Dean and I didn’t get on at first. I mean, we seriously didn’t get on. When I joined his team, Vince O’Donovan had given me the freedom to immerse myself in his business and write a report identifying the shortcomings and what changes were needed. And Dean didn’t like some of the things I said….
When I first joined RBS Intermediary Sales, you thought I was after your job. The look on your face when I opened the 2004 conference at Carrow Road with pulsing music, flashing lights, dry ice and a bouncing audience was one to behold; if looks could kill, and all that! But I wasn’t after your job, I was just trying to make your team better at selling. Which is what I did – we did – by creating SFP, Success Focus Programme.
One of the biggest needs I identified that was that BDMs – Business Development Managers – were talking to brokers too much, too soon – telling them all about the products and services we offered, before finding out about the needs of the brokers and their customers. So much of the training was geared around questioning and listening skills. I am particularly keen on what I call mega questions: those that start with phrases like:
• Describe a time when…?
• Tell me where this business is heading…?
• Give me an example of that…?
• Bring your customer-base to life for me…?
• Explain how you market your business…?
These questions took on a life of their own and we were soon using them not only with brokers, but in our own internal sales meetings – to challenge each other. It became quite a cult thing: “OK then Vince, give me three benefits of that…?” – and it started to melt the ice between us. A few months on and the course had delivered such a big increase in sales that we became quite close.
One day, I was working away in my office at home when a large envelope dropped through the letterbox. Completely unexpected, it contained my entry papers for the United Kingdom National Sales Awards. I was amazed – and delighted – to read that one Dean B Robertson had nominated me for the title of United Kingdom Sales Trainer of the Year, 2006. I filled out the application, certainly more in hope than expectation, and posted it off. Six months later, I was onstage in the biggest room in Europe, at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, collecting that award. As I approached Paul Ross, I could hear what seemed like half the room – incited by you, Andy Hector and Neil Ramsay and fuelled by plenty of bubbly – chanting: “One Simon Bailey, there’s only one Simon Bailey.” What a night that was (and now, in reverence, that chant has become my email address!)
Over time, we enjoyed some very funny moments. I particularly remember sitting with you in Reception at the Holiday Inn, Norwich Airport, at the conclusion of one of our sales strategy meetings, waiting for your flight back to Manchester. For some reason, we were discussing ‘bollockings’ and you remarked: “It’s amazing that, in all these years, I’ve never actually had a bollocking from Vince.” Two seconds later and the aforementioned Vincenzo arrived at your side and delivered one of the most acerbic and public dressing downs I’ve ever witnessed. He left as suddenly as he had arrived.
There followed the briefest of pauses.
“You have now”, I hissed, and we collapsed with laughter.
We shared some poignant moments as well. One day, I was due to pick you up from Norwich Airport. As I spotted you striding towards the car, my phone rang. The display identified the caller as Debbie Howard, wife of my best friend, John. I ended it immediately, letting it divert to the answerphone, as I knew it would be the news I was dreading – that John had passed away. I couldn’t bear to talk at that moment. I drove you to the office, let you go inside and then played that message. Then I called you back out and you sat and hugged me whilst the tears passed.
When I look back to those days when we didn’t see eye to eye at all, I could never have imagined that you would have such an influence on my life, mate. But that award you nominated me for opened so many doors for me. And I know that, under all that bravado, lies a heart of pure gold.
God bless you, Deano.