July 18, 2017: Putting a theatre director in charge of a team of technical salespeople may not seem like the best plan, until you meet Ben Gaston, sales director at Toshiba TEC.
Gaston understands people, copes with pressure, likes to create and run projects and thrives on a long working day that finishes late, and often in the theatre. For him, the day job and his love of stage directing are a privilege and a perfect match.
“It’s like a big project with moving parts which is the same as delivering a big, managed print service to a client, or implementing a new initiative across a team. They’re all complementary and I think the more I do all of it, the better you get at it.”
Selling, he says, was “very good to me, very quickly.” Gaston is pleased he got “reward for the graft” but for him that wasn’t the be-all and end-all: “To me, I’ve always been ambitious as an individual, from a career point of view. Still am. Always wanted to see how much I could stretch myself and what I could achieve.”
At Toshiba he’s still pushing himself while encouraging his team to develop their own careers.
“I really enjoy creative control of what I’m doing. At Toshiba, I have that. Whether that’s message to market, or how we shape our customer relationships, whether that’s strategy, that’s great. The thing I really enjoy above anything else is the opportunity to develop other people. I really like it.”
Ben Gaston is also pleased at his developing relationship with the Association of Professional Sales. He believes “we are coming from the same place” where ethics, career development and treating sales as a profession are key.
Does the ability to present a story in the theatre help when working on a sale?
“If you’re telling stories when you’re selling,” says Gaston, “then it’s not coming from a place of truth.
“I think what you have to be able to do is talk openly. I think people respect a conversational style. People are much more likely to buy into that than they are into someone who spins a story, but you have to be able to package all the facts that you want to present and the benefits to them: what you’re prepared to do on their behalf, what you expect from them in return.
“A story suggests an element of untruth, but you do have to be able to package it in such a way that there’s a beginning, a middle and an end and it’s easy for them to digest and understand, but also to buy into.
“It’s less about a suspension of belief, which a story would require and more about making sure they absolutely believe.”
And what about being on a business stage and winning people over with his negotiating skills? Ben Gaston believes that business and personal lives are naturally different, but they should all be coming from the same place – a position of honesty and trust.
“I’ve often thought there’s an element of performance because the way in which you put a business presentation across is not necessarily the way you’d sit and chat with your family and your friends. But I think there’s a myth that when you’re selling something, or when you’re working, you have to be something you’re not.”