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Sarah's Time to Shine
by Sandra Zimmer
When Sarah Webster’s boss retired from his position as Regional Sales Manager of a brokerage firm, she was disappointed to find that she was not the obvious choice to be promoted into his position. She had been his assistant for six years. He had trained her in every aspect of the regional sales manager role. She knew she was the best person for the job and wanted to have the opportunity to be considered.
Within her region, Sarah was already showing star qualities. She was well liked and respected by the firm’s brokers. She had been with the company over ten years and had built relationships with everyone in the region. Everyone recognized her excellence at product knowledge. When they had questions or problems about the firm’s products and services, they all knew they could call on her. Her boss had trained her well. For several years, she had been handling many responsibilities of a Regional Sales Manager. Should the firm place an outsider in this position, she would in all likelihood be the one to train the new Regional Sales Manager. Since she had been doing much of the job, she naturally wanted the title and the compensation.
What should she do? How could she make her intentions known? And, how could she present herself in a favorable manner? Being the relational person she was, she knew not to cry foul or complain about discrimination. She thought it through and sought help from several sources within her company.
The first thing Sarah did was to ask for support and advice from her former boss and other higher-up executives who respected her work. She met with three key people who could guide her in her quest. They each encouraged her to go after the position, affirming that she was well qualified and deserved it. However, all three were honest enough to point out her weakness was that she tended to talk in an indirect manner and to back away from asserting herself strongly. Like an echo reverberating, they all warned her that she would need to strengthen her presentation to the National Sales Manager if she wanted to claim the position.
It was then that Sarah Webster called me to help with her presentation to the National Sales Manager. My business is coaching people to speak and present authentically. I seek to draw out their natural star power. Star power is a radiant presence that emanates from a person who is fully present and being genuine. We often call it charisma. It occurs when one feels free to contribute her talents, skills and gifts without self-judgment. Sarah wanted some help in demonstrating her star qualities in her presentation.
Prior to our work together, her inclination had been to tell how long she had worked for the company and quote her resume. In doing so, she came across weak and sounded more like she was applying for a secretarial position. When I asked her what she wanted, she had difficulty speaking directly to the point, dancing around the issue. She lacked strength and conviction because she was afraid to say it straight. So, Sarah and I went to work.
The first thing we did was to videotape her resume-style presentation. After viewing the videotape, Sarah was shocked to see how weak she appeared. It was obvious to both of us that what the situation called for was a presentation style that was more direct, assertive and powerful. At the same time, we did not want her to lose her warmth and relatedness which were the star qualities that made her so excellent at her job. Sarah was going to have to step outside her comfort zone to be effective. Fear to get out of one’s comfort zone is the biggest barrier to success in life. It provides the greatest challenge to all my clients. Here are the things I suggested she do to prepare for the challenge of selling herself to the National Sales Manager.
1. Clarify and focus the presentation content. I asked her to focus on three powerful topics that would keep her speaking on purpose. They were:
2. Say it from her heart. I coached her to speak in short, simple sentences that came straight from her heart. She should not talk around the issues, but head directly into them. Any time I heard her talking in circles, I stopped her and asked her to identify the real point. She practiced saying it to me and to a video camera until she could speak to these topics straight out. As she practiced, the magic began to happen. She connected to the truth of her words and her conviction level rose dramatically. Her voice took on new strength and her body came forward to support her message. The passion she had for her work was now energizing her presentation. Her star qualities were beginning to shine.
3. Develop presence in the moment to handle the fear. Over the years, I have found that staying centered in the present moment is the best way to handle fear and anxiety. Things are never as bad in the moment as the anticipation of them is. I have developed a psycho-physical (mind/body) exercise that works like magic to ground people in the reality of the present moment. For several days, I had Sarah practice the exercise so she could remain centered, calm and clear-thinking in the intensity of the situation. An additional breathing exercise worked to slow her pace to prevent rushing her words so she could think on her feet.
4. Create rapport. Rapport is a felt sense of chemistry or connection between people. This interview was the perfect opportunity to create rapport and develop a positive working relationship with the National Sales Manager. She decided to take the attitude that no matter what happened and who got the job at this time, she was going to support him. By taking this position, she released herself from it having to be her way, all or nothing. She took the pressure off herself by focusing on service to him and the company Her star qualities, which were her gift of relatedness and her ability to serve others, could shine even more because her presentation was no longer just about herself. With this attitude, she knew she could do a good presentation by being genuine with him.
5. Close for emotional impact. Use an “I have a dream” ending. We prepared an ending in which she stated her intent to develop a good working relationship with him. She reasserted that she believed she was the best person for the job; but, she recognized it was his decision to make. She wanted him to know that she would support his choice and continue to do her best to serve the company and the clients. She boldly stated that she believed he would one day want her to serve in the position of Regional Sales Manager, and since it was her dream, she would be ready now or later.
Through this experience, Sarah Webster had a real opportunity to expand her field of influence, make her presence known at a higher level, and to develop her star power. She had planned her strategy, taken charge of the situation, prepared her presentation and positioned herself in the most positive way possible. She had the humility to ask for help and face her weakness. She had the courage to assert herself and stand up for her gifts. And, she had the grace to handle herself in a style that honored what was best for the company. Sooner or later she is going to rise to the top in her company. Regardless of what would happen in this situation, she was on her way to becoming a company star.
And now the good news. Sarah did get the position as Regional Sales Manager. I have no doubt that as she matures in her new position, her star will continue to rise.
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