When does a salesperson become a good friend and a trusted confidante? Here’s a clue: when the person leading the change is committed and willing to change their behavior and communication skills. It’s when Bob Henricks is the sales executive who models and leads the David Sandler training that turns sales and executive teams in Charlotte and other regional and international locations into top-producing leaders.
In more traditional customer-salesperson relationships, the salesperson often pays for meals, extends offers to entertainment or sporting events, and sometimes gives gifts. Usually, it’s a one-way street; the salesperson extends the courtesy to his client. It’s considered the cost of doing business.
But Henricks is on the receiving end. He’s not a client and may not even be involved in a formal business relationship with the other person. Friendship and respect fuel the courtesies extended to him.
“See that mat?” says Henricks, founder and president of Henricks Corporate Training & Development, Inc., pointing to a huge Ohio State University wall covering. “It came from a person who interviewed with me. It wasn’t a good fit for our company, but when this person started working at another place that made floor mats, he sent this along to me, saying he knew I would appreciate it.”
Henricks’ personal approach has reaped success for his sales training business. In the height of the recession, Henricks saw a 17 percent jump in his business, partly from his international work. He works with about 125 clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small business owners, and those who have international divisions are increasingly using him for training in offices overseas.
And his personal relationships with his clients are rewarding in more ways than just profits.
In a large, three-piece bookshelf filled with Buckeye memorabilia, another item stands out.
“That football is from the 2003 Ohio State national championship,” says Henricks, with pride. “It’s embossed as a game football, one of only a few from that great night.”
The football, another gift, came from a client who trained with Henricks. He had an account with Wilson Sporting Goods Co. and came across the footballs, waiting to be embossed, at a manufacturing facility. Immediately thinking of number one fan Henricks, the manager convinced the company rep to give him a ball to give to Henricks.
“It’s pretty cool,” adds Henricks, who also sports an OSU football helmet. One time during a training session he made a bet with a client in training. Henricks, of course, bet that OSU would win, while his client bet on Penn State’s Nittany Lions. The bet was whoever won the wager would have to wear the hat of the winning team during the next class. OSU was victorious, and the company CEO spent the next day wearing the Buckeye helmet.
“I told him he didn’t have to do it,” says Henricks, “but he said he wanted to show he was true to his word. That CEO of an international company wore that helmet all day in front of his employees.”
Stepping outside the boundaries is what defines Henricks and his approach to business.
A Henricks’ company employee reached out to James Risko, president of TLV Corporation, and was able to reach him even though he says his calls are heavily screened and other subordinates handle almost all cold calls.
“One of Bob’s trainees got through ethically and professionally,” says Risko. “It was very intriguing. We’ve been working with Bob ever since for almost four years.
“Our entire organization has learned how to better understand customers; and how to be more effective and efficient in our collaboration with them.”
Sandler Training Principles
His training, says Henricks, teaches how people connect to both products and people selling them and their psychological triggers. It’s the why behind the what problems, and the how of the problems they face, he explains.
“Once you understand the real reasons behind people’s buying decisions, then you can work with a motivated individual, and address their real concerns,” says Henricks. “Hence, we offer a ‘truth serum,’ but don’t push products or services.”
It is part of the Sandler training, a sales and sales-management training methodology started by David Sandler about 40 years ago. It is the now the largest sales training company in the world, explains Henricks, with more than 240 offices.
Rather than quick-fix motivational methods, Henricks says Sandler training is teaching that basic life skills can apply to strengthening relationships with customers through continued support and follow-up sessions.
“The process works,” says Advantaclean Systems Inc. President Jeff Dudan.
“It teaches you to be in control of the sales process. You have to go through 20 to 30 contacts to get one good customer and you learn how to flush out the ‘suspects’ and concentrate on the prospects,” says Dudan, who enrolls all his franchisees in Sandler training in their local areas.
Headquartered in Statesville, Advantaclean has 70 franchise offices in 20 states along with a direct business company to provide services to large contractors such as the government or military. It offers services such as air duct cleaning, mold remediation and emergency water removal and drying.
“At the end of the day, if the person is not willing or able to buy, you can disengage from them, move on and spend your time more productively on others,” says Dudan. “It’s okay for your prospect to say no.”
Most sales, says Dudan, will come from repeat business and referrals.
Another Sandler dictum is to engage in the 70-30 rule: let your customer do 70 percent of the talking, while you take the 30 percent end.
“If you go to visit a customer at home and he says he wants to have his ducts cleaned, you listen more and ask some questions. Why is he doing it now versus five or 10 years ago?” says Dudan. “When you hear that the customer’s mother is moving in and she has respiratory problems, then you understand his problem and can work on solving it.”
Risko says his entire global organization has been standardized using the Sandler training to better understand customers. TLV is a manufacturer of high performance steam valves to industrial customers, such as refineries, power and chemical plants. He says the company’s top internal managers from Japan, Singapore, Germany, Argentina and Mexico have attended Sandler training at the Henricks’ office in Charlotte. Henricks has four people who work for him and some contract trainers.
“We also send consulting and application engineers, accounting supervisors, and inside sales supervisory personnel to Sandler training,” adds Risko, who has sent 24 domestic and 16 "international employees to the training. “It helps their effectiveness and personal development.”
“The Sandler system can be used by anyone to improve understanding of the other party involved in any transaction,” says Risko. “The approach focuses on learning what projects the customers need to improve, and looking to see if there is a good possibility of mutual benefit. A professional approach shortens the time for both parties—even when there’s no deal, it’s best for both to get on with daily business as quickly as possible.”
Henricks’ recent entrance into international markets is paying dividends.
“2010 was our best year ever,” says Henricks. “We didn’t anticipate that because training is often viewed as discretionary money.”
In 2010, Henricks says his annual revenues increased 17 percent over the prior year, 2009. That year, another tough year for business, was the company’s best year to that point.
“I think companies were recognizing that you’ve got to step it up in a recession. If you’re concentrating on shortcomings, it makes sense for companies to invest on improving sales.”
As regional business continues to expand to foreign markets, Henricks’ skills are proving valuable at shaping connections with international divisions and new clients.
Henricks has spent time in Mexico, England, Spain, and Germany in the past two years and expects to continue developing his European training.
“Once you become international, there’s something about it that attracts more business,” he says. “People find out you’ve done classes in other countries and your referral base just keeps on growing.”
The training process is the same in the U.S. or outside, says Henricks, but there are adjustments to different cultures.
“I love learning about new cultures and applying my own personal skill set to new situations,” he says. “It’s great to go out to dinner and learn about different foods and customs. I’ve had some spectacular food in Mexico and Spain. I’m not so fond of the food in England; they need to learn to invest in spice racks.”
Countries like Mexico and European nations have a distinct appreciation for his training, says Henricks, and while they may initially challenge him, they are just “so thankful to be able to receive the training and evolve, get better and be at the top of their game.”
His German clients are stubborn, disciplined and focused.
“They make you prove what you put on the table,” says Henricks. “But when you show the theory and why it works, they are okay with that. Evidence defeats disbelief.”
The same dictum applies to training with U.S. clients.
“We found the Sandler approach matched our consultative sales style, but more importantly is that Bob offers a reinforcement and ‘stay with it’ approach to the program that will insure success,” says John Weber, president of Software Toolbox, a software company based in Matthews that works with companies in more than 100 countries and in several different industries.
Weber, a 23-year sales veteran, has “been through about every type of sales training around,” and found that the information he remembered most was from a yearlong sales training program of a Fortune 500 company.
“We do a lot of work with over the phone or via e-mail, and we needed to apply the training differently,” says Weber. “We don’t do a lot of face-to-face meetings. We know we’re dealing with a smaller portion of the deck and we need to focus on our tone in our e-mails and how we communicate on the phone.”
He says Henricks addressed the style of his business.
“They’re very consultative,” says Weber. “They help us discover our own needs and we address them during our two-year program. It’s been very validating to learn about why things we’ve done in the past have worked—and how we might better change some of our interactions.”
Companies stand by Bob Henricks, his Sandler training method, and the quality of the training he provides.
“I have the best job on the planet,” said Henricks. “I get to change people’s lives.”