The Product Used to be the Hero, but it's Time to Flip the Script
In episode 57 of Pit Stops to Podium, Bob Phibbs discusses how the technology boom caused us to stop teaching the proper way to sell, and ushered in an era of automation, workflows, and drip campaigns. We need to start making the salesperson the hero if we want them to be truly engaged in the process.
Bob Phibbs is an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, author, motivational business speaker, and founder of SalesRX online retail sales training.
In 2020, he earned the speaking profession’s highest earned designation, the CSP®, Certified Speaking Professional™, and was awarded the World Retail Forum’s Innovation Leadership Award 2020 in recognition of his efforts to help retail recover stronger from COVID-19.
If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on!
Mindshift in Selling
There's new technology and automation everyday, and it's causing people to lose their humanity. Post COVID, both customers and workers began to express a desire for more human-to-human interaction. Data privacy concerns and lower email response and open rates confirm this trend.
"After COVID, people were saying, 'I'm a human being, and if you're not going to talk to me as a human being, then I'm out' "
Employees Selling From Their Own Wallets
Oftentimes, when a salesperson can't afford something, they have a hard time imagining someone else being able to. But when someone is willing to put money in one area, then that confidence should be able to transfer when they go to sell something else. The key to making this happen is realizing that you can't just say "watch this video" as a substitute for actually teaching it.
"Selling is nothing more than the transference of feeling"
People aren't quitting businesses, they're quitting bosses. To prevent this, onboarding has to be amazing. The management at the top has to understand that you build your people and then they build your business, it's not a lone superhero CEO who builds it. Good training should be centered around teaching what success looks like.
"The care you give with onboarding is the care they're going to give your customers"
Connect with Bob
Brendan: Welcome to Pit Stops to Podium the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who have competed in taking companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson I am the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I’m delighted to have with me today Bob Phipps the retail doctor. Welcome Bob.
Bob: Good to be here
Brendan: Well Bob this is gonna be a fun episode you've got so many great insights especially on the b2c side. For those who don't know who Bob is he's an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, author, speaker and in fact you know Bob you got a great award back in 2020 so as it relates to helping retail companies respond and get back on their feet after covid um what was the the title or the award? Was it the CSP right certified speaking professional?
Bob: Yeah you have to go back and talk to your clients for the last 10 years and verify that they liked you and then they do a survey and then you have to have your video watched by other uh speakers so it's kind of an intense program so it's great to get that done just before Covid so it was good.
Brendan: I would imagine and uh for our audience who's getting to know you uh sales RX uh who is sales RX1:18 and what do you do?
Bob: So sales RX is my online retail sales training program used to go through and I would just uh well I still do it but train in person and about seven years ago I said it better come up with a way to virtually do this and uh back in those days it was like a Max headroom uh type of a pixelated head that was pretty crappy so it's all interactive and that's what makes the difference we're on four continents with I think I'm training over 10 000 people right now as we speak so uh it all worked out really well and you know I think at the end of the day any anybody who is in business is always looking at what what's the next thing and like there's a lot of noise but you got to figure out how can I grow when I can't be everywhere at once and for me sales are actually my online training did that.
Brendan: That's fantastic uh well Bob it's uh like I said it's a pleasure to speak with you we'll get into our big idea in just a second in light of some of those lessons you've learned uh but before we get into the big idea we have a tradition here at Pit Stops to podium and that's to get to know our guests outside of work so what what are three fun facts that our audience should know about you?
Bob: I got my degree as a music conductor and I uh was um I wrote to a bunch of Broadway conductors and I said how do I be like you and almost all of them came back it would be great on the piano I was like well that sucks I'm terrible on piano so that was kind of gone but I still had uh I was still uh as a hobby I was able to be a choral director up until uh 2004 when I retired we were a group we were a group one of three resident companies the carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach with a thousand people so uh that worked out great.
Brendan: Is there a certain instrument you like to play best? I know piano, it's definitely not.
Bob: I play people I'm a conductor so yeah my minor was in uh trombone and piano but uh yeah so it was good I mean I love it and did great work there that was great um also an avid Dahlia gardener my grandfather used to grow them by the thousands when he was uh in his 60s he said I'm tired of having a garden for food we have a garden just for me and at 65 he would plant all these in the Shenandoah Valley and then he would dig them up in the fall and he'd have to write the name on each and put him in The Root Cellar and so his organizational skills and his passion kind of led me to be very organized when I do mine but uh let's see a third thing uh probably would be Lemonade Day. Lemonade Day is out of Houston I read about them probably 10 years ago Guy starts off his kid wants to open Lemonade Stand he says sorry guy I forgot who the founder of Lemonade Day is but anyway he created a program to explain uh all the things you need to start a business so uh understanding how are you going to reach get the money you had to take out a loan from him and you had to learn about location and pricing and marketing and the goal was you spend a third you save a third and you give back a third and um I read about this and uh he made into a book and it actually is what we did so we opened 500 lemonade stands in 2018 in one of the poorest counties in uh in Greene County New York and taught kids how to be entrepreneurs and you could tell because some of them would go through and you know other people would open a lemonade stand because they saw we had lemonade stands but our people were at like four dollars five dollars a a cup but up here like at 10 cents like obviously you did not read the book so it made it big difference it was great.
Brendan: So yeah that's really neat do you have kids yourself?
Bob: I do not so that worked out worked out really well
Brendan: I appreciate you sharing a little bit about your passion it's always fun to get to know a guest um and just their background so thanks for doing that um well if we talked we talked a little bit about kind of your background and really from a work perspective um and especially within the kind of retail in the b2c segment and it seems to be a the B2B can sometimes be laggards in terms of how they think about go to market and oftentimes there are actual insights or application rather that they can learn from the b2c segment so I'm really excited to talk to you and the big idea we're talking about is the product is no longer the hero and this is a really good time for that type of conversation so before we get into some of those anchor topics around that what's the contextual layer here and what do you mean by that the product is no longer the hero?
Bob: Well in the old days uh certainly in retail which but I worked in obviously as the retail doctor we go through and we train everybody that the product is the hero this widget has this it does that but a lot of B2B Companies still do that same thing oh we have a new way to whatever filter email get you SEO whatever and the product is the hero it does all this stuff and it's like yeah well you know what we work in a Kryptonite world and I want to be the hero so if you don't if your product doesn't make me uh with my bat belt on or whatever it doesn't clip onto my bat belt's another accessory to make me the hero you're gonna miss it and the problem is we aren't teaching selling anymore certainly a lot of B2B companies it's so much of workflows and drip campaigns and Mindless emails that you don't realize that you've got to end up making me making that your people who are out there and your sales people you got to make them Heroes because only a hero is going to sell to me I mean chances of me opening an email from somebody is less than five percent because they're seeing they're so poorly written or so look at me look at me I'm not going to tell you what works to get me uh to open email but I will say that the whole idea of how I'm selling is you're gonna have to find a way to get your sales people confidence up and be willing to go through and push back when somebody's like well yeah I don't need what you want they've got to know what to do with that and uh part of the problem that we do with deal with in retail is employees are selling for their wallets so they can't imagine somebody spending money for this uh doesn't matter if it's a thirty thousand dollar uh vintage or Mez bag or it's the latest Adidas that are 150 bucks doesn't matter they know they can get it online or cheaper or whatever and the same thing runs into B2B companies that uh if somebody doesn't really believe in it it's really hard to sell because selling is nothing more the transference of feeling so if you don't believe in it and you've hired people who aren't trained to know how to sell it chances are good when they run under a little objection oh you know there's too much money or it's this that they'll fold their tent and leave and that's why so many businesses I think leave money on the table when they really could have it if you just taught people how to sell and be nice.
Brendan: I like that line of transference of feeling uh we'll get to that in a bit uh but let's let's start a little bit I mean the way that I would think about that too is that the customer is a hero not you um and so where did this mind shift start happening uh where you you know to your point it used to be very much hey the product is front and Center and now we're thinking more about like changing the spotlight from the product to uh that customer uh what is kind of the Genesis or the origin of that shift and and why do you see that happening?
Bob: Well I think the reality is we are becoming more uh surrounded by technology and people are losing their humanity and that goes for people who are selling things as well as customers. Customers don't want to feel like they are being manipulated even though we are with social media and a million other things but it really comes down to the idea that it's human to human contact and I think certainly in the uh what are they called the Aughts the 2015s to the to 2020 I think automation had its Heyday and we really figured oh well you know if I just have enough uh workflows in place I have the right email it'll all work and uh suddenly after covid people are like no I'm a human being and if you're not going to talk to me as a human being I'm out but more importantly uh the workforce is saying the same thing that if you want to treat me as a cog just to have so many leads and call and whether it's successful or not I think people are dropping out left and right you know and they don't want to be treated that way so the problem is we haven't really trained people that there's another way and so until you actually explore that I think uh you're you're really stuck in whatever you're trying to sell B2B b2c doesn't matter.
Brendan: Yeah I think you're right I mean to your point like people saw this what they could do with technology and it there were a lot of benefits to it but the impact and uh unforeseen consequences you mentioned some of it like the email response rate or even open rate for that matter is lower and you see with gdpr in Europe and even getting now in the United States like data privacy people are tired of it um and so it does require that there is that shift happening and so to your point how do you Embrace that shift and and still be able you can still be effective it just requires a different mindset ultimately different type of tactics so one of the things that you mentioned Bob in your first response is employees selling from their own wallets what do you mean by that?
Bob: Well that again they they can't afford it so they can't imagine somebody else affording it right so whatever that is you're selling training you're selling real estate you're whatever you're selling um we tend to sell from our own wallets like if I can afford it that's not always true I mean obviously people are selling multi-million dollar yachts but at that level you've got such an experience of confidence behind you that you can get the illusion that you've got it right you're still confident that you know how to sell this because you've done it before but we have so many younger uh people coming into the market with no experience like that that it becomes really hard because uh quite simply you have to really get your head in the game and say well maybe um you know the example I always use is uh look at somebody's arm you see how many tats they've got on there how much those tattoos cost that's a thousand bucks great that's what this is for this guy huh because you just don't know right I mean we've heard stories of young guys working in a gas store women working in a gas station and going out and buy a 30000 dollar set of golf clubs because they want so everything is being turned on its head about what we know about people but what we do know is that when someone is willing to put money in one area then that confidence should be able to transfer when they go to sell something else but that takes a lot more than just “watch this video”.
Brendan: Yeah I think it's a it gets that whole mind shift it sounds like in the sense of one thing that we talk about here is like one of our values 100 percent stewardship and it's like think like an owner um and so really truly understand like the impact and ramifications and costs associated with whatever that is that you're selling um and that's not just some so I think that's what you're talking about like a transference of feeling like understanding like what is that true value um and knowing what that value is the person you're selling to um is really important um let's move into the last part because when something you talked about the very end which gets into kind of that training component so how do you how do you actually multiply that or see that compound aspect and it seems like that's where the training is so critical of uh the one to many where it's not just you but it's the team that you're trying to to help empower.
Bob: You have to hit it out of the park with onboarding to start with I mean onboarding has got to be amazing because the care that you give with onboarding is going to be the care you give to them and the care you give them is what they're going to give to your customers you know people think that people are quitting businesses left and right no people are quitting bosses left and right that's the difference you build your people and they build your business this idea that you're going to build your business because you're a superhero um really night nice 1980s thinking but it's not quite 2020s because everybody else realized it's a we moment not an I and so that's that idea of of what does training look like um you know I think an awful lot of people also have been able to um say in the past oh we'll give you a raise you're a great sales person you're a sales manager but without training that could be the worst thing you could do to your company because they don't know what success looks like they know how to get it they motivate themselves but now you got to motivate 10 people and they crash and burn them we just say yeah these couldn't handle it well that's true but neither could you if you'd really done it you'd realize holy crap they don't know how to X Y and Z and we're gonna have to go out and get somebody who can help them with that so it's all that to say is you know any business is about being brilliant on the basics yeah you can go through and talk metaverse and AI and all this other crap but at the end of the day any business is going to rise or fall based on your human skills and if you figure that out early enough you can be doing millions of dollars of business you know we've been with sales directs over the years we're doing quite well but at the end of the day it still comes that human connection between buyer and seller and the product is just you know what there's always somebody out there cheaper there's always not somebody there's 10 20 different options anyone can choose any one time but if you can't enunciate why you for that one customer again I think you just uh you're just going to struggle a lot harder so it doesn't a quantity thing it's understanding what's the process and can you duplicate it over and over again.
Brendan: I like that there's a lot to unpack there I mean like one of the common narratives or one of the threads in your whole kind of um response is really really like the humanity the human element of of connection um and one thing one of the things you said just reminded me of uh doing the basics really well um and it was I was listening to Patrick lancioni and he was talking about like Southwest Airlines and um he asked the CEO like why aren't your other competitors doing these like what seems like the basics of doing it really well and he said I think it's because I think it's beneath them um and it's it's a whole mindset of like being very focused on doing the things you know you can do really well um and may seem basic but very few actually do it um so the question I have for you is you talk about like onboarding and then ongoing training seem to be two really key pillars uh who do you see doing it well or what's something you focus on when you think about onboarding are there if you were to say hey these are the areas that I that I think are really important that need to get addressed onboarding is there anything that comes to mind for you?
Bob: Uh well I'm doing it really well onboarding but uh
Brendan: So what are you doing really well?
Bob: What the hell am I doing well but I think you know it's interesting I was flying um from Seattle last week and United the guy Christian was amazing this guy was amazing and I just said uh where did when did you start working customer service goes when I was 10. you almost like it and he's 30 he goes I've been working for United for a year I said you're the guy that should be teaching you're the guy that we would all like to say you made my made a difference so I think um I think there's a lot of people that have been known you know Starbucks was known for uh they're onboarding their training for a long time two weeks before you get in however what's one of the things that we're hearing about Starbucks unionization everything you know what their demands is more training so I I think the the challenge for everybody uh today is we get caught up in compliance oh okay so uh Brendan yeah you know where that is you did that you did that yeah good great let's let's get them out there instead of do we put too much crap in his head does he know what success looks like and so that's my big idea for you is at every step do they know what success looks like if they don't that usually means you don't know what success is and if you don't know it shame on you as a leader because you should be able to even if nothing else to be able to say um so what do you think success looks like in this position get them to tell you like I have no idea great because I'd rather they hold up a mirror to you than to go down this quiet path where you end up having mistakes months later perfect example when my very first clients 30 years ago so Mike was a little coffee roaster and uh this woman came up to him at Christmas time and she goes hey Mike can I get 10 pounds of coffee instead of my usual one he goes what are you doing when he goes oh well when I started you know they said you get a free pound of coffee every month and he goes I've never had that policy what do you what are you talking about and and this has been going on for years with him and I was like Mike whose fault is that he goes I guess it's mine I go you're damn right that was you so always check and make sure that what you want to happen is happening and don't be afraid of asking the tough questions and saying you know how am I doing as a boss because quite simply we have two jobs open for every person that's looking right now that's not going to magically change even if we're in a recession this recession is defies uh all logic because theoretically demand goes down inflation goes down because demand goes down we fire a bunch of people other than meta and some other technology agents we still can't get enough people so and people have you know they're selling clothes or they're selling services do the side hustles that'll never be found by payroll records so if we are in one don't let that just deter you because I just don't think that we've got the full picture but will but what will happen is compass you no matter what you're selling it's just going to continue to grow because everybody wants to go and say oh I have a unique idea maybe but the one that can sell it is the one that's going to be successful.
Brendan: I like that I really like the accountability that you just outlined of the question that we should all asked ourselves was success look like uh if we can't answer that then that means we are not being effective as a leader or if we're not getting what we want or desire of employee it's probably because we haven't created Clarity for that person um so it's a good reminder of the importance of onboarding and training um well Bob thank you so much for joining us today I really do appreciate uh these insights um this is just fantastic uh if our audience wants to engage with you what's a what's a way that they can connect or learn more?
Bob: What do you mean if they want to connect me of course so just find me on LinkedIn Bob Phibbs the retail doc I got I don't know 400 000 followers over there and uh certainly on Facebook and if I stay on Twitter I'm not still not sure what's going to happen uh with everything there and then you can always check out retaildoc.com or sales RX s-a-l-e-s-r-x.com.
Brendan: Fantastic well Bob thank you so much for being willing to join us uh and I know our audience will connect with you on one of those two websites and be following you uh once this comes out so thank you so much have a great day
Bob: You too man