In this three series post I will look at the positive impact that members of the U.S. Armed Forces have had on my sales career and how their leadership shaped my approach in the marketplace. (Check out the series in order: Post 1 Post 2)
Brad Lanich, USS Mipillion, U.S. Navy
Me: How was your weekend?
Brad: My weekend was great. I drank beer in my boat all weekend long.
Me: That sounds like a lot of fun, but didn’t it rain all weekend long?
Me: So you didn’t take your boat out?
Brad: Nope, I stayed in my garage inside my boat drinking beer all weekend long.
(We both let out a huge laugh. Who needs water when you have a boat and beer?)
The all hands on deck manager meeting had been intense. The business needed us to continue selling our core offering and start cross selling with products to increase our percentage of our customers’ wallet share. This was the start of solution selling and bundling in our industry. The buzzwords within the market were consultative selling and total practice solutions. The market was changing and our customers were demanding more from vendors. Seeing this change happening, companies trained their reps to sell across solutions lines within their product portfolio so customers could maximize their return on investment for working with one vendor.
Walking back to my office with my marching orders, I sent a quick email with the subject line, “Team Huddle In My Office at 10:30A.M.” (EOM). The team packed into my small office like sardines. The tallest people on our team were leaning outside the door hinges. I delivered the message that all managers give to pump up their reps (they sound like this)…”we must do more. Be better at…and we will deliver because it’s our job to show the others that it can be done.” Brad was the last one to leave my office when the team filed out. He then came back in and said, “I need to talk to you about this.” Brad was a member of the original telephonic sales team hired 25 years ago. He had sold our solution at every stage of evolution, pre and post internet. Selling the core product wasn’t an issue with Brad. He had earned our most prestigious sales award (some companies call it President’s Club. We call it Circle of Excellence) several times in his career. What was troubling Brad was learning how to message and sell a product that seemed vaguely tied to our core solution. Make no mistake, this solution was beneficial to our customers, and data from our market research showed customers were receptive to this sales process. To make the example clear, the cross sell we were doing in theory would be like cable/internet providers offering security systems to their customers – which is happening now. While it makes sense because the technology exist to offer this service to clients, I can assure you that even the most experienced reps will initially struggle wrapping their hands around this. The only way to handle this type of transition is through coaching and highlighting best practices from reps that are finding success with the new sales process.
There was Brad and I, both figuring this out together. We talked for 30 minutes. He needed help creating an opening statement and probes that he could say because the scripts we had were not working for him mechanically. At the end of our meeting, Brad stood up and said, “Don’t you count me out. I will get this!” Brad was determined to succeed and he wasn’t going to let this stop him. In the end, Brad figured it out and he was one of the best reps on the floor cross selling.
Here are some of the things Brad taught me:
Own your script. If the script given to you doesn’t sound like something you would say out of your mouth, change it! Rework the script and make it your own. Brad did this with the script he was given. He took some words out, added others in, and became comfortable with his customized script. As a result, customers believed what he was saying and opportunities where uncovered that led to closed deals. Are you customizing scripts and making them yours?
Be comfortable with change. Brad was successful at every evolutionary stage of our product pre and post internet because he was able to go with the changes and adapt his approach. How are you navigating change in your sales process? When your company creates opportunities for you with cross sell products do you answer the call?
Lead By Example. Brad inspired his colleagues with his “can do” attitude and didn’t participate in any counterproductive activity with others who could not adapt to the changes we were going through. This was pivotal to our success because less experienced reps took their queues from sales veterans like Brad. Other reps saw Brad working through his difficulties, finding a solution, and having success.
Brad is no longer with us, but his legacy and impact to those that knew him lives on. Brad was diagnosed with cancer and when asked what type of cancel he had. Brad would smile and say, “If you had a list of cancer to pick, it’s the one you don’t want to pick.” He cherished his family, RV-ing, drinking beer, wearing U.S. Navy shirts, and spending time on his boat. Whenever he did take a break from calls he talked about the love of his life, his wife Susan and his best friend, BJ (Brad Junior). He loved watching the Cincinnati Reds, and the American Bald Eagle was his favorite animal – he actually had a toy American Bald Eagle that hung from the ceiling with a fishing line and he would push it around so it looked like the eagle was flying over his head.
Brad would visit us and the other reps as often as he could as the cancer progressed. When reps were having bad days and he showed up, he would look at them and say, “I’d give anything to make calls and talk to customers.” He always cheered up everyone in the department.
This is the last post in the series, Sales Lessons from the U.S. Armed Forces. I hope you enjoyed it. I will consolidate the lessons and publish them along with the books mentioned in the posts. (Check out the series in order: Post 1 Post 2) Happy Memorial Day and thank you to all who have served and given their lives to defend the USA.
CJ Webster is the author of insidesalesmagic, a blog written to help sales professionals become knowledgeable about social selling and sales 2.0 strategies. He doesn’t provide smoke and mirrors, hocus pocus, or any presto chango posts. This is real writing from a sales prospective on the issues, challenges, and success we have as sales professionals. It is honest, raw, and uncut. Sales is a noble profession and one of the few professions where the playing field is equal. Insidesalesmagic will be right there giving you the secrets and tricks of the trade that will elevate your sales game.
In this three series post I will look at the positive impact that members of the U.S. Armed Forces have had on my sales career and how their leadership shaped my approach in the marketplace.
Part 2 (Go To Part 1)
“I only have Three Golden Rules to live by”
2nd Class Petty Officer, Rex Caswell, PhD.
How We Met
The 2002 National Sales Meeting was over and this was our last meeting before heading to the airport. We were in Orlando, FL and the sun shine kept our spirits ups. We had traveled from snowy and cold Southern Ohio to be present at the meeting and we took every 15 minute break given to enjoy the warm sunny weather. The night before was our annual awards celebration dinner and after party. This was my first National Sales Meeting and I was enamored with what I saw. It was like the Emmy’s, but for our sales team. There was over 2000+ people at the meeting and only the top reps achieved our coveted prestigious award, Circle of Excellence (COE) recognition. That night I saw my colleague recognized as the top telephonic sales rep in our business segment. I was a rookie, six months into my first year and I knew I wanted to earn that recognition at our next National Sales Meeting. Our Vice President of Sales came down the hallway. I was on the way to my meeting and I stopped him. I walked directly to him and said, “I will be your next Sales Rep of the Year!” He looked at me puzzled, and said, “Son, I don’t know if you can even sell.” That was the challenge and from that day forward it was game on. Staying true to my promise, at the next National Sale Meeting, 12 months later, I was the top rep, COE winner, and Rep of The Year.
How He Encouraged Me
Rex was all about winning, having fun, and developing leaders. He was a stickler for numbers, sales metrics, and turning every call into a sales opportunity. He often gave me military leadership books like D. Michael Abrashoff, It’s Your Ship, and Jeff Cannon & Lt. Cmdr. Jon Cannon’s, Leadership Lessons of the Navy Seals. He gave me these books to inspire leadership and cultivate a mindset that I could lead a sales team victoriously regardless of the quota given or the market conditions. I would read everything he gave me overnight, and return to work eager to discuss the book with him. It became a game to me. Go in his office and while talking to him, scan his desk for new books. Search for the books on the web, call Barnes & Nobles to hold it, pick it up after work, and rush home to read it cover to cover. I believe this along with crushing my numbers caught his attention.
Rex Invested in Us and Created The 3 Golden Rules (see post)
He took a risk on three young sales professional when he promoted me and two other reps to sales managers in 2005. We were possible the youngest managers in the history of our company to earn promotion into management ranks leading sales professionals. He wanted us to be in a position to lead and make our department the best in the company to work at. Today, 12 years later, all three of us are still employed at the company and driving our sales teams to success. Rex created The 3 Golden Rules (see Lessons Learned From My Business Father).
5 + 1 things He Taught Me
- Own and know your numbers down to the cent.
- Your reps are your responsibility. Coach, Coach, Coach, Coach and Coach!
- Teach your sales reps their individual metrics and educate them on how those metrics will help them have command and control of their business.
- Take risk, make mistakes – just don’t make too many mistakes.
- Laugh! Laugh from the deepest point of your stomach and release the joy you are feeling.
- Celebrate your success.
Value of Metrics & Coaching
Rex taught me the value of metrics, how to calculate them, and tying them back to sales quota so can focus on bringing in the numbers. I learned how to coach my reps individually during 1:1s, cubical phone rides, and how to motivate them collectively during team meetings. Under Rex I developed a strong sales management knowledgebase. Rex brought in Steve Schiffman to train on opportunity management. This taught us how to properly conduct pipeline reviews and coach up our reps on opportunity management. Rex also brought in Art Sobczak to train us and our reps. As you can see we were very active and had a lot of fun while producing numbers.
A True Florida Seminole
Rex is a Florida Seminole to the core, loves good R&B classics, a nice glass of wine with a lit cigar. He gave me the opportunity to lead sales professionals and taught me the lessons that made me a better professional. He named me “The Reverend” because of my passionate sales speeches to my team. Having read so many military leadership books on valor, courage, and pride, I had instilled a spirit of “we can do anything together as team” attitude. I flourish under Rex and he continued to push me to grow. He was the first person to tell me that I should look at getting an MBA and the University of Notre Dame would be a great school for me. And that dream became a reality as well… He practiced what he preached and earned his PhD from Florida State University, proving to us that education is essential to progress and self-improvement.
Have you experienced similar types of learning from members in the U.S. Armed Services? Tell me about it in the comments section. I would be interested in hearing all about it. Thank you for sharing. (Go To Part 1)
Part three, the final part of this series is Shipman Brad Lanich of the U.S. Navy. R.I.H.
In this three series post, I will look at the positive impact that members of the U.S. Armed Forces have had on my sales career and how their leadership shaped my approach in the marketplace.
Part 1 Part 2
“Nobody climbs the mountain alone. Somebody gave you the boots”
Jeff Weaver, Captain, Field Artillery, U.S. Army
It was 12 years ago when I was in Jeff Weaver’s office, interviewing for my first sales job. It took me four attempts to get here. Other managers said I was too green and told me I needed more development. This time was different; I made it pass the initial interviews and this was the last step in the process. The final step was a role play and mock call with a sales manager. Jeff would play the customer and I was the sales rep trying to sell a comprehensive solution that would help Jeff’s law firm research needs. Yes, I was selling content-enabled workflow solutions designed specifically for professionals in the legal industry. Jeff handed me the mock call materials which included information on the customer and sales promotions I was offering. He stood up, gave me the five digit extension to call, and said, “you have 15 minutes to read over the materials. After reading the materials I want you to call the number I gave you and we will begin the mock call.” Jeff left the office and I jumped into his seat, pulling out all my notes from books I had read about sales regarding opening statements and how to ask thought provoking questions. I was a true newbie to sales and I needed someone to take a chance on me. I knew sales was my calling and this job would change my life. I read the mock call materials, took notes, highlighted certain sections, grabbed the phone, and punched those five digits to connect with Jeff. I heard the phone ring two times and then he answered, “law office” in a very stern why are you interrupting me type voice. Jeff knew these were the type of calls I would be expected to make each day and he needed to assess my skills and potential. What I learned from Weaver or Weave as me and others call him made me a solid sales professional and sales manager. Jeff taught me how to be a sale professional and how to be disciplined in my approach each day. He taught me the importance of execution and consistently delivering your numbers. He taught me that, “your forecast is a contract between you, your manager, and the company. It is your word, and you don’t break your word.” (see H.A.A.N.D Your Forecast) Jeff knew how to motivate and inspire. Jeff had the ability to see diamonds in the rough and under his tutelage he could turn you into a superstar sales professional. He is a legend in our business winning awards and developing future leaders. Yet he doesn’t care about the awards or the accolades. His passion is winning and developing others. Sales Reps that have worked under Jeff have moved on to become Sales Vice President, Director / General Manager, and Sales Managers to name a few.
When I was promoted to sales management, Jeff and I talked. He advised me to read Daniel Goleman’s, Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership. In that book I learned why Jeff was such a good manger and leader. He fully understood how to use Emotional Intelligence to guide thinking and behavior. What made Jeff an exceptional role model for me to mimic when I became a manager was that he had that “Dick Winter’s, Easy Company, military leadership” aura about him – if you have seen HBO’s Band of Brothers then you know what I’m talking about. He led from the front and he focused on putting his reps into positions where they could win more deals. I learned this during our intense team trainings. It was in those trainings that we all left our egos, titles, rank, and awards outside. Jeff trainings were like military simulations. He would create the most challenging sales obstacle course for you to complete under the safety of training. Everyone participated no matter tenure and those trainings made you battle ready on the phones. The trainings equipped us to handle the hardest objections with ease. Our simulations went like this. Everyone entered the training room and you if you were selected, you would pick a scenario from a bowl. Jeff always played the difficult prospect or customer. After the role play the entire team would give feedback and present best practices in the areas you struggled. Jeff gave final comments and we jumped back on the phones better than we were before the training. Trainings were held weekly and we looked forward to meeting the challenges. Meeting the challenges made you successful on the phone and helped you close deals. It makes sense, right? In a training environment you can make mistakes and be corrected without losing a sale. I applied the same training practice to my teams and the results were the same. My team got better and they crushed the numbers.
A lover of Coca-Cola soda, poker tournament jackpots, and any PGA golf course, Jeff’s personal philosophies shaped my sales career and influenced me to be the sales leader I am today.
Here are some of the philosophies he taught me:
– Always do what is right – even when no one is watching.
– Loyalty is a two way street.
– Know what you’re supposed to do and then do it.
– A hand-up is better than a handout.
– No matter how tough it may get, never quit.
– Don’t wring your hands – be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
– Always maintain your sense of humor
I’m interested, how has a member of the U.S. Armed Forces positively impacted your sales career?