When Pete Evans was a 16-year-old student, his school report classed him as “shy and retiring”.
It’s hardly a description that applies today – with the Netherton man in big demand from individuals and businesses keen to benefit from his coaching skills in the areas of selling and business and leadership development.
As managing director of his own company, Altum V Ltd, Pete works with organisations of all sizes and in a range of sectors, including financial services and accountancy, law and even video production.
He says: “I work with a lot of people who run businesses. They want to learn how to sell ‘professionally’ not in a ‘hard sell’ sort of way. The aim is to inspire people and give them the confidence to sell. That’s where I can have a positive impact.
“I work with a strong team of associates and partners when projects require people with different skills to mine – it might be marketing or PR, for instance. I collaborate with people who share the same values and ethics to create added value for the client. The focus is always on the client first.”
Says Pete: “In my view, the world of sales is changing dramatically. Ten or 15 years ago if someone turned up at the door to sell you something they would spend the first 10 or 15 minutes handing out brochures and giving you a history lesson about their company and telling you how good they were. “Selling is now about the buyer. They can go on the web, to LinkedIn or Twitter and they can find out so much about you.
“Selling is about building a rapport and a relationship with the customer. It’s about listening carefully to your client about the challenges they face.
“The word ‘convince’ contains the word ‘con’. If I have to convince you to buy something I am not creating a deep level of trust that is required. That’s a much better relationship because it is more sustainable.”
As a “shy and retiring” youngster, Pete grew up in Wigan and after A-levels studied Spanish at Hull University. As part of his degree, he spent a year in Granada teaching English to Spanish students and selling for a language school. “It was my first foray into selling,” he recalls.
After completing his degree, Pete joined the graduate training scheme with Royal Insurance in Liverpool. He worked in the HR department dealing with recruitment, leadership training and getting involved in negotiations with the union.
Pete became a graduate recruitment officer responsible for recruiting, training and developing 50 graduates trainees each year before being made redundant in 1992 when the company axed hundreds of jobs as part of a re-structuring.
“I was kept on for six months to carry out job searches for other employees who were being made redundant,” he says. “I had strong links with the local schools and employers.”
With a background in financial services and a growing interest in working in sales, Pete joined Friends Provident in Liverpool as a member of its direct sales force – visiting individuals and businesses to offer advice on pensions, investment and protection products.
“After a couple of years, I had done all the courses and training and I began to have a lot of success,” says Pete. “I enjoyed giving advice to business owners more than I did to private individuals. I could build up a rapport better with business owners. They would give you a straight answer. It stretched my skills and I was in an environment where I still had to learn. It led me to get referrals to other businesses as well.”
Peter moved to the Leeds office of Friends Provident in 1996 and within 12 months had become the office’s “top producer”.
He says: “I hadn’t been given a large client base. I had to build up my network. That taught me a lot about myself as an individual – that I could build networks and be successful.
“It was a great business to work with. Friends Provident had great products and it was an ethical business. We got fantastic sales training and we were well-led. The training was all about how to interact with people and build long-term relationships.”
After what Pete calls his “apprenticeship” in selling, he set up his own business as a “rep” for Friends Provident. “Suddenly, I had moved from being employed to being self-employed,” he says. “It was a big leap. Although I had a lot of the skills, it was still a huge learning curve, I had offices and staff and I learned a lot about myself. I learned that just because you are a good sales person, that doesn’t mean you are a good businessman.
“I learned so much about who you could trust and I learned about keeping an eye on the numbers.”
Pete says he became disenchanted with the financial services sector as the increasing regulatory burden grew. “I found myself doing more and more paperwork and less time sitting in front of people,” he says. “Some of my clients were asking me to do sales training in their companies, so I took a change of direction with all the skills I had developed.”
Now he is in demand from companies across West Yorkshire and further afield. “I do a lot of work getting the culture right in a business,” he says. “Selling is still seen as a dirty word. But you can have a sales culture which involves being authentic, genuine, open and transparent – and selling on value rather than price.
“You can have a fantastic product, but if you don’t back that up with great customer service, it won’t work.
“Sales is much more than the sales person – it’s everyone in the organisation. Every employee is indirectly selling because the way they behave or dress has an influence on the organisation and my impression of it. The better the impression they create, the more likely I am to buy something.”
Pete enjoys travelling and Rugby League as well as spending family time. But he’s also passionate about learning and helping people.
He carries out pro bono work for charities and several start-ups. “I wanted to give something back to people who have not had the opportunities I have had,” he says, His business is also an approved GrowthAccelerator coach.
One of Pete’s major inspirations has been American business “guru” Bob Burg. “A number of years ago I read his book, Endless Referrals,” says Pete. “I used a lot of the techniques in the book to build my financial services business.
“In 2010, he co-wrote a book called The Goal Giver, which spells out five principles of success. Those principles were ones I could build into my business.
“Two years ago, I became a certified Gola Giver coach and I’m the only practising one in the UK. One of my goals for 2015 is to bring Bob over to the UK to speak.”
Role: Managing director
Family: Partner Mandy and children Emma, 12, and Sam, nine
Holidays: Spain and the Far East
First job: Working night shifts at a Mother’s Pride bakery
Best thing about the job? I love inspiring people to achieve success and get outside their comfort zone
Worst thing about the job? Dealing with negative people. I am a firm believer that if you want things to change, it’s down to you
Business tip: Having belief in yourself when others doubt you. Be determined
Work: Working with individuals and businesses to help them grow and develop and sell in professional way
Phone: 07908 452930