Sales Lessons from the U.S. Armed ForcesPosted: May 23, 2014
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?