My 30 Year Sales Cycle
Apr 10 2017
In the early1980s, it was pure serendipity that I was introduced to two guys who would change my life forever.
I had started my career as a civil engineer, but later gravitated to training and sales. So when a friend mentioned that those guys– their names were Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman – were holding a sales training class in their office, I signed up.
Is it possible for a training program to be profoundly moving, intellectually stimulating, emotionally gratifying? For me, this one was. At this point in my life, I’d been working in sales and sales training for a number of years, and had enjoyed some success, but really, I didn’t know what I was doing. A salesperson without a methodology will never be as efficient as a competitor who works from a set of guidelines, principles and selling frameworks.
And the methodology presented that day, at the headquarters of a fledgling enterprise that would grow to be a global giant in the sales performance and productivity industry, was clear and true and powerful.
There were 10 or 12 people in attendance. The program, taught by Diane Sanchez, was a one day version of Strategic Selling. By the time she presented the now-famous Blue Sheet, I was overwhelmed by how elegant, simple and comprehensive everything was.
When the class ended, I told Diane I wanted to work for this company. She arranged for me to talk with Bob Miller, and he in turn set up a meeting for me with Steve Heiman. And that’s how I came to be an early employee of Miller Heiman.
The Strategic Selling book, based on the program, was a business best-seller, and deserved to be. When the Conceptual Selling program was developed, I was floored all over again. The ideas, the depth of insight, the training itself – world class.
I was known around the office as “more pure Miller Heiman than either Miller or Heiman.” I don’t know whether it was because of my zeal or in spite of it, but I was promoted to president of the company in 1986. My time at the top was brief, as Steve bought Bob out and took the reins himself.
Not long afterwards, I was ready to move on, as salespeople do. There were a few more twists and turns in the road before I met Jim Dickie, and he and I together founded CSO Insights. I continued to stay in touch with Bob and Steve, though, and I admire them as much today as I did when I first met them.
Bob and Steve are no longer active in the business that bears their name, but naturally they follow its progress, and I know they’re both thrilled at how the company has broadened its vision to encompass every dimension of sales transformation.
When Miller Heiman Group acquired CSO Insights in 2015, it felt like coming home. It’s been great to see the concepts and the constructs of Strategic and Conceptual Selling and LAMP still standing up after more than 30 years. And these programs are an important part of the “Be Ready” transformation solutions that draw on the combined expertise, intellectual property and thought leadership of all the Group’s companies: Miller Heiman, AchieveGlobal, Huthwaite, Impact Learning Systems, Channel Enablers and CSO Insights.
Along with the CSO Insights team, I continue to devote my time to research on sales performance and productivity, and this year we’re rolling out a new type of survey that will give us more and better data than we’ve ever had before. It’s exciting to explore where technology can take us.
I expect the new survey tool to form the foundation of our research efforts for the next three to five years. It’s fun to look ahead, and it’s undeniably fun to look back. For me personally, there’s a clear line of sight from Berkeley in the ‘80s to the leading-edge work CSO Insights and Miller Heiman Group are doing today.