of service solutions to companies who could not afford or want to have the in-house responsibility of resources like cleaning, car management and transport. It all went well, even through the recession years, as all the partners had their own responsibilities. Andrew was responsible for HR and though he had to network he never had to sell. Selling was left to Hugh, his fellow partner who loved and thrived upon opening doors.

This scenario worked well, the company made a lot of money and was eventually sold to a huge American organisation in which all the partners were promised they’d become millionaires over the course of time. Unfortunately the story does not end there. The partners were retained as consultants with a new directive to oversee the smooth running of the operation and to spot any new opportunities.

They are paid a salary which is related to performance and the final settlement of the company sale which will be reduced if performance expectations are not met. Unfortunately Hugh, the aggressive salesman died last year and all the directors have targeted themselves with bringing in new business to ensure the company’s continued prosperity.

Andrew’s biggest fear is that he will be exposed and let the side down. The fact that he has never made any secret of the fact that he finds sales people repugnant adds to his stress. He chose me not as his coach but as his trainer. He wanted me to train him to be a sales person as he had heard that I used to be a sales trainer and I could give him a script to help him achieve his targets.

He told me that things had come to a head when he was at a corporate hospitality event in the summer. There were some very important people in attendance, all of whom, in some way were in positions to buy his services.

As he mingled he felt a sweat beginning to appear, he knew that this opportunity could not be missed, he turned to one and asked him how he currently bought his cleaning services. The box where they were all enjoying corporate hospitality and cricket fell silent, a few people coughed into their G&T’s and he felt a cool breeze surround him. Andrew had committed a corporate crime, overt selling punishable by empty diaries.

I asked him to begin the session by revealing what skills he felt a salesperson possessed. He answered by saying: confidence, gift of the gab, quick thinker and resilience. I asked him again to look at his list and to knock off any of those on that list which were qualities. He of course went through each one and knocked them all off the list.

“What does this tell you about the skills of a sales person?” He replied that it showed they had no skill (a fact he had known for many years!) it showed him that a person was either a born salesperson or not, and he was not, end of story.

I asked him to go back to the list and this time ask himself if he were a successful salesperson what could he bring to the set of qualities he had already mentioned. He listed the following qualities: being a good listener, having market knowledge, a passion for the success of his business, suspicion of sales people, being a people person and having a collaborative style.

I asked him which of these skills he felt he needed to be trained on. He of course said none. He was delighted and I could have left the office there and then having done my job, however, I wanted to ensure that a shift had occurred in his perception of sales people.

When I asked him if his view of sales personnel had changed he told me that it hadn't when he considered what he thought of as 'bad' sales people but it had of the 'good ones'. I asked him to list the qualities of a bad sales person: one who doesn’t listen, one who does not do what they say they will do, one that is unprepared for a meeting, one that calls at inopportune times, one that pretends that they know you and are your best buddy, those that don’t care about you, just your business.

I asked him how an understanding of the qualities of a bad sales person would help him with his aspirations of becoming an effective sales person. It gives me a check list of things that I must do prior, during and after meetings to maximise the opportunity, he said.

Our session was coming to an end and I asked him how we could best spend the remaining 10 minutes of our time together, he said that he would like to work on ‘his elevator pitch’, that is what he said when he was asked what he did. I asked him what he would say if we were introduced at a party.

He said that he would like to be introduced as the director of a company that was able to offer services to enhance the operations of a small to medium sized company. I also asked him how he and his company would like to be remembered and he said as one of the good guys, people that would not sell snow to Eskimo’s but work with the client to achieve what was right for them.

For a second time I saw Andrew’s expression change. He no longer worried about what he was not but celebrated what he was. He was so happy that he did not have to turn into someone that he did not like, he reflected that he was worried he would have to trade in his old persona and buy into a new one that didn’t fit and he didn’t like, a bit like wearing a suit which doesn’t fit in all the wrong places.

Andrew learned that the skills he required were within him all the time. What stopped them from rising to the surface were his own perceptions which were based on little more than out moded perceptions which had no right in his new paradigm.

Question: As you move forward what are you taking with you that is holding you back?

Quote: “Everything that irritates us about another can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung.

HR Zone members’ offer
Emma Ranson Bellamy is offering HR Zone members the exclusive opportunity for some coaching. Simply contact her at the email address listed below for your chance to be selected to sit on the couch. Applicants must include details of the topic they're looking for coaching on, together with reasons and a brief outline on what they'd like to gain from the session. Selected applicants must agree to have details of their sessions replayed as part of the editorial series, names may be changed to protect identities.

Emma can be contacted at [email protected] to see her website visit:

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