Salesjournal Interview: Evolution of Sales Training with The Brooks Group’s Will Brooks

Will Brooks from The Brooks Group

Will Brooks

Salesjournal.com sits down with Will Brooks, Executive Vice President and Director of Marketing for The Brooks Group, to discuss how the trends in sales are affecting organizations and how they can leverage sales training and assessments to improve the performance of their sales teams.

1. So, tell me a little about The Brooks Group.

We were founded in 1977 so we’ve been around for 36 years and have quite a history inside of the industry. We have been using the same proven process for years that we’ve seen work in over 450 different industries. It’s a proven platform, but it’s very customizable and usable by the individual participants. We use a very relevant, interview-focused process and overlay the clients realities on top of our own to make sure it’s a program that’s seamless to the attendees.

2. How you are different from other sales training companies?

One key differentiator about us is our assessment products which we are incorporating into all of our training programs. We have a version that we use in the classroom in our sales training as well as our sales management training. Customization and personal development are important to us and the assessments help us to individualize the training right down to the very attendee or participant. For the sales rep, the assessments allow the individual rep to understand how prospects are “wired” differently and how they should deal differently with each type.  They also get a very accurate picture of who they are, their personal strengths, as well as their opportunity areas. On the management side, we fold the individual rep assessment into the sales management training so the managers know what makes their sales reps tick and can manage them against their motivational structure, behavior style and attitudes.

Another thing that differentiates us is our proprietary coaching methodology following the classroom training. We’ve developed a platform to deliver 9 sessions of back end coaching around the content that’s delivered in the classroom.Typically, the reps are split into small teams where they meet on a weekly basis with one of our coaches over teleconference. During those meetings, they are asked how they are applying the concepts they learned in the class when prospecting customers and then receive real time coaching around how that’s working for them. In addition to the meetings, the reps do homework around the concepts and apply them to their day-to-day activities. We have found that it’s through this methodology that sales reps truly change their habits.

3. There is a lot of mention in the media about social selling, inbound marketing, the death of cold calling, and other “trends”.  How has sales changed in the last 5 years from your perspective?

Number one, the impact of this trend will vary depending on your industry. As far as social selling goes, it’s kind of this mysterious concept that some of our competitors are talking about, but I have yet to see salespeople who truly leverage it.  Frankly, it is more of a marketing device.

What I have seen change is that the buyer is now in more control than ever based on the vast information that is available to them about your offerings, your company, etc. A few years ago, there was research done by Forrester around B2B decision making and buying process.  They found that in today’s world, B2B buyers are anywhere from 67-90% of the way through the buying process before they’re ready to make contact with a vendor. I think moving forward in sales, it’s going to be harder and harder for mediocre and sub-par performers to survive. Sales reps need to be bringing value outside of what buyers can find on their own and “interruption” selling methods are dying.

4. Your organization uses a sales training methodology called IMPACT which has achieved strong results for years.  Have you had to evolve IMPACT as a result of the changing sales landscape?

As far as our content is concerned we’ve been fortunate that the content that was developed is principles-based and customer-focused. What I mean by that is there’s a lot of flexibility built into our programs and they aren’t just based on a script.  Even with the buyer having control and access to information, a rep that has mastery over IMPACT can quickly ascertain where the prospect is in the buying process and meet them where they are.  By knowing the buying stage of the prospect, sales reps can then gauge what type of questions to ask in order to move the process forward.  IMPACT is a sales process that allows a rep to maintain control while the buyer feels like they’re in total control.

5. When you come across unhealthy sales organizations, what are the most common traits you find in those businesses?

Some of the most common traits of an unhealthy sales organization that we see are high turnover, weak new rep orientation, poor articulation of value, and an inconsistent or poorly-defined sales approach.  In our business, we work with a lot of multi-divisional companies, many of whom have grown through acquisition.  Many of these companies struggle to provide a consistently strong customer experience across the organization and that inhibits their ability to scale.  We can work with companies in all of these scenarios to tailor an approach to achieve the results they expect.

6. One issue we continually hear about at Salesjournal is how hard it is to find and keep good sales people.  Talk a little bit about how you advise your clients to meet this challenge.

I’ve referenced a statistic in previous blog posts that only 41 percent of senior sales leaders have confidence in their organization’s ability to attract and hire top sales talent – less than half feel like they can get the talent they need!  That’s a major problem across the board that many of our clients encounter.

In order for our clients to combat this statistic, we first advise them to partner with a reliable recruiting firm that will find them talented professionals. Many of our clients have had trouble with placement companies that submit the same mediocre candidates to them over and over again. They key is to find a firm that will handpick only the most qualified-candidates.

Next, we advise them to find top talent outside of their industry. So many organizations are convinced they have to get somebody from in the industry and that’s just not the case. Hiring someone only within your industry extremely limits the talent pool available to you and often the candidates bring along “baggage” from their prior company.  I’ve heard them called “industry retreads”, which is pretty bad, but it’s descriptive.

Finally, we recommend companies look at less-seasoned candidates who haven’t necessarily had the chance to develop bad habits. Of course they will have to balance the need for experience within their industry with their buyer base, but it’s always easier to train someone with raw talent on things like selling skills and business acumen as opposed to teaching an old dog new tricks.

7. What role do sales assessments play in creating a high performing sales organization? If you’re really trying to transform your sales organization, how do assessments play a role in that?

Best in class organizations are using assessments as part of the hiring and selection process, orientation process, and as a way to independently define their culture in consistent terms.

Using assessments as part of your hiring and selection process sends a cue to candidates that you take hiring seriously. Also, If you have a benchmark of an “ideal” candidate, assessments can help you get a feel for how well a potential employee matches up to the profile of a successful one.

Assessments can also speed up onboarding. Instead of taking 6 months to figure out how a new hire needs to be coached, right out of the gate managers understand what motivates them and how to communicate with them.

At the Brooks Group, we also like to employ assessments with existing employees as a way of auditing our clients’ sales teams. Do the managers and senior sales leadership clearly define the roles required of the sales people? Do they have role clarity? It’s a way of coaching and engaging both leadership as well as tenured employees.

8. If Salesjournal reader is interested in learning more about the Brooks Group and your services, how should they reach you?

I would encourage people to visit our website (http://www.brooksgroup.com/) and check out our blog.  We provide a lot of great resources for companies considering how they can use sales training, coaching and assessments to transform the performance of their sales team.

Will Brooks is the Executive Vice President and Director of Marketing at The Brooks Group. He’s an avid student of the interactions between buyers and sellers and is a recognized authority on sales process, the science of hiring and retaining top sales performers and overall sales organization excellence. Will has been a sales and marketing guy his entire career and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.