Business sales training – impressions of the first 6 weeks

SBG Training – impressions of the first 6 sessions

A memoir by Spencer Maus


First Week – Preparation

The first step was to complete the DISC Behavioral Profile. Having completed a number of behavioral profiles, my first thought was this will be easy. Dan had advised not to think about the answers, just react. Well, it was that easy. I did think. In fact, I thought about “crowd sourcing” the questions to my LinkedIn contacts. “Hey, guys, do I play well with others? Or am I an overbearing jerk?” Don’t answer that.

Upon completing the questionnaire, I anxiously awaited the results. “Spencer, you’re perfect! Why are you taking this class? You could teach it! ‘Love you just the way you are!’” WRONG. As I began reading the profile, I was thinking “That’s not me. That’s not me. That’s not me. The program must be faulty.” Which quickly became “Ok, that is me. Ok, that is me.” Bob, Dan HELP!


First Week – Training Class

Monday morning I arrived for the Samurai Business Group training as a willing student; my new notebook, depressing profile and a mind like a sponge (no jokes please).

There were the usual pleasantries of introductions, and then we quickly moved onto discussing our profiles and what it meant. As Dan Kreutzer began explaining what the data meant, I began feeling better about myself, “Yeah, that’s right. That’s me. I’m not so bad.” But I also realized there was much work to do.

Dan and Bob Lambert explained what each quadrant of the analysis meant, the tendencies and examples of known people that fit into a specific pattern In my case I’m three parts Bill Clinton and two parts Bob Knight.

They then explained that the Adapted style was how we acted and reacted in most situations, particularly sales. The Natural style is how we react when things go south, or the pressure dramatically increases.

Then the real “beauty” part of the day’s training began. Dan detailed how to quickly determine someone’s behavioral type. With each quadrant, they detailed how to quickly identify, move to the meeting’s focus, and know when a meeting is going south or the executive is willing to buy. Further, they discussed the potential problems of one type presenting to another – sixteen different combinations.

However, there is one problem. And this is only day one. It is one thing to learn a technique through listening and observation. It is another to absorb information through experience. If you have ever skied or played golf, think back to the first lesson, “Do this, do that, don’t do this or that. Ok, now go do it.” It is through the experience that true mastery can be achieved. Now was time to experience

We were randomly paired up, with the assignment to determine the behavioral pattern of our partner from our conversation. Everyone nailed it.

SBG Training – Third Session – Continuing the Hierarchy of Introductions – Alliances, Networking, Direct Mail & Cold Calls

Session #3 – alliances, networking, direct marketing and telemarketing or cold calling (my favorite). Nothing like making a cold call at 8am to a stranger to get the morning started right!

OK, seriously, we reviewed quality introductions (“take two people out to lunch, this week…”) and introductions or referrals. Dan Kreutzer, Sensei of Samurai Business Group, made one striking point that gave me pause. If you can’t recommend or refer a specific person, they shouldn’t be in your network.

Think about your LinkedIn connections and Facebook “friends.” Can you recommend, or at worse refer all 500+ of LinkedIn connections (all 5000+ of your LinkedIn connections)? Or do you believe all 500+ of your LinkedIn connections or Facebook “friends” would refer or recommend you? Go through your social media contact lists and answer that question. Then ask yourself, why am I connected to this person?

Dan then covered the value of forming alliances and comparing it to marriage. I have found great value in alliances, particularly as a freelancer. Even from a corporate perspective, alliances and allies can add products, services, talents, new perspectives and clients – if done correctly. Dan shared how to do this correctly and grow our businesses geometrically through alliances.

First, find a suitable alliance partner and meet to discuss the opportunity (date). If there are good synergies, work on one or two projects together (engagement). If those work out well for both parties, draft a letter of understanding and begin creating joint opportunities (marriage with a “prenup”). Done correctly with the right person or corporate partner, the results for you and your clients can be amazing.

Networking is the cold calling of the 21st Century. It can benefit your business and the business of others. Remember, this is an exercise in sharing, not taking. And if done incorrectly, it can be an expensive and frustrating exercise of self delusion. “Over the past month, I attended six networking events, collected 123 business cards, met 43 really interesting people for coffee, have no new business and my hand won’t stop shaking.”)

Dan’s suggestions are to target the events. Look for networking events targeted towards your prospects, not your peers. Evaluate which organizations’ events were valuable and those that were not. Make the obvious changes to itinerary. Follow-up with the “real,” new leads, not just every new person you met.

Direct marketing has always seemed like a pain in the… How many emails do you receive a day inviting you, “for the last chance to register at a huge discount for a webinar to monetize your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your grandparents…” Or “this is last chance to signup of this amazing meet-up to hook up” for the fifth time this week?

Dan and Bob Lambert are really devious on how to keep your “amazing email offer” from going into spam or being deleted unread. Don’t send an email. There is a much forgotten, little used system called the U.S. Postal Service. Mail! I mean seriously, think about how you react when you get an actual, piece of mail (with the exception of an invitation from the IRS to stop by for coffee, “Bring your attorney if you’d like.”). What is unique to the SBG letter is there is no real call to action. The letter shares information that should be valuable to the recipient. Also, the format is very unique, original and short.

Telemarketing (cold calling). Very simply put, don’t do it. Dan had one word of advice if you want to use telemarketing, subcontract.


SBG Training – Fourth Session – The Buying Model

When I was told our next session would cover the “Buying Model,” my visions of a field trip to study to habits of models shopping were soon dashed. Our class would focus on the human decision model, created by J.P. Guilford while at U.C.L.A, and its application to sales.

Dan Kreutzer, of Samurai Business Group, presented the process of how a prospect buys. Every decision we make is a buying decision. Most of our “buying decisions” are transactional – price, location, ease of purchase, etc. Buying coffee, toothpaste or going to work (if I show up I get paid, if I don’t buying coffee is not an option).

However, the more complex the decision, the longer the process will take. Buying coffee for the office is easy. Selecting a vendor for an ERP system is not.

Typically before meeting, the decision maker will have already identified the issues and consequences of a right or wrong decision. Going with the wrong software program, or the wrong provider, could cost the company profits and the executive her job. And a first meeting may or may not be a part of her discovery process.

No executive will meet with a sales professional, unless she has a real need (or perhaps curiosity) for the products or services that you represent. Even before you’re invited for first meeting or before it takes place, the executive will have researched and compared your company and your competition.

You need to avoid the temptation of a “brain dump” during this meeting. You must listen, ask questions, ask more questions and clarify (this will be a redundant theme). A “brain dump” or “show up and throw up” will immediately put you at a disadvantage. You will appear as an order taker and trust will be nearly impossible to gain.

In a first meeting, the critical issues, or apparent reasons for meeting will be discussed. In that meeting it is imperative to understand the apparent reasons. Ask questions and listen, and more questions, clarify and listen. To gain trust, your role is to help the executive make the right decision – which may not be what your company offers.

As you continue the discovery process with the prospect, you need to help her fully consider alternative solutions, products or perhaps services. Assume for a moment you are a corporate law attorney. A current client comes to you needing assistance with an employment matter. If this is a simple matter, law school training may have prepared you for this situation. If it is a more complex situation, perhaps a claim of sexual harassment by a terminated employee, you may want to bring in a colleague to represent the client.

The discovery “loop” of  Situation Analysis, Self Education / Gathering Information, and Considering Options(exploring alternative solutions) will be repetitive and take longer than the traditional sales models (Feature, Advantage Benefit and even Problem – Solution if done without integrity).

But when you and the prospect reach agreement on the best course of action, or best alternative  (Select “Best Fit” – aka “close”), you will have gained trust, perhaps a client and potentially further opportunities through referrals.

But your job is not finished. The Post Sale Evaluation is as important as the sale. As the solution is being provided, you must remain in contact with your client. Is the process going smoothly? Have there been any unplanned consequences you can address? After one month, six months or one year, you should ask if the product / service has performed as expected, better than expected, not met your expectations? What adjustments need to be made?

Again, the more questions asked, the better you can present alternatives, aid the prospect and make the right decision.

For further details on the buying model, please contact either Dan Kreutzer or Robert Lambert or visit the Samurai Business Group website.


SBG Training – Fifth Session – Why They Buy

You rarely hear anyone say, “I’m going out today to be sold a new car!” Or someone in the office sending out a memo saying, “We need to be sold a new server. Our current server is not sufficient.”

Yes, we have been sold. But if the truth is told, we were planning to buy. So why do prospects buy? Robert Lambert, of the Samurai Business Group, led as we continued our path to Mastery on the Fifth Day in the Dojo.

So why do people buy from you, me or Bob Lambert? Spoiler alert – because we answer the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) question. That’s it! You’re now trained to sell. Well, maybe not. The hard part is getting to WIIFM.

You get a referral to the CIO of Samurai Aeronautics, LTD. Having completed the Samurai Sales Mastery series you listen intently as the CIO provides the Apparent Reasons for the meeting. The company’s servers are five years old, tech support is non-existent and she is considering either adding additional servers or replacing the entire system.

During the meeting, you uncover the Underlying Causes. A great deal of the CIO’s time is responding to complaints and system problems from aeronautic engineers, office support staff and finally the executive suite. “Not only are our computers slow, but seems like the servers are down more than they’re up.” (PAIN)

You then begin asking a lot of questions. A LOT OF QUESTIONS. “Have you considered integrating additional servers? Can you upgrade your servers working with your current vendor? Are there other systems that can effectively integrate with your current servers?”

As you continue the conversation, Ms. CIO says she has other concerns. There is the projected growth of the company. The future needs for storage, and she can’t store information off site due the security issues. And other members in the “C-Suite” want to not only have the best current technology, but the ability to upgrade in the future. And there are budgetary constraints. (FEAR)

She wants a system that is reliable, secure and easily upgradable, with minimum cost. (GAIN)

As you work through the process of providing the solution, you provide options and alternatives. You research upgrades and costs for her current system. Your firm provides servers that can integrate with her current servers. And your firm will provide easy migration and 24/7 technical support for the entire system – your company’s servers and those currently on site. And using your servers, you can easily expand the system as the company grows.

The WIIFM? She wants to look good in the eyes of the corporate president. Through your work, she does. And you do to!

For further details on the buying model, please contact either Dan Kreutzer or Robert Lambert or visit the Samurai Business Group website.


SBG Training – Sixth Session (part 1) – “I hear voices!”

Your meeting with your newest prospect begins and you’re having a great conversations. That is not a typo. Whether you are aware of it or not, in every meeting there are at least three conversations taking place. You and the prospect. You with you. The prospect with himself.

Since you were a child, and through college, we have been programmed to listen to our inner voice to answer teacher’s questions, think of questions and in general participate in class to improve our grade. Now that we are in the business world, our well trained “inner voice” keeps participating.

During meetings with prospects and clients, we listen intently to two voices; that of the prospect and our inner voice. “I know the solution!” “You have examples of success! Tell him about the Samurai Capital account!”  “Stop talking so I can tell you all the great things we have done!”  “OOO, pick me, pick me I have the answer!”

The prospect’s inner voice is also talking to him. “Man, this is going to blow out our budget?” Won’t this guy shut up so I can tell him what I really need?” “I wonder when Sue and Tim are going to lunch.”

So what’s a “parent” to do and can we learn to control or just live with this “child?”

First, as Sensei Dan Kreutzer of the Samurai Business Group pointed out, there are three, distinct levels of participation by our inner voices. As programmed, your inner voice takes over. You are distracted from what the prospect is saying. You are spending more time listening to the inner voice, and only hear pieces of the valuable information the prospect is sharing.

The second level is when the inner voice keeps interrupting with answers to the prospects needs, but you are able to quickly return to listening to the prospect. And third, you’ve told the inner voice to “shut up and be quiet.” You continue to focus on the prospect and what he has to say.

So the solution is to just have a conversation. Huh? Leave the sales mode. And just talk. It sounds simple. But if you simply shut up and focus on listening and having a normal conversation, you can move the prospect from the fear of “being sold” and into discussing his compelling reasons. Then you will gather the information needed to present solutions at a follow-up meeting.

OK, now you’re saying it can’t be that simple. Alright, here are a couple of tricks I use to maintain focus on the prospect. First, I invite my inner voice to join the conversation (“Right, are you off your meds?”). I have my inner voice repeat verbatim what the prospect is saying. To do that takes real focus. The other trick is to write down the questions and key points my inner voice wants to ask. When the prospect has finished talking, I ask questions, confirm key points and satisfy my inner voice.

For further details on the buying model, please contact either Dan Kreutzer or Robert Lambert or visit the Samurai Business Group website.


Samurai Business Training – Sixth Session (part 2) – Have a Pre-Meeting, Approved Agenda

At least once in your career, you are given an introduction to that one executive you have been trying to meet for weeks, months, years. A lunch meeting is scheduled at her favorite (and expensive) restaurant. You do the normal, getting to know you conversational dance. And there you go and spoil it by saying, “I have a few ideas that I believe will help your business.”

The response? “Oh, when I spoke with Spencer, he said you just wanted to meet. I didn’t know this was a business lunch.”

So why was there no agenda? Fear? Fear that she would tell you she has no interest or need for your services?

Asking for approval of a specific agenda accomplishes two steps in adding new business. First, the prospect knows exactly why you want to meet and what will be discussed. No surprises, everything is agreed to before meeting. Or, the prospect says that he has no interest in meeting to discuss your company’s products or services. The good news, you saved time and money.

Sensei Dan Kreutzer, of the Samurai Business Group, discussed the why, how and what to include in setting and getting a pre-meeting agenda. Dan referred to it as “setting the stage.”

When scheduling a meeting over lunch, coffee or a desk, first determine the maximum amount of time granted. “How much time will we have when we meet?” Next ask the prospect, “What should we try to accomplish when we meet?” Finally, ask if it makes sense to set an agenda “to see if there is a fit” with your businesses. Then email or discuss the agenda on the phone to get approval. And email the agreed agenda before you meet.

When you meet for lunch, coffee or over the prospect’s desk, there are no surprises.

When the agenda is covered, and there is agreement to move forward, offer the next steps you will take; and assign “homework” to the prospect. This will ensure that the prospect is fully engaged. If you don’t follow these important actions, you will have a list of non-prospect prospects.

Just last week, I scheduled a lunch meeting with a prospect who had worked for a client. He was hired to undertake a huge project for a new employer. I followed Dan’s advice.

In my confirmation email, I presented our agenda (key word is “our”). He emailed confirmation and approval of the agenda. After a few minutes of “How are you? What’s new? How’s the new job? I was able to move directly to our agenda. After our conversation, I explained what I would do, assigned homework (which was completed) and now await probable approval of my proposal.


Posted in Business sales training