Stepping into the Catalyst Den

Recently, the Catalyst team left the usual surroundings of the office and headed to the offices of IRIS Connect in the centre of Brighton for a sales training day. They had an office dog. This is relevant, I promise.

Hosted by our very own Simon Chuter, our Sales & Marketing Innovation Advisor, the day proved a surprisingly reflective and relaxed experience. I left having learned as much about myself, and my own misconceptions towards sales, as I did about the sales process itself. That, in a sense, encapsulated the issue at the heart of teaching a team of recent graduates how to sell. Sales can be a simple and engaging process. Convincing yourself of this? Not quite so simple.

Prior to the sales training, Simon emailed the entire team asking what had been our biggest sales-based challenge to-date, and what we hoped to gain from the day. For me, this was an easy answer.

I’d recently begun working on a public health project which involved emailing and calling schools, encouraging them to download a free app which would, aside from obvious health benefits, make their lives considerably easier. The product should, in a sense, be selling itself. And yet it wasn’t. Emails were convoluted and language verbose, whilst phone calling head teachers provoked a sense of dread reserved only for school students about to receive a dressing down from one.

I wanted to learn how to be more confident and more assertive when selling something; something which I believed in, yet nonetheless found difficult to sell.

To cut a long story short – I’m clearly an expert salesperson already – the answers I was looking for were really there all along. Learning the importance of being prepared going into calls, and truly knowing and becoming a ‘trusted adviser’ of the product, does not require extensive sales training and experience. What we needed, however, was to be given the tools to figure this out on our own, and know how to employ these skills in a manner which was unique to each of us. Even just in this sense alone, the day was a huge success.

Initially, we were paired off with other team members, and had to inform the other person of the most recent time we’d had to convince another person of something, before telling – dare I say, selling – each other’s stories to the rest of the group. From persuading a lazy housemate to do housework, to convincing a fussy, young relative of the merits of eating chicken, it turns out that the Catalyst team were pretty good sellers all along. Who knew?

Originally set to sell happily ever after, our newly-discovered optimism was soon tempered by the onset of the afternoon challenge… ‘The Catalyst Den’. Split into small groups, we were tasked with devising an innovation for one of our current clients and pitching it to our very own ‘dragons’ in the form of the SInC support team (a flattering comparison, I’m sure they’ll agree), just a few hours later.

This decidedly daunting task drummed home the importance of selling an idea effectively. Even the most well-devised ideas can fall flat if your ideas can’t be communicated effectively.

I also came to the somewhat alarming discovery that even a bad idea can still be made to sound like an attractive proposition. The less said about the proposal of Noi and I to bring ancient Pompeii to life through a combination of virtual and augmented reality headsets, however, the better. I’m sure this categorically was not the aim of the sales training day, yet it represented a fantastic reflection on Simon’s ability to fill the team with the confidence to get out there sell an idea all the same.

Since the sales day I’ve become more attuned to my subtle attempts to sell things all the time, from dropping hints of one’s suitability for working on an upcoming project, to reporting ideas back to clients about how best to move forward with a project you’ve recently collaborated on.

The more formal selling involved in my own projects has too become a less daunting task, one which I relish working on increasingly each day.

But now the tough selling really begins.

So, about that office dog…

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