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George Weah’s cousin

George Weah’s cousin

Sales training designed to help develop the right sales skills

Towards the end of his tenure as Manager of EPL side Southampton FC, Graeme Souness received a phone call from an agent about a football player he should consider signing.

The agent declared on the call that the player – Ali Dia – was a player of great potential, had played for the French side PSG, capped by his country 13 times and came from a family of footballing royalty.

Dia was a cousin of George Weah, AC Milan superstar and current President of Liberia.

Before his trip to the dark side, Weah was a formidable footballer who enjoyed successful spells at Monaco, PSG, AC Milan – his box to box run against Verona culminated in one of the best goals you might ever see (circa 1996). His ability was rewarded with every accolade available – Ballon D’or, FIFA Player of the Year (The first and so far only African Player to do so.) and 3 x African Player of the Year, a small selection from his trophy cabinet

He ended up in the EPL playing for Chelsea and Manchester City before closing up the trophy cabinet at Marseilles – all in, 478 appearances with 193 goals.

“A cousin of Weah, you say?”

You can almost hear the man who signed Mo Johnston from Rangers to Celtic say those words…and without ever seeing Ali Dia, Souness signed the man for Southampton.

Hard to imagine that sort of recruitment policy in soccer in 2023.

Dia’s only time on the pitch for Southampton was to replace Matt Le Tissier for 20 minutes but the fact that he made the bench for a Premier league team is remarkable in itself.

Recruitment, eh?

Sales training to move you away from the gift of the gab

How many times do businesses recruit sales people based on them having ‘the gift of the gab’

It’s unsurprising that the phrase ‘gift of the gab’ can be traced back to Gaelic – either old Irish or Scottish Gaelic – where over time the word ‘gob’ became ‘gab.’

If you’ve travelled anywhere away from this wonderous island, you’ve most likely come across someone who will exalt ‘us Irish’ for having that very gift yet if you dig deep enough through any number of dictionary sources you’ll see that it’s not much of a compliment.

The current prevailing conditions suffered by most businesses is their inability to recruit (and increasingly retain) good business development people.

Sales people of all sorts.

If you work in sales for an engineering company there is a strong chance that you didn’t study an engineering degree.

If you work in sales for a security company – manguard, cyber, CCTV monitoring, there is a good chance you didn’t qualify as a graduate in security.

I spent a large part of my time in media sales – with varying degrees of success – I didn’t study media back then and it certainly wasn’t a prerequisite for the job.

It probably isn’t now but what was important was your ability to talk to people and back then it was defined as having ‘the gift of the gab.’


There is no doubt that being Irish and the unfounded perception that all Irish have the gift of the gab, made getting a job in media in the late 1980’s much easier.


My first job in sales came without having a written up CV nor the final results from my University (Polytechnic back then…)

Desperate times, desperate measures?

I know what you are thing and you are right – they were desperate.

So was I.

I would have said anything to get a job – maybe a bit of me told them what they wanted to hear and I was in.

How many companies across Ireland and the UK are right now, today, desperate to recruit someone?

It’s no secret – recruitment is sitting right at the top of every board room agenda – alongside cyber security.


Companies know that if they don’t get recruitment and retention right – onboarding, teamship, culture, opportunity to flourish, learning, fun – then it becomes a distinct competitive disadvantage.

There might be a bit of desperation in the marketplace right now – there are opportunities in the marketplace today, the economy isn’t as bad as you might be lead to believe in the media, there is money to be made and yet good sales people are so thin on the ground it’s frightening.

Those that find themselves up for a move, are doing so with the expectation of more money, better perks…only to become restless again by advances made by mischievous recruitment agencies.

Recruitment is expensive – with or without agencies.

Involving various departments, costs of advertising.

Vetting applications, multiple interviews, notice periods…

The applicant says yes only to stay for 6 months and then you repeat the process.
Or, the applicant says yes, stays and has a negative influence on your team, is unsuitable for the job, customers and prospects don’t like them…and then you repeat the process.

In my opinion, many companies leave the recruitment of sales people late, advertising only when they KNOW that they need a new sales person, through winning a new order or by an employee leaving.

Recruit constantly

Truth is that businesses should be recruiting all the time for sales people – all year round, alternating the positions required from business winning through to business management.

When you advertise occasionally you only appeal to that part of the market that is considering moving jobs – advertise all year round and you are widening the net.

Might help to keep your sales people on their toes, who knows?

It’s important to get a clear picture of the sort of person that your business needs, remembering that there is a massive difference between business winners and account managers.

When desperate, businesses will quite comfortably move good account managers into business development positions, ruining everything from the person, the make-up of the team to the respective territories.

When you’re desperate to recruit staff from a small pool – like the North of Ireland, quality is usually the first thing to suffer.

If you aren’t a premium, market-leading and dominant brand, you could find yourself under more pressure.

In a recent podcast I discussed the difference in qualifications needed for marketing and sales people.

The former usually relies on degree level education or better, to secure a well paid position.

As I said above, my role in media sales didn’t need a degree in media sales.

Just the ‘gift of the gab,’ at the beginning at least and then it was learning on the job.

That doesn’t work today.

In the same way that Souness’s recruitment tactics would not work today.

In sales, time doesn’t allow for idle chatter.

Introductory chat and small talk aside, effective sales requires levels of conversation and listening skills that go much deeper than idle chat.

For me, good sales people are not born, they are created…a bit of nature and nurture maybe.

Being Oirish or Northern Oirish doesn’t gain you automatic qualification into the pantheon of great sellers

The gift of the gab doesn’t get you in either.

If you want to be seen as a naturally gifted sales person, you need to put the work in.

Simple as that.

What you need to know to be effective at sales

You need your product / service knowledge, that’s a given.

You need to know about the competition and your marketplace.

That comes with the territory and for the sales person, if you are lucky you will be treated to an in-depth onboarding programme that will put you on a steep learning curve.

For some people, you might get shadowing a boss for a week and then you’ll get your standard issue iPhone, PC and car and you’ll be asked to hit the road.

Just like any other consultant – a junior doctor or barrister for example…?


If you’re the employer, then you will have lined up a learning programme that will not only impress upon the new recruit that you are taking them seriously and that they are valued from the very start – I don’t mean pre-printed business cards either – I’m talking about a proper programme.

I remember when I started working for a newspaper in London, the first morning, I sat in the boardroom and was shown a couple of Power Points and watched a sales conference promotional video – Miami for 5 days.


Then it was a succession of sales training sessions on the products, the competition, the people, the marketplace, and, and, and…

Sales training sessions as part of a team.

Sessions, 1-2-1.

The key driver was a final presentation to 2 managers at the end of 2 weeks – pass or die.

Then more of the same for 4 weeks, with a bit of lunchtime socialising in between.

You soon run out of the gift for the gab in that kind of environment.

Any business desperate to recruit is unlikely to be thorough in that process.

The demands of the business and market competition will mean that when you can’t find the right person, you get anyone.

The qualification criteria changes.

The bar gets lowered.

The gift of the gab…

Both parties can help themselves and I’m going to start with sales training if only to get it out of the way.

Sales training should be part of any onboarding programme – relative to the specific requirements of the role and to the abilities of the new recruit.

A few years ago a friend of mine said that her father told her when she was younger to always have at least 3 things that you could talk about when you’re meeting someone for lunch or for a night out.

Three things that excluded the stuff you wanted to talk about but rather three topics for discussion that would:

  • Be interesting to both parties
  • That needed a bit of research and work on your part
  • That you would enjoy talking about
  • That you could talk about again if you met at another time

An interesting perspective and one that sits at odds with my personal position on media avoidance.

I’ve mentioned it on way too many occasions before – media consumption needs regulated.

All media – local, regional, national, ‘mainstream’ & social – serves others better than it serves you.

It doesn’t mean that you should ignore completely current affairs – but you should filter what is relevant and what isn’t.

What you are looking for is something that’s not too contentious or that has been dumbed down.

Local politics is out.

Football might be in but let’s face it, it’s not for everyone.

‘The weather…?’

‘How’s business?’

‘Gift of the gab….?’

You need to think long and hard about this and be prepared to put some work in

If you are taking your job seriously as a sales person and are keen to improve relationships with customers or establish relationships with prospects, you need to start taking a keen interest in ‘their business’

– the company itself
– their market place
– the people that work there

– the economics that impact’s their business

– their competition

You should know all of that stuff already, right?

(You do know all of that stuff already, yes?

As an employer, is it part of your induction process? In the interview process did you fully interrogate the candidate?

As an employee, are you doing this kind of research already? Are you signed up to relevant industry newsletters? Do you have a genuine interest in your customers / prospects?

This is pretty much a mandatory area of knowledge and a minimum expectation from your customer or prospect.

Put the work in.

No shortcuts.

hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard

Make it part of your onboarding programme by at least setting out minimum expectations and requirements for new starts.

All you have to do is find ‘at least’ three things that you can comfortably talk about with a complete stranger.

It’s a bit harder than it sounds.

Remember the conversation should be about progress and not victory – it’s not a debate until it becomes a debate and so you will need to figure out how to hold back on any big opinions.

It will mean that you might want to tune into some critical thinking and get your head around the fact that other people have opinions that might be just as valuable as yours.

(I’m writing that down as a lesson for myself as much as anything…)

Importantly you’ll need to learn how to listen properly.

You know, listen to understand and not listen to reply.

I had a disappointing discussion with customer service at one of the big 4 Banks.

The issue is serious enough for me to do a podcast on…watch this space.)

After been given some time to explain the situation I found myself in, the person said in return:
“So, as I was saying…”

I’m still angry.

So, yeah, learn to listen and listen in order to learn.

Then learn to become more curious – through questioning, yes, but also by trying to stimulate your own interest.

The less curiousyou are in the subject the harder it will be for you to seem genuinely interested.

Pick your 3 subjects wisely.

Read up conflicting perspectives on the subject – Edward De Bono and his 6 hats – if you only read the Guardian, try looking at the Telegraph.

(I know and I’m sorry.)

And maybe the final piece of advice if this whole idea isn’t coming easy to you is, write stuff down – commit the important stuff to memory…get dates, times, people’s names right.

Make sure chronology is in order.

If you can hold a meaningful and interesting conversation with a customer or a prospect – outside of the common area of your work interests – do you think it will have a positive or negative impact on your relationship.

I don’t think it’s acceptable to not put any work into these relationships, to tip up at a meeting and not have prepared anything to say.

Just leave it to the stars?


It’s all about leaving nothing to chance – you can’t fake sincerity.

You can’t pretend that you’re interested in someone.

If you need to reframe it, then reframe it into something that can stimulate you emotionally, that will pique your interest.

‘You can earn more money by learning and preparing’

“A bigger house?”

“A better holiday?”

Sales people will earn their stripes typically on the job, by making as few mistakes as possible and repeating none of them.

George Weah, President of Liberia, might have plenty of cousins.

Or he might have none at all.

It’s unlikely that bloodline will qualify any of those cousins for a role politics.

Ultimately if you are really interested in sales success you will do whatever it takes…and a little bit more to make sure that you can attract more prospects, secure more deals and retain more customers.

It might come easy to some of us but usually the ones that make it look easily are the ones that work harder.

To find out more about sales training – for teams and individuals, please email info@shift-control.co.uk and we will come back to you within 24 hours.

Thank you for taking time to read.




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