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How the Pandemic and a Decision to Beat It Led to Better Results for Our Clients
The Brooks Group
Tracy Baumann, Director of Marketing
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – May 24, 2021
CEOCFO: Mr. Fly, what attracted you to The Brooks Group? How has the company evolved over your leadership?
Mr. Fly: I come from a consulting background. I owned a consulting practice and was really looking for a more permanent situation. I found that when my consulting engagements ended, I missed the work, I missed the people, and I was really looking for a permanent place to land. I had read a book called “Designing Your Life,” by two Stanford University professors. In it they spoke about an encore career, and that really resonated with me. There was this idea that you find a place that your background, talents, experiences, and the like, all match up with the needs of a business, and the both sides win. I was very intentional about looking for that sort of situation, and the pandemic provided the opportunity. Having run a business through the downturn caused by 9/11 and then again through the recession, I had faced the test of uncertainty and economic instability before. Using that experience, and working with the owners of the business, we were able to craft a path forward that put the company in a position to prosper. That work provided the owners with the confidence to install me as the president in June of 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, so your question around what has changed is topical.
We historically derived the majority of our revenue from live, in-
We worked very hard for about 6 weeks to really reconfigure all our offerings and make them virtual – and to do a good job with it. We incorporated best practices and adult learning theory with the help of our curriculum designers, who are all Master or PhD-
CEOCFO: What were you able to construct, because of your sales training and teaching experience that made it a little bit easier to create the courses in an organization that had never been involved with people in that respect?
Mr. Fly: We have a six-
We were able to build our business using these digital tools, and our sellers were already accustomed to doing a lot of work online. By listening to what the salespeople were learning and their conversations with our clients, we were able to take our knowledge of how to sell in a virtual world and start to construct curriculums and solutions that lined up with the needs of the marketplace at the time. We really turning to our own methodology, and we were able to do some good discovery work through our use of the investigate, meet, and probe steps of our own process.
CEOCFO: How do you help your clients learn how to ask questions, how to listen, how to recognize important information?
Mr. Fly: Clients learn through a combination of role play, scenarios, peer interaction, and Q&A in the classroom. We really focus on teaching how to ask open ended questions and going 3-
Through good listening comes good questions -
CEOCFO: How do you teach people not to fall back into old habits? How do you help people keep that momentum and keep what they have learned top of mind?
Mr. Fly: First we do assessment work. The assessments help people understand their natural proclivities; how they communicate, what motivates them, and how they see the world. I know, for example, that I have a tendency to gloss over details, that I will tend to try to sell my point of view. I am a high D (Dominance) on the DISC scale. Understanding this allows me to know how to adjust my communication style in certain situations. It is to say, “this is how you are wired, and this is how you will tend to behave or tend to react in certain situations.”
Through understanding your personal assessment, you understand how you might compensate or ensure that you are not letting your natural tendencies override what you should be doing.
We then develop role plays and fun scenarios around the different personality styles. We back that up with coaching after the formal training where those concepts are reinforced. Then typically what we will utilize our app-
The last thing that we really work hard to do is train and coach the managers. We like to train sales leaders on what their team is learning and help develop them into a coach, and how to coach back to the methodology and the work that was done in the classroom, so that they can then reinforce it as well.
CEOCFO: What types or sizes of industries? Who is turning to you for services?
Mr. Fly: We deal with all organizations that have a product or service to sell -
CEOCFO: What do you look at about a company you are taking on as a client? What do you need to know about them or understand about the culture, so they are getting a program that is most effective for them?
Mr. Fly: The key is are they willing to change, and are they willing to invest in reinforcement? If they are willing to do those two things, then we know that we can make the training stick and that they will be successful. Our discovery process includes interviews with the leaders of the organization and interviews with actual salespeople. If we have the opportunity, we will even go on sales calls with them, so we do a lot of discovery work to understand the realities of the situation. We then tailor our curriculum to that.
In addition, we use real life scenarios in our training. We will use their vernacular in the training. When we know that the company is willing to change and willing to invest in reinforcement, they will receive benefit from the training. These are really the key metrics for us.
CEOCFO: How do you help salespeople understand the mindset of their prospective customer?
Mr. Fly: This goes back to some of the assessment work that I mentioned. We know how people like to consume information and communicate information. As I mentioned about my own style, I tend to go into general terms. I am not a person that is going to want lots of whitepapers and tremendous detail. I want to understand what the benefit is. I want to understand quickly and essentially what the cost and ROI will be. Those are the kinds of things I want to understand. However, we have a head of research here who, if you are selling to her, she wants tremendous detail; why does this work, how has it been validated, and so on. In our trainings, the first thing we do is have the participants take an assessment so that they can see and understand their natural tendencies. Invariably, what happens is they start nodding their head like, “Oh yes, this is me, Oh yes, this is me, Oh yes, this is me,” and throughout the debrief and assessment there is a report that we give them. We give them examples like, “This is how you probably like to be communicated with and this is what is important to you,” and invariably they are like, “yes, yes, yes.” Then we say, “Okay, understanding that I am a high D, and I am relational, but our head of research is going to have a high theoretical score and she is going to want a lot of detail, I know that if I were selling to her, I would know that I have to back off my own natural tendencies and sell to her way of buying, her way of thinking.” Then we teach you how start to spot that. There are some really easy ways. In this virtual world, how do they communicate in the email? Are they long, lengthy emails with lots of detail or is the whole email written in the subject line? If you get an email from me, it may be 12 words, all of them in the subject line, and that is it. If you get an email from someone in our research department it is going to be bullet points and pages and maybe an exhibit or two.
We teach recognizing cues. If they are on Zoom, look around their environment and background. Is it messy, is it neat, it is organized and lots or memorabilia, or what is it around them? What seems to be important to them? Do they continue to ask for validation and studies or are they quick to the point and quick to get to the few details they want? We teach actual techniques to try to identify the behavior style of the person you are dealing with and the communication style of the person you are dealing with and then provide tools that say, “when dealing with a person of this sort of make-
CEOCFO: What is happening now that you are going back to some live training? What have you learned from the virtual only experience? Can you build reinforcement?
Mr. Fly: Wow, that is a great question and you actually hit the touchstone there a little bit, when you asked about reinforcement. We took our 2-
Out of that spaced learning experience, we have built something we call the Brooks Operating System, which is a spaced learning delivery of our training. We believe that the most effective training, going forward, will be a hybrid of virtual and live – spaced out for increased retention. Live may be a kick-
CEOCFO: There are many companies that offer training, some more in depth, some somewhat fly-
Mr. Fly: There are some traditional things to look at, like that we have been in business for 44 years, we have a bench of talented facilitators that are all professional salespeople themselves, most of them sales leaders. Also, something that is unique to us is that we tailor the experience for the company and the industry. We have a methodology that ensures that we capture what needs to be taught, and we put it into vernacular that makes sense for the sellers that are going to the class. The third thing that makes us stand our customer testimonials. We have very strong testimonials from brands that people would recognize that are industry leaders, and that speaks to the reach and success of our training.
Look, we are on all the lists; Selling Power Top 20 Sales Training Companies, Training Industries Top 20, and so on. We received an award from Investopedia this year as the Best Virtual Sales Training program country-
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“The two things required to have a successful business built on live training are the ability to travel and the ability to gather. Starting in March of last year, none of that was possible. From a practical point of view, the key ingredients for our business success had been made illegal and we had to figure out a work around.” Gary Fly