There is an emerging individual and corporate voice that is quietly and powerfully revealing the underlying wisdom of the art of business development mastery and Christian thought and practice. This 21st-century paradigm-shifting business organization embraces certain character principles that were championed as a way of life for the 16th and 17th century Japanese Samurai warrior.
That voice? Bob Lambert. That corporate voice? The Samurai Business Group (SBG) located in Michigan Avenue offices in downtown Chicago, IL. SBG has embraced three of the Samurai warrior’s most cherished philosophies, congruent with Christian thought: Service, Honor and Commitment.
A servant’s heart and attitude are the mainstay and underlying current that has guided and sustained SBG’s best practices and success since it’s beginnings in 2001.
As chronicled by National Geographic’s researcher Jeanne E. Peters, ancient Japanese Samurai tradition, for over a 50-year span, was highly influenced by Christian belief, philosophy and practice, until it was banished by the Shimabara Revolt in 1637-38.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Bob Lambert, SBG’s founding partner who is simply but profoundly changing the way business is being done in the Midwest. Lambert like the Samurai, converted late relatively speaking to the teachings and walk with Jesus Christ in 2001.
Part of his own discipleship is maintained and rooted through his membership in the faith–based CEO/President and Owner forum called the C12 Group, (www.c12group.com), that meet one day a month to study and brainstorm on how they can incorporate their Christian witness throughout their businesses culture while still maintaining their businesses vision of both ministry and service to the marketplace, vendors, strategic partners and staff.
For over 30 years, Lambert has provided leadership in strategic business development, marketing, and sales for Global 50, Fortune 500 companies as well as being the founder of four successful entrepreneurial companies. Bob has successfully coached, mentored and trained many throughout his career, with several becoming top executives in Fortune 1000 companies or founded successful entrepreneurial firms.
His breadth of experience has covered a variety of industries, i.e.; automotive, consumer packaged goods, consumer electronics, durable goods, financial services, professional services, retailing, travel, technology and the Internet.
Bob’s speaking engagements have included: Harvard Business School and Wharton Business School Alumni Clubs, University of Chicago – Graduate School of Business Roundtables, University of Michigan, Ross Graduate School Alumni, DePaul University – Marketing and Sales curriculum, and numerous conferences and seminars for private and public companies.
The following questions were posed to Lambert to articulate SBG’s philosophy and best coaching, teaching and mentoring practices to its business and professional services clientele:
Q: What is the Number-one Business Development Skill a Winning Professional Needs?
A: “Well in business-to-business sales, we ask our clients to consider these startling statistics:
* Four percent of the salespeople in the U.S. sell 94 percent of the goods and services, according to two Meta studies – one by Harvard University and one from the Gallup Organization
* Eighty percent of business-to-business (B2B) transactions are the result of relationships, consulting type sales, where the buyer has to like, trust and get along with the seller, according to current surveys done by “Selling Power” and “Sales and Marketing Management” magazines. (Twenty percent are commodity sales where price is the driving factor. Today, in some industries, nearly all sales are commodity-based.).
“The statistics tell the story: Trust defined as, Competency, Integrity, Reliability, Relationship, is the most important aspect to the buyer in 80 percent of the B2B sales.
Q: What’s the most important business development skill?
A: “Listening. Listening leads to understanding, this leads to TRUST. It’s simple. Ask good Socratic questions. I once knew 6 wise men that taught me everything I know – Where, When, What, Why, How and Who. Listen to the answers: Listen to hear as Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand before being understood.”
Respond with comments that show you listened, and ask deeper more penetrating questions that make the other person think. In the end, the buyer will tell you everything you need to know through that you form a distinctive collaborative relationship and bond that fosters trust. Which confirms one enduring human truth, “people love to buy, they hate to be sold.”
All buyers buy for their “own reasons,” they follow a discrete buying process. Top business development professionals skillfully unearth the buyers’ compelling reasons to buy and then guide them to a mutually beneficial solution. They act more like a trusted, helping advisor than an ‘it’s-all-about-me’ salesperson.”
Q: If You Were to Create a Profile of a Top Business Development Professional – that Four Percent of the Population that Accounts for 94% of the sales – what are the factors and traits that are responsible for those amazing results?
A: “I would say it includes the following five factors all converging to what I refer to as “the perfect storm for sales,’
These factors are:
1. They are “knowledge giants.” “They know what they are talking about. They come across to prospects as ‘go to’ people because they really know what they’re talking about, and they can help prospects solve real business problems.”
2. They have an aptitude for sales. It’s in the DNA. “All of us have a natural aptitude for some jobs and won’t do well in others. In Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great,” one of his bottom lines is to get the right people in the right seat on the bus, in jobs where they have natural talent or aptitudes.
3. They have the top 10 skills of the super business development people, which are generally unknown to the average sales person. “Some of these skills are counterintuitive. They do not come naturally so they must be learned.” For instance, someone with a “driver” personality is not a natural born listener – yet listening is the number 1 skill. So it must be learned.”
Another skill is patience coupled with perseverance. “Most salespeople give a lot of prospects a few contacts. Top salespeople pick a few top prospects and give them a lot of contacts. When you get a new B2B prospect, you have to give them an average 12 touches before they will buy.”
In my extensive business development and management experience, when you coach and train a person with a natural talent for business development, the skills of an achiever, you will usually see an explosive growth by that person.
4. They are Motivated.
* Is the person self-motivated? If they test high for sales aptitude, they are usually naturally self-motivated. If they do not test high for sales aptitude, they need to be motivated by sales managers.
* What type of salesperson are they? The two basic types are “hunters” and “farmers,” and if they are mismatched to the job, their motivation will suffer. A hunter likes the thrill of the hunt, the challenge, and will be most motivated by acquiring new accounts. A farmer likes to have many accounts that he or she can nurture for up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. If you have a hunter in a hunter job, he or she will be motivated. Put a hunter in a farmer’s job and motivation declines.
* Where is the salesperson in his or her life cycle? Are they single and trying to build wealth, thinking about money all the time? Or, are they middle-aged, having made a substantial nest egg, and don’t need so much money? Motivation will be affected accordingly.
5. They are Supported by a Process “Most top-performing companies have ‘best practice’ branding, marketing, sales and customer service processes to support the salespeople. You won’t see a great salesperson working in a company with poor or unsatisfactory processes.”
“So the profile of top salespeople is that they’re knowledge giants who help customers solve real business problems, they have a natural talent for outside sales, and they have the top 10 skills and use them.
They’re self-motivated and they’re at that point in their lives where they’re charged up to make more sales. And they’re working in companies where are supported by best practice processes for branding, marketing sales and customer service. When all five of those are clicking along, you have a top salesperson.”
Q: How Does the Samurai Business Group Business Development Mastery Process Actually Work?
A: “We at SBG coach and teach a method customized to the personality of the sales force – utilizing Harvard University Adult Learning Model, that teaches, coaches and reinforces behavioral breakthroughs that allows salespersons to tap into their natural talent, temperament and strengths.
“Corporate sales goals and objectives are reached naturally through a salesperson’s ability to tap into their untapped motivational energy through high-payoff activity. This is begun by assessments that identify what is needed to support the enlightened self-interest of the individual for the purpose of achieving corporate sales goals and productivity gains.”
Q: What Programs and Services Does SBG Offer to Companies on the Grow?
A: “We offer a litany of training, coaching and mentoring services that are custom-tailored to the needs and desires of a firm’s sales and support staff. They include:
Business Development Assessments
* Business Development Audit™ – Total assessment of the organization’s business development processes with recommended courses of action
* Sales Force Audit™ – Evaluation and a comprehensive assessment of the organization sales force, hiring system and management effectiveness
* Pipeline Audit™ – A comprehensive review and evaluation of the accuracy of the organization’s current sales pipeline/forecast with metrics to properly evaluate real opportunities vs. wishful thinking
Marketing Lead Generation & Prospecting
* Gravity Marketing™ – Developing marketing tactics that create interest and naturally pull prospects to the organization
* Smart Networking™ – An approach to leverage networking contacts to provide you with referrals and quality introduction to prospects
* Targeted Telemarketing – Samurai lead generation provides highly trained telemarketing agents to provide qualified leads and appointments
Sales & Management Training
* Black Belt™ – Our most comprehensive process for dramatically improving business development and sales performance that is based on a mutually agreed-upon goal… Results guaranteed!
* Brown Belt™ – A 26-week program based on our Buying Decision Model™ that substantially improves business development and sales results
* Blue Belt™ – The entry-level program is a 6-week course in basic sales skill to start the business development process
* Sensei Sales Management™ – Comprehensive management training that includes: hiring winners, compensation planning, sales leadership, coaching, and accurate sales forecasting and pipeline management
Virtual Sales Team
* Virtual Sales Force™ – Designed to help owners of small to mid-size businesses that need a professional and productive sales effort immediately, our out-sourced team is dedicated to a single clients sales effort
Q: It Appears that SBG Offers an Extremely Distinct Experience for Transforming Companies Salesforce Culture and Bottom Line?
A: “Yes, the SBG system is uniquely designed to transcend the selling cycle, improve relationships of high trust, listening and skills focused on measurable results – that can be replicated both effortlessly and easily once it is ingrained into the cognitive and subjective psyche of the sales force.” It results in exponential company growth between a 12 to 18-month engagement.”
Well, that appears to summarize both the whole and points of distinction of the Samurai Business Group process and methodology. I asked Lambert, what would he encourage CBT readers do to learn more about SBG and it’s system? He responded by saying, “We at SBG would highly encourage your readers to visit and drill down into our website at www.samuraibizgrp.com and subscribe to our Samurai Wisdoms newsletter as well as the plethora of complimentary downloads we offer. It’s a good start, for a company to develop further confidence in our systems, methodology and philosophy.”
Bob Lambert, a man of vision, insight and compassion, whose business is to transform companies towards achieving never before imagined growth that fosters internal growth and the empowering of individuals within it for the satisfaction and well being of its business client and their marketplace of choice.
Article written by Geary Morales – appeared in The Edge… a CBT publication