John Leach is CEO of a company called Winning Pitch, based in Manchester. The organisation specialises in helping SME businesses in the north-west to start up and then grow over time. John came to hear about me as a result of me being awarded the title of United Kingdom Sales Trainer of the Year in 2006.
When we first met, one Monday morning in ‘sunny’ Manchester, all we really knew about each other was that I had spent the last twenty years developing sales success in blue-chip businesses and you had done the same within the SME community. Over breakfast, it quickly became clear that we were going to get on and that we each had ideas, models and techniques that would complement each other’s initiatives.
The thing that really struck me on that first morning was the effort you made to link the professional and personal ambitions of those you worked with, encouraging them to formulate goals in both areas of their lives. Although, from time to time, I had inevitably touched on people’s private lives during coaching conversations, I had never made the conscious decision to explore them in real depth and hook them up to their careers. In return, I think the thing that really struck you was the strength of the sales policies, processes and approaches that drove success in the corporate world. And so we combined those talents and produced a training programme that we branded The DNA of great selling.
We made a video to promote and underpin the programme. It took a while to complete because we couldn’t stop laughing. The mania got to such an extent that it led to that now infamous moment when you were trying to explain your principle of customer connectivity to camera. Eventually, you summoned all your powers of articulation to deliver the following:
“Customer connectivity is all about . . . erm . . . the whole area of excellence around . . . erm . . . potentially connecting with customers.”
“Fuck me!” I cried, “what a pearler. Let me write it down before we lose it forever!”
Together, we rolled out the training programme for the Royal Bank of Scotland intermediary sales team in Norwich. I was still living in Norfolk at this time and you used to arrive on the late Flybe – or Flymaybe, as we used to call it – flight in to Norwich Airport. I would watch it touch down and text you to say “the ego has landed”. Off we went to the Sherbourne House Hotel in Attleborough to check in and have a quick chat with the mad doctor who ran the place. Then we went on to the Shapla for a ruby and a few Cobras. We’d run a training event the next day, then back you’d go to Manchester. On one occasion, when the Flymaybe principle had actually kicked in, you were forced to drive to Norfolk. Incredibly, you managed to experience three separate punctures during that one round trip. In recognition of this considerable achievement, on your subsequent visit, we presented you with a Norwich City replica shirt, signed by all the learners, with Leach 3 on the back. You still have it, framed in your office.
The DNA of great sellers programme ran for six weeks and was a huge success, facilitating staggering amounts of extra sales, well in to seven figures. We began to laugh about working together more permanently. Then we stopped laughing and talked sensibly about it. Then the talking stopped and I moved to the north-west in 2008. My corporate experiences made a big impact on your SME clients, especially as I was now combining them with your own principle of uncovering business owners’ personal issues and ambitions.
We worked together for two years, then I returned to the corporate world where I really belong. Winning the title of United Kingdom Sales Trainer of the Year had been a proud and humbling moment for me but, because of your influence, I now have an even greater impact on those I work with.
Up The Bury!