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.


Territory Planning for Success

The saying goes that you should hope for the best, and be prepared for the worst. I believe this is especially true in sales and the main reason why YOU HAVE TO DO TERRITORY PLANNING. Most reps hate writing territory plans and I believe the reason they dislike it is because many don’t know or understand what goes into a good territory plan, and how often it should be measured. Secondly, the accountability, execution, and consistent review of the plan rest first with the sales professional and secondly the sales manager. Trust me, if done correctly and executed precisely, your territory plan will become the most invaluable asset you have each day of your career in sales.
WHAT IS A TERRITORY PLAN? A territory plan is a strategy that is written down detailing the actions, tasks, and objectives you must complete to exceed your sales quota. Most territory plans include awards and other personal motivational items. These items include pictures of desired vacations, family vacations, dream cars, houses, lifestyle pursuits, and much more. One of my reps included a picture of a Harley-Davidson with all the extras. It was truly an honor to see him achieve his goal and purchase the bike. So now that you know what a territory plan is, let’s start with the first step.
SEGMENT YOUR TERRITORY: To have a good territory plan you need to analyze your territory – this is where most territory plans fall short. You do this by segmenting your territory into prospects that do not have your products and to customers that do have your products. You should use all resources you have to do this. Your marketing department or CRM are both great sources of information that you can use to collect this data. If the role in your company is pure new business then you would focus on the prospects that do not have your products and vice-versa for sales professionals that support a retention or base business motion. For this post I will focus on new business.
SEGMENT YOUR PROSPECTS (GO DEEPER INTO THE SEGMENTATION): Your next step is to segment your prospects by size, specialty, or class. The point here is to align it with your business segmentation process. Some companies segment their customer base by size or potential revenue. You should follow the segmentation process that your company has. Once you have completed this step you are ready for the next step. This step will help you understand the market potential in your territory.
MARKET POTENTIAL (AOV X # OF PROSPECTS): Now that you have the number of prospects in your territory and you have segmented these prospects by your company’s segmentation you can now take the average order value (AOV) of a sale by the number of prospects in your market to calculate your market potential. If your average order value for companies with 10 employees is $15,000 annually, and you have 150 companies with 10 employees in your territory your market size for this segment is $2.25 million ($15,000 x 150 prospects = $2,250,000). You will continue this exercise with your other segments and add all your segment market dollar amounts to get your total territory market potential. Now to the next step and YES, you will need your sales ratios and metrics moving forward.
MATCH UP YOUR SALES RATIOS TO YOUR QUOTA AGAINST YOUR MARKET POTENTIAL: Now it’s time for you to pull out your ratios and bump it up against your sales quota and your market potential. THIS IS CRITICAL. If you don’t have this information then I suggest you call your manager and ask him or her for them. You will need to know your core ratios and metrics such as first appointments to opportunities, and opportunities to close. You will take these ratios and begin calculating how many first appoints, opportunities, and closes you need to exceed plan, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. This will tell you how many sales are needed in each segment within your territory to exceed your quota. Now you are ready for your next steps and this is creating your target list.
TARGET LIST: It is now time to go back to your list of prospects by segment so you can put together those prospects that you must have as your customer base. These are the prospects that you know are the most influential prospects in your territory and having them as customers will help you build a solid book of business. These are the prospects that you call on often. I have heard some sales professionals call this their elephant hunting list or whale hunting list. The point I am making is that you have to know your territory and know where the big hits are so you can start building rapport with these prospects immediately. Closing a few of these deals throughout the year can help you exceed your number that much faster.
MEASURE YOUR OUTCOMES (MONTHLY, and QUARTERLY): Break down your objectives and goals into months and quarters. Then you need to review your outcomes each month and quarter to ensure that you are on track and executing your territory plan. IF YOU DO NOT DO THIS, YOU MIGHT AS WELL THROW YOUR PLAN AWAY BECAUSE IT IS WORTHLESS. Not measuring your outcomes means that you have taken a W.A.G. approach as my finance MBA professor from the University of Notre Dame would say. W.A.G. means wild a_ _ guessing as opposed to S.W.A.G. which is scientific well-thought analytical guidance. Decide on using the later and measure your outcomes. Keep in mind that territory plans are not static or inflexible. Territory plans are dynamic, and always changing with the needs of the business. You must review your status continuously and adjust as needed.
REWARD YOURSELF: How will you reward yourself for all the work and effort you have put into executing your territory plan. Think of something big and really worth your effort. Have a photo of it and hang it in your office, car, bedroom, and everywhere else you can. This is your motivation. Now imagine how great it will feel when you achieve your goals. I can only imagine how great it felt for my rep to buy his first Harley and the ride he took when he drove it off the lot. It had to be a great feeling.
In conclusion, territory planning is critical to achieving success each year in sales. A territory plan defines how you will spend your time and who you will spend it with. This is why you must measure your outcomes monthly, and quarterly to ensure you are on track or you will need to adjust your plan. The bulk of the work that goes into a territory plan is done in the analytical stage. This is where you segment your territory and truly map out your territory market potential. Furthermore, you must consistently review your territory plan against your outcomes to ensure you are on track. Lastly, reward yourself for all the hard work and effort as your begin executing your territory plan and having success.
(Special thanks to all that helped make this post. You each are living examples that sales is a noble profession)Great selling!!!
Insidesalesmagic….believe in the power of the telephone!!!