I received a call from the sales manager of a company in my hometown. It was a real treat because prior to that, I played golf with the CEO of the same company. We never met and were paired to play. He was a great guy, who was focused, and I could tell he had quite a bit of passion for his business.
The sales manager who called was telling me they were having a company meeting in Virginia and asked if I would like to do a seminar or workshop on sales. I thought about this for about a second-and-a-half, and naturally said I would be honored.
The company specialized in manufacturing and selling products to the military, such as shelters, heaters and lighting basically many products the military used when it was away from home or in combat.
I was told I would stay at a nearby hotel and someone would pick me up in the morning and take me to the training facility. Here is the fun part: The manager told me prior to the event they hate sales trainers. The people in the room were not salespeople. They were former military personnel who were in sales roles. The reason for this is that they knew how to get onto a military base, where a civilian like me probably could not. He told me the two other sales trainers they had in previous years were hated by the sales force, and the only reason I am there was due to the recommendation of the CEO.
When I got up in the morning to read the newspaper at my hotel, I noticed one of the sales representatives doing wind sprints up and down the hall, dressed in a white T-shirt and green pants. The T-shirt looked like it was painted on. His arms were bigger than my body. Now I am thinking to myself, “Go home now. They are not going to enjoy my little speech today.”
When I was introduced, I was watching the sales reps sit back in their seats. I could see from their body language they weren’t looking forward to my speech. In fact, I talked for about 10 minutes and knew I was losing my audience. I should have gone home early.
Then it clicked. I need to do something different and gutsy. I stopped talking and said, “Hey guys, here’s the deal. I am going to be with you all day, if you like. If not, I will leave early and call it a day. So, I am going to talk for about 20 more minutes and then I’m going to take a 15-minute break.”
“During the break, I’m going to make a few telephone calls and catch up on voicemails. While I am out, you discuss whether you want me back and if you do, great. If not, I promise you will not hurt my feelings. I can tell you are not thrilled having another sales trainer here again. If you decide you want me to come back, we will have some fun, but we have to do this as a partnership. You are the pros here, not me, but I am an expert in sales training, and I will remind you of the basics and what it takes to be the best.
“I will make a promise to you the day will fly by. We’ll have fun. And you will learn stuff you forgot with respect to selling and what is takes to be a pro. Also, I know as former military, you understand how to get on a military base where a civilian or idiot like me cannot.
“OK, I’m out of here. I’ll be back in a little while to find out if you want me to do my little seminar or go home.”
This approach could have gone two ways.
Luckily for me, I caught them off-guard, surprised them by taking a different approach and letting them make the decision. This way, it was going to be their seminar and not mine. Risky, but it gives me more flexibility with them.
When I came back in, they not only embraced the idea of sales training, but also welcomed me into their “home.” It was a great seminar and I realized at that time, it was not my decision if people want to be trained, but theirs.
Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers "Can I have 5 Minutes of Your Time?" and "Lip Service." Hal's newest book on sale is titled "Ultimate Sales Book." He can be reached at Halbecker.com.