On this episode of the Sales Transformation Podcast with Collin Mitchell he's joined with John Hoskins, co-founder of SalesGenomix LLC, co-founder of The Lifeplan Institute, advisor to Revenue Partner, LLC, and the author and founder of Level Five Selling, LLC.
John shares his thoughts and views as to why level five sales agents works and how you can do better as a sales agent. Continuous growth and self-assessing yourself is a key way to stay on that level five mindset, listen to know more.
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00:54 How John started out knocking on doors at a young age of 11 to a level five aficionado as he is today
07:18 The when and the why John started making his amazing sales books
10:52 The level five selling framework and how it works and why people believe in it
15:45 The reason why level five sales experts are so important for sales companies to have and need to strive for
21:13 Where and how to connect with John and get a chance to be a better version of you in sales
09:58 "The problem with most sales training is not its bad content, but there is no reinforcement, there's no follow up, there's no coaching, there's no practice. And 30 days later, everybody goes back to normal."
10:30 "We really moved from an idea of event training to ongoing development, and more of a SAS model. Where you continue to develop as a salesperson, you never stop, you're leaning in micro bites as to big chunks. And you get lots of coaching and deep reinforcement and practice."
14:19 "So the 3, 2, 1, those levels represent our claim to 60% of all calls you're scrapping waste. So if a company is spending 10 million dollars a year on sales and marketing, 6 million dollars is probably scrap and waste. It's not producing anything, no other functioning area in the company would tolerate that performance, but sales does."
18:25 "Clients or customers will drive you into different levels, so all the customer wants to do is just, 'look, what does this cost?' you're gonna move right down to level two. And you need to think about how to navigate yourself out of that."
20:13 "Because a great coach asks questions versus tells people what to do, it allows you to have that dialogue with that person. Because you have a common understanding of what good looks like."
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[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell, and this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.
[00:00:24] Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. And of course, as always, I've got a fantastic guest for you today. I've got John Hoskins. He is the founder, uh, 40 years. Sales management consulting, former Xerox sales executive founder of advantage performance, which he sold in 2016. And, uh, he's got three books.
[00:00:48] He was kind enough to mail them to me, not, not one book, not, uh, two books, but three books. They all, uh, I'm excited to jump into them. [00:00:59] I haven't had the chance yet, but John, thanks so much for coming on sales transformation. How you doing? Um, welcome and thank you for having me appreciate it. Looking forward to chatting.
[00:01:08] Yeah. Awesome. So, um, I'm curious, where did it all start for you? When did you get into sales? Why and why the heck have you stuck with it for so long? Well, I came from a family of salespeople and, um, my, my father and my oldest brother were in the magazine subscription business. And I started knocking on doors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I was 11.
[00:01:30] So it's in the big bank, never went to college, uh, have always sold. Father said to me, uh, if you learn how to sell, you'll never be out of a job. Yeah, he was great. That's good. That's good advice. Good advice. Yeah. Uh, so you started knocking on doors, uh, in the snow with no shoes or what, and, well, it was summertime and, you know, Easter break and things like that.
[00:01:55] And of course the field [00:01:58] organization then moved into, uh, telephones. So I started selling on the phone as well. And, you know, it was just a way to earn extra money as a kid. And, you know, there weren't Starbucks to work out in those days and a route or something else. So, um, I started phones and on the phone room and then, uh, ended up with my own a magazine, uh, franchise in Toronto, Ontario.
[00:02:21] When I was 21, had my wow. Yeah. I ran that for about five years and I sold it and, um, went to work for Xerox, uh, interim. Wow. Okay. So, uh, I'm definitely curious on, on how things transpired there. So you started off in entrepreneurship, uh, fairly young, like myself and, and then, you know, had, it sounds like a successful exit.
[00:02:48] And then, um, and then took a sales role. Walk me through kind of that experience in the. Well, this was a division [00:02:57] of Xerox called Xerox learning systems. They were the creator of professional selling skills, which probably it was one of the more well-known, uh, fundamental selling skills programs. And. They, uh, I was at a cocktail party and a recruiter met me and she said, oh, what are you doing?
[00:03:15] I said, well, I just sold my magazine franchise. I'm actually going to Jamaica for six weeks. And she said, well, look, when you get back, I want you to meet these people at Xerox. I said, I really don't want to sell Xerox machines. It doesn't interest me. She said, no, no, this is the publishing division. And they sell training programs to companies.
[00:03:32] They have sales training, and that's all, I've got to see the guy. Right. So. When I get there and the guy says, well, where'd you go to school? And they only hired people from McGill and Western in, in Ontario. And I said, well, you know, don't have the MBA. And the interview went on. And then they said, well, come back, we'll have another interview.
[00:03:53] And then they flew the president up from the U S we had another [00:03:56] interview and I got the job and, um, had a territory in Southwestern Ontario. And, uh, in 10 months they promoted me to run the Western region, uh, out of Vancouver, British. Where my wife might get married and the rest is history. I was there for about a year.
[00:04:12] Wow. Okay. Interesting. I love that. Um, I too, didn't go to college myself. I barely made it through high school. Um, and you know, by the skin of my teeth, by the skin of the, by the skin of my teeth, Uh, you know, I just, I was not, I was not a good student to say the least. Um, and I, I love that story that, you know, because a lot of people think you have to have the education to get the job.
[00:04:44] And, uh, you know, there's many sales roles at many different levels that, that you can, you know, get that job with with, or without the education and, and your proof of that. So I [00:04:55] love that there. Um, so how long was your stint there at Xerox in, in, in what happened. So after Vancouver, I moved to Chicago and managed region there.
[00:05:04] And then I managed Western us, uh, as a general manager out of Chicago. And then they moved me into headquarters for the quote unquote staff experience. Uh, I was director of us sales operations. And about that time times mirror, um, bought the learning systems group from Xerox. And, you know, things changed a times.
[00:05:24] Mirror was a different type of company. Um, they offered me a job, a VP of sales of, uh, Matthew, Matthew vendor law book. And, uh, I went out and traveled with their reps and I came back and said, boy, that hasn't, I have no interest in that type of sewing. So, um, I left and went to work as a VP of sales for a company called omega performance.
[00:05:47] They were a bank consulting firm based in San Francisco. It was my opportunity to get out of Connecticut and move the west [00:05:54] coast. And my wife and I love. And, um, moved to Tiburon and ran that organization for five years, had some equity invested and took that equity and started advantage performance group in 1990.
[00:06:07] Wow. Okay. Okay. And so back to entrepreneurship, Yeah. Back to working for myself. Yeah. Uh, I'm curious, uh, you have the experience of working for yourself and then, and then, and then not, uh, where you ready to go back to kind of working for yourself or, or were you a little nervous? Well, to the credit of my two bosses at omega, we were all the same age.
[00:06:33] We had young kids, um, they were, uh, Really great bosses. You know, I credit them, but I didn't feel like I was working for someone. I really felt like I had my own lane in the sales organization to make decisions the way I wanted to very few restrictions, any ideas they had, they always supported them. [00:06:53] So it wasn't that big of transformation, to be honest, Colin.
[00:06:57] I stayed in the same world, obviously in the sales training and management consulting world, and freedom advantage was a franchise organization and we sold it in 2006. You had said 16, but it was 2006 to a Swedish based consultancy on a Stockholm. And it was a strategic buy for them. We had distribution in the U S we had some products that needed to go international and, um, I was only 56 at the time.
[00:07:25] Probably not really ready to retire, but, um, it was a game changer for me to make the sale. Got it. Got it. Okay. And so when, when did the, when did you write the books? Tell me, walk me through. I, I ha I had a summer home up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and, um, I was kind of, um, I had started a not-for-profit for teenage kids that taught them how to build life plans.
[00:07:50] I started another business that's [00:07:52] still alive. Um, it's online called sales genomics, which is a sales assessment company. If you're hiring people and need to assess them, um, it profiles 14 different types of salespeople. And I was, um, I was bored and, uh, I, um, I said to my wife, I look bucket list thing. I want to, you know, learn to speak Spanish, learn to play the piano, uh, write a book.
[00:08:13] And I thought, well, write a book might be easier than the other two. So let me do that, wrote the book and put it out on Amazon. And the phone started ringing the email lit up and people said, Hey, I love this model. How can I get my salespeople to sell like that? And that's how. Yeah. So, um, okay, so I'm curious, um, you mentioned three things on, on your bucket list there, uh, Spanish piano, and write a book.
[00:08:41] Where did, did you, did you, did you learn to speak Spanish or play the piano yet? Well, now I own a piano now. Hey, that's it. That's a start in the right [00:08:51] direction. My wife plays. Um, but no, you know, with starting level five, it was a start-up again. And you know, what happens is you had done it again. And, you know, I love my job.
[00:09:01] It's really my hobby. It's not a job. And. We are, we are building a channel now, uh, we have, uh, about 26 independent sales partners around the globe and they represent the level five capabilities to their clients. And so I'm kind of back in the game again after being out of the game, but it was unintentional truly.
[00:09:23] Yeah. Yeah. That's that's fantastic. So the first book, which of the three, which was which one? Okay. That was level five. Okay. And that was the one where people said, Hey, help me teach my salespeople to do that. At which point, a had a blinding glimpse of the obvious, which was the world didn't need another sales training program, but there were plenty of them.
[00:09:45] Um, in fact, one of our first clients call on you up. He, uh, [00:09:50] he was new in the job. He had taken over a fairly large sales organization and I said, Charles you're since in the first 90 days, have you discovered any sales training that you've already done at the organization? He said, oh yeah. He said, we've had a whole parade of sales training programs through here.
[00:10:08] And he said, I can't find any evidence of any of them sticking. And that was. It's that, um, the problem with most sales training, it's not as bad content, but there's no reinforcement. There's no followup. There's no coaching. There's no practice. And 30 days later, you know, everybody goes back to normal. If they had a call the other day and the guy, same thing, new guy, he said, yeah.
[00:10:32] He said, uh, I did ask that question and we ran the Miller Heiman strategic selling here about a year ago. He said, I don't, I don't know. There's a blue sheet in now. Okay. Proof proof positive that that's the wrong approach. So we really moved from an idea of [00:10:49] event training to ongoing development and in more of a SAS model where, you know, you continue to develop as a salesperson.
[00:10:56] You never stop, um, do everything in micro bites as opposed to big chunks. And you get lots of coaching and deep reinforcement and Frank. And what do you, and, and just kind of high level, you know, walk me through the, the, uh, the level five selling sort of framework in the actual level five model itself.
[00:11:17] Yeah. Yeah. So five levels. Um, and, uh, we've named, we've labeled them. All those labels seem to persist because people agree with them. Level one is what we call the professional visitor. Okay. This is the, a person who really believes that people buy from France. Problem is nobody could have that many friends.
[00:11:36] They generally do not have call objectives. When they go into the account, they're kind of, well-paid tourists. You know, they drive around with an expense report, drop in, see people have a cup of coffee, but, uh, you know, they don't get an order unless [00:11:48] one's given to them. And they usually have only one contact in the account.
[00:11:52] So if that contact turns over the account, turns over and clients tell us that, uh, unfortunately there's still somewhere around 10% of all calls are professional visits. Um, they're worthless. We call it scrap and waste. The second level we call the price peddler. And, um, tell me if I'm going into too much detail here for you, but I think it's a general, oh, I love this.
[00:12:11] And, and, and, and so how many, what percentage of salespeople typically fall in that level one? You know, Hey, people buy from people they like, and you know, you're never going to have enough people that like you to. Hit the goals that you need to, well, I'd say on average, you know, five to 15%, but I'll tell you a quick story.
[00:12:30] Uh, I'm in Dallas in a, in a executive conference room and we're going through the model and chief operating officers, uh, there. And I said, what percent of your calls do you think are made at the professional visitor level? You positive says [00:12:47] 60%. This is 60% was the highest number I've ever heard. And I said, well, that's a big number.
[00:12:53] You say, we built our business on building strong relationships with people. And that's, that's a lot of our businesses repeat business. So we have to be careful here. I said, I got it. So next level is price. And that's, you know, that's the person whose product is a price list. Uh, you know, mine is just as good.
[00:13:11] I can get it for you cheaper. What are you currently paying for your paperclips? Whatever it might be. So Don, what, what percent of your people are calling it? The price. Or what percent of the calls, another 60% and 120% where we don't prepare. He said, no. He said, I get it. We need to get outta here. Cause w you know, our margins suck and we need improve them.
[00:13:35] And I can't do it with people that are professional visitors and price peddlers. So the next level up is level three. We call it the technical teller. And, um, this is the most predominant one [00:13:46] calling. You can guess it's the spray and praise, you know, show up and throw up. Uh, data dumb, um, you know, all one way, uh, actually, you know, rack improve that the person that does, that actually creates more objections, but 50% or more of all sales calls are a technical.
[00:14:03] Yeah, and these are, you know, in, and these are the people that are saying, Hey, sales is just a numbers game. You know, if you make a hundred calls and you're gonna get this many, and you're going to get this many deals and you gonna get this many, they're going to close and it's just throw everything out there and see what sticks that's exactly.
[00:14:22] They think their job is customer education and some of them. Enjoy, you know, how much knowledge they have, if they're an engineer or something, they will, you know, they want to talk bits and bytes and it has nothing to do with what the product will do for the business, but that's the way it works. So that the 3, 2, 1, that those levels that represents our claim to 60% of all calls are scrapping waste.
[00:14:43] So if a company is [00:14:45] spending $10 million a year on sales and marketing, $6 million is probably scrapping waste. It's not producing. No other functional area in the company would, would tolerate that kind of performance, but what sales does. Wow. Wow. Okay. So let me take your level four. Level four is kind of the first level of professional selling.
[00:15:05] We call it the product service consultant in this prison who does ask questions? Does undercover needs knows how to handle objections, asked for commissions. Does their homework has a call objective, not just a primary call objective, but a secondary. And the only difference is everything they talk about in terms of their.
[00:15:24] It's only related to the outcomes that the unique features of that product will solve. So it doesn't move to that next level, which we call level five, the value creator, where that person's now connecting the solution that they're offering to a business issue or an initiative that that company is trying to undertaken.
[00:15:43] And that [00:15:44] really requires business acumen to get to that role of ROI. Let me show you how this product can put money in your pocket and not take money out of your pocket, which most of the other levels are thinking about. Wow. Okay. And so, um, um, and, and so this is the type of work that you're working with organizations to get as many people as possible.
[00:16:07] Level level a level five. That is exactly correct. Yep. And we, we do that, you know, we have very strict metrics. We make coaching due Friday at five o'clock. Um, every quarter, every manager creates an individual development plan for one of their reps, each of their reps. So the areas of strength, areas of development and, um, you know, it's a very rigorous coaching process.
[00:16:33] It's not just a sales training from. Wow. Okay. And is there certain characteristics of just people individually that [00:16:43] make it more difficult to even be capable of getting to that level five? You know, selling status? I would say yes. Uh, you know, it's hard to make a silk purse out of the south here and, uh, it's a.
[00:17:02] We have defined 40 different characteristics and traits of these various levels. And we work with clients to define them and the real goal in our initial work, just to say, you have to have a common language and understanding of what good looks. And you can approach unless there's agreement about that.
[00:17:19] And so what happens is almost immediately in our accounts is people start using the language of level five, um, even a rep, you know, most of the time, the reps out there by themselves, but they can walk out of a call and they can think in their mind, I wonder where I was at in that call. Oh gosh, it was at level three.
[00:17:35] Wasn't I, well, what did I do? Oh, you know what? I never asked any questions. All I did was talk, you know, they can [00:17:42] begin to self coach against them. Um, so once they just have that sort of level of awareness of awareness, they can sort of be, you know, slowly making progress of getting to that level, even though they might not fully be capable of understanding.
[00:17:59] I mean, I mean, I would even imagine that even the best sellers. They're best all the time. Right? So they're going to maybe kind of fall back to maybe what's comfortable, which might be a level two level three, or what they're used to, um, before they really feel in the zone and comfortable in that level five way of selling it is a dynamic model.
[00:18:20] You can observe it in a call in that people can move up and down the ladder. Um, you know, someone could open the call, but, you know, Hey, did you see the us open yesterday? I said that little girl from Canada, beat that. You know, that's sort of relationship building, right. But we'll, you know, friendliness chit-chat, but then do they move out of there and do they, you know, move up to a higher level as they start the call?[00:18:41]
[00:18:41] The other thing Colin, that's interesting is clients or customers will drive you into different levels. So all the customer must to do is just look, what is this? You're going to move right down to your bag and you need that. You need to think about how to navigate yourself out of that. And those are the skillsets.
[00:19:01] Um, I mentioned practice earlier. We work with the platform. That's a virtual role practice platform called rehearsal. I'm sure you're familiar with the space and we have 49 microlearning III modules. Every topic under the sun about selling and selling skills. And so, um, the leader can go travel or observe.
[00:19:21] Let's say that you watched me and you said, John, you know, you really fumbled that objection, Western. We should work on objection handling. Why don't you go watch the objection, handling, handling module. I'd like you to record yourself, making a response to that. Objection again, send it to me and I'll review it and critique it and send you back the video and give you [00:19:40] my feedback.
[00:19:41] And then there's three things the manager can do. They can say John, you missed a step. Try it again. There's one part here that I didn't see you do. I'd love to see you do it better. Or Hey, good job, John. You know, check the box. We got that one nailed. Let's make sure we use the model going forward, where three is, Hey, let's capture this as a best practice and move it to the leaderboard.
[00:20:00] So all your colleagues and peers can benefit from seeing how you handle that. Objection. Yeah. I love that. I love that. Um, and, and I'm sure once there's sort of this level of awareness of these different levels of selling, um, you can start to be. A little bit more conscious of like, oh, you know, you, you start to know as a seller where you could have done better or where you kind of fell back and what you need to work on.
[00:20:27] Right. Because a great coach asks questions versus tells people what to do. It allows you to have that dialogue with the person because you have a common understanding of what good looks like. [00:20:39] So when coming out of a call, the first thing you can say is, Hey Colin, where do you think you were at in that column?
[00:20:45] I kind of felt like it was level four. Well, tell me more, why do you think you were at level four and I really didn't get into any business issues. Did that? It didn't really talk about some of their initiatives and some of the things they're trying to accomplish. Yeah. Anything else? Well, I know you have some insights about that industry.
[00:21:01] I know a lot about it. I probably could have gone there and talked a little bit about that. So it changes the way the dialogue around coaching happens. Yeah. Um, awesome. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, John, this has been fantastic. Thanks so much for coming on today. And, you know, we kinda got into level five selling, but you've also got level five coaching system level five sales leader, where can people find all the books?
[00:21:31] Where can they find out more about what you're doing? Um, and how can they just simply get into your. So the [00:21:38] books are all on Amazon under level five selling. If you just wanted that in, you'll get all three of them as a trilogy. Um, in terms of getting to us we're www dot level five, selling.com. And my email is John at level five, selling.com.
[00:21:53] And you can text me or call me at four eight oh two three five five five eight. Fantastic. We will include all of those details in the show notes for you. If you enjoyed today's episode with John, please write us a review, share the show with your friends. It really does help out. And as always, we are listening for your feedback.
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