The Accidental Sales Person

Growth in Focus is a Sales consulting company, but our Managing Director Sue Findlay does not consider herself a sales person. In fact, Sue shies away from sales activities, preferring to leverage her technical expertise in procurement, buyer psychology and winning tenders.

Company Director Mike Adams is also a technical person, but has long experience in sales and managing sales teams across several industries, and so helps Sue with sales activities for her territory in Western Australia.

Mike attended an industry conference in 2015 in Melbourne and met a Perth-based managing director of an international company that he though would be a good future customer. Mike had a brief conversation with the MD at the conference, and agreed to meet when he was next in Perth.

Unfortunately, each time Mike went to Perth on business, the MD was somewhere else in the world. It seemed likely they would never meet. After about five attempts to schedule a meeting, Mike emailed the MD suggesting that he meet Perth-based Sue instead.

Mike received a one line reply:

"Ok I will meet her, but we're not buying anything"


Hardly a response to motivate an already nervous Sue.

Mike setup a meeting practise session with Sue and encouraged her to tell the story about

why she founded Growth in Focus

- that story is about Sue's frustration with sales people who are unable to supply critical intelligence for the tender submissions she works on - such as the underlying reasons for the tender and the competitive situation.

Sue went for the meeting while Mike waited anxiously in Melbourne to hear how it went.

Sue called after the meeting and excitedly told Mike that she had told her story about her frustration with sales people and the MD had said:

"Welcome to my world, lets go to a whiteboard ..."

We are happy to report that this company is now a Growth in Focus customer where we are supplying a range of sales consulting services.


Company: Growth in Focus

Source: Sue Findlay and Mike Adams experience


Story Type: Insight, Personal


For Story Students:

The Setting: Perth, 2015

The Complications: Sue did not feel competent or able to have a sales meeting with a prospect customer

The Turning Point: Sue was encouraged and trained to use a purposeful story in her first meeting with the prospect

The Resolution: Sue created rapport and interest with her story and it is now an important Growth in Focus customer

The Point of the Story: The right story can win a sale

How to use this Story: We use this story to underline the importance of stories in the sales process

Mike's Story

In 1996 Mike was working in England as a petrophysicist for a large corporation supplying software to the Oil and Gas industry when he was asked to take on a sales role and move to Norway.

Mike absolutely did not want to be a sales person but he had the travel bug and the allure of Norway was strong. So with his eight-month pregnant wife, and their two year old son, he moved country and took on the new role.

In that first assignment, Mike was extremely fortunate and helped win a major corporate deal. That early success gave Mike the (false)confidence to take on more sales roles until in 2002, when Mike was managing a  sales team in Russia, it became necessary to return home to Australia for family reasons.

After seventeen years of international travel, Mike and his family, now with three sons, chose to settle in Melbourne where he had few contacts and not much prospect of Oil and Gas industry employment. After a fruitless search for an oil and gas role and some anxious months, Mike re-wrote his cv to focus on sales and was fortunate to land a sales role in Telecommunications selling mobile networks.

Mike likes to joke that he was perfectly suited to that role, apart from the minor impediments of, no knowledge of telecommunications industry no understanding of the customer or his employer's products and services!

Despite those limitations, things went well and by 2007, Mike was posted overseas again, this time to Malaysia to manage a team of 140 technical sales and sales people for the Asia Pacific Region and having successfully changed industry once, Mike subsequently chased sales management opportunities in four other industries.

From a fateful decision to take a sales role in Norway and an industry change forced by relocation, Mike has had the opportunity to lead sales teams all over the works in diverse industries for Schlumberger, Siemens, Nokia, Halliburton, Spotless and Motorola. Collecting a lifetime of sales stories of outrageous good fortune and his fair share of less desirable business outcomes.

During that time Mike steadily developed his sales and sales leadership skills but the process seemed more like an art than a science. As a former engineer, Mike needed to know exactly how the best people sell and whether the formula can be learnt. How to distinguish skill from good fortune?

There is no shortage of books and training programs for sales and Mike has studied them but when he observed great sales people, it was the incredible stories that featured most strongly in their conversations. Good sales people make masterful use of question technique but it is their stories that really connect and do the selling.

Mike has learnt that the missing element for sales success is purposeful, well prepared stories that engage emotionally to teach and persuade. A communication mechanism handed down to us over thousands of generations of oral history and the tool of choice for every great sales person and one that anyone can learn with immediate positive results.


Company: Growth in Focus

Source: Mike Adams

Story Type: Personal


For Story Students

The Setting: England and Norway, from 1996

The Complications: Outrageous good fortune in his first sales assignment, a forced repatriation and the need to change industry

The Turning Point: A realisation that sales is the same in every industry - its a transferable skill - and a highly developed sense of what that skill really is

The Resolution: Mike is doing what he loves - teaching and coaching sales people and sales managers to succeed.

The Point of the Story: Mike is doing what he loves - teaching and coaching sales people and sales managers to succeed.

How to use this story: Mike uses this story, or versions of it during introductory meetings. Mike normally finishes his story with..."well enough about me, what about you? how did you get to where you are?"