The Cynical Businessman

reproduced with permission from "THE GLOSS" magazine, October 2012.

Jack ShanahanJack Shanahan markets and sells Irish fine arts and crafts internationally. He was coached by Donal Cronin, who is a director of Carr Communications. Along with a team of experienced colleagues, he prepares well-known figures for the media, as well as providing training and consultancy for businesspeople.

Running a small business makes you very wary of companies trying to sell your products and services to boost your sales and improve your image so I arrived at the offices of Carr Communications feeling sceptical. Having spent eleven years as an equity sales trader in London and Madrid, and five years selling Spanish craft and design, I felt I had a good grasp on communicating with people. What more did I need to know? I was introduced to Donal Cronin, who would be my coach for the day. He didn’t appear to be much different in communicating to myself; there was no dazzling showmanship.

He began the session by asking me to present a scenario that regularly takes place in my business. I chose to replicate a recent meeting I had with a design company. Donal set up a video camera to record the session, took on the role of the designers and told me to pitch away. Twenty minutes later I felt I had given a heartfelt, honest explanation.

Then he played back my presentation. It really made me cringe. There I was, giving a very detailed account of my international sales experience. My goal had been to validate my background to the designers but it came across as a presentation about myself. As we dissected the video, I could see clearly that what was going on in my mind was not matching up with what as coming out of my mouth. It was not until we were at the 17-minute mark that I actually explained to the designers the benefits of working with me. By the time the video finished – after the 20-minute mark – I was frustrated with my onscreen self.

Honest criticism is a difficult pill to swallow, but Donal did not make it feel like an attack. He pointed out my strengths and weaknesses in equal measure. He made it clear to me the elements I should keep and those that I drastically needed to change. He left the room for ten minutes, telling me to re-write my presentation and we would go again.

The result was truly astounding. As I watched the second tape I saw immediately the areas that had improved. My presentation was exciting and I was more engaged. I listened more closely and answered questions clearly. I appeared ten times more confident. I was somebody I wanted to do business with. Interestingly, even though I had spent four hours working on my presentation skills, it came across as totally natural. I left Carr Communications walking ten feet tall, I could see clearly the areas that I needed to improve and I had a whole new perspective on how I presented myself.

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