Pilot to Formula One to Sales - 27th July 2017

Barney Stinton was interviewed by Paul Owen, our MD, for his forthcoming book: SECRET SKILL. HIDDEN CAREER. The myths you’re told and the scandal you’re not. 20 successful business leaders who started their careers in sales were interviewed for the book.

Having had high hopes of becoming a pilot, Barney Stinton never meant to get into sales. Fifteen years on and he is working at a senior level with global names such as Lloyds and Blackberry on a daily basis.

His sales career began shortly after graduation with a Eureka moment while he was racing cars in a computer game – why play computer games when you can go and do it for real? Passionate about Formula One and racing cars, Barney went to speak to Joe Macari (racing driver and founder of Joe Macari London), plucking up the courage to ask the question many are too fearful to ask: ‘Can I work for you?’ He started selling Ferraris the week after.

‘If I hadn’t asked the question, I’d never have been given that opportunity. People miss many opportunities because they’re not brave enough to reach out and grab them.’

Barney urges people to have big dreams – yes, there is a chance you may fail, but you will definitely fail if you don’t give it a go.

‘It’s like tennis in that you’re only as good as the other person. If they are good, you up your game. Or, if you’re interested and excited about what you’re doing, you up your game. Make a wish list and go for it. Once you’re passionate about that industry, the rest can be taught.’

Barney took a detour into other jobs for a couple of years but ultimately couldn’t resist the allure of sales and came back.

‘If you’re good at what you do, you get paid very well. That’s hard to replace.’

It’s not just about the money, though.

‘Sales is the beating heart of any business. I wish I could put into words the feeling of closing a sale.

‘My career now is fantastic but I’m only half way to where I want to be. Earning money gives you choices – I can pick wine from further down the list. Having financial security changes your view on so many things. A career in sales has given me the ability to sleep well at night.’

Helped, no doubt, by a few glasses of that better quality wine!

As with all jobs, there are tough times that call for resilient individuals to work through disappointment.

‘Any salesperson can get into a downward spiral. People can spot a miserable salesperson a mile off, and somehow you have to pick it up.

‘We have to feel confident about the person we’re going to give our money to. Jordan Belfort’s linear approach may work well in some cases but, to be exceptionally successful, you need to go off-piste and you need to really match who you are sitting in front of. You need confidence, personality, honesty, knowledge in the product of course, but the main attributes you need, everybody has. This is why I believe everybody has the ability to be good at selling.’

If you don’t work in sales, you may dismiss the relevance of sales to yourself. Even if you’re not a salesperson, you still sell on a daily basis.

‘When you walked into school on your first day, to make friends you would’ve said certain things and subconsciously used body language to make them like you. Every action in life is geared towards getting an outcome that we want. Nine times out of ten you are lining up your ducks in a way to get that outcome, and that is what sales is. It’s daily human contact turned into a job!

‘It’s important to really listen to customers and to understand why they buy. If you were them, why would you buy? It’s not about trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. If you want a career in sales and want to be successful, it’s not about the quick fixes. If something isn’t right or you are unable to deliver, then say so. You have to be honest and able to say no – integrity is important.

‘If you can do this and you’re good at it, you’ll make people money and they will notice you. When I reluctantly got into sales I wanted to be a pilot, but right now, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.’

The book “SECRET SKILL. HIDDEN CAREER. The myths you’re told and the scandal you’re not” will be available in September 2017 in both paperback and e-book formats.