Do you believe that some people are just born to be great salespeople and other people aren’t? Well, sales, like just about everything else, is a skill that can be improved upon and mastered. Bob LaBrie, of LaBrie Training and Consulting breaks down the sales process into achievable pieces, talks about the Internet’s impact on sales, and even “reads” Rich and Yury!
Rich: Our next guest has been in the training development field for the last 35 years. He has presented over 750 seminars and worked with individuals representing over 400 companies in 150 career fields since the company’s inception of April, 2000.
He has an extensive background spending 32 years in sales, training, communication, self-motivation, and customer relationship building. He has also studied neurolinguistic programming, aka NLP, for 29 years and is certified as an NLP practitioner through the National Federation of Neurolinguistics Psychology. Working with individuals and companies teaching both conventional training techniques and NLP concepts, he combines neural linguistic programming with traditional training techniques to form a unique curriculum designed to specifically increase seminar participant’s performance.
Now let’s talk sales and sales training for your company with Bob LaBrie. Bob, welcome to the podcast
Bob: Morning, happy to be here.
Yury: This is exciting to have you, and I’m really glad that we started off the conversation talking about books. And one of your favorite books that you told me about was the book on sales. So besides liking books on sales, can you tell us a little bit about how did you get started in sales?
Bob: Yeah, so it’s interesting. I ended up going into the Air Force. I’m retired Air Force, I spent 21 years in. And they wanted to send me to Southeast Asia a second time and I said, there’s got to be something else I can do. And they said, well there’s recruiting. Well, I didn’t like public speaking, I actually failed every oral book report in high school, I would not get up and talk. But then they gave me the option of bombs or microphone. And I said, well, okay, microphone.
So I went to recruiting school, which is a six week sales training course, and I fell in love with sales. I mean, it changed my life. So I ended up becoming a recruiter for 15 years. I took Taunton, Massachusetts tops in the nation. And then I went into the trainer aspect of it and taught sales to recruiters and did that for a long time.
And then when I got out, I thought that’s what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the background. I was, I mentioned this to Rich yesterday, I had none of the business background but I had the training background. So I opened a financial services business because I was licensed in that area. I did that for seven years and learned a little bit about how to open a speaking and training business.
Let that go after about eight years and launched what I used to call the company as Maximum Potential, back in April of 2000. And I changed it about a year and a half ago to LaBrie Training and Consulting, because people were using maximum potential over the place. They didn’t want to fight about it. So I just, I just changed everything to something they can’t use, but I love it.
The one thing I didn’t mention, I mentioned How to Master the Art of Selling to you, Yury. Tom Hopkins is my guru in sales. He actually came and trained us with the Air Force, and when his training was done, my life changed. Because he taught that you don’t sell by telling, you sell by asking. You learn to answer a question with a question and move the direction of the process through using questions, getting affirmation all the time. The minute I learned that my life changed entirely.
Rich: Hm. Interesting. Bob, you know, many of our listeners may not be familiar with NLP. Can you give us a brief description of it and how it fits into sales?
Bob: Yeah. So the reason I got into it is I needed something to set me apart in Maine. You know, everybody has their own little niche. Some guys use motivation, and I didn’t have anything. And then I happened to pick up a book called Change Your Mind and Keep the Change by Richard Bandler. And I read that and I got intrigued. Then of course I got into Tony Robbins stuff. And what he did is he took NLP and changed it to NAC. He calls it neuroscience of conditioning, but it’s exactly the same thing.
So neuro stands for your nervous system. It’s how you take all the information into your brain, through your senses and how it codes. Linguistics is words. It’s how you take the things that people say to you. The things that you read, the things that you say to yourself that you believe and how that codes in your brain. And then programming, which is habits, forming successful habits. When you take all three of those and put it together, I mean, there’s so much you can apply to sales.
For example, communication styles in NLP, they call it representational types. That’s a little too hard to say. So people communicate visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically; seeing, hearing and feeling. And there’s actually more in Europe, they teach gustatory and a couple of others, but those three are here. So I incorporated how do you identify someone as a visual or as an auditory or as a kinesthetic by how they say what they say, how their eyes move. That’s a fascinating one, go online sometime and look that up.
You could tell by the way their eyes move, whether they’re more visually oriented, a more auditory oriented, or more kinesthetically oriented. So I incorporated communication styles. Then I took the habitual part, and when I work with someone in sales, I don’t necessarily look at just their process. I look at what their patterns are. I mean, do they have a pattern of getting up in the morning and doing nothing for the first two hours but having a cup of coffee and reading a newspaper, when they should be doing their administrative stuff early in the morning so that they can hit the road doing their sales stuff throughout the day. So I incorporated patterns in that way.
Linguistics is a lot of self-talk. Sales reps are notorious for talking themselves out of business, as well as into business. They literally can talk themselves into not even wanting to talk to a customer that day because they have convinced themselves they’re not going to succeed. So part of that is, is I teach the self-talk portion. I don’t know if that helps.
Rich: No, definitely. I think it gives people a good understanding. I remember from my own sales training days understanding if somebody’s kinesthetic because they say things like, “I feel” versus “I hear” what you’re saying, or “I see where you’re going with this”.
Bob: Let me give you an example. The human example of the eyes. If you look at someone who’s visual, they spend about 60% of their time looking up. Up to the left for something remembered, up to the right for something conceptualized. If they’re auditory, their eyes stay level, they go to the left ear or the right ear. Left to remember, right to conceptualize. Kinesthetics have one eye movement down to the right, because it’s all about feelings.
If you ever watched someone who’s depressed, they always kind of looked down and they always kind of looked down to the right. You know, it’s almost like they go like this. So you can tell by the words they use, you can tell by their eyes, you can tell by how fast they talk or how slow they talk.
For example, imagine Robin Williams and President Reagan or Obama having a conversation and you’ll see the classic visual versus auditory orator. Whole different animal. So when you understand that you slowed down, when you talk to someone who’s auditory, you speed up a little bit. When you’re talking to someone who’s visual, and you include a lot of feeling kind of terms with someone who’s kinesthetic, and you communicate in a language they understand.
Yury: Bob, listening to you I was thinking about the things that I’m familiar with about NLP or what I heard. And one of the terms or one of the practices that I liked or was interested in is the anchoring, when you’re developing a certain pattern. Whether you tap someone on the shoulder when they’re laughing or tap somebody’s elbow when they need to lift up. And then in the moment when you need to kind of like bring them back to that experience or the feeling you kind of do that little tap and the person gets transformed back in. Can you elaborate on that a little bit? Like, is it so farfetched that it’s not true?
Bob: Oh, no, not at all. As a matter of fact, it’s probably not sales oriented but I actually used anchors to help my daughter. I lost my son to colon cancer when he was 21, and my daughter went into a down, I mean, she got into a drugs, she got all kinds of problems. I used anchors to actually bring her out of that by installing an anchor in her. What I did is I used my son’s grave. We took her over to the grave and I said, “I want you to think about the day that he died”. And I got her into a crying state, because the whole idea behind anchors is to raise the level of their emotion. Not to peak, but just prior to peak. And that’s when you install the anchor.
And when I did with her, all I did is I asked her how she felt when he died, and got her into that state. Then I had her draw her own tombstone. And she goes, “What?” And I said, “Yes, because if you continue the way you’re doing, I’m going to plant you right there beside him. So draw your, too.” And she did. Oh my God, she cried while she did it. But you know what happened is I said, “Now take that drawing, and whenever someone approaches you with wanting you to take the drugs, go get away, take the drawing and look at it. And if you look at that drawing and it brings you back to this point and you start crying, you’re going to remember why you don’t want to do that”.
And she did that for six months. We actually re-installed the anchor using a pendant six months after that. I had Day’s Jewelers helped me out with that, to develop a pendant specifically for that. And I reinstalled an anchor over the phone, go through the next six months, and now she’s been nine years clean and everything’s cool. That’s powerful stuff.
Yury: That is really powerful. And thank you for sharing such a personal story, because it definitely gives a perspective of how professional techniques and the elements can be incorporated into a personal life if you perfect the art of what you love and what you’re passionate about.
So speaking about passion and art of the things as we start talking about sales, frequently we can hear notions of well, sales are for those who are born with it, you have to have a talent or you’re born with it, or you’re not born with it. What would you say to those people that are not believers that this can be trained or developed?
Bob: I love that question. So when I open a sales training, the way I typically open is I ask a question, “Who in this room considers themselves to be natural born salespeople?” If I have a hundred people in the room, two people raise their hand, nobody believes they are. So my first sale to that group is to convince them that they’re all natural born salespeople and we all sell all the time. And I use this definition; anytime you persuaded someone to do something they were not thinking about doing until you got involved, you sold them. From the day you were born, you were selling. If you were on the changing table and you started to cry, and that nurse picked you up and got you to stop crying, that was your first close. You persuaded her to pick you up by your actions. And if you weren’t there, that it wouldn’t have happened.
So when you understand that kids sell all the time, take them to a grocery store if you don’t think that kids sell. Teenagers definitely sell all the time. And what I try to do is make them understand that we use sales. We just don’t call it selling. We call it interacting, establishing rapport, dating. If you’re dating buddy, you’re selling. If you’ve been married, that was the biggest close you ever did. You persuaded someone to spend the rest of their life with you. And then I usually ask the question is their buyer’s remorse sometime, and of course the answer is yes, about 53% of the time, unfortunately.
So what ends up happening is when they understand they all use sales all the time. Now all I’m going to do is teach them some process, some methodology, and some techniques, to make it easier to use the things they do naturally. I always tell these guys, if you were not good at dating, when you’re done with this course, you’re going to do very well at dating.
Rich: I will say that my dating skills did go up after I started getting into sales. Bob, when I think about a sales process from a business standpoint, I think of things like prospecting, qualifying, and closing. Are those the core elements of selling? Are there more? And can you break it down for us a little bit?
Bob: Yeah. So let me define the difference between process and presentation, because there is a difference. I worked with a company that had 22 steps in their process, 22. So I said, well, tell me when your sale takes place. And they said, we think it happens right about here. I said, “Thin?” So what I do is I use integrated selling. I take their process and I integrate it into a seven step presentation. And the steps are pretty simple. It’s introduction, establishing rapport. Qualifying your customer, which is I’m making sure you really understand exactly what they’re looking for and why they’re looking for it. Presenting your product, if it will suit their needs. Asking for their business. Overcoming any objections, if you need to or answer any questions. And then once again, finalize the sale and follow up after the sale. So it’s service after the sale.
So the steps are introduction, qualifying presentation, initial close, overcoming objections, final close, and service after the sale. Process adds in everything else that happens, like the paperwork that’s got to get done in my case. The introduction is when if I went to see you in your company, the first thing I would do is, “Hi, how you doing?” Meet everybody, connect a little bit, take a look for badges on the wall to find out if there’s anything there that you and I connect with. Maybe you’re efficient. Maybe you’re a golfer or whatever, and we connect. And then from there I sit down and really ask you a series of questions. If it’s business to business, I do my homework. You don’t have to do that with business to consumer, but with business to business you do your homework.
You find out a little bit about the company before you get there. I should be able to speak a little bit of their language. And then I asked them, so tell me what your issues are, tell me why you feel you need sales training, and what areas do you think you need sales training in? Then from there I go back and I put together a proposal, I carry it back, that’s my presentation. I show them their objectives, the things they wanted to achieve and how my training will help them achieve their objectives. If at that point I don’t think I can help them, I will refer them. I’ve done that before, too. That’s why I belong to ACE by the way.
Rich: So I like what you’re saying in terms of how you do it. And you may have even explained this because what you’re selling can vary. But when you first described those steps, it felt like you had a series of products, like you could open up a folder and be like, “Do you want A, B or C?” I know for a digital agency like ours, everything is customized. And obviously there are a lot of businesses like that. We don’t have a set product. We may have some types of things that we usually sell, like a website. But even that gets very nuanced. How does that fit into that process that you were just discussing?
Bob: So once you identify what it is they need, for example, if they need a website. You said you do that website?
Rich: Yeah. And sometimes they come to us and they say, “Oh, I need Facebook.” And I’m like, “Trust me, that’s the last thing you need.” So there’s that education piece. But you know, if you can speak to that, that would be interesting.
Bob: Okay. So again, the most important step in the process is qualifying. It’s really important that you do that right, because that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you really clearly identify what they really need.
For example, I went to a company that has 100 customer service reps and 600 salespeople. In Maine, there’s a company that big, Bagger Brothers, they’re huge. And when I went to see them they said they attended a public seminar mine and they said, “Well, we need sales training.” So I said, “Tell me why you feel you need sales training.” And they did. And I said, “Can I interview a middle manager, two middle managers and two upper managers and some people on the floor, and then I’ll come back and report to you”. And they said, “Sure”. So I did all that. And then I came back and I said, here’s what you think you need versus what you said you need. Here’s what your managers think you need. Here’s what you really need. And it was very different than what they thought they needed.
So qualifying identified that. And sometimes part of qualifying is doing your homework, sometimes it’s interviewing. Then when you come back, that’s when I’d say, “You know, you said you needed Facebook, but you really don’t need that. Let me explain why.” And that’s where the education piece comes in during presentation.
And then at the end of that, say, “Can you see why I’m recommending this over this? So when would you like us to get started on this?” You reached for a close and see what happens. So what then ends up happening is after you’ve done your presentation then you ask for their business. And they might say, “Well, we’re not sure you know about that.” And this is where technique comes in.
So the words feel, felt and found. I know how you feel. A lot of people felt exactly the same way until they found out why we make the recommendations that we do. Let me explain. I can use that anywhere, but it’s a nice segue. It’s a transition.
So that’s a little bit about technique and how you can use that to keep the sale flowing so that you can keep the conversation going until you actually close the sale. Then the rest of the process is delivering. If you’re going to do a website, it’s setting up the website, delivering it for me, it’s actually conducting the training and the coaching that might follow on that’s all part of process. The sale is done. The rest of it is process.
So when I worked with that company with 22 steps, we have to identify where the sale takes place. So that’s when they knew it’s closing right here. This is when we know it’s a done deal. The rest of it is process.
Yury: We were talking about different techniques, but there are also different styles of sales. So can you talk a little bit about what is the right style of sale and how do I know if it’s right for me versus right for someone else?
Bob: Okay. So usually what determines that is the type of company, the size of the company, the type of product. All of that comes into play. So let me give you a couple of examples. Complex sales, you take the seven steps I gave you; introduction, qualifying presentation, and you actually close. Not on the end product, but to the next level. Because it’s usually multistage. There are several levels of improvement. So if you don’t get past level one, you don’t get to level two, and you certainly don’t get to level five where the decision is made. So you close at each level at the end, and then you begin the next level by summarizing what happened before, and then closing to the next level. But it’s the same seven steps, it just happened six or seven times or five times or whatever it is. So that’s called complex sales.
Then there’s team selling. Team selling, they use the same steps but they use it a little differently. Each person is responsible. I work with a company in Boston, an investment company, and what they do is they would go to Rich and say, “We want to invest your money for the business. Here’s how we’ll do that.” So they got a guy who stands up and he explains how he’s going to track your money. Then they got another guy who comes in and explains how he’s going to invest it. And another guy comes in and explains to the changes that will happen, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Then you’ve got to closer who comes in, summarizes everything, and closes either to the next level or closes the deal at that point. That’s team selling. So if I go into a company and I see they’re not using team selling and I think it would help them, then that’s what I’ll make the recommendation on switching.
Then you got qualification based selling. Here’s real estate. If you’ve bought a home, you know that you’ll go into one home thinking you know what you’re looking for. Then you go into another home. This happened to us. And we thought we were all set until we saw our home with a sunroom. Ooh, I like that. Then we started home with a four season sunroom. So I said, okay, now we want that. So what happens is you have to requalify every time you talk to your customer to see what has changed.
I work with Northeastern Log Homes. We had to teach that. That’s what happens with them is they help them design a home from scratch. And that design change is almost every time they talk, they look at a log home magazine and they go, “Oh, we decided we wanted to add this.” So they have to move the windows around. They have to switch this around. If you don’t continue to qualify, you never land them on the right product.
There’s another one called solution selling, which is problem solution kind of selling. You’re called in because there’s a problem. Usually construction companies use this. There’s a big problem. I’m working with a company called Air US right now. They go in and they identify whether there’s a water problem, as an example. And then they recommend solutions to the water problem or solutions to their air problem. Okay, so that’s more problem solution. And you have to identify the problem. Then make recommendations on solutions. But you still use introduction, qualifying presentation, the process doesn’t change.
One more, Socratic selling, that’s using questions. The entire process is nothing but a series of questions. So someone says, “I’d like a red sports car.” I got to ask you a question, why red and why sports car? Because they buy the ‘why’. If you don’t find out ‘why’ you don’t get the sale. And they might say, “Well I’m 45 years old. I’ve wanted a red sports car my entire life. This is the year I’m getting it.” Well when I had someone do that to me when I was at Bill Dodge selling Cadillacs, I couldn’t have sold him anything but a red sports car. Thank God we had Saturns back then and I got him into a little red Saturn Sky, which is a sports car, which was nice.
So you have to identify the why, that’s part of qualifying, and then you just keep using questions. When someone says, “I’m interested in a SUV”, “Just out of curiosity, why an SUV?” “Because we’re doing a lot of camping now because of the COVID.” “I’m interested in a website”, “Just out of curiosity, why?” “Well, I don’t think my website is doing its job.” And they might just need an upgrade. It might just need some add-ons. Maybe they need a landing page. They might need something like that. But you identify that in qualifying
Rich: Bob that’s a lot of information in terms of the different types of sales and it was great, but I’m kind of curious. We’ve talked a lot about sales, I want to talk a little bit about sales training, because this is another aspect of it. Obviously sales, you can come in. If you work for me, I’m sure you could sell all the websites, all the SEO, but how do I know when my company needs sales training, and what does sales training look like?
Bob: Again, a great question. So let me use me as an example. I had a 45 person financial services team. I had four offices, it was a management nightmare. There was continuing education. It was all kinds of things. And the training in that is really involved. There’s a continuing ed, the sales training does all kinds of stuff. I get tired of that. So I formed a solopreneur business. I don’t have anybody to manage. I don’t need another salesperson. Now that limits me to how much money I’m going to make. So I have to identify is what I’m doing satisfactory for me. If it’s not, I can double what I’m doing or even more than that, if I bring in one other sales person or I bring in someone to lead generate. So part of it is asking yourself, what is it you want to accomplish?
It’s based on goals. If your team is doing okay as it is and you’re satisfied with the level of performance, then why go into anything else? You know, I believe that everybody in a company should sell.
Rich: I’m with you on that.
Bob: I believe that if you work for that company, you have a responsibility that when someone says, “Who do you work for and what do you do?” bring them in. And that’s a huge belief of mine. And that for a large company as well, it’s easier to manage with a smaller company. And it’s easy to keep that excitement going with a smaller company. The minute you start adding sales reps, you start adding personalities, you start adding egos, and start adding a whole lot. So you have to determine, do you really want to do that? You know, when I was working with Berlin City, there was a director of training for a while for it. And they have 17 franchises. It’s huge, they’re in Vermont or New Hampshire. And every one of them operated differently, every one of them was using a different sales process. And what happened is they kept bringing in all these different sales trainers. This one liked this guy so they did it this way. This one did this way. I looked at that and it was impossible to track. I said, everybody’s going to get on the same page. So we created a sales training program to get everybody on the same page, all beating to the same drummer. Sometimes you have to do that. So I don’t know if that answers your questions or not.
Rich: I think it does in terms of what sales training is. From what I’m hearing it is its own process. And basically in some cases it might be about getting everybody on the same page, and other ones it’s about streamlining that sales process. Like any other profession, you need to have a process in there. And sales training is going to elevate our team to do a better job, not to push products, but just to do a better job to service the customer in support of sales.
Bob: Let me give you some elements that we haven’t talked about. So I told you the steps, right? But in between all that there’s attitude training, and I know if I’ve got a senior sales guy and all of a sudden his production is down and he’s stalled, it’s not because you forgot how to sell it. He let his brain get in the way and all of a sudden he starts convincing himself, “I can’t do this”, or, “This is going to be a bad day.” The minute you start saying that as a sales rep, you’re going downhill. You have to turn that around. So part of the training is making sure that heads on straight every single day walking through the door.
Another part is dealing with different personality types. Since the internet, we’ve lost our edge in sales. We used to have the edge because they used to have to come to us to find out all about our product. Now they can go – for example in car sales – you used to go to five or six or seven dealerships to find a car. Well now 85, 83% of the time, they’ve done all their homework online. When they land, when they go to see you, they’re ready to buy a car. And if you understand that in your head, you have a sale there if you just do your job. So it changed things.
And let me go back to where I was going before, because I get off the beaten path. So part of training is personality types. How do they like to buy? Take charge, don’t like to horse around. They don’t want to ask. They don’t want you to ask a whole lot of questions. They don’t want to tap dance with how your family is and how the weather is. They don’t want to do that. They want to get down to business. So you identify that and you get down to business with them. You get someone who’s pretty easy going. They want to talk about family. They want to talk about the trips they’ve taken. So you’ve got to back off a little bit and let them do that.
Rational logicals don’t want to talk. They just walk in and they’re monotone and they give you nothing. So with those, I use checklists, because that’s what they like. They like a very strategic plan kind of thing, and you walk them down through that and they like that stuff.
Rich: Your sales process, whatever it is, still needs to be flexible because at the end of the day it’s the person driving it. Or at least you need to make the person feel like they’re driving that process.
Bob: Absolutely, no doubt about it. Qualifying does that. Part of qualifying isn’t just finding out what they want, it’s finding out who you’re dealing with. Am I dealing with a take charge, a visual communicator? Am I dealing with a kinesthetic who really needs to feel strongly about your product before they’ll buy it? Am I dealing with an auditory who needs all the details, they want everything in precise detail. So if you understand that as you’re talking with them you can kind of listen to the how fast or how slowly talk, what kinds of things interest them and say, all right, he’s going to need a little more detail or he’s not going to buy rationale he needs a lot of detail. They go into analysis paralysis. They’ll tell you all the reasons why they shouldn’t before they’ll tell you all the reasons why they should. So you’ve got to kind of bring that out in qualifying.
Yury: Bob, some of our listeners unfortunately don’t really have a storefront or a place to meet the customers, and most of their business is just directly through the website. Do you have any recommendations for those individuals who don’t really have a chance to get on the phone and do those qualifications to the customers identifying their personas and types of who they are and where they are? Any ideas what they can do better with their websites?
Rich: Yury, do you have a specific company or an industry in mind type of company in mind, when you ask that?
Yury: you know, I was just thinking something like the merchandise, you know, the local, “Maine, the way life should be”, you know, the t-shirts, the caps, the hats, you know.
Bob: They’re buying online only, no conversation, no, nothing, no, nothing?
Yury: You know, no physical presence.
Bob: So marketing comes into play on that one. And part of marketing is once again – to bring in NLP into this – one of the things I used to do when I was doing a lot of emails is I would put a little bit of visual, a little bit of auditory, a little bit of kinesthetic in there so that I would touch all three.
So one of the things, if you were selling merchandise, t-shirts, “You’re going to love the way this t-shirt feels. It looks great when you’re…” And you know, people are going to tell you that’s auditory, right? People are going to tell you that they love the look of that shirt on you or something. So you touch all three as part of your marketing piece in your email. That’s one of the things I would do for sure.
The other thing is, again, you got to kind of know your audience and who you dealing with. Most people have a fairly specific audience, some kind of shotgun, I guess, and that’s where the visual auditory kinesthetic would come in. But if you’ve got a specific audience, then you want to tailor your marketing to that audience as well.
Yury: Gotcha. Awesome.
Rich: You touched upon briefly, Bob, how the internet has changed selling how everybody is basically doing their research before they show up. What kind of training or how has your training sales training changed to help salespeople adapt to this new reality?
Bob: Oh my gosh. First of all, minus changed dramatically. I fought webinars and I fought Zoom up until COVID. I did not want… I love the audience, I get it, I get a juice. You put me in front of 200 or 300 people, I’m in my element. I love it. I absolutely get you. But all of a sudden this life changed when I went to Berlin City to help them out. That changed me too, because most of the audiences were workshops. So there was a lot of breakout sessions and all kinds of which I’d never done before. I always liked the big audience, so that changed it. And then this. Oh my gosh, I’m taking everything I do now and putting it online and I’m actually doing the webinars I despised before. So that’s changed a lot.
How do you project better when you’re doing your Zoom? I dress professionally all the time, always be ready because if someone calls you or wants to have a Zoom meeting. You’re like, I got to Zoom in at 10 o’clock, I know this guy typically is pretty high end, so I want to make sure I’m on for that. So part of it is knowing and understanding if you’re going to use Zoom, how it works intimately in as much detail as you can. So I think I’ve attended more Zoom meetings in three months than I have in 20 years in the business.
Bob: In fact, I know I have. It’s crazy. But not just the content, but how the content is delivered. So part of what I’m doing is this company I’m working with, they love to do one on one and go to the business. Well, they can’t right now. So they had to learn how to do a Zoom presentation. So I said you could do it a number of ways. One, you could do it very personal and do it one on one, them on one side, you on the other. You could use your camera and record and then put that online. So it’s really been a rethink of everything that we do, for me anyways, it’s been a dramatic change. But you know what, I’ve already negotiated with someone in Dubai. The furthest I went in my business was Chicago, so it’s already starting to open up the world. I mean, oh my gosh, life is changing. So I wish now I had done it five years ago.
Rich: Yeah. But I don’t think everybody was ready for Zoom. I mean, that’s one of the things I’ve been telling my team is like, I don’t think I’m ever going to go back to phone calls post COVID. I’m going to demand, or at least I’m going to push every prospect to get on a Zoom with me so they can see me and I can see them. And you know, it’s still not the same as being in person, but it is as close as you can possibly get.
Bob: Yeah. And Zoom coffees. I used to have coffees with people a lot, that’s how I connect with them. First I might meet them at a networking event, I’d say let’s have a coffee. We’d meet over at Panera Bread or something. Now we have Zoom coffees. So I’ll say, let’s have a Zoom coffee. You’re free next week at 10:00, great. So you get your cup of coffee out, you get everything ready to go and you meet. And that’s how I’ve been connecting with people. That’s changed, I’ve never done that before. It’s always been an eyeball to eyeball where you can really read what’s going on. So it’s just different, but same to me. It’s actually been better, slowly but surely, I’m evolving into this thing. So part of my sale now is convincing people that they look okay on camera. You’ll be all right. Make sure your background looks good, make sure everything is right. That kind of a thing, you know, that’s immediately what I’m looking for is what kind of environment are they in? Are there badges on the wall? I can see success from Zoom.
Rich: Like we can see you like Texas and you play guitar.
Bob: Yeah. Well that Texas is because in the Air Force my last duty was at Texas, that was at Randolph Air Force Base. So they sent me this award and it was a big one. I was manager of national advertising and promotion programs for the Air Force. So I put that up there and then I want my guitar back there, that’s my little thing. But I have 12 guitars. I’ve got the rest upstairs in the music room. So I collect all of them. I can put them all out there.
Yury: Bob, I have a question. You have a lot of experience and expertise in different areas, especially in sales and selling. What are some mistakes you see salespeople are making these days?
Bob: Wow. That’s a loaded question. So one of the things I’m seeing is that they don’t take the time to build rapport. They try to close too soon, way too soon. I used to watch this in car sales, a customer walks in, imagine you walking in and the first thing the sales rep says is, “Are you ready to buy a car today?”
Yury: It’s like, “Hey, do you want to marry me?”
Bob: Yeah. Yeah, it’s crazy. So no rapport, that was one thing. Qualifying is the key to selling, very bad at qualifying. Almost in every company I’ve worked with they don’t identify how important it is.
Let me give you an example. I worked with a yacht company. This is consultative selling, so you have to find out why does that person want to buy a yacht. Is it business or pleasure? What if it’s both? Great, let’s talk about business first. What kinds of things do you expect to be able to do with the yacht? Do you need a business room? Do you need whiteboards? Do you need this? So let’s talk about the party site. How many people do you usually have? Where are you going to, what are you going to need? You’re going to want a wet bar. You’re going to want this. So let me get this right, you’re going to want this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, you have a budget for this. And you kind of… but these guys didn’t do that. They would just literally show them and someone would go, “I like that one.” Instead of now, they have the ability to customize one, which means they can charge a heck of a lot more because they’re going to do it special for that customer. Oh my gosh, customization is huge.
Rich: Absolutely. Hey, Bob, I want to put you on the spot for a second here. You you’ve known me for about all of two days, we’ve only talked twice. And Yury you know even less. But from the little you’ve seen of us Bob, how would you sell to each one of us? What do you see about us that you might try and use to build rapport or to get more information out of us to be able to make a sale? We have thick skin, so go ahead and just rip us apart, its fine.
Bob: So the first thing I look for is how fast or how slow do you talk? So Rich, you’re a visual communicator. You seem to be a conversationalist take charge kind of a person. You know, you kind of like things done in a certain way and at a certain time. Now I can’t see your background too well, I can’t see what you’ve got for badges or anything else. But by listening to you, you ask interesting questions about your company. Now whether you tell me it’s about or not about your company, and some of those questions were like, “When do I make the choice of having a salesforce?” So I’m thinking, so some of that is for him, some of that is he’s listening to make that kind of a call right from him.
So part of that came out of yesterday’s conversation. So if I were to sell to you, the first thing I would do is find out exactly what you want. What are you trying to achieve? What are your objectives? And then I make the assessment, can I help you with those objectives? If I can’t, then is there someone I can recommend to you? Like that company that had 22 steps. One of the first things I said is you need to get your process a little tighter, I’m going to recommend Sigma. I’m going to recommend there was a gal I sent down there, her name is Lisa Marie, who’s very high end. And I used to sit her down and just to take a look at what’s going on to help them get that process ironed out a little bit because it was all over the place. But I don’t do that. I don’t do process like that. That’s different. That’s a whole different animal.
So with you I would determine, how are things going? What’s your return on business? You know, if you’re a service oriented, do you have at least a 65%, 75%, 85% return? If you’re a product you have at least a 65% return. If you’re not getting that, you might need a little help in customer service. How’s your sales, are you achieving all the sales? No. Why do you think you’re not? You know, so I would find all that stuff out and then when I delivered it, I would deliver it a little more upbeat. Because that’s how you talk. I would deliver it a little more systematic to make sure that I’m doing it the way you want it delivered. You know, I don’t know if that helps.
Rich: That was really good. I think you definitely nailed me from the way I see myself and I know it’ll be even tougher to do Yury because you’ve known him for less than an hour. But I’d love you to psychoanalyze, I mean sell, to my friend.
Bob: Yury. So Yuri has a couple of things behind him. Yes. Good questions. You’ve got a bunch of books in back of him, so he’s studious. Are those your books by the way, every single one of them and you’ve read them?
Yury: I would say 85%.
Bob: Okay. So knowledge is real important to you, right?
Yury: Well with my four diplomas hanging on the wall.
Bob: Oh, there you go. Okay. So obviously education selling would work with him. One of the things I would do is, and he also doesn’t talk super fast. A part of that’s a little bit of an accent, but you don’t talk the same way as Rich does. You don’t talk the same way as Robin Williams. You talk more like Obama, a little more orator, a little bit more relaxed. Right? I don’t know if you’re feeling excited because we haven’t gotten into that. But my guess is you probably would be a little bit simply because if you don’t feel good about someone – and again, just because of the books and the study – if you don’t feel someone is genuine, you’re probably not going to buy from them. But I would identify that as part of qualifying as well.
You know, you probably do your homework. My guess is if you’re going to buy a product, you probably go out and do quite a bit of homework before you decide what you want to buy. And again, this is all speculative based on just the fact that you do so much reading, my guess is you probably do the same kind of homework when you’re going to buy something. So that by the time I’m talking with you, you’re going to know quite a bit about what it is you and I are going to talk about. Maybe even more than I do in some areas. So I want to pull from that and say, wow, you’re really learning in this area. So tell me what are the areas or what are the questions you have that you weren’t able to discover as part of your reading? So maybe I would recognize the fact that you did your homework and play off of that as part of qualifying. Is that close?
Yury: That’s exactly. I’m just speechless right now because you are doing these kind of like mind-blowing type of things. Bob and I, we had a conversation for probably less than five minutes before we started recording the show. And throughout the show, just the question exchange, I am amazed. This is something unbelievable. I wish I could send you a virtual high five, just give you a hug. This is impressive. Like, I want to study the art that you know.
Bob: So there’s a lot. For example, one book is called People Skills at Work, really good book on how to use four basic… you’ve heard of a DISC, I’m sure, DISC training. I changed that up a bit. I took the dominant and I changed it to something, take charge. I took the predominant characteristic of each personality type, like dominant was take charge, amiable was easygoing, because that’s what they are. They’re easy going. Right? So I try to use a word that describes them better than the word ‘dominant’. Conversationalists tells you why they like to talk rational. They like to think things through, you know what I mean?
So when you identify that, if I look at someone, I think, “Well, he’s pretty much take charge.” Number one, if you’re the owner of a business, you have to be take charge. You’re going to fall apart. So you have to have some of that in you. It may not be your dominant, like the guy who runs Berlin City, he’s an easygoing take charge, he’s kind of an anomaly. I identified that because half of his desk is all pictures of his family, the other half is charts, diagrams, a vision board analysis. I’m going, whoa, so he’s got both things going here and he talks very easy going, very relaxed.
See, that’s another thing, you’re probably a little more easygoing, Yury, a little more laid back. You come across like someone that people like to talk to because you are a good listener. You know, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s the way you come across.
Yury: Well thank you. I think it really is. I mean, Rich may disagree because I get so excited when I see him and I just like cannot shut up.
Bob: Yeah. But that’s good. You know when to do it and when not to, though.
Bob: Yu know, you asked the question, listening is another important skill for sales, and sales reps don’t do that enough. They ask a question to ask a question. They don’t ask a question to get the answer. You got to listen for the answer. And you got to say, is that answer pertinent to the information I’m going to need to sell them? If it’s not, erase it, next question. And you don’t want to make it sound like you’re cross-examining to someone who’s rational logical who really thinks things through. They don’t like sales presentations. They don’t like manipulative sales presentations at all. So you don’t want to sell them and make it sound like you’re selling.
And B2B they’ve been sold by everybody and their brother, they’ve had sales reps come in. B2C not so much. They might’ve had a few sales reps, but you can use old techniques with them and it would still work pretty good. Can’t do that with B2B. They’re used to the old techniques. So you have to take them and change it up a little bit.
You know, if I’m going to use an affirmation, if I’m going to try and get you to go along with me, I might on B2B. I might say, “So let me make sure I’ve got this right. You said you were interested in this, correct? Yeah. You want it?” So it’s more of a checklist. I’m still getting you to say ‘yes’, I’m still getting you to affirm and go along with me, but I’m using more of a checklist format and it feels better to you than going, “Well, you can see how that’s going to help you, can’t ya?”
Some people push, some people pull, sales reps are known for being pushy. If you learn how to ask questions, you pull don’t push. Have you ever heard the term, “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink I”? That’s not a true statement. Let me prove it to you. If I take a salt block and I got the horse and I’ve got his bridle, right? I’ve got the reins and I let him lick the salt block and the water’s down there, by the way. So I let them take a lick of the salt block and then I move it out. Do they like salt? They do. So what happens is he’ll take a couple of steps to get another lick of the salt toward the water. Then I moved the salt block a little closer and he takes a couple of more steps and then drinks. By the time he’s done licking the salt block from here to the water, am I going to have to force him to drink? He’s going to want a drink. It’s going to want to drink.
So if you let the benefits of your product be the salt block, the reins is keeping the horse moving in the direction you want them to go. There’s your presentation – the horse is the customer – you feed your benefits to the customer all the way to the close. If you’ve done it right and you’ve hit all the hot points that they need. By the time you get to the close you’ll know you did a good job. Well, what’s next. I’m ready to go.
Yury: Demand for whatever the solution is.
Bob: Yes. And you know what happens? They close themselves. They’ll say, “All right, I’m ready to do it. Let’s go.” Awesome. Well then, you’ve done your job.
Yury: Bob, speaking about closing, we are at the very tip of our show. We have just a couple minutes left and every single guest that we have on the show, we ask this very specific question, and I hope you’re ready for it. I hope Rich prepared you. So here’s the question; what one thing would you change if you could to improve the business ecosystem here in Maine?
Bob: Oh wow. You know what, I feel very, very bad for restaurants and for the motels, any business that is tourist-oriented. Bar Harbor is dying, you know, they’re really having a difficult time. Maine relies on tourism and it’s killing us. For some companies that’s not touching them, but in a lot of the small businesses, not figuring out how to still let tourists come to Maine and be somewhat safe. I think the latest thing that Governor Mills did about having them take a COVID test before they come in, I think that’s a step in the right direction. Not a lot of people want to do that, but you know what, at least that’s a way for them to still come to Maine and still spend money in Maine.
But how do you figure out how do you do the ships? See, that’s a lot of money that’s no longer coming to Maine all summer long, that’s going to hurt. And we’re losing some really good businesses, small businesses and restaurants that have been around for years. So for me, I would try and figure out a way to still enable people to come in off a ship. You know, I don’t know how long they stay, if they stay a week or if they stay around. I mean, they only come in for a day, then maybe there’s no way to do it, but to help the tourist industry would be something I’d like to focus on. That and our vets. I’m retired Air Force and a lot of these guys come out of the military and they don’t have usable skills. So one of the things I intend to do, I’m having a major surgery on my shoulder in July, but once that’s done and healed, I want to get involved with a couple of vet groups. Maybe the Wounded Warrior or something and help some of these guys transition back into civilian life. Give them some training and not charge them, actually help them reorient back into society and let them know that Maine is a place that welcomes them and wants them to come back.
Rich: Very honorable Bob. And we’ll have to put you in touch with Bill Benson, from Boots to Roots, who’s been on the show before and actually a childhood friend of mine. Because he does a lot of stuff right in that.
But in the meantime, people have been listening. They’re really interested in improving their sales game, getting their sales team trained. Where can they find more about you online?
Bob: So my website, I used to be called Maximum Potential, I’ve got a new website being built now. But right now it’s www.maxpo-nlp.com. MAXPO is short for maximum potential. My phone number is (207) 415-3906. They can text, they can call. Normally this is a very, very informal meeting. Probably we’ll start with a Zoom coffee and then take it from there.
Rich: Awesome. Bob, this has been very helpful. We’ll have all those links in the show notes and really appreciate you stopping by today.
Bob: Alright, thank you so much for having me, have a great day.
Rich: That was a lot of good information and Bob’s psychoanalysis of us will not go unnoticed. For a full transcript of today’s episode you can head on over to our website at fast-forward maine.com/58.
Now Yury, every time around this time of the show we do our ‘fast takes’. So what was your ‘fast take’ for today?
Yury: Fast take for today is that sales, like any other skill, can be learned, mastered and applied to accelerate your success. That’s the biggest thing for me. I heard a lot about being able to train the sales, the art of sales and perfect it. But after listening to Bob, I’m convinced and I’m eager to actually start applying it to my personal life. Anyway, that’s a fast take for me. Rich, what is your ‘fast take’?
Rich: My ‘fast take’ is you don’t read 15% of the books that are on your bookshelf. But besides that, my ‘fast take’ was actually the importance of qualifying people. And I think this is a big thing because I love sales, but I know that there are a lot of people out there who either don’t think they can sell, or they don’t like salespeople. The vision that they have of the used car sales dealership, slapping the top of a car, something like that. That is not good sales and sales professionals look down on that type of behavior. It’s about qualifying people. It’s about understanding what their motivation is, what their goals and objectives are. And then if you have a solution, then making that recommendation. That was my big take or my ‘fast take’ for today.