Sales School 2.0


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Many people know I have a sales training background, but few know how I started in training. I’d recently left a 10-year civil engineering career to become a mortgage broker (about which I knew virtually nothing). A few months later, our firm had hired more rookies who, if possible, knew less about the mortgage business than I did.

It was painful watching them fall into the same potholes and step on the same land mines that I’d been doing for 3 months, so I said, “Look, I’ll teach you what I know.” For the next few weeks, every Wednesday at 5pm, I’d do an hour of training on the mortgage business (credit, collateral, and capacity).

We called it Sales School. Once I tapped out on mortgage knowledge—again, that took about 3 weeks—everyone said, “You’re good at this. What else can you teach us?” So began my sales training career.

A year later, I was out of the mortgage broker business and had started my own sales training program. Here’s why.

Interest rates have been at record lows but, as of September 1st, the Prime Rate (the rate the Federal Reserve charges banks) has crept all the way up to 3.25%. On July 1st, 1981, the Prime Rate was 20%. (That is not a typo.) I know this because that’s when I was trying to get people into loans.

If mortgage rates range .5% to 1.5% higher than the Prime, you can guess what a great time it was to be a mortgage broker. Today, the monthly payment on a $500,000, 30-year fixed rate mortgage would be $2176. Back then, it would have been $8355. As difficult as that would be today, it was even tougher on salaries then without, literally, 40 years of inflation and cost of living increases.

It’s funny how life can steer you into things you may not even know you need steering into.

Even Before Covid

For the past two years, Sales Mastery has been creating digital content for what we thought would be a welcome Advisory Services subscription model. The resulting number of paid subscribers was slightly better than the number of loan placements I made in 1981. Not good.

Still, as I wrote about in my last column, we feel there is a pressing need for training beyond the training sellers and First Line Sales Managers (FLSMs) are getting today. Yes, things are changing/evolving at a rapid pace but there are principles and frameworks that endure. These unchanging ideas, along with overviews of the very latest AI-for-Sales solutions and our ongoing research with joint venture partner Korn Ferry are the content we created. And continue to create. We’ve added 5 Research Notes, our 3rd annual AI-for-Sales study, and 2 articles in the past 3 weeks.

What we say about Sales School 2.0 is we want to both pay it back (to Sales) and pay it forward. There is content specifically for sellers, separate content for FLSMs, general content, and more. These digital assets present concepts and frameworks we have found over the past 35+ years in B2B sales to be useful and enduring.

Yes, a lot is changing in sales. The past 20 years, buyers have gotten better at buying faster than sellers have gotten better at selling. The Internet is one reason for this. In addition, sales organizations have focused on onboarding new reps faster, and relying upon/leveraging technology to backstop rather than upskill sellers. There is little/no stigma associated with jumping between jobs more frequently. As a result, organizations tend to focus on performance over professional development, while reps focus on upward mobility and increased earning power.

Is there a place for sales fundamentals, like Examining Your Funnel (including the best time to prospect), the Right Things to Measure, and Win/Win? These and many more are available in the Sales School 2.0 “catalog” (playlists).

Old School Meets New School

If you primarily communicate with prospects/customers via text/Slack and think email is for ‘old people,’ you are New School. If you check email several times a day and receive/leave voicemails, you’re Old School (whether you’re old or not).

Trust. There are 5 reasons people won’t buy from you. Lack of money, desire, need, urgency, or trust. And lack of trust will kill more deals than the other four combined. You get it the old-fashioned way: You earn it. But while the need for trust remains, how you earn it is changing.

A demonstration I used to do at conferences was invite a volunteer up on stage. I would then tell the audience they were about to observe a best practice. I would shake hands and introduce myself to the volunteer. No big deal. Everyone see it? Yes, of course. Then, I’d do it again, and the volunteer would freak out. Yet, it looked the same to the audience.

The first handshake, firm, good eye contact, etc. The second, dead/cold fish, no eye contact. That was the difference on my side. The demonstration had two important points to make. First, the negative reaction to the limp handshake was instantaneous. It was limbic. The volunteer didn’t think about whether they liked it, or trusted me; they reacted without thinking, pulling away, giggling or simply saying, “Yuck!” But their instinct had already concluded, not trustworthy. Cringe worthy, sure, but not trustworthy.

The second point is the question I continue to pose, and we study at Sales Mastery. In our high speed, remotely connected, Internet-based world today, what is the equivalent of a good, firm handshake? And what feels like a cold fish?

AI-enabled sales and other selling technologies are evolving at a supercharged rate, but our DNA remains fixed. Our need to trust, and our ability to decide whom to trust, is largely determined and, Baby, that’s OLD School. It doesn’t get any older than biology.

For the reasons mentioned last month and the opportunities and questions here, we’re launching Sales School 2.0.

Why are we sharing this for free?

Some years back, Mercedes Benz ran a commercial that showed one of their cars colliding with a cement wall during a safety test. Mercedes had established an impressive safety record and other manufacturers were jumping on the idea of a “crumple zone” to absorb energy. When asked why Mercedes didn’t enforce their patent on the energy-absorbing car body, the answer rang of enduring principle: “Because some things in life are too important not to share.”

We didn’t invent all the ideas we’re sharing in Sales School 2.0, though we did invent many of them. We have found these to be useful, valuable and, too important not to share.

Watch Sales School 2.0 and visit our website to sign up for LIVE Seller (1st Thursday) and Manager (2nd Thursday) sessions each month. When you subscribe, we’ll be able to send you the month’s topic and link to attend. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, push back on concepts presented, and interact with other attendees.

I am so looking forward to hearing your comments, questions and feedback.

Barry Trailer
Barry has been involved in complex B2B sales for over 30 years and is intrigued with how it's changed/changing and what this means to Sales as a Profession (SaaP). Salesware, the analytics company he co-founded, was acquired by Goldmine Software in 2000 and his next company, CSO Insights with Jim Dickie, was acquired by Miller Heiman Group in 2015. He has twice been published by, and been a keynote for, Harvard Business Review, and is author of Sales Mastery, a novel.


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