There’s always room for improvement” sounds like a tired phrase that garners rolled eyes from struggling high schoolers. Jim Dunn and Scott Stuckey are not working with the young and rebellious crowd, but they do spend their days teaching and coaching. As the principals of Dunn Enterprises, they are building their own sales academy, and striving to improve all who are enrolled.
Dunn was raised with an entrepreneurial mindset by his father, a successful salesman himself. So when the hospital supplies and medical sales field in which Dunn worked began to adopt that sterilized atmosphere that sometimes surrounds corporate America, it only came natural for him to get out of there to do his own thing.
“I saw some black clouds heading into the medical industry,” says Dunn, who earned a management and marketing degree from East Carolina University in 1979. “I found I was becoming more of an order taker, and I didn’t like that because I really enjoyed the art of the deal, I really enjoyed negotiating and selling from the top down.”
That is how Dunn decided to become a franchisee of the Sandler Sales Institute, purchasing the license to use their selling system in 1992. He declines to say how much he paid for the rights, but money was never really a concern during the transition from medical sales.
“I was convinced that if I got into a business that I felt like I could do, that I would be good at, that I was passionate about, the money would follow,” says Dunn.
Spend five minutes with this man and you’ll see he has “passionate” perfected. His energy is contagious as he talks about how his system works, and why he loves what he does. His mission is to “help sales people and sales organizations achieve their fullest potential,” and you can’t help realizing that he means every word.
The excitable yet gentle demeanor of Dunn is backed up by the system he preaches. He believes salespeople do not have to be pushy to be successful, and those who are buying do not have to feel backed into a corner.
“Our whole process is to take pressure away from the prospect as well as the salesperson,” explains Dunn. “It’s to help people to discover how your product would fit, why they really want to buy, and give them the dignity of making that choice.”
The Master Plan
The Sandler System is an award winning program that has been around since the 1960s. Dunn himself saw it work when he was in the sales field, which was the only encouragement he needed to start his own business utilizing the program. However, he did do his homework.
“There are lots of programs but Sandler is the only one that has on-going training and reinforcement,” says Dunn. “That’s why most training doesn’t work today – because it’s sold in the form of a program. It’s not reinforced, and people learn by repetition.”
Aside from quarterly training sessions to “sharpen the sword,” Dunn Enterprises is autonomous from its licensor Sandler Sales Institute, allowing Dunn and Stuckey to take the basics of the Sandler System and run with them.
The ongoing program Dunn speaks of usually consists of at least a year of on-going training for the sales staff of a company. He stresses that each program is customized to meet the needs of every client, so the training schedule can be adjusted to do two or three-day “boot camps” or a couple of hours every week.
Should company presidents choose to call on the sensei of sales to help out their sales performance, Dunn and his team start by compiling an in-depth 25-page report based on the answers submitted to a computer program by the company’s sales managers and sales people. This is part of the customization of the program.
They then embark on a trial period with the client to make sure the system “is a fit.” Dunn is no-nonsense when it comes to the bottom line – that this program may not work for everyone, and it is not a quick fix. Many of Dunn’s clients are with him for much longer than a year.
As any successful salesman, Dunn lets his customers call the shots. For businesses outside of the Charlotte area, or for those with employees all over the country, seminars can be held during regional sales meetings in order to include all members of a sales team. He either goes to them, or the team is invited into the Ballantyne office space where the electric blue walls, colorful paintings and scenic art gives the conference room an inviting feel. There’s even a help-yourself gumball machine in the middle of the conference table.
Dunn, somewhat of a sports nut, laces his explanations with sports analogies and compares the beginning of a program and the need for everyone in the company’s involvement to Lance Armstrong’s team of assistants.
“He has a personal trainer. He has his own dietician. My belief is if most sales organizations only get their sales managers here for coaching, they are going to be malnourished.”
And the world saw what Armstrong did with his team not long ago when he won his sixth straight Tour de France. Dunn just may be on to something.
The Sandler System also offers audio and literary components, so the clients can constantly be reminded of the new techniques when they are in the field. Dunn sites the figure that people will retain 80 percent of what they do. He says, “That’s why most public training doesn’t work, because you hear it, you see it, you lose it.”
While the prices, like the programs, are also customized, it is a safe bet these “golden nuggets” of information will not come cheap. Dunn Enterprises also offers public sessions that run participants upwards of $500 a head.
From Knowing It to Owning It
Dunn keeps the sports jargon coming when he excitedly explains that he views his role of seminar leader as that of a coach. He revels in seeing the “players” become better performers, regardless of where they started.
“This program is not just for brand new salespeople. A lot of my clients are already good, are already earning six figures,” says Dunn.
He continues that he enjoys “taking them to the next level.” And in that level, believes Dunn, lies a balance that will make his clients better people on and off the job.
“I’m a real big believer that it is not just sales or money. I’m a real big believer in having a balance with family and physical fitness. We know we do better when we feel better and salespeople, I think, perform when they’re healthier,” he says. Married for 21 years and the father of three, Dunn obviously takes his own advice to heart when he proudly discusses his kid’s accomplishments.
The “next level” also involves a new confidence the client has when dealing with the product. It is a transformation that goes “from knowing it to owning it.” Not surprisingly, Dunn compared this to the preparation football teams take to get ready for their season.
“It’s like the Panthers getting ready to start summer training. They know how to block, they know how to tackle, they know how to throw, but why do they come back for basic training every year?” he asks. “They go from knowing the concepts to owning them. Naturally that is what it is that we do in our model.”
He believes that it takes about 15,000 hours to become a good salesperson, reiterating why he believes so strongly in his product. He stresses that the one or two-week training program people go through when they are hired by a company is rarely enough, and almost never effective.
That is why he sells his program with conviction, and also practices what he preaches. He not only “knows,” but “owns” the Sandler System, and is confidant enough to attempt to change the mindset of a room full of people day in and day out. The belief of the system is that great salespeople must be great decision makers and that there is always room to better one’s self.
Through his 12 years of experience, Dunn has realized that there is often room for improvement soon after a new salesperson is hired.
“Everyone looks good for 90 days,” he quips, bringing another focus to this multi-tasker’s agenda. His company also helps train higher-ups on how to look for employees that will escalate profit and not fall short of expectations after that initial trial time.
Full Speed Ahead
The future looks bright for Dunn Enterprises. So bright that the business leader, who ran the show alone for the first 11 years, took on a partner just over a year ago. Scott Stuckey joined Dunn Enterprises after a career in software and technology sales and sales management, and like Dunn, had also utilized the Sandler Sales system in the past, and was actually a client of the company he now helps run. Stuckey’s style is more direct and “in your face,” but together they are an unbeatable combination.
The duo expects to remain busy. While the business does employed traditional methods of marketing, word of mouth is proving to be the best way to get their word out.
Dunn explains, “I had a conversation yesterday with a local company president. He called me up and he said, ‘Jim, I’m meeting with a sales manager tomorrow. And I’m going to tell him point blank, if his salesperson doesn’t take Sandler, I’m going to fire him. I’m going to fire the company.’”
That compliment speaks volumes of the relationship Dunn and Stuckey are forming with their clients and the impression they leave. This is a company that thrives on networking and the company is proud of the accolades from happy customers posted on their Web site.
Dunn’s excitement radiates as he talks about what he does, and one can’t help but get the idea that he may feel like this is his part to make the world a little bit better. It may be a stretch, but anyone who has struggled at a job or anyone who has been frustrated by an inept salesperson just may appreciate the mission of Dunn Enterprises.