I am going to share with you a useful story about a huge breakthrough in sales effectiveness. My friend told me this story at a critical time in my career. First, some background on how I heard it and why its lessons are so powerful.
I returned to executive coaching full time in 1995 and put my coaching materials on the World Wide Web using CompuServe’s pioneering OurWorld service. My email newsletter was soon being read around the world. I soon received an email from an important coach in South Africa, Pat Grove, who became a valued friend and mentor.
Pat told me that he was in San Francisco in the early 1970s helping to invent coaching at the same time as Werner Erhard (EST), John Hanley (Lifespring), Fernando Flores (Action Technologies), and others. Pat developed and delivered his own training programs in South Africa and Israel for forty years, until his death in January of 2012. I never participated in his group training but I did get tremendous value from our emails and Skype conversations. I am sad that he is gone.
Pat mentioned once that being an effective coach is only possible if one is effective in sales. Simply put, if no one accepts your coaching you are not a coach. Pat, like me, was not a “natural salesman.” We also began our careers with traditional business training. He started as a bank accountant and my first paying job was with a “Big 8” accounting firm. Frustrated and bored, we each decided to try sales and we each failed. The story of my first breakthrough in sales effectiveness is told elsewhere on this blog. Here is Pat’s story, that he shared with me by email in 1996. Pat wrote quickly and informally so I present an edited version here. [My comments are in square brackets.]
No Big Deal
by Pat Grove
I gave up wanting to prove anything and just got the job done.
I chose to be a service agent…
The most important thing I learned was not to sell benefits but to enroll people into taking action on their dreams.
Selling Encyclopedias was at first for me a way to prove to myself, and others, that I was OK. Firstly, my background and experiences and lying about myself to others and to myself was catching up with me. [Pat used the word “lying” in a particular way here. He refers to the pretensions so common in our culture of pretending to “have it all together,” hoping people will think we are more competent and comfortable than we truly feel. This is all an “act” to prevent people from seeing us as we see ourselves.] So I found a system that had the potential to make a lot of money compared to what I had been earning as a Bank Accountant. I bullshitted myself that by making this money I would live a lifestyle consistent with “my act.” And this would prove my lying was correct and that I was OK and therefore would not have to add guilt to any of my lies again. You see, I was not really interested in winning but mainly in “being right.” Oh! Right about so many things in my life. Here my Mother played a big role [in developing my worldview that “I am not OK,” and that earning money could make me seem OK].
One Thursday night, after the team I was working with was getting into the car to go home, about 10.30 p.m., the leader said “Pat since you have not sold anything tonight I will give you one more chance tomorrow, then that is it. Management has decided this game is not for you and we will not rehire you again.”
Friday evening, as we were getting into the car, he repeated what he had said to me the night before. I resigned myself to the fate of being unemployed. We were placed in an area where most people spoke Afrikaans and I was English speaking and I thought ‘That’s it. No sales tonight. I am finished. I look for a new job tomorrow.’
I walked up to the first door and knocked on it. The biggest man I had ever seen opened the door with the biggest black beard, stomach, and head. He did not speak, he shouted. Shit, I thought, this is it. Not only do I get no sale but more than likely a black eye and broken jaw as door-to-door salesmen were a ‘dime a dozen’ in South Africa at that stage and we were getting the reputation of ‘poison sellers.’ He boomed, “Do you sell encyclopedias?”
I was terrified. I took a step back and decided to lie and ask him for directions. Something snapped inside of me and instead of lying I said, “Yes, and if you buy a set tonight I will give you a free bookstand to hold them as well.”
“Come in,” he shouted. “Is it still R30.00 deposit and R45.00 per month?,” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Sign me up!,” he screamed.
“You mean you want buy a set, sir?”
I will never forget his answer, “What sort of salesman are you man, do you want to lose the sale or what?” After I signed him up he said, “Do you still give commission to people that introduces others to you?”
“Yes, sir, we do.”
“Good wait here while I phone quickly.”
His wife brought me a cup of coffee and when he returned he said my brother is on his way and he wants a set as well and, “I want the commission, okay?”
I walked out of that house at 9.30 that night with my first earnings in twelve weeks. The commission from the two sales was equivalent to four months wages at my bank job. It was so surprising that I walked down the street afraid I had made a mistake.
I was supposed to meet the team at 10.00 and I had 27 minutes to walk to the car. This did not leave enough time to knock on another door and complete purchase paperwork.
But I saw a man watering his garden, so I opened the gate….and, yes, I sold another set. That set took eighteen minutes to sell and sign up.
Because I sold three sets that night I received a bonus equivalent to two months bank wages. The three sales and bonus was the same as roughly six months of the wages I had been used to. From that night on I sold on an average three sets per night.
Water to Ice.
Water to steam.
The appropriate catalyst,
The necessary seed, and
The shift takes place.
Way of Being.
What was the shift due to? I gave up wanting to prove anything and just got the job done. I chose to be a service agent in education. I did not sell books. I sold peace of mind and opportunities through knowledge.
The most important thing I learned was not to sell benefits but to enroll people into taking action on their dreams. I listened to what they had to say. Before this transformation, I had never heard them saying “I want it but I have barriers.” That’s why I did not sell any sets. Whatever objection the prospect had, I interpreted as, “This is too expensive.” I was hearing my own scarcity. In my head, I was focused on the money I needed from them to feel OK about myself. I heard my own impossibilities instead of their possibilities. I heard my limitations (The usual clichés!)
This transformation was my key first step toward becoming an effective coach. THE BEGINNING OF MY TRAINING PROGRAMS WAS IN FRONT OF ME.
I became Sales Manager at the encyclopedia company. Controlled sixteen offices and a floating Sales Staff of around 760. My position was to train managers to manage these people and to produce results consistent with their goals and the company’s goals.
Sorry. As I said, “No big deal.”
Pat Grove is / was not who you say he is.
He lied extensively and widely about “inventing coaching” with Werner Erhard. He did no such thing. There is no record of him ever actually even meeting Werner Erhard, He plagiarized most / all of his work from the est training, and desisted only when threatened with a copyright violation lawsuit – because he knew he was in violation.
The first quality of a good coach is integrity. Pat Grove has / had none. The truth to him was simply a matter of whatever was expedient to say at the time. He was a high class scam artist.
It sounds like you got something from him – whatever that was. Best to speak about that from your own experience. But there’s no point in you perpetuating the lies he himself perptuated about his own life and used to rip people off with. .
Thanks, Michael, for bringing another point-of-view to the memory of Pat Grove. I don’t know the facts of who created or plagiarized what. That’s a legal issue and the parties either worked it out or not. I have adjusted my post to better distinguish facts known to me from Pat’s claims. None of this affects the usefulness of the story.
Werner certainly has had his share of legal and journalistic charges against him. Heidegger was a Nazi, Ayn Rand was cruel to the people closest to her, and, if he lived today, Aristotle would be arrested for owning slaves and molesting boys.
I’m not interested in passing judgment on anyone’s life. If I get value from applying and sharing some of their work I am thankful.
I knew you from your days at GE. Periodically peruse your site to see how you’re doing and what you’re doing. This is the first post that i felt compelled to comment.
What you say is true, many of what we would consider to be the ‘great thinkers’ suffered from what we would call moral lapses in this day. But let’s also remember that, unlike many of the ‘great thinkers’ from the 17th and 18th centuries (Kant for instance), we tend to think of morality (good and evil) as far more subject to context in this day and age, So I’d be inclined to stop a good deal short of where i think your second paragraph does. It’s absolutely true that Heidegger’s “Poetry, Language and Thought” moved me no end as an undergrad. But it’s equalIy true that my opinion changed when I learned of the Nazi sympathies of it’s author. So in that sense, context changed it’s value to me. Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence are simply awesome. That is until you consider that while writing those words he owned people, stole their labor, and slept with a 16 year old black girl named Sally Hemmings (that he also “owned”) fathering children in what few of us would regard as a consensual relationship today.
The value of what you profess? Is informed by how you live your life. I’m with you in not wanting to pass judgment on anyone. That is, until they offer something in the public space in which they profess to guide others. Then? Well at that point there’s no option. I think you have no choice but to decide whether, in the current vernacular, ‘they had skin in the game.’
It’s what makes the difference between say Jefferson, when he wrote of self evident truths about the equality of mankind. And MLK when he quoted those same words. In one instance you have a slave holder. In the other? Someone who put his ass on the line and made all of us understand that we hadn’t lived up to those words quite yet. Which is not to say that we could not impose some judgment on MLK (his extra marital affairs for example). Nor is it to say that Jeffereson is completely devoid of value.
So … I think the “value [you get] from applying and sharing some of their work” need take into account notions of whether or not the source is (mayo)genuine and authentic. If Grove is what Michael claims? Then it would drive how I valued what he professed and advised.
Peace out bro!
Great to hear from you, Al. I am pleased to see that you will be teaching, too. The world could use more people trained by you.
Your argument above is simply an application of the ad hominem fallacy. While the actions of cooperating with Nazis and holding slaves certainly are relevant to evaluating a person’s character and deciding how one interacts (or not) with them, I fail to see the relevance of their behaviors to the practical value of their writings. Just as ideas from a person of upright habits are not necessarily useful those from a scoundrel are not necessarily wrong. If their ideas work in practice, use the ideas. If their behavior is offensive, punish the person but don’t deprive yourself of the benefits of any valid thoughts they might have expressed.
“As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.”
― Adolf Hitler
The Apostle Paul reminds us that whoso would be a Christian must also be a a nonconformist. Any Christian who blindly accepts the opinions of the
majority and in fear and timidity follows a path of expediency and social approval is a mental and spiritual slave.
— Martin Luther King
Strength to Love
Of equal value? No regard for source?
It’s your blog. You get the last word.
And you remain, one of the very best colleagues that I’ve been priviledged to work with. And one of the very best minds that I’ve ever interacted with.
I meet Pat on a number of occassions. Two of them were as a particpatnt in two of his trainings about 20 years a part. I aso had many email exchanges and skype conversations.
I only know what I know. He was insightful, useful, challenging, compassionate and his trainings I found of personal value.