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.