Sales Development

Kinky Performance

Today I decided to clean the upstairs balcony floor at our house. This is the type of procrastination activity I will undertake when I’m avoiding a more important task…

We have a permanently connected cleaning hose on the balcony which hadn’t been used for a couple of years.  As I hosed the balcony I was immediately disappointed by the low water pressure but I reasoned that it was due to the tap location high on the second floor wall.

Twenty minutes later after some energetic scrubbing and feeble dousing, I noticed a kink in the hose. Freeing the kink produced instant good water pressure and suddenly the job was much easier.

A couple of minutes later the pressure dropped again but this time, of course, I knew straight away what to do.

I reflected on the fact that I had been labouring away accepting poor performance but the instant I saw what good performance was possible, I knew what to do and no longer accepted poor performance.

This is exactly what we experience day to day with the sales teams we work with at Growth in Focus. Identifying and modelling what good performance looks and feels like and allowing sales people to experience that improved performance is the path to mastery for individuals and teams.



Source: Mike Adams personal experience


Story Type: Business Purpose

Labels: Values; Beliefs; Control; Personal


For Story Students

The Setting: Mike's House in 2016

The Complications: Poor water pressure while washing the balcony floor

The Turning Point: Locating the kink in the hose and realising the metaphor potential pf the situation

The Resolution: Kept the hose free of kinks and cleaned the floor

The Point of the Story: Kept the hose free of kinks and cleaned the floor

How to use this story: This mini-story is a good example of how you can use everyday experiences as a metaphor to serve a business purpose


Our Story - Growth in Focus Story to The Story Leader


In 2003, after a career in government procurement, Growth in Focus Managing Director, Sue Findlay started a tender consulting business helping companies win tenders and grants.

Sue built an enviable track record of success, winning tenders and grants for hundreds of companies across Australia but a constant source of frustration was companies coming to her (late) for urgent tender assistance without basic information about their customer's critical issues and decision making process.

Sue's business partner, Growth in Focus Director David Black, with his background in IT operations and business development, identified the issue as inadequate sales training for their customer's sales teams and poor management of those sales people. Between them, David and Sue had compelling evidence for an endemically low level of sales professionalism across a broad range of industries. But how to make a difference? It seemed like an intractable problem.

When David and Sue met Growth in Focus Director Mike Adams in early 2015, they heard a different perspective on sales professionalism. Mike had spent his career as a salesman and sales manager working all over the world for blue-chip multi-national technology companies across several industries and Mike understood the 'poor salesmanship" problem from the perspective of leading, mentoring and training to get the best from diverse sales teams.

Between them, Sue, David and Mike identified two critical issues. The first is that that a majority of sales people are unconsciously unskilled. That is, they significantly overate their sales skills. The fact that these unskilled sales people do occasionally succeed (because buyers need to buy) just makes them overconfident unskilled sales people. The second critical issue is most company's failure to provide either adequate sales skill development or a suitable working environment for sales people to thrive in.

As they discussed these two issues a simple idea was born. Why not combine Sue's knowledge of buying, David's expertise in operations and IT with Mike's sales management and sales training experience to tackle the issue of poor salesmanship and poor performing sales teams head on?

And so, Growth in Focus was born.

Since its inception, Growth in Focus has helped a wide range of clients in industries ranging from IT, Telecommunications, Building Services, Oil and Gas, Mining and Professional Services. Offering a full suite of sales and procurement services. We avoid 'quick fix" point solutions like CRM systems or 'one size fits all" training courses but focus on sustained long-term improvement by carefully diagnosing each company's sales and business situation.

We've developed tools to assess the true skill level of sales people and apply appropriate development interventions and we've created programs to build effective sales collateral and sales management methodologies in support of our ongoing mission to improve sales professionalism and make buying routinely easy for our clients' customers.



: Growth in Focus (Renamed The Story Leader in 2018)


: Mike Adams, Sue Findlay and David Black

Story Type

: Company


For Story Students

The Setting

: Perth 2014

The Complications

: Sue's frustration with sales people and a belief that there must be a better way

The Turning Point

: The chance meeting of Sue, Mike and David and the seed of a business idea

The Resolution

: Growth in Focus and its unique service offerings - assessment based recruiting with ongoing coaching for sales recruits, unique training and selling with story sales development programs and sales management coaching

The Point of the Story

: Growth in Focus and its service offerings - assessment based recruiting with ongoing coaching for sales recruits, unique training and selling with story sales development programs and sales management coaching

How to use this story

: We tell this story to prospective customers, usually business owners who have sales teams


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?"