Sales Lessons from the U.S. Armed Forces (Part 2)

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.

US Flag and Navy Ship

US Flag and Navy Ship

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

  1. Own and know your numbers down to the cent. 
  2. Your reps are your responsibility.  Coach, Coach, Coach, Coach and Coach!
  3. Teach your sales reps their individual metrics and educate them on how those metrics will help them have command and control of their business.
  4. Take risk, make mistakes – just don’t make too many mistakes.
  5. Laugh!  Laugh from the deepest point of your stomach and release the joy you are feeling.
  6. 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.

Rex Caswell, PhD.

Rex Caswell, PhD.

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.

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3 Golden Rules – Dedicated to my business father on Father’s Day

Today, Father’s Day, the first inside sales magic blog is published. The purpose of this blog is to share my passion and love of sales, but more specifically, my love of inside sales. I believe in the power of the telephone and I hope that after reading this blog you will as well.
My goal is to update new content on the blog at least twice a month. I hope you find this blog and the opinions written helpful.
Ok…So a little about me…
I’m a sales professional with expertise conducting business over the phone. I have 10+ years of sales experience with several years experience managing dynamic teams and helping sales professionals take their game to the next level. Outside of work, I am a father, son, brother, and EMBA student at the University of Notre Dame – so you may see some UND material – GO IRISH!
This first blog is dedicated to those business fathers’ (Mentors) who have guided me through my career and encouraged me to become a student in sales.
The 3 Golden Rules
My business father talks frequently about the 3 Golden Rules and how as sales professionals we must not only follow them but live by them. These rules can apply to life and are not exclusive to sales. The 3 Golden Rules lay the foundation for the materials that will be covered in later submissions.
RULE# 1
YOU INTERVIEW FOR YOUR NEXT JOB EVERYDAY

You never know who is watching you and taking notice of your talent. This rule is pretty straight forward and basic. Better said, it means always be professional and as my peer says, “come to work, to work.” It also means that to be successful you have to work at your craft. I have never met an inside sales professional that could close every prospect on every call. I do know inside sales professionals that are dedicated and committed to learning their craft. They study their territories, practice their opening statements, work on probing skills, and consistently look for best practices. It’s no wonder that these reps are typically the first to be called on by sales leadership to mentor, take on additional responsibilities, and manage teams.
RULE # 2
CONTROL YOUR OWN DESTINY BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE DOES

I often advise sales professionals that each year there is a new challenge issued and it is up to us to grab the flag and run up the hill. I always follow that with this, “with every new challenge issued, there will be new heroes to emerge.” Then I asked the question that gets to the heart of this rule, “Will you be that hero? Will you take command and control of your business and run it like your business?”
I am a huge advocate of having a territory plan with personal goals and metrics to measure success (to be discussed in another submission). Rule #2 focuses on our ability as sales professionals to create a plan and execute it with discipline. Each month we should review our plan and the results yielding from the plan to make sure we are still on track to obtain our goal. This puts us in a better position to be consciously competent, instead of being unconsciously incompetent. Unconsciously incompetent sales reps make calls without any specific goal, method, or action in mind to move the call to the next step. Rule # 2 states that if we lack daily execution and lose discipline carrying out the steps in our plan, sales leadership will take control of our day and ultimately run our business for us. Trust me, no sales professional wants to be part of this club. Follow your territory plan and execute your daily deliverables.
RULE #3
THE GOLDEN RULE: THINGS ($H!T) HAPPENS

Life happens to all of us. We have good days and we have bad days. We also have things that spring up out of nowhere and these things demand our attention. Each month is a new month, and our success in the previous month is short lived, but as sales professionals we accepted this and march forward taking on next month’s goal. When things happen, such as the account that we were 100% sure would close doesn’t, or the needs of our company change and we have to employ a new strategy. We as sales professionals have to be adaptable to make “it happen” while conditions are changing. Success lies in our ability to see new opportunities in front of us and not allow changes to alter our game. When “things ($H!T) happens,” we need to examine and review our plan for changes, implement those changes, and get back in the game! Things will always happen. We can only control things that are in our control and things out of our control we must make a conscious decision not invest into them.