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Alisdair Chisholm re�lects on his �irst job interview with the Big Man of sales


he Big Man – there was no irony in his known-by-all name, he was massive

in every way, physically, mentally, heroically – interviewed me for my fi rst job, selling ad space. By the end of the interview I had learnt, by chance and good fortune, the three most important things there are to know about sales. T ere were no pleasantries with the Big Man, just a long, hard look as I walked in and a gauntlet thrown before I had even sat down. “OK, kid, you have exactly ten min-

utes to convince me to give you a job.” Only because I was trapped in

his stare, I looked straight back at him, and only because my mind fl ashed blank, leaving me with nothing but a question, I asked him. “OK, how exactly would I do that?” He laughed, and told me, and ten minutes later I had convinced myself I could do the job, and I thought I had him too. He was nodding, all warmth and smiles, and I thought for all the world that I had landed it. “Well, kid,” he said, with more

big smiles, “I enjoyed that.” Even as I relaxed back into my

chair, mentally spending my fi rst month’s salary, his smile disappeared, and it was back to that searching, cold gaze as he continued. “So, thank you for coming in,

but I won’t be off ering you a job. I am afraid to say it’s a ‘No’.” I was lucky. I needed the job. All

I had was the money in my pocket, not even enough for the train fare home. I had no choice but to go

42 | November 2016 |

again, another ten minutes, this time on my feet, extolling my own virtues, dreaming up new qualities and skills that would make me what I seem to remember calling his ‘perfect choice’. When I had fi nished, he said

nothing, just sat and looked at me. And again, only because I needed to know, right then and there, I asked him. “So, do I get the job now?” He looked at me some more,

and because I had nothing at all left, I just looked back. I can see that big smile, even now, all these years on, see his

I had learnt, by chance and good fortune, the three most important things there are to know about sales

huge hand reaching out to me, hear him say every wonderful word that changed my life right then. “Yes, kid, you get it, welcome.” So, I started the next day, and

stayed fi ve years, before I found my true calling, treading the boards of the training rooms and conference halls of the world. In that fi ve years, I realised that all of us on the Big Man’s team – most of whom I still know, and love – had pretty much the same interview story. It was later still, much later actually,

as I sat down at my iPad to write this, that I realised just how much I learnt in that fi rst short meeting, and how much it would matter. So, that is the story, and now, with

a few thousand gigs under my belt, I can pass on what I learnt to all of you out there, with your own stories to tell, looking for your next gig. Don’t prepare a big pitch, just ask what they want; don’t give up just because they say no, just try again, better; and, fi nally, if you really want the gig, ask for it. Stay hungry, always;

good fortune.

Alisdair Chisholm, acuniversal@, is an acclaimed trainer and speaker. His �irst book, Twenty one meetings, is out now on Kindle.


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