#037 Elevate Your Sales Team with Neal Benedict
Discovering the Winning Strategies of Sales Leadership
Guest & Host
Neal Benedict & Steven Morell
Welcome to Speak Revenue, the podcast where we emphasize that revenue is not just a goal; it's a result. In this show, we shift our focus from the output to the inputs. We engage in conversations with sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their remarkable journeys. Our mission? To uncover the true root causes of success. In this episode of Speak Revenue, host Steven Morell sits down with Neal Benedict to delve into the world of sales leadership and the power of the Sandler Method. Discover how the Sandler Method focuses on attitude, behavior, and technique to elevate your sales team's performance. Neal shares insights on how to nurture buyer relationships, control sales interactions, and achieve consistent results. Learn how technology has transformed the way Sandler delivers its training and find out why staying consistent is a key to success in the world of sales.
November 9th, 2023
Steven Morell: Welcome to our new episode of Speak Revenue. Remember, revenue is not a goal. It's a result! But a result of what? In this show, we turn our eyes from the inputs towards the outputs. We talk to sales and revenue leaders about their journey. So join me on my quest to uncover the root causes of success. Let's figure out what works for them. What didn't. Today with my guest, Neal Benedict. Welcome to Speak Revenue. It's a pleasure to have you!
Neal Benedict: Thanks, Steven. Happy to be here.
Steven Morell: Neil. We already chatted a little bit and we spoke about what you do, but real quick for the audience, who are you, what do you do, and what makes you so successful?
Neal Benedict: Sure. So my name's Neal Benedict. I'm a bit of a recovering Head of Sales. I left my corporate role . About 10 years ago, the last role that I had working for someone else, I went out and started my own sales consulting practice. Subsequently I've added a training practice to that which is largely fueled by the Sandler training methodology. And I'm based out of Houston, Texas, but I help clients all across the US.
Steven Morell: How did you first come across the Sandler Method?
Neal Benedict: Yeah, that's a great question. I actually, in my last role as a Head of Sales, I actually was looking for a training methodology. Four. I had roughly a team of about 35 account managers and another team of about 15 or so business development managers. So we were looking for some sales training, a methodology where we could where we could start to align ourselves around a common method. And this organization didn't have one. I had been through other sales training methodologies in the past, such as Solution Selling and Challenger Sale, and I wanted something a little less, I think, complex at the time because we had a team of, a brand new team of business development reps for an example. So we came across Sandler and decided to engage one of the Sandler training partners and we brought them into the organization and we just really not only liked the model, but we really liked the accessibility and how quickly we were able to adjust to the new methodology in the business. And we were starting to see results relatively quickly from it. So that's how I got introduced to Sandler. I brought them in as a training partner.
Steven Morell: There are quite a number of popular sales methods out there. And you said yourself that you went through a number of them and I went through a number of them and probably our listeners familiarized themselves as well with some of them. How is Sandler different from the others?
Neal Benedict: Yeah, I think there are a lot of excellent sales training programs out there, both the ones that you know about, as well as the boutique style programs that will focus very specifically on the type of customer and role that you are supporting. So I think there's no lack of really good sales training in the marketplace right now. Sandler's a bit different. And we oftentimes in Sandler get a bit of a bad rep because our model is relatively old in the grand scheme of sales training, our model's been around since the late 1960s. And so Sandler is one of the, again, more mature models out there. But I think one of the things that we do consistently well and we've done consistently well over time is, focus on the whole individual. That's one of the things that we do a little bit differently maybe than other sales training methodologies is we focus both on behaviors. We focus on the attitudes that drive and support those behaviors, and we focus on techniques. So we want people coming into our program when they leave to be a more, well-rounded salesperson, but a more well-rounded person in general. Because there are all sorts of aspects of your life that feed into your selling career that have to be done right in order for you to be successful long-term in a selling career. So it's not only about what you do on Monday morning at 8:00 AM it's what you do on Saturday morning at 8:00 AM and what you do with your family at 8:00 PM on a Saturday night. So again, we're focused on the entire individual. The second thing is really I think the consistency of training that we offer, we are a reinforcement based training program, which means you're training with Sandler every week of the year because it's so important when you learn the techniques to be able to go out into the field, test them out. Fail at them for a while, come back, debrief and try to figure out how to do them better. So we need to be engaged in that process on a regular basis, and we do it every week. So it's important. That's a distinction of what Sandler does.
Steven Morell: One of my guests told me a couple of episodes ago that there is research indicating that 30 days after a sales training, 65% of the knowledge is gone. How is that different for Sandler? You're saying there is a weekly training engagement. How does that practically work?
Neal Benedict: Yeah. Yeah. So you're usually, when you decide to sign up with Sandler, you're committing a certain amount of time every week to be in a training class. All of our classes are instructor-led live training sessions, so we don't really pull people in and then put them through, say, video learning. Now there are supplement, set supplemental programs. That will help you in between the individual sessions that your live instructor will take you through. But our real focus is live engagement with an instructor so that the students can, again, debrief what they learned the week before and then get suggestions on how to do things differently. And so, to your point, that's why we don't typically like to do seminars, because seminars tend to be largely a waste of time and money for organizations because of your point. Most people can't learn a new system in a seminar. They can't implement it afterward and whether or not they work on it or not, most of that knowledge tends to be gone after a relatively short period of time. And so that's why the weekly engagement is something that we ask students to come in and commit to. And so they'll be sending anywhere from in class for an hour to two hours per week. Going through the Sandler methodology, going through workshop shop sessions, doing a lot of role play building some of the tools that they need for their business specifically to make sure that they're able to take what they're learning and apply it.
Steven Morell: Let me ask you, you brought up waste of time and money. You've been in the role of a sales leader. I've been, our listeners are, let me ask you this question. How do I, as a sales leader, have a team of salespeople, how do I even know what are the symptoms? How do I know that I need sales training?
Neal Benedict: Yeah, I think there are a couple things that you might want to be on the lookout for. And I think the first thing is to try to understand the behaviors of your sales team. For example, what are the behaviors your sales team is engaging in on a regular basis? If there's no commonality in the group, if there's no set of behaviors that tend to be very similar, and if they're doing them relatively ad hoc, meaning, I'll make a lot of calls, but I'll make a lot of calls on Monday, and then I don't pick up the phone again until the next Monday, then you know that there's some gap in the thinking process of how the inputs are driving the outputs. And so I think you need to look at, again, behaviors of the sales team to determine. Are there a set of consistent behaviors over the course of the week that indicate that they know what they're doing and they know how those behaviors are impacting results? So that's one. I think the second is really the ability to dive into the opportunities in great detail. So they should understand, for example, there needs to be some sort of common framework between the sales leadership executive leadership in the organization and how sales reps speak about what they're doing with their clients. So if I say for example, Hey Steven, I think the opportunity's qualified. That should mean something very specific to you as my sales leader, right? It shouldn't mean that I feel good about the opportunity. It shouldn't mean that I have my internal process that I went through and that I think is qualified. It needs to be somewhat consistently understood across the organization. And if you ask one rep, Hey, is it qualified? And they say yes, and you ask them to explain why, and then you ask a different rep in your organization the same thing, they answer it completely differently than, you've got some sort of gap again in the thinking process that is going to be challenging for you. Yeah.
Steven Morell: This is practically very good advice. If you get very different answers to the same question, then there's probably not an alignment of what that question really means and what it entails and what the expectations are.
Neal Benedict: That's right.
Steven Morell: Now we already said there are quite a number of different sales methods out there. How do I decide which is the right for my organization, for my product and for my sales motion? And how is that different from collecting advice, pieces of advice on LinkedIn and a bunch of tricks and giving them to my salespeople as my wisdom and hoping for the best.
Neal Benedict: Yeah. Yeah. I think wisdom can work, right? If you've been in the field for a long time and you don't wanna discount. You know what experience helps you to learn. However, I think that the challenge typically is that wisdom and experience tends to be, again, interpreted differently by different people. And unless you're engaged in a regular discussion around what that wisdom should really result in, or what actions that wisdom should drive in amongst the organization, it becomes, like I said, still a free for all wherever . Individuals get to interpret that and use it however they want to, which, again, isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world, but isn't the best either. And so I think when you're evaluating sales training, if they're not, first and foremost, as we talked about before, encouraging you to train regularly. And again, it doesn't have to necessarily be weekly, but it has to be regularly. If that organization or sales methodology doesn't say, Hey, need to train regularly in this method, then, I'd question whether or not that's something that you're gonna get a lot of value out of. So the first thing I'd look for is what their philosophical point of view is on training. And I would eliminate anyone who doesn't say, Hey, you need to learn this gradually over time. You need to test it out gradually over time, and you need to take the necessary steps to learn it over time and it's not gonna happen overnight. If someone's promising you a bit of a silver bullet, then know that doesn't exist. Yeah.
Steven Morell: Speaking of Silver Bullet, who is Sandler for, and maybe more importantly, who is it not for?
Neal Benedict: Yeah. It's a good question, I think we're very good for organizations that are in the mid low to mid range in regards to sales cycle. Not an extremely long sales cycle. I think there are other methods that are better at that. So if you're, for example, an enterprise AE at a large software company I think we can help in certain areas, but I would go to somebody else. To focus on that level of types of training. I think you still need reinforcement. I think you still need a lot of training on it, but I think you want to deal specifically, there are plenty of people out there specifically that deal with enterprise software, AE type of environments, right? Where they're engaged specifically with long-term selling agreements that might take, you know, one and a half years to two years or longer to get the opportunity over the line. We're talking multi-million dollar deals. I don't think that's, I think we can help, but I don't think that's our niche. I don't think that's where we're the best. And so I think we're better at the shorter and midterm transaction levels.
Steven Morell: What a lot of people don't realize when they say we wanna move up market, they don't realize that enterprise sales is an entirely different type of set of skills needed. And, integrated team effort versus transactional sales. But I interrupted you. So we know now who it's not for, but who is it for?
Neal Benedict: Then I would say anybody who, again, is in that more than shorter to midterm sales cycle would be a really good fit for somebody who needs to have the blocking and tackling understood in their organization. Sandler's a very accessible system. Let's say you have a team of half of, you've got 10 salespeople in your organization, half of them have never heard of sales training. The other half, really haven't had any sales training in the last five or six, seven years, you've gotta get them back to the blocking and tackling because the folks that are in sales for a long time think they already know everything that they ever would need to know. The folks that don't are on that scale and they're newer. They're gonna eat up whatever they can. So you need something that, again, can help them with the blocking and tackling. And Sandler starts with a very structured blocking and tackling approach in a class called foundations. And then we move into a more advanced level of training called mastery. So we take you through the grammar phase of learning. In our methodology where everybody needs to be when they're learning something new. And then we move into more of the logic, the rhetoric, and the logic stage of learning as we get more deep into the program. So everybody starts at the same place, no matter if you're a 30 year experienced sales person or if you're a recent college graduate going into sales. It resets the overall blocking and tackling that your organization needs to use to be effective.
Steven Morell: If I have never bought a sales training for my team ever before,
How does this go down? I will reach out to you. So first I need to decide on the sales method, what's your advice on picking a sales trainer. We have listeners from all over the world. You are based in Texas. We have listeners from Europe. I assume you don't have customers over in Europe, right?
Neal Benedict: I personally do not. No.
Steven Morell: But how do I start making my checklist to decide which is the right sales method from me and my organization?
Neal Benedict: Yeah, I think that's a good question. Generally speaking, I think you're going to have to, the first checklist you're gonna need to create is the one that determines where your sales team is, right? What level of skill and what level of understanding they have of sales training. I would say if they are very experienced salespeople, they've gone through sales training before and they understand. Overall methodologies and how they combine that with processes to be able to have an integrated sales system. If they understand those types of things, then you have a much broader array of potential options to bring in as far as your sales methodology. If they don't understand those things and they're not using a process then you're gonna, I think you need to focus on, again, . The organizations that will give you the basic structure and the basic outline, and then organizations you can grow with. And Sandler I think, is really well positioned for that because of the way that we structure our training. But it is, as you mentioned instructor, it's incredibly important and often an overlooked aspect of the training is you have to align with your instructor. You have to believe that the instructor can work with your students. You have to have enough interaction with that instructor to know a little bit about their personality and make sure it resonates with the students. Because a lot of times it's less about the content, it's more about the way the instructor engages and getting those sales reps bought into the program because. That's not necessarily always easy either, and so you do have to spend a little bit of time evaluating and engaging the individual instructor in addition to the methodology that you're looking at. So that you make a good choice. Because the instructors are every bit as important as the methodology, I think.
Steven Morell: Step me through the process. So say I decide to hire you to help my sales team. You already mentioned an audit where they step into the whole process. What happens next?
Neal Benedict: You'll sign a contract and we will clearly get you into the onboarding process. So there's a number of things involved with that. One of them is to get you access to Sandler Online, which would give them access to both written audio and visual materials that they'll need throughout the course. We will actually set up an assessment for them. We use a couple different assessments in the organization, and those assessments are simply designed. One of them is designed to give us an idea of your overall perspective towards selling. May some of the areas there you're struggling with a little bit and where those individuals may need some coaching. And then we do an assessment that is designed to help us understand how you communicate. Which is an assessment a lot of people are familiar with. It's called DISC. And DISC really helps us understand your communication style. Helps you understand your communication style. Because we'll talk a lot about that later on in the course to help you understand how you're being perceived as a communicator and what that might be causing you as far as maybe not resonating as well with the clients that you're engaged with. So we'll give you those assessments upfront and then we'll have you on the schedule, walk you through what the schedule's gonna look like, the upcoming, the first 10 classes at least, and then assign you a set of homework that would be due every week, or at least pre-work that needs to get done before each of the classes each week.
Steven Morell: As a sales leader, what am I looking at in terms of how many months, weeks, days, does it take till I see an effect?
Neal Benedict: Yeah.
Steven Morell: And how big's the investment? Ballpark.
Neal Benedict: Yeah. Yeah. So the minimum duration that we would want you to train is we'd want you at least to go through the foundations program. And foundation is a series of 10 lessons in general. And those 10 lessons tend to happen in a variety of different methods. We're flexible with them. A lot of people decide to take them one per week, which gives you roughly 10 weeks. And so as far as how quickly that transformation happens, I think nothing happens quickly. And we gradually start to see people open up to the idea that I need certain tools in my arsenal and I need a certain approach to being able to, for example, control the sale. Most of the time salespeople we're early on in our training realize they're not effectively controlling the sale. That sale sometimes gets controlled by them. Other times it gets controlled by the buyer and sometimes even gets controlled by somebody who's not immediately in the selling process. Some far off person somewhere. And so they learn that pretty quickly. So we start to see behavioral changes really quickly where they start to say, okay, I'm going to take more control over the interactions that I have, we start to see a real impact to that early on. As far as numbers and revenue, we often see the leading indicators first changing. Meaning more opportunities in the pipeline, more first time meetings. More meetings that turn into next steps. Those types of things will be long before we start to see the real impact to revenue. It's a gradual process though. It does take some time. It's not an overnight fix.
Steven Morell: Me ask you this. Most sales methods that I'm familiar with have one, two tops, three core ideas behind them. There is, for instance, the challenger sales that talks about the personality of the seller who should be a challenger, and that's somebody who is changing how people look at the problem. There is also formatics and JOLT that talks about the fear of messing up and not only the fear of missing out. What is the core, in 60 seconds, what is the core of Sandler sales?
Neal Benedict: Yeah I think the core of Sandler sales is much the way we talked about before, is that if you don't have your attitude, behavior, and your techniques all working in conjunction with one another, Then you will not be able to be as effective as you need to be. You can be really strong in your techniques for an example, and a lot of sales methodologies tend to highlight technique over anything else. Not to say technique's bad, it isn't. But unless you understand how your behaviors and your attitudes are impacting those techniques, it's really not all as impactful as it needs to be. So the main thing I think you need to think about is as far as Sandler's concerned is again, we're gonna be focused on the, in the entire individual. And you cannot change a person unless you focus on the entire individual. And that again includes the attitudes, behaviors, and techniques in the selling. Approach.
Steven Morell: And that's not only the personality of the seller, that's also categories of personalities for the buyer.
Neal Benedict: Yeah, I think so. I think that there, it teaches you a lot about how a buyer's going to approach it as well, right? What are their attitudes, behaviors, and techniques? Buyers have techniques on how they want to deal with salespeople, and they also have various behaviors that will reflect that on a regular basis. And it does help us put a seller's perspective in view so that we can nurture the buyer as we possibly can as well. And, the Sandler methodology really is about nurturing the buyer relationship. Not necessarily that you end up friends after the transaction, but so that the buyer knows that they've been treated fairly openly and transparently. And yes, absolutely it does.
Steven Morell: Has technology changed how Sandler is being implemented? You mentioned DISC before. I think a lot of our listeners. Know the disk from a little tool called Lavender. Lavender is, for those who don't know, a plugin into your Gmail, and it helps you write better emails. And one way it does this is you put in the email address of the recipient. It finds the recipient, it analyzes their social media behavior and gives you back the DISC personality type. And some advice on how to present things.
Neal Benedict: Yeah.
Steven Morell: This is like the first example that I can think of how technology made the implementation and application of Sandler probably easier. What else has changed? How else has technology changed your usage of Sandler?
Neal Benedict: Yeah. In a number of ways. We, just even from a training approach and perspective we've got offices all across the US and so we used to do almost before Covid, our offices were 90% in person, so you would drive to the location and you would do an in-person class with our instructors that's shifted quite a bit where, we still do a lot of in-person training. However, every single one of the in-person training classes also has a simultaneous video cast going on. And so you're getting live training, but you're getting it in conjunction with someone sitting in a classroom somewhere for an example. Nothing revolutionary, but that's changed for us in our model quite a bit as well. So we've had to incorporate new tools and technology. Where we've had to, we've had to run in the background so that we don't have interruptions in service. For example, in locations we've had to figure out how to bolster our overall communication technology. For example, how do we make sure that we're, how, that we're doing the right things in engaging audiences as well. We've used technology a lot to engage audiences. On an online platform. Because online platforms can be very difficult. One hour on Zoom is two and a half hours in person for an example. And so being able to keep people engaged becomes increasingly difficult particularly when you're the third or fourth zoom call per day that they already are on per day. And so we've used things like Kahoot and other types of tools to integrate with our platform. And we're still looking for techniques and tools to be better presenters and be more engaged with our clients. But technology has really shifted our mindset in regards to how we deliver the training because again, it's so much different to engage with people in person than it is over a video call when it comes to training.
Steven Morell: Neal, before we run out of time, final question. If I had a time machine and sent a postcard to the five years younger, Neal Benedict with a warning or advice, what to do differently or what to avoid, what would you write on that postcard?
Neal Benedict: Yeah, I think I would probably just tell myself to stay the course from time to time. You are trying all sorts of different tools and techniques and outlandish types of ways to. To engage with people. I think the main thing is consistently at sea, right? Instead of trying new things every moment, stay the course and be a little bit more consistent over the course of that timeframe. And nothing wrong with experimenting, but if you're gonna experiment, do it long enough to see whether or not there's gonna be a result of it, that, but, stay consistent. Stay the course, really is what I would tell myself.
Steven Morell: That's, if you ask me the second most important advice for salespeople: stay consistent and the most important is shut up and listen.
Neal Benedict: Yeah.
Steven Morell: It's if there's, if I could give you only one advice and just listen, talk less talk less. That's my keyword here. We are running out of time. All right, everyone. That brings us to the end of this episode of Speak Revenue. I want to thank our guest, Neal Benedict, for joining us today. Was great having you here. Neal. Please. Huge shout out to our listeners, your support means the world to us. Please visit us : www.speakrevenue.com for full transcript and the episodes and additional resources. Also, please visit us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, or wherever you go for your listening needs. And if you like this episode, then give us a great review. Five stars are Always great and follow us on LinkedIn, on Instagram, on YouTube, wherever you can find us. We'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious. Keep listening and keep learning. Talk to you soon.