Author/Story-Teller, Inspirational Speaker, Sales Leader - how do you wear so many hats effectively?
Great question. Certainly, every author has their own distinctive strengths in the areas mentioned, but I truly believe I am the complete package that creates the highest level of excellence and effectiveness in touching targeted audiences. A few years ago, I took the Strengths Finders 2.0® and the results bore that out. The specificity that emerged from that analysis gave me additional confidence that I was uniquely gifted to fulfill my vision and mission. My top 5 were;
- Strategic – Faced with any given scenario, I can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues and create an effective course of action.
- Input – I have a craving to know more, and I collect and archive all kinds of information for future reference.
- Positivity – I possess an enthusiasm that is contagious. I am always upbeat and can get others excited about what they are doing.
- Futuristic – I am inspired by the future and what could be, and desire to inspire others about their visions of the future.
- Learner – I truly enjoy learning and want to continuously improve. The process of learning excites me.
You were trained in SPIN® training at Huthwaite Inc., how was that experience?
Yes, I was fortunate in 1998 to be part of a corporate team selected to certify as a SPIN trainer and install the program into our sales organization. We were afforded the opportunity to spend time with author and behavioral scientist, Neil Rackham. The week was invaluable and taught me three key concepts;
- Sales are governed more by human behavior than product characteristics. I know there is an evolving theory in this area, but I believe that the vast majority of us are still driven by the need to “connect” while we are seeking solutions to our problems and desires. The kitchen table, the showroom floor, or the corporate conference room, when we connect, we create an atmosphere conducive to closing a sale.
- Products are still sold and not bought. Even with the advent of internet and alternative methods of product distribution, people still need assurances that they are doing the right thing. Case in point, a product on Amazon that has no reviews or unfavorable reviews will deter the buying decision. In this example, the “social community” is actually selling the product. If that is true, a professional seller can still be effective in building relationships that culminate in a favorable transaction for all involved.
- Professional Sellers are the most successful. Through the preponderance of empirical data that Huthwaite analyzed and my own 28 years of observation, sales success is not accidental. There are two foundational elements that govern the activities of the best sales people. The good news is that there is a “science of selling” that anyone can apply elements of and increase their sales effectiveness.
What makes your approach effective?
As mentioned, there is a science of selling, but selling is also an art form. The precepts of the scientific elements must be followed by everyone. However, the art of selling is idiosyncratic. This is where most corporate training programs miss it…they expect the entire process to be scientific and as a consequence they don’t empower or mentor the individual to nuance the corporate approach to fit their own personality.
I endeavor to help people find their unique “sales voice” and inject that artful voice into the science of selling until it evolves and uncovers the inherent strengths that can build a successful, sustainable sales professional. Not someone who has to “will themselves” to success, but simply “to be”… as I like to say “be successful in their own skin”.
What is so unique about your methods?
I help sales professionals construct a holistic model that includes a philosophy of life mastery along with sales mastery. This is more than the standard goal setting that ties to a sales quota. I believe each individual has to create a compelling personal dynamic that generates a “white heat” of inspiration that can get them beyond comfort zones, and the temporary defeat they will face in this profession. I call this Archimedic Leverage – it is the pivot point that takes “what they want” and “why they want it“.
This inflection point “tips the scale” of fear, procrastination, self-doubt and every other convenient truth of why people don’t believe they will succeed. It takes them beyond the expectations of the company they work for, or approach avoidance of marketing themselves or products for their own business. This “lever” then empowers the activity, persistence, and diligence it takes to engage/endure the sometimes arduous scientific elements of the sales process. All the while, utilizing their natural selling style to create a potent mix of science, art, and personal development allowing them to “move the world” as they know it.
Yes, this process takes more time for development, but yields a high morale selling culture that creates more peak performers and greater sales effectiveness. That kind of sustainable ROI is what companies are fighting for, and the answer is right before them…their people.
Why a story as opposed to a traditional training guide?
People enjoy and thus remember stories more than dry content delivered in rote fashion. I am a storyteller at heart. I am so well known for my analogies, euphemisms, metaphors, and acronyms it has become part of my branded image. It just made sense to relay my knowledge and experiences in this entertaining, enlightening and empowering parable format. This inspirational and instructional series of books is my sales authentic voice. Many elements are autobiographical, and I sincerely endeavor to get into the hearts of the audience to impact them in a more profound way.
The Crumbs Trilogy? Why not one big book as opposed to 3 smaller ones?
In training 1,000’s of sales professionals, I have come to realize we all very limited attention spans! I wanted this to be a series of bite sized pieces…Sales Crumbs if you will. Not the typical training guide that would be 400 pages that people would stop reading after chapter 3.
I fashioned the Sales Crumb Trilogy to be an engaging guide chronicling Matthew Palmer, the main character’s journey from struggle to success. Most books don’t acknowledge the direct and peripheral challenges we all grapple with as we pursue achievement. I wanted to make a simple, yet profound, page turner. An “airplane read” that could be finished in a couple of hours yet impact the reader for a lifetime as they relate to the story, grow with the central character and allow the life lessons an opportunity to sink into their daily lives.
What problem (or desire) does this series solve (or meet)?
While it is my staunch belief that “Pareto Must Die”, there is an inevitability of some form of “the minority sells the majority” equation within most organizations. Whether this be a self-fulfilling prophecy driven by the selection/training process, or the empirical preciseness of the theory of the “vital few” is immaterial. The only way an organization will get healthier, fiscally, is to do something to impact the 80% – to develop them to higher performance.
The 80% represents the majority. They are struggling to make their quota, to make ends meet, to keep their jobs – which represents a measure of self-worth and value. The process used to monitor, measure, and motivate them into higher performance is one of “carrots and sticks” (do this and get this!) or “sticks and stones” (being labeled publicly as an under performer).
In this interview, you have made several references to helping sales professionals develop their "authentic sales voice". Please explain further what you mean.
The trilogy takes a holistic approach to helping people discover what drives them, how to leverage that energy, and transmute it into higher level of sales performance. A core teaching in the series is “The Message and The Messenger“. This principle has been delivered to 1,000’s of agents followed by an enlightenment that leads to more natural delivery…creating increased output.
Simply, “The Message (the product) is, to a large degree, rigid and structured – it requires “science” to transfer the features and benefits to the client. The revelation and transformation comes when they understand that they as “The Messenger” can be “artful”, idiosyncratic and they don’t have to leave their personality or essence at the door.
True, it is mathematically unlikely that sales will spread evenly throughout a dynamic sales organization, but the more “solid citizens” who contribute to the best of their developed ability, the stronger and more impregnable an organization will become – problem solved!
Who will read and enjoy this series?
Sales is a “head space” profession and as a result, many are voracious readers. The genres of focus are any type of self-development material – to include sales, inspiration and motivation. Most maintain a library of classics and relevant contemporary titles. There are the standards, such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino, and Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins that grace their bookshelves. As it relates to sales, they know Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, John Maxwell and others in the field. They invest in books outlining “the sales process of the moment” looking for an edge to get better at their craft. Additionally, they attend seminars, buy programs and refer their friends to programs that they find effective. It is a viral audience through various mediums.
The Sales Crumbs Trilogy fills a combination of these expressed interests with its inspirational and instructional storytelling format. It fills a void that exists with an uplifting story about relatable characters in a world where technical sales manuals abound.
Sounds like you know what motivates your core audience - what is that?
Simply…getting better and making a good living at their chosen profession. They want to feel that sales is noble and that they provide a valuable service that positively impacts the lives of their clients. Of course, there is the diametrically opposed “Eustress and Distress” that serve as motivation to all of them in one form or another. The desire to achieve, make the top 10 list, score a company trip, or simply send their kids to college provides amble motivation.
When they find themselves faced with a challenge, they will seek answers. Sales professionals utilize coaches, mentors, and self-help programs to develop their abilities for higher achievement.
What are they hoping this series will do for them?
That depends on the perspective of the reader. Let’s examine the broadest spectrum of likely readers;
There are few things scarier than entering sales for the first time or entering into a new industry. While MBA’s are plentiful, sales diplomas are seldom handed out in universities. As a result, most people “fall into sales” with no directional compass on how to succeed. The story of Matt is immediately relatable for this group – it gives them hope, a process to follow, and the assurance that they can succeed. The most common reaction to Vol. 1 of “Crumbs” for those in sales less than 6 months –
“I felt as if I was in the pages and at the end…I cried with Matt. I now believe I can make it…thank you!“
For many in sales, they have never developed their authentic “sales voice” and have used pure grit, determination, persistence, and sheer will to survive. Yes, each of these adjectives is appropriate at some stage of development but cannot be sustained over the long haul. As a result, temporarily strong performers that showed great promise either “burn out, give out, or act out“. The fastest cure for sick sales organizations is to revive and restore the members of their team that need TLC. Yes, some are no longer fit for service (I am not Polly Anna!), but they represent a “just add water” opportunity if the right energy and time is invested.
The Crumbs Trilogy will provide a message of hope (the common theme), value, and help them create “Archimedic Leverage” that will help them not only move, but change their world.
The Steady Majority
This is the sweet spot for the series as these are the vast majority of sales professionals. Not at the top, not at the bottom, but have demonstrated consistent performance and are the backbone of most companies. They can be counted on to deliver and represent the products they serve with professionalism, energy and ethics. They are constantly working on self-development – reading good books (like Crumbs!), attending workshops/seminars, and investing in their future. They will be looking for fresh ideas and rejuvenation that comes from a feel good story about their profession.
The Seasoned Veteran
These are the 25 year plus professionals who see themselves in Matt and LeRoy. There is generally a nostalgic reminiscence of their “humble” beginnings (Matt) and a corresponding pride in being a revered performer (LeRoy) that fuels these perennial performers for another round of activity. They are likely mentoring other sales professionals and will refer or gift the book to the next generation of professional sellers.
My primary experience has been with owners of large insurance agencies comprised of hundreds of downline agents and brokers. Many of these agencies do not have corporate training templates and the sessions within The Crumbs Trilogy lend themselves to iterative teaching programs. Within the traditional corporate environment, mangers are looking for a fresh and innovative way to inspire their teams and generate more effective activity.
The modular content of the trilogy is a highly effective training/mentoring guidebook. There are reports of managers using the book for Monday meetings and conveying the primary lesson from the series of lunch interactions between Matt and LeRoy. The subsequent volumes in the series also lend themselves to this approach.
How can people work with you to impact their organization?
I am sensitive to the current environments of stricter requirements for training and team development so I have various levels that corporations can engage me with to impact their teams. It can be as basic as providing books and keynote address at sales functions all the way to broad integration of this training and mentoring leadership and salespeople for highest yield return on investment.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how I can increase the sales effectiveness with interested corporate leadership.