In today’s episode, we sit with Rob Meyers, President and Managing Member of Republic Business Credit, to discuss key factors that drive business development success. We cover topics including clear communication, setting expectations, and following tried and tested processes. Rob kicks off the episode by guiding listeners through the steps of a qualification call before talking in detail about how you can develop trust with clients. Listeners will learn that simple strategies like setting realistic expectations and consistent updates can benefit even the laziest salespeople, provided they follow the correct steps. Rob then takes a closer look at how to set expectations, especially when the goalposts are changing shape and are constantly on the move. The bottom line, says Rob, is that you’re the janitor of your business, and you need to take ownership over issues, whether it’s your fault or the clients. We then shift the spotlight onto the client, as Rob tells us about which clients are worth saving and why it’s best to let others go. Rob shares valuable insight in the latter minutes of the show and provides insider tips for young professionals looking to make a break in the business development space. Perhaps his biggest piece of advice is elaborating on the preparation and reflection phases.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Hear about a qualification call and its components.
- Why building trust with clients is so important, especially in the virtual world.
- How to ensure effective communication with clients.
- Ways expectations can be managed between clients and buyers.
- The importance of being the “janitor” in your business.
- How giving your potential clients guidance upfront can bolster the relationship.
- How to handle angry clients, despite your own performance.
- Rob’s advice for young professionals in the sales industry.
- Hear about email etiquette — how to send and receive with a good mindset.
- Why it is good to prepare and to reflect on calls and sales.
- What makes sales fun, and how to make it more fun.
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builder’s podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.
[00:00:22] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today’s guest is Rob Meyers, President and Managing Member of Republic Business Credit, a non-bank lender. Rob and I discuss key factors that drive business development success, including clear communication, setting the red expectations and having a process to follow. I hope you all enjoy.
[00:00:46] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.
[00:00:53] AD: Rob. Welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. I’m looking forward to our conversation today on business development.
[00:01:01] RM: Thanks, Alex. Privilege and a pleasure to be here.
[00:01:03] AD: Absolutely. Rob, I want to start with something you had shared with me earlier. You had said to me that business development is like leadership. The difference between doing the right things and doing things right. With business development, you say it’s about doing the right activities and using the right behavior, such as communication follow-up, that creates an opportunity for success to happen. Can you just share some of your thoughts around that and where that really ties into business development for you?
[00:01:35] RM: Yeah. I think, leadership and management is often defined that way. Managers do things right. Leaders have to do the right things. It’s one of the first questions I got from a mentor a long time ago. I apply that into business development, because if you spend your time trying to see how many activities you do, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. It is about what activity you do. That’s the thing that the sales person themselves controls. Then, I view it as really the sales manager’s role to help them do that activity better.
For example, if you take the entire sales process from beginning to end, and if you are cold calling directly, or if you’re going through an intermediary, such as a referral source, all that stuff’s great. Fundamentally, that first call you have with a prospective client. For us, we call a qualification call. I’ve broken the thing down into all the requisite steps. It’s my job to teach the BDO to walk into that room, knowing this is my goal for the conversation; achieve the conversation. At the end before you jump onto the next phone call, spend a minute or two and see how you did.
That feedback loop around how you’re doing something is what’s going to then, ultimately, in time, improve how you do something. The reason why you spend so much time on that is because when you get to the end, life and sales is often about conversion ratios. Number of at-bats, term sheets, executed term sheets, fundings or whatever version of your three or four steps of the sale process is, the better you execute that, which you find the more senior, the better empathetic, or the more emotional intelligence someone has, you apply those things together and they end up converting more of their opportunities than others.
You create opportunities for luck, but it goes way, way, way back to you must do the activity. You must then do the activities the right way and more importantly, improve how you’re doing them over time. As a result, you’ll see more success in business development.
[00:03:46] AD: I love what you said there. Again, so you’re doing the right activities again and again over time, but you’re doing them the right way and you’re reflecting on them to look for ways for improvement. I think that looking, stopping, looking for ways to improve is such a critical element when it comes down to really growing that skill set. It’s exactly you said, the emotional intelligence, the empathy, the ability to really genuinely connect with another human, it’s a soft skill. It’s a human skill that we all can develop and we all can continue to work on.
Some people may have more natural abilities around it, but I don’t believe it’s something that you’re born with and you know it all. Rather, it’s certainly something that can be improved upon and exactly as you said there, you have to slow down and reflect on it to really be able to grow around that.
[00:04:35] RM: I think for us, I would describe it as the buyer-seller dance. There is a series of transactions that happen from the time you have a conversation and to the time they become a client. I need to do something. You need to do something. I need to do something. You need to do something. In the end, as a result in a sale. If you don’t just simply explain that in layman’s terms without jargon, without queer deadlines, you don’t have a chance of doing it. By simply having a set of expectations that you’re supposed to do and they’re supposed to do, in the end, you guys have a successful transaction.
Think about the number of times people are like, “Well, you never told me that. Or, you told me it’s going to take 24 hours and it took 72 hours.” It doesn’t matter that it took 72 hours. It matters that you either didn’t tell me it was going to take 72 hours, or that you misled me, or lied to me, or took the first moment to break trust in 24 hours tripled. If I had said, “Oh, hey. It’s 96 hours and do it in 72 hours,” you think I’m great. If I don’t know how long it takes, because I haven’t spent the time to learn the organization I’m a part of, or I don’t actually understand the sales process, you’re going to find yourself getting stuck.
Average sales people, purely that explain and set expectations and do the things they’re supposed to do in the right way, can have far more successful careers than people that are inconsistent, lazy, or very simply, just don’t set expectations properly. That’s the most infuriating part is when you tell me one thing and something else happens. Especially in a virtual world, you do not have some of the bonding report time that you otherwise would. You have these brief moments that you must deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. You build up a sales process in our business. The finance transaction is multiple selling processes that leads to a final sale, because there might be legal documents, or there might be information requests, or there might be credit, or diligence, or whatever.
Each time, your expectation met, expectation met and you can end and actually enjoy the sales process, as opposed to everyone when they think about going to buy a car, just squirms, because it’s awful. Oh, you can buy a new car through Costco. That’s my tip of the day. It makes it much easier and you save a bunch of money. What does Costco have to do with cars? I don’t know.
[00:07:08] AD: They make it easy to buy cars, so you go that way, right? No, but I love the expectations and communicating that and getting that right. You hit on something so important there. You break trust when you set an expectation and then you break it. Whether that was intentional or not and whether it’s even that big of an expectation you set, at the end of the day, if you are working with a prospective client and you say, “I’m going to do X, Y and Z,” and you don’t do X, Y and Z, as much as that might not have been intentional on your part, it does erode trust.
That doesn’t mean that if you tell someone that it’s going to take 24 hours and it takes 72, that oh, the deal’s done. They never want to work with you. They don’t trust you at all. That is absolutely an erosion of trust. When that happens time and time and time again throughout the relationship, or it’s a small build up and all of a sudden, they’re saying, “Well, I don’t know if I want to work with you. I don’t know if I have the trust to work with you.” So much of that really is about that clear communication.
You do point out the idea of having a clear set of steps to follow. Now, where I will, I don’t want to say challenge that necessarily, but I wholeheartedly agree. Build a clear set of steps to follow. It will make you undoubtedly better at the business development process. What about when you’re shooting from the hip, you’re flying blind a little bit, right? You’ve been in these and know there’s clients you’ve worked with and you may have a general process to follow and you may know that A has to come before F, but what order everything else in between falls might shift some. How, when you’re not necessarily following a perfectly prescribed process, can you ensure that you’re still communicating effectively and making sure you’re setting the right expectations?
[00:08:58] RM: Yeah. I think I would say you should have a very clear sales process.
[00:09:03] AD: I like that. I like that.
[00:09:05] RM: I actually don’t think you can weasel out of that one, frankly. Let’s say, you maybe just don’t know it as well as you should, then I would set that as the expectation. Because if it’s, “Hey, Mr. Client. The first question, what is your timing, what is your urgency and what is your need?” Because if my process takes four weeks and you need it done in two weeks, we’re not going to do well. If I lie to you about two weeks, it’s really going to go bad.
I would say, every sales process that is should be boiled down into the steps that need to be done. Now, if they don’t all necessarily need to be done sequentially and they can be done concurrently, well, then that to me would change the conversation. It would be, “Mr. Prospect. These are the five things we need to do before it’s over. Typically, we do the first one, then we’re going to work through two and three together, maybe four that needs to happen and then we work on five and six at the end.”
To me, you’re still articulating it. Each one has a certain amount of time it should on average take. Then you should always say, if you go faster, we can go faster. Likewise, if you go slower, understand that we may not be able to deliver on these expectations. Because what always happens is someone gets distracted, because whatever product or service you’re selling, isn’t the only thing the other person is working on, even though it feels that way for the sales person. There’s always the delay on the buyer. No matter what, no matter what process. Even if they’re super urgent, something’s to go wrong.
How you handle that, one of the things we talk about is hey, we talked about you need to have this done by the 30th. You were supposed to get us something by the 12th. Today is now the 13th. We have to reset our expectations. Is there something we can do to facilitate this getting done faster? Did your timeline change? It starts with a timeline conversation, but you have that same timeline repeatedly.
The salesperson and if you have other people involved in closing a sale, all need to be part of the same wave. I think, you continue to set expectations. More importantly, you need to hold people accountable when they’re not achieving them. I apologize to a lot of people when we miss the deadline, whether it’s my fault or not, I find taking ownership of stuff and accountability, its purpose of why I’m the janitor in the business.
[00:11:31] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders Podcast.
[00:11:41] AD: I couldn’t agree with you more. I want to go back and highlight what you’re saying here for our listeners. Again, this idea of and maybe a lack of better way to say it, is under-promise, over deliver is the thought. It’s not necessarily trying to set deadlines that you know you’re just easily going to be able to meet and they’re so far out, but being realistic in what you say to someone. If you promise them it’s going to get done in a certain timeline, then make sure you get it done in that timeline.
The point that you made there in the end, the taking the blame, the taking the accountability, stepping up to the plate and saying, “Hey, we missed a deadline. This happened. I’m sorry. We messed this one up and this is what caused it and we’ll figure out how to solve it and we’ll do what we can to get us back on track.” I think that is so important when it comes down to it, because it’s so easy to forget at times, when you’re in that business development role, it is sales in nature. There is a conversion factor. It’s also a relationship and it’s about the human on the other side of the table.
When you get in this situation of well, we missed a deadline and I’m going to just finger point and say, “Well, if you would have gotten us this earlier, we wouldn’t have had this problem.” That doesn’t get you anywhere. All that does is deteriorate the relationship on the back-end. Where, if you just say, “Hey, sorry about this. We’re behind on this because of that. Don’t worry. Our problem. We’ll take care of it. We’ll solve this. Let’s move forward.” It does so much more to build that relationship, than trying to point blame, or to push things in other ways.
Again, that all comes down to if you’re clear about your communication on expectation and timing and what the client, or prospect can expect, then it sets you up for success and not having to worry about those tough conversations when things are going sideways.
[00:13:28] RM: You need to volunteer that before you’re asked by the client, “Where is my document that you promised me?” It doesn’t count as much if you take blame after your fault. Proactive is very different than reactive and it is always felt differently. You are told you’re supposed to apologize for something, it don’t count. It gives you a little bit, but it’s gone the next day.
[00:13:56] AD: Exactly as we started out. Doing the right things, versus doing things. The right thing is to take the blame, but if you have to do the right thing after somebody flagged you for it, then you missed doing things right to begin with. You missed the opportunity to just say, “You know, my fault we missed this. We got this under control now.” I think, that’s a great thought there.
[00:14:18] RM: The only other thing I would add on to that about doing things right is – and doing the right things is do not sell something to someone that doesn’t fit. Do not, because of whatever motivation. If it ultimately doesn’t work, one of the biggest questions our team asks everyone is have you talked to a bank yet? By background, we’re a non-bank lender, which means we are more expensive. Yes, we might be more flexible, etc., but we’re more expensive than a bank. The first question we’re trained to ask, have you talked to your bank? Have you talked to a few banks yet?
If that answer is no, we actually pause the sale process, encourage them to go talk to a few banks. We’ll even give them a few names. Then come back to us 30 and 60 days later, because there’s no point if you’re not a ready buyer. We are just by definition, plan B. We know we’re plan B. We’re not embarrassed about being plan B. Every business in the world wants the cheapest loan possible. Congratulations. I want the cheapest loan possible. That’s just what we all do, but you don’t always necessarily qualify, or have the ability to get it. Again, but that’s where we start, knowing that we might build a little bit more trust. Yeah, we might lose a deal or two, because we pushed them away when someone else might go in for the hard close. Inevitably, we find ourselves with another chance for that business, whether it’s now, or whether it’s a few years from now and the long-term side of selling is so much more important than trying to hit a monthly number.
[00:15:55] AD: I think you’re so spot on there. Let me ask you this question, thinking and I don’t expect an exact number, but what chunk of your business comes from some form of a referral from a past client, from someone that you worked with, some form of whether that be the direct client, or an advisor to that client that knows you serve them well?
[00:16:15] RM: Three, four years ago, 10%. Today, closer to 40%.
[00:16:20] AD: What a great example there. Just to see that ramp up and where does that come from. That comes from serving the client. That comes from setting the right expectations and meeting the expectations and not selling them something they don’t need, so they feel good about what they got when everything is said and done.
[00:16:37] RM: The strongest reference we have is from a current client, or a former client, particularly, if they’re in a similar industry. We don’t always give them clients that have just had positive experiences. Some of our favorite clients that have had some grumpiness with us, the grumpiness that we’ve solved, actually become the best referral. Because sometimes, you get worried if all you hear is the right thing, or the best thing. “Oh, my God. They’re the greatest thing ever. You should go with them.” It doesn’t feel like a real client referral.
One of the things we pride ourselves in is one, we have a list of 10, or 12, or 15 clients that we refer on a regular basis. The clients feel good, because we’re asking them. Two, we came up with an incentive plan for our staff, so that they’re asking clients for a referral. We then on top of that, spend a lot of time in how we’re servicing clients. That is what is over time, generated more. Particularly, when you get more into an industry, or more into a vertical, or more into a geography, you start ping-ponging off of more and more and more clients.
A lot of our businesses are referral-led. From that, the pie is expanding because of the client-led business, as opposed to we’re just trading client referrals for other business. The client business has been all additive to what we’re doing.
[00:18:04] AD: That’s great. Let’s talk about that for a moment though. You have clients that sometimes things don’t go perfectly. We’ve talked about the importance of setting those expectations and taking accountability. What do you do when a client’s just pissed at you, whether your fault or not? When they think something went wrong, how do you remedy that? How do you pull that and keep that relationship on track?
[00:18:29] RM: There’s two stories that come to mind; one, where we were successful and one when we weren’t. One, I got on a plane to Houston and I got yelled at for two and a half hours. Said what we did wrong. Never made excuses. Owned the business. I sat down in front of him. That was three years ago and he’s still a client. Now, he’s actually a reference for other clients. That wasn’t the only time. He was irritated at us, but we listened.
There’s another client that we set an expectation at the beginning. 12 months. Was never happy. When she told us that she was ready to go, we helped her go in a fast, timely manner, without any nonsense, without any, “Oh, well. Your contract, blah, blah, blah.” Because for us, whatever expectation she had we missed, we spent many months trying to make it up. We may be able to work with her in the future as her business changes, but creating bad will, because she’s going to talk to bankers and she’s going to talk to accountants and she’s going to talk to other people in her network and in a community in which we have a lot of other clients, that’s not worth it right.
For us, it also happened that her business was in an industry that has had some trouble in the last six, 12 months. Just not every client, you can actually save. Not every client is worth saving. I would say, the vast majority of the time, you can talk to the owner and managing member of our business. That isn’t something you do in most companies, particularly as they get bigger, blah, blah, blah. You don’t talk to CEOs of banks, unless you’re their largest account. I’ll talk to all sizes from our accounts.
Some people, we extend for short-term deals, so that they have more time to go find a banking relationship, but that’s one of our sales pitches. I’m the bridge until you get there. When you’re ready to go there, it’s my job to get you there. As a result, those people service some of our best references.
[00:20:37] AD: I love that. It shows the importance of that relationship. It’s not, because what I didn’t hear you say it all during that is, it’s about making sure we still make the sales, about making sure that we get our last pound of flesh out of the client. It’s not about what’s in it for you, it’s about how do you make sure the relationship is good/ How do you make sure things are in a place where you’re working with a client that’s happy with you, that you’re taking any responsibility for any mistakes that might have been made along the way.
For those clients that aren’t happy, and there will be some. You’re not going to be a perfect fit for every client. For those that you aren’t, you’re helping them find the way out the door in the best way possible. Whether that be they’re engaging – in your case, you’re lending to them and that you want to help them find a different lender. Or even before that, where to your point of sending them to a bank and saying, “Hey, before you check out us, you should make sure you’re going in and seeing if your deal is bankable or not, before you come to that plan B source of capital.” It speaks so much to the idea of building and really maintaining that client relationship when it comes down to it.
[00:21:47] RM: I think for us, it goes back to doing the right things. I can’t stress it enough. The amount that entrepreneurs talk to other entrepreneurs. If you think about a company here in the middle that you’re trying to sell to, there’s probably seven or eight people that they’re going to go to for advice; lawyers, accountants, bankers, etc. Those people are then going to introduce other people to transactions. We do not have enough money to do a Super Bowl commercial.
There are very few, if any, that I’m aware that you hear our name. You may not know us. Fine. We can educate you. We can make it closer. May know someone in your town, or etc., etc. Our brand and our company and our values, which all fit together in how we do things is so important.
People generally, for whatever reason, think we’re larger and bigger – all that’s just great, but fundamentally, our sales team, people like. They’re nice people. They smile. They laugh. They joke around with you. They do what’s in your best interest. They don’t send you crappy e-mails. They follow up. Maybe they follow up too much. I would rather that than the alternative. I would say in finance, it’s hard to differentiate.
One of our biggest differentiators is our people and maybe how we make decisions. Fundamentally, we put our people in front of our business. It’s why at the most recent secured finance network conference, we had two of our team leading roundtables; one on portfolio, one on credit. We had another one of our team moderating a panel on business development. It was just, that’s what our business and our brand and our value is. It’s the people you interact with more than the name. I don’t know. I guess, we always take that into account as we go.
[00:23:43] AD: No. Rob, that’s great. Obviously, it is core to success in your organization, the success you’ve had is a direct demonstration of why it’s key to put your people first and to really focus on building those relationships.
Let me ask you a question in this sense. I’m a young up-and-coming professional, that’s striving to do well in business development, in the professional services world, whether that be in your world of ABL lending, or in just general services, what are some advice to me? What do I need to think about? What are things I should be looking out for? Maybe an even better question, if you could look back and talk to Rob of 15 years ago, what would you tell him?
[00:24:29] RM: There’s a lot of questions there, Alex, all at once, just for the record. I appreciate them all. I will try to remember as many as possible, but you’re welcome to –
[00:24:36] AD: Giving you a lot of places to jump off of.
[00:24:38] RM: Tell me which bridge I can go off of first. I would say, 15 years ago, I was in a real hurry. I should tell myself, not to be in such a hurry, but I’m not sure that’s actually good advice, because I don’t know if I’d get here if I wasn’t in a hurry. Early on in your business development career in particular, you get almost so singularly focused that you can be a bit of a pain in the butt. Almost to the point of you’re putting your own interests above maybe others, or maybe your firm. You’re like, “Listen, I’ve got to get this deal done and this deal is really important.”
Sometimes it’s in out of the wrong context. Maybe something else is happening. I started business development in a recession. There was more than just the deal going on for the management team. What I always saw in immaturity was lack of patience. That sometimes then goes into frustration and then you can go to the e-mails you sent that you probably shouldn’t have sent the category, which is why my first tip is please, God. Before you send that e-mail, save it as a draft and come back the next day. Do not send an e-mail where you’re trying to be clever, or funny, or frustrated. Do not CC the entire management team on anything ever, ever. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t come back well. Whatever you do, don’t put multiple managers on an e-mail and call one of them out while you’re doing it.
I had to say, my first bit of advice and no one’s going to listen to me and that’s okay, is try to get mature as fast as humanly possible, almost more than anything else, because those things if you have the right people around you, are good learning experiences. They’re sometimes a little painful. I may have said monkey see, monkey do to one of my managers at one point, of which nearly was my last day of employment. Because in the UK where I had started, it was cool to joke around with managing directors. It wasn’t so cool when you’re a 22-year-old kid in America. I learned that. I didn’t work in a sales environment, until.
That would be one bit. I would say, my advice is I’ve always gone and found what I think are the best sales people in the company, the best sales people in the industry and I followed them. Spent a bunch of time talking to them. I set my goals as their goals, in an effort knowing that I wouldn’t beat them this year, but I’d get pretty close. For me, I’ve had a lot of people I’ve learned from in time and tried to take every little nugget.
I’ve never tried to be like another person, but I’ve always tried to take the best couple skills from them. Most of the time, if you just pick up the phone and talk to them like they’re a human, you’d be amazed at some of the nuggets and the just, absolute wisdom that they may not even realize they’re telling you. Because people by and large, do actually like to help the next generation. They do actually like to mentor, whether it’s formal mentoring, or it’s accidental mentoring. Find people you admire and don’t just stop at one.
I remember, there was one of the first times I went networking in Chicago, there’s actually a guy by the name of Rick Barfield. He was, I went up and said hello to him. He was a super nice guy. Why I said hello to him, because the day before I’d seen him, he walked around the room and knew a bunch of people. I was like, “Well, I got to know who this guy is.” Then he was nice enough and walked me around to a whole bunch of people.
That day, my network, I know, exploded, because it was the second event I’d ever been at, because someone was just nice to me, because I admired what he was doing. I think, if you talk to a lot of successful sales people, or successful sales managers, they’ll have little moments like that that in hindsight, become more important than they necessarily were at the time. I might not have been as intentional about what I did as I sound here today, but for me it’s like, oh, that was one of the moments where whether I got it or didn’t get it, I did the right thing.
[00:28:47] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle-market professionals.
[00:28:55] AD: What great advice. I asked you a lot of questions, you gave a lot of great answers. I think that’s to be expected. A couple things I want to go back and really make sure we call attention to. You said, the patience. Slow down. Review the e-mail before you send it out. Take a deep breath. Just realize that at times, when we get stuck in that nature of dealing with a prospect, or a client, another human being in our business life, there’s times where things get heated, we feel tension. There’s annoyance. They’re dragging their feet on something, or they’re saying one thing when they did something else that you know they did and you’re, “Okay. Well, I’ll show them. I’ll put them on blast by CC’ing all the managers. Or, I’m going to send the snippy e-mail to make sure they understand how serious this is.”
To everything we’ve talked about, relationship first. None of that putting people on blast, sending a snippy e-mail, reacting. Any of that is going to do anything to really build the relationship, to really put the relationship first. I think that’s just so powerful to just slow down for a minute and reread the e-mail the next morning. I love that you said that. I’ve sent e-mails I regret. No doubt. I have CC’d people on e-mails that I should not have been CC’ing. It sounded like a good idea.
[00:30:14] RM: It feels so good, Alex, when you press the send button and then you immediately go, “Oh, no.” It doesn’t come back. Then you go to your sent items to make sure you actually sent it. Again, now that happens within seconds for me. Early on, it happens the next day. Sometimes, it happens because the manager forwards it to you and writes a question mark. Also, not a great e-mail to get.
By the way, if you’re really good, you get to the chance to apologize. Once you’ve sent it, there is a consequence coming, whether it’s not I will tell you something that on the podcast, you can’t see this. But every year, I get a little book. I forget with a little brand of it. It begins with an M. Moleskin. I got a new moleskin every year. One of the best things that was given to me in executive development course was how to reflect.
One of the first ways was what? So what? What next? You can Google that phrase and it’ll come up with a whole bunch of charts and things that tells you what it is. It’s not some proprietary knowledge. What it allowed me to do was to spend more time thinking about what I did and why did I think about that and based on that, what am I going to do with it? I use it sometimes when I read interesting articles. I do it when I listen to interesting podcast like yours and try to take – because you’re not going to absorb 30 minutes, or 45 minutes of someone talking.
One thing I really like about your show is you really try to hone in on a couple takeaways for people. For me, I would write down that takeaway in that book. Then the next day, or maybe later I go, “Okay. Why did I write that down?” That same what, so what, what next is the framework I use for sales calls. How did that sales call go? What was the two or three things I tried to achieve when I went into it? What didn’t work? You would ask me a question earlier, “Well, Rob. If you don’t necessarily understand the sales process, etc., etc. Trial and error.”
I am known from everyone of just lobbying things into conversations. So often, they go really well. I keep it. Then sometimes, they go okay. In a couple times, they’ve been horrific. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have known that until later. There was a deal. I did not spend the five minutes before the call to read the information that was sent to me about the call I was about to have. I asked one of those questions to buy yourself time to catch up to the conversation and I got read the Riot Act, by the person that it brought me on the phone call.
Again, listen, I took ownership for it and we had a great relationship and maintained it for years and years and years, but it was a great lesson. Do not walk onto a call and having done no preparation.
[00:33:11] AD: I think that it is such great advice for us to – we’ll wind the episode down on that topic, the idea of prepare for what you’re doing. If you want to be successful in business development, which again, is fundamentally comes down to building relationships, comes down to being able to connect with the human on the other side of the table and solve a need that they have, set the right expectations, clearly communicate those.
At the end of the day, if you don’t slow yourself down and find time to prepare and reflect on where you can improve and know the right thoughts going into that meeting, the being prepared, being in the right headspace, thinking the right way and then afterwards, looking back and saying, “Okay. How can I improve this? What did I learn from that?” You’re never going to really be able to grow and continue to become better and better at that skill set. I think that is such great advice there, Rob.
[00:34:07] RM: I know what I’d add on it is the bigger the meeting, or the bigger the moment, I would expand preparation accordingly. I had a thrill of a lifetime. I got to interview John Kasich a couple weeks ago, who without Cruz, without Trump, Daniel might have been President of United States. Again, in a virtual world, I have a chance to interview this man in a real world. He never chose me to do this. Thanks, COVID, for a highlight of my life.
For him, I listened to his last couple books. I had written the questions down weeks ahead of time and I picked up those questions five or six times. Kept refining them. Kept deleting them. Kept changing them. Kept fine-tuning them. Sent those questions to family and friends. Sent those questions to people at the organization to see what they thought. Kept getting feedback and ideas for people. Then I had broken up into this should take about 15 minutes, this should take about 15 minutes, because you have no idea how long the person’s answers are going to be.
I didn’t get to half the questions I prepared. If I run out of questions, I would have looked like a fool. I think for me, it’s prepare for the moment. The bigger the moment, the more you should prepare.
[00:35:15] AD: One, that’s very cool that you had the opportunity to interview John Kasich. That’s a heck of an opportunity. Obviously, some of the silver lining, should we call it, of COVID in this virtual world that we live in. Your point of the bigger the meeting, the more the preparation, it’s fundamental to success is putting in the preparation, putting in the time, putting in the thoughts to make sure you’re going in in the right place to really set yourself up for success when it comes down to it.
Rob, this has been great. Just for our listeners, I want to recap a few points here. Let me know if there’s anything that I’m missing on this. Starting from the top-down, in the business development and sales process, set up a clear set of steps to follow. Know what steps have to occur to be able to complete the process you’re going through. Then very clearly, communicate the expectations with your client, or your prospect, so that they understand what’s expected of them and what they can expect of you and on what timelines, because that’s really what builds the trust.
Anytime you break those expectations, you are breaking a small piece of that trust. Again, it may not shatter the trust, but a little bit at a time will build, or break that trust down. Then, put the relationship first. It’s really about the humans, the people, making sure that you’re not focused as much on the deal, the transaction, closing the sale, but really, what is the relationship that stands behind that.
We also touched on patience, slowing down, review your e-mail before you send it, think twice about what you’re doing. Then, follow the best in the industry. Seek out someone that is really good at what they do. Whether you directly have a conversation with them, or you can just follow and get insights from them, I I think you’re a 100% right that most people are willing to give their time and effort, especially if you reach out in a genuine way and just say, “Hey, I really look up to what you’ve done. I want to have a career similar to yours. I would love it if you could just share some thoughts to me.” You’d be surprised at the responses, I think, people will give there. I think that’s great advice there.
Then lastly, spend your time preparing and reflecting. Both of those are – they’re obviously on different sides of the meeting. One of them is getting you in the right headspace, making sure you’re ready and putting the thought in, the other one is thinking about what you did and how you prepared and how that played out and how you can use that to learn from again in the future, and write it down.
I love that you obviously, that our listeners can’t see the notebook that you showed, but write it down. Use and find ways to write that down. That really leads us with the last thing today. I’m going to give a call to action for our listeners. Go Google What, So What, What Next? Understand the framework around that and find a way to apply that somewhere in your career in the next week.
Find some situation, some engagement, some interaction that you can just sit down and ask yourself what, so what and what next? Write it down. Don’t just think it. Write it down. Put it on paper and then go look at that in a week or two and reflect on that and use that as a learning experience to grow from.
Rob, anything I missed there you want to add on?
[00:38:34] RM: We didn’t talk about it, so it’s not your fault. Sales is fun. All sales people need to have a ritual that they do every time they close the transaction, whether it’s a Scotch, whether it’s a cigar, whether it’s a run. I don’t care. You in sales will not close a 100% of the deals you work on. You must have a mechanism, ideally a healthy one that you celebrate success. That’s what’ll keep you going.
[00:39:01] AD: It sounds like we just picked up the topic for the next podcast we do together. We could definitely unpack that one. That’s great advice to wind us down with here. Rob, really appreciate your time and your contribution to the show here. For our listeners, how can they get a hold of you?
[00:39:16] RM: Cellphone. Office phone. E-mail. I’m all over LinkedIn and all those things great. I’d love to have a conversation, whether it’s generic, whether it’s specific, or if you just want to build your network. Please reach out. Be happy to help in any way I can.
[00:39:30] AD: Awesome. We’ll make sure to have your contact info on the show notes here and encourage our listeners to reach out. Again, Rob. Appreciate your time here and enjoyed the conversation.
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