[43/250] Unhelpful mentors

Yes, they exist.

A couple of months ago, I sat next to an elderly man who was a sales coach. It was in his house, a situation in which I had misgivings the first time I went to meet him; though the presence of another female went some way towards mollifying me. I remember thinking, man, if I’d known, I would have declined the opportunity.

When I walked in, I noticed that he had set up the seating arrangements so that he was sitting on my right-hand side. I knew that he’d done this intentionally: The first time I met him, he explained to me that my ‘yes’ side was my right-hand side. The theory goes that if you sit on someone’s ‘yes’ side, it’s harder for them to say no.

I did wonder if he remembered that he’d told me.

He didn’t know that I was using him as a training exercise in some new negotiation techniques that I was learning.

His intention was to sell his own service; I knew that.

He had the balance of energy in his favour: I travelled out of my way to his place, which was literally his place. My job therefore was to bring the energy back into balance.

That meant getting him to talk, because the person who talks the most has the least amount of power in any negotiation.

Ahead of time, I’d done my research. I knew that he was a ladies’ man, and that his past inability to keep his hands to himself contributed to the demise of his marriage. Therefore, I dressed accordingly and put on my very best Feminine Airs.

I also knew that he had been an orphan and that loads of his behaviour was a result of a desire to be loved. That desire was the entire reason why he’d done the things in his life that he had done. I had in the back of my mind a few ways I could use that to my advantage.

Right, so, back to the story. I’m in his apartment; he’s sitting on my right-hand side. I’d done some seriously deep research about this guy and had an insight into the type of person that he is, informed by a prior interaction. In that prior interaction, I’d asked him loads of questions, and learned about him; he had asked me none.

During the meeting, I was able to predict what he would say, what he would ask, and respond accordingly. The result was that he was blown away.

Apparently, not many people know what an old-school networking response is. You know that old trope? Respond to “what do you do” with a question, and then use the question to provide vision about what you do? Networking 101.

Let’s be honest: It wasn’t hard. He’s an old-school sales guy, and old-school techniques are available in more texts than you can imagine. He even ran through the pricing so fast that it was impossible to follow, in a deliberate attempt to confuse me. In fact, even in retrospect, I believe that he deliberately shifted the numbers around.

So yes, I was confused. I interrupted his monologue to ask him to explain it. Of course, he got impatient. Fascinating, no?

When he came to try and close the deal, later, I said no.

In fact, I emailed him telling him that the negotiation had to slow down because his stated values didn’t match his behaviour. Boy, didn’t that light a fire!

In asserting my own power in the negotiation, he got aggressive, which I predicted. He was a very predictable animal, truth be told. His true colours were a lot different from his shiny public exterior. He believed not only that my husband was an influence in my business decisions (er, wrong matey), he failed to ask any questions or become interested in anything in my own world.

In 2019 that’s like shooting yourself in the proverbial foot and then asking a prospect to the bullet out of your flesh.

And then he said something that was really unhelpful.

He told me that if my business wasn’t making a minimum of $100,000, that there’s no point in being in business. He asked me point blank what the fuck I’d been doing for the past five years. (Minus the swearing, but I’ve added it because that was absolutely his intent.)

I didn’t say anything. I simply looked at him.

This man had no idea who I was.

He had zero conception about my business or how it functions.

He’d never bothered to ask any questions about my goals, or dreams. He wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in my views or thoughts.

He had no desire to understand whether this was my first business or my tenth; or the revenue model; or the sales process; or anything.

Instead, he was trying really hard to upset me and confuse me, so that I would simply agree to his preposterous sales proposition.

Dear reader, I have no need to tell you that it didn’t work.

Despite all of his attempts to get me to say yes - from the suave presentations, to the body language, to the sequence of his statements, from the outset I was only ever going to say no to him.

The problem is that this guy is mentoring people who don’t have any negotiation skills. They have very little exposure to different ways of thinking about business, or sales. Many of them have worked as employees for their entire lives, and are going out into forays into business in their autumn years.

They are happy to confess that they have no idea, and don’t know where to start.

It’s unfortunate for them that he’s such an unhelpful mentor because they can’t see that they are unwitting actors in his pyramid scheme, even when he tells them to put a slide into their sales presentations that are about him! A sales pitch for his own business, inside other people’s sales pitches, even when it doesn’t fit.

It’s genius, you have to admit. Talk about clever sales gen. It’s unethical as fuck, but it is clever.

It’s true that Brutal Pixie didn’t crack $100,000 in revenue for its first six years. But here’s the thing: Today is the Pixie’s 6th birthday, which is bloody brilliant, and I am stoked. It’s been alive for double the length of time of my last longest-lived business.

To me, this is an epic achievement.

And even though I sometimes moan that I’d like a pay rise (and no, I can’t just ‘give myself one’ because I am a custodian now and not just ‘working for me’), the raw and unforgiving truth is that having a business with the lifestyle I want has been more important to me than having money.

Don’t think that isn’t tough to admit. Ha!

Over the past six years, I’ve been working on becoming the person who can handle a growing business. If the Pixie had grown any faster any earlier, I would legitimately have bailed out of it, and by now I would be another cog in a corporate job somewhere.

Sales are important to growth, sure.

More important is being the person who is capable of achieving it and sustaining it.

When a company is run by its founder, that founder is the foundation. The term itself, as a noun anyway, means ‘to set a foundation’. This is from the Latin, fundator, from the early 15th century.

So if that foundation is shaky, you have nothing.

On this day, this 6th birthday of Brutal Pixie, I can confidently state that we’re on track to sail past $100,000 for the first time. And in the meantime, I’m just here, in the background, working on being who I need to be to shift the business from babyhood to childhood.

It’s a different person from who you need to be to start a business. Wildly different.

Happily, I’m achieving that without the ‘help’ of millionaires who don’t realise that it’s long past time for them to retire.