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Chris Stock is one of the world’s leading sales experts, with over 25 years of experience. Businesses of all sizes work with Chris because of his transformational sales and business development expertise, as well as his ability to bring out the best in people and ultimately to create lasting behavioral change. In this interview, he tells us about why he loves sales, the differences between big and small business, his favorite speaking experience, who inspires him and more!
Why do clients typically hire you as a business development and sales coach?
The pointy end of the stick can be summed with a verb: service. This is where companies win or lose. Sales is all about being of service to the customers. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives. This is what I do for my clients. I teach them how to make the difference.
There are many people out there who get the business equation. At least they get most of it. Stock prices, valuations, targets, achieving revenue goals. That’s easy to understand. But how do you get there? That’s the rub. The key is by making a difference. By believing in what you sell, and helping your customers achieve their dreams. This is where most businesses fail. They’re missing the vital element. The human element. At the end of the day, it’s all about impact.
I joke that nobody wakes up thinking, “I want sales training”. But what they do want is to increase their revenue, support their customers more effectively, and motivate their teams. That’s why I get hired. I focus on the outcomes; on helping salespeople, sales leaders, and executives sell themselves, their products and services, and their company. I help them articulate what moves the needle and what makes people act: value. In this way, we all make a difference.
You coach businesses of all sizes. What are some of the differences in the needs of a small versus a big business?
This is a very interesting question, and one I had to consider. My approach is what we might call presence-based. I coach and work with the individual in front of me. This goes back to my years as a ski instructor. I figured out pretty quickly that just like no two slopes are alike, no two people learn alike. In business it’s the same. Every situation is unique.
Since then, I’ve spent 15 years in the US and UK coaching everyone from top-level execs to the founders of startups. Because I focus on the individual and their relationships in the structure as a whole, I feel extremely comfortable in both camps.
The main difference in big companies is the element of interconnection. Understanding how your habits transcend the personal and affect the entire company is key.
One client I was coaching, a CEO of a blue-chip company, was recruiting a new CFO. His ideal choice turned down the job. The reason was the CEO talked very quickly, and the prospective CFO worried he would be working for a workaholic.
The funny things was, the CEO knew this about himself. When he gave investor updates, he would deliberately slow down. As part of the coaching session, I had the CEO meet the prospective CFO again with the instructions to be conscious of his pace and to be deliberate. The outcome was positive. The CFO took the job.
It all ties back into presence and coaching the person in front of me. It isn’t about being large or small; it’s about being authentic, being real, being human.
How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?
Depending on the occasion, Humor – or being a Brit, humour – is very important. For me the best humor happens onstage. Having trained in improv, it’s about building on what’s given to you. Whether humor, an anecdote, or a dramatic tale, it’s all about engaging with the audience, whatever the size.
My talks don’t rely on just one emotion though. Depending on the message being delivered, they can run the gamut. Just like I coach the person in front of me, I engage the crowd on their level. I teach my clients to do the same. Inspire your sales team, comfort a distraught customer, strike fear in the hearts of your enemies (Brit humour on display).
Whatever the message being delivered, the relevant emotions are critical. We call this experiential learning. My talks aren’t just intellectual; they’re visceral. Again, it’s all about impact.
One client going through a business transformation took their team through a three-day journey. I say journey because for them, it truly was. Day one started in a hostel, but by day three everyone was staying in a five-star hotel. The emotions had to evolve during the program. It’s the same with a talk; whether five-minutes or five-hours, there has to be a journey.
Do you have a favorite experience from your speaking career?
Every experience is unique and an opportunity to grow, but one comes to mind for its immediacy of impact. My job was to run a motivational kick-off session, and bring in some training elements for a group of 40-50 people. There were clearly issues within the business, and a small team of consultants were onsite to fix them.
The problem for me was that my session didn’t start until after work meaning everyone had to stay late. Immediately, I saw on their faces that no one wanted to be there. But because I engaged with them, they had fun, they learnt a lot, they were motivated, and – most vitally – they felt hope. Three hours later they were in a totally different place. Together, we had taken the journey.
The next day the consultants told me they had never seen such a rapid transformation. My session had created a fertile ground for the seeds of transformation to be sown. When people came to work that morning, they were open to new ideas and ready to make changes. They came to take part in the transformation.
My purpose is to make a difference. The shift I saw that day was massive, and it set the tone for the transformation that occurred. That’s why I do what I do. To change attitudes that serve as foundations to build success.
How did you begin your speaking career?
Long ago I had a head full of hair and bright ideas. For example, as a child I wanted to be an actor. When my father learned this, he told me he didn’t want a waiter for a son! I guess entertaining and informing has always been my passion. Eventually I became a ski instructor in France.
In the evenings, I had to give speeches and run various forms of entertainment for the guests. I was 20-years old and getting up in front of the crowd every night made me terrified. I mean petrified. I was so scared, and yet I wanted to do it more. It was very strange, and I didn’t really understand it at the time. Now I realize it meant I was at the edge of something important. Sometimes we need to find comfort in our dread.
After a few years I moved to sales. My biggest asset was that I knew how to build relationships and connect with people. Looking back, all my jobs allowed me to be onstage one way or another. When I started my own sales training and executive mentoring business, I had already developed many of the skills I needed for being compelling onstage.
Who or what inspires you most?
That’s easy. My Mother. She’s fun, full of energy, and has always encouraged me to achieve my dreams. To this day, she still does.
As a child, I noticed other parents saying no a lot. My Mum was different. Even if the answer should have been no, she would say yes and explore the consequences with me. Invariably, if no was the right answer I would work it out for myself. The key difference here is that I was allowed failures and mistakes. I learned experientially what a good – or bad – decision felt like.
When I was 14 she took me skiing. I was hooked. She always wanted me to experience new things. She would give the me the option of skiing or summer holidays. I always chose skiing. When I decided I didn’t want to go to University, she simply announced if that was the case I could pay for my own skiing holidays. This motivated me to qualify as a ski instructor where I spent the next five years. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would be achieving my dreams.
Tell me about your book In Your HEART. What is the philosophy behind it?
The book was inspired by a biking adventure I took with my friend through the Himalayas. Initially, I was concerned I would be too out of shape to enjoy the scenic views and untouched environment. But something very interesting happened.
Going over to the Himalayas, the birthplace of Buddhism and home to the Dalai Lama, there was this burning question: “Why are we here, and what is it all about?” Well, at a tiny temple near the end of the Kangra valley I met a holy man, and got my answer.
The holy man said with a smile, “Each and every one of us has been especially chosen to come to this place, this world, for a special purpose.” But an important question remained, “How do you know if you have achieved your special purpose?” The holy man’s response blew me away. He said, “You will know in your HEART.” This led to the creation of the book.
In Your Heart is all about a holistic approach to success and high performance. HEART stands for: Health, Energy, Authenticity, Resilience, and Team. To develop the thinking behind HEART, we surveyed extremely high-performing business leaders to gain insights into their personal, spiritual, and professional practices. We combined these insights with academic research and some stories from our biking adventure.
The HEART approach is just one philosophy I can draw on in my talks, training, and coaching sessions. Through my years of teaching varied and unique professionals from top-level execs to the heads of startups, I’ve found having many tools to utilize is key.
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