EPISODE 617: How SAP and Royal Caribbean Transformed Sales Practices with Dr. Philip Squire

The Sales Game Changers Podcast was recognized by YesWare as the top sales podcast for 2022. Read the announcement here.

Subscribe to the Podcast now on Apple Podcasts!

Become a partner of the elite Institute for Excellence in Sales (IES) and take your sales team to the next level!

Purchase Fred Diamond’s new best-sellers Love, Hope, Lyme: What Family Members, Partners, and Friends Who Love a Chronic Lyme Survivor Need to Know and Insights for Sales Game Changers now!

Dr. Philip Squire is the author of Selling Transformed. Find information on his Executive Masters in Sales Programs here. Take his mindset survey.

Get Grant’s book Transforming Sales Management.

Find Philip on LinkedIn. Find Grant on LinkedIn. Find Axel on LinkedIn.

PHILIP’S TIP: “I realized after a couple of years of looking at the data that actually customers weren’t so much interested in competence, and skills, and sales methodology, and process, but they were really interested in the core values that salespeople demonstrated.”

GRANT’S TIP: “To move forward, let go of the 1980s consultative sales tips and tricks and everything else to manipulate the sale. We don’t live there anymore.” 

AXEL’S TIP: “in the cloud market, trust and loyalty are the two things you’re looking for. When you try to establish trust, you cannot fake. You need to be authentic. You need to be really customer-centric, otherwise it’ll be felt as being not authentic.”


Fred Diamond: I’m very excited because we’re talking today with Dr. Phil Squire. He’s the CEO of Consalia. His vision for the sales profession is to help make sales the world’s most sought-after profession. Actually, the mission of the Institute for Excellence in Sales, which I run, is to help employers attract, retain, motivate, and elevate top tier talent. We are in sync because we truly believe that sales is a profession. We’re going to be talking today with Phil and a couple of other guests about that transformation and the profession. He, of course, is the author of Selling Transformed: Develop the Sales Values which Deliver Competitive Advantage. We’re also very honored today, we have Dr. Grant Van Ulbrich from Royal Caribbean. We also have Axel Ferreyrolles from SAP. He also wrote the foreword to the book Selling Transformed.

This is one of the first shows we’ve interviewed sales leaders around the globe. This is one of our truly global shows. Dr. Grant Ulbrich is in London and Axel is in France. Dr. Squire, introduce yourself and just tell us where you are. I presume you’re in the UK somewhere.

Phil Squire: I am in the UK, not too far from London at all.

Fred Diamond: Tell us why you wrote the book and then we’ll get deep into what sales transformation is and how Grant and Axel have been able to apply it at their companies.

Phil Squire: Well, the book was written on the back of the doctorate that I completed in 2009. People have been asking me to try and produce it in a way that people can more easily read a rather dry doctoral thesis. It took some time coming since I finished the doctorate and since it was published, but that was predominantly the reason why I wrote the book.

Fred Diamond: Tell us what transformation means. Tell us about sales transformation. Why did you devote a big chunk of your career to this particular topic?

Phil Squire: I think you can approach that question at a number of different levels. If you look at the world in which we live, I think most people would say that we live in a very transformative environment with the amount of change going on at so many different levels. Whether it’s economic, or whether it’s social, whether it’s wars flowing up here and there. We’re having to deal with an unprecedented amount of change. You’ve got the context of the environment in which we work, and then you’ve got the context also of the organization’s that need to respond to those changes. Then the transformation that’s required of individuals to try and effect new work practices in that changing landscape. I think it’s very interesting when you talk about the difference between change and transformation. The analogy that we tend to use is are you trying to create a faster caterpillar or are you trying to create a butterfly? For most organizations, they need to transform into being a butterfly, but what they tend to address is becoming a more effective caterpillar.

Fred Diamond: I think it’s Gartner who says at 87% of sales reps forget what they are taught through sales training methods within a month. We do a lot of events. Well, prior to the pandemic, we were doing close to 50 events per year at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. I would always say at the very end of all of our sessions, “Write down three things that you’re going to implement today, because the moment you leave, you’re going to forget 50% of what we just talked about. The moment you get on the beltway around Washington, DC, you’re going to forget the other 45%.”

We have two other guests I’m excited to have on. We have Axel Ferreyrolles from SAP, and we have Dr. Grant Van Ulbrich from Royal Caribbean. Axel, introduce yourself. You wrote the foreword to the book Selling Transformed. Give us your insights into what Dr. Phil just said.

Axel Ferreyrolles: I’m passionate about sales, I’m passionate about transformation. I actually moved on the other side of the house, meaning that I’m now training and enabling sales leaders. The way I went through transformation is when 10 years ago, I had been given the challenge to transform the frontline sales managers in EMEA, in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, at SAP. I couldn’t find the right way to do that because those people are extremely busy and it’s very tough to get them into a transformative journey. That’s the point when I talked to Consalia and to Phil, Dr. Squire, and we started investigating the best way to do so. We realized that the best way to do that is to create a master program, a two-year long journey for the managers to be able to transform at a very deep level.

The way I look at it is that if you want to transform, you need to modify your belief system. It’s not only a question of competencies. Most of the organizations I’m hearing at the moment, are talking about competence, competence, and competence. Of course, it’s important, but transformation goes deeper than that. I approached Consalia and Phil asking him, “How can we do it? How can we create that space, this transformative landscape, where managers can really transform their belief system and the way they operate, they lead, they manage, and they coach?” That’s what we have done since 10 years in a row now and we have transformed more than 150 frontline sales managers and therefore impacted thousands of sales executives and quota carriers across SAP.

Fred Diamond: Is everything that you do based from corporate headquarters around to the rest of the world, or do the various geographies have their own way about going? Or is everything centralized and then pushed out?

Axel Ferreyrolles: Well, we have global programs and leadership programs, but then each region have their own local flavors, of course.

Fred Diamond: We also have Dr. Grant Van Ulbrich with Royal Caribbean. Tell us a little bit about what you do and how you came to be here.

Grant Van Ulbrich: I’m similar to Axel. I focus more on the educational aspect in the support side for the sales teams globally. But my journey started in 2018 and I came from America, from our headquarters in Miami, over here to look at how could we improve the sales efficiency of our teams throughout Europe, Middle East, and Africa. When we looked at it, the company at the time when we started this journey was 50 years strong, but there was no sales manual in the company at all. Every other facet and entity within the business had clear instructions or a university pathway, degree platforms and programs to teach them how to do their jobs in accounting, IT, different types of principles throughout. But sales had nothing.

I was then introduced to Dr. Phillip Squire at the Consalia Sales Business School, and he said, “You should go into a master’s program.” I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m in my 40s. Do I do that?” Well, I bonded with Dr. Phil very quickly, and not only did I pass his master’s program, but I went straight into the doctorate program, and since, I’ve passed that as well too. We focus heavily now and we pride ourselves on being the first in the cruise industry to champion sales science and sales psychology and really going deep into, just like Axel, how do you sell? What is the process of sales and how do you match that to the way your customers want to be sold to? With a primary toolset that comes from Consalia and Dr. Phil’s work based on the foundation of the sales mindsets. How do you bring in the customer’s voice to everything you do?

Fred Diamond: Before I talk to Dr. Phil about the mindset aspect and mindset survey and things that he’s included in the book, quick question for Grant is, most of the people who listen to the Sales Game Changers Podcast, we’ve done over 650 episodes. Typically, it’s B2B sales or either technology or media. We’ve had hospitality, we’ve had some sales leaders from Hilton, for example, on the show. Who do you sell to? Are there salespeople at Royal Caribbean and your brands who sell to individuals? Or do you sell to travel agents or associations? Give us a little insight into who you sell to and then we’ll get to Dr. Phil.

Grant Van Ulbrich: Cruise is a real mystery. They look to see what is this $5 trillion business and how does it work around the world? We have the same global sales structures as most entities. We have territory management sales, retail sales agents, boots on the ground, so to speak. We have the key account management programs, we have business development, we have our call center managements throughout the world, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of agents across the world that represent that. We have charter sales, so we have event sales. It’s all across the spectrum of sales. We sell to travel agents. We sell to corporations, business and entities, and we sell directly to the customer. Whether it be through our websites, we’re doing the sales support there, or it’s through the call centers, or through any of the areas that I’ve just described, we’re selling at all points the cruise voyage and the cruise vacation.

Fred Diamond: Dr. Phil, a big part of what you teach, and in the book of course, is mindset. Axel and Grant just referred to that as well, about how critical that was to the transformation at both of their companies. You talk about the four key values and mindsets that customers want to see from salespeople, authenticity, client centricity, proactive creativity, and tactful audacity. Talk about that a little bit. What is this? Also, I heard about your mindset survey. Just give us some insights into that. Everyone’s listening to the Sales Game Changers Podcast, or they’re reading the transcript, to get better at sales. Give us some insights into how that works.

Phil Squire: I think the essence of how we got to the mindsets came from interviewing many hundreds of customers around the world about how they want to be sold to. I realized after a couple of years of looking at the data that where I had this competence mindset when I was looking at the data, actually customers weren’t so much interested in competence, and skills, and sales methodology, and process, but they were really interested in the core values that salespeople demonstrated. I found with my research, there’s very little done actually around values for selling. I borrowed out of Howard Gardner’s book, Five Minds for the Future, the concept of mindsets and values being interchangeable.

We looked at all the data and we codified it into these four areas that you talked about. Authenticity and client centricity being the base values for building trust. But where the magic happens is in the proactive creativity and tactful audacity. I worked for a couple of years with Hewlett Packard Enterprises with a control group working with very large deals, looking at every single facet of how they sold from the beginning to negotiation and applying these mindsets. We’ve been able to demonstrate powerfully that by applying these mindsets, you can really, really shift performance at a level that was unprecedented, at least in their organization. That’s been carried on now with many companies around the world. Mindsets go deep, they go to your core values and belief systems. It’s not about methodology or tricks trying to get people to sell, but it’s the way you think that matters, and how you think is connected to the core values and belief systems that you have.

Fred Diamond: I agree with you 1000%. As a matter of fact, when the pandemic kicked in in March of 2020, we were doing a daily webinar, and every Thursday it was called the Optimal Sales Mindset, and we got deep into mindset. This is why it’s so critical. Actually, when I ask sales leaders, “What’s the number one thing?” Mindset comes up time and time again. I want to ask Grant and Axel to give some insights into some of the lessons from Dr. Phil and how they’ve made a difference, specifically at both of your companies. Grant, let’s start with you. The lessons, things that you’ve learned from what Dr. Phil’s been working on and what he teaches, how has that made a significant impact at Royal Caribbean?

Grant Van Ulbrich: Well, I do have to say just a preface, there are many, many different tools that Dr. Phil and Consalia have put together that we’ve learned throughout the sales master’s program, but the mindsets are the foundation, and so that’s where you start. One of the biggest learning factors for us was, I almost challenged it. We took what Dr. Phil taught us, and we thought, “That can’t be at Royal Caribbean,” and his research, it comes down to less than 10% of salespeople are effective at their jobs. That just hit us and I just thought, “That can’t be true. Maybe that was 10 years ago when he did his global research to earn his doctorate,” of which he did. We hired an external entity to go out and interview 160 of Europe, Middle East, and Africa travel agents, our B2B customers. We were shocked to find out that less than 10% of salespeople are effective at their jobs, exactly what he taught us in the master’s program.

That helped us to re-orchestrate the framework. How would we build our digital sales academy? Everything that we did has to be tied to the positive mindsets so that we’re not promoting people to behave in the negative frameworks that people don’t want to be sold to. It was really truly eye-opening. Everything that we built in our sales academy matches to that. Again, that’s just one facet of the many tools he taught us.

Fred Diamond: Axel, SAP, you have historically been in a very competitive space. I know somebody who’s a VP of sales for public sector, and he’s in the space where you are, and he calls it the NFL of sales, the solutions that you’re in, what is known as the ERP world, et cetera. It’s big choices, risky solutions for customers to make the decisions. There’s so much complexity in your particular marketplace, complex software. Talk a little bit about the transformation and how you’ve been able to enact that based on some of the lessons that you’ve learned.

Axel Ferreyrolles: I fully agree with the analogy of sport in that case. I guess we are high-performing sales teams here. It’s a very high velocity type environment. We need to work on very complex type of solutions that we are selling. The issue we still have with salespeople is that, especially sales managers were the best salespeople. When they need to adapt to a new environment, they will rely on their experience. But as Phil said at the beginning of the call, the environment is changing so fast that your experience doesn’t actually remain the best basis for the future. Especially at SAP, moving from on-premise sales to the cloud has been a massive shift. To get our sales manager to embrace cloud was a very big transformation. It requires much more than skills. You need to rethink the way you engage.

What we see, back to the values, if you don’t follow the four mindsets, you are starting losing trust. What’s funny is that in the cloud market, trust is key. Trust and loyalty are the two things you’re looking for. When you try to establish trust, you cannot fake. You need to be authentic. You need to be really customer-centric, otherwise it’ll be felt as being not authentic. That is beyond the technique of sales that Phil was referring to. What we see is that I could work and collaborate with Consalia and with Phil and getting those four mindsets to start shifting the behaviors and the mindset of the sales managers in order to embrace the values of the new cloud engagement. This is key to us because unless we bring this trust to the sales cycle, the loyalty and the adoption of our solutions will not be successful.

But the second point, which for me is absolutely key, is innovation. I don’t believe any company today can survive without innovation. Innovation is not technical stuff. It’s a mindset thing. There is a point where you need to go back to your mindset, understand how you can become innovative, and that’s where tactful audacity and proactive creativity comes in. On the one hand, you have trust, on the other one, you have innovation, and that’s what the four mindsets are bringing to the table. That’s what we brought to the sales managers.

Fred Diamond: We talked before about change versus transformation. I hate the question I’m going to ask you because I hate when people ask me this question. People always ask me, are salespeople born or are they made? We talked before about 10% of salespeople are successful. Does everybody have the possibility of transformation? Or what percentage of people do you think just aren’t able to do it? Then a follow up question, for the sales leaders who are able, who do have the innate skills or whatever to transform, how can they truly achieve true transformation at their practice?

Phil Squire: I think it is possible, but it comes back to Carol Dweck’s work, it helps to have a growth mindset. Quite often people who come onto the master’s program are there because they want to learn and they come reasonably open minded. You’re dealing with a fertile environment in which to get them to really reflect and change. For that community, I think absolutely, a lot of these people are highly skilled individuals, highly competent to what they do. But actually, they’re given a framework, we call it reflective practice, a way of actually problem solving, analyze situations, and some simple frameworks and tools that can help elevate what they do onto a completely new level. That’s really where the innovation come.

Occasionally you get people coming who are skeptical, who have a closed mindset. We’ve had a number of people come on, I remember the first one at SAP that we did, Axel, do you remember? We had someone came from South Africa, he thought he was on a three-day course, not a two-year master’s program, and he wondered what the hell he was doing. But actually, it is incredible how much people can change if you allow them the space to do it. You won’t win over everyone.

To answer your question, I do believe that people can be transformed in much the same way that someone can get an epiphany and suddenly become very religious, let’s say. Something can happen that’s a switch that’s somehow turned. If you can find out what that switch is, you can do amazing things. That’s what we try and enable people to do to transform. But we don’t win them all, but we win 97% probably.

Fred Diamond: I’m reminded from what you just said of the expression that people overestimate what they can do in a year, but underestimate what they can do in 10 years. Now, obviously as sales leaders, we’re not going to give our people 10 years to transform. From our perspective, which is why we do the Sales Game Changers Podcast, why we created the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we believe that sales is the most important role in the company, and we talk about that all the time.

We’re doing today’s interview in March of 2023, although people are listening well into the future, we’re coming out of the pandemic, whatever that meant. Obviously, cruises were significantly impacted. What are the two biggest sales challenges or sales challenge that you face as we’re emerging from the pandemic? Every industry was hit by the last three years. Cruises were obviously hit, for many, many reasons. It’s interesting, we could probably talk to you about that on a follow up show, but what is the biggest challenge? How are you solving them?

Grant Van Ulbrich: Our biggest challenge is resetting, coming out of the pandemic. For us, over a $10 billion industry to zero, not one penny in revenue for two years is pretty shocking. What we have done is try to be the biggest support for travel agents who are our primary B2B and build them back up. Whether it be with funding support, whether it be with education support. Everything that we have learned from the Consalia Sales Business School and program, we have been able to put that right directly back into our travel agents. Not only are we building our sales teams, but now we’re actually building our customer and actually investing in them so that they can in turn invest into our mutual customer who will come onboard our ships. It’s been a complete reset. If you think of the travel agents around the world, many of them were mid to senior level and they just weren’t able to come through it. They chose different careers, et cetera, so now we have a whole new generation of travel agents around the world.

Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, what is your vision for the next two years? I’m seeing all these advertisements on social media for cruises in my feeds, the various video feeds, or what I ate on my cruise ship today type of a thing. Is it rushing back? What do you think? Just give us your answer.

Grant Van Ulbrich: The floodgates are open. The old statement, if you build it, they will come, and that’s what we’re continuing to do. Our new ships are already in full swing. Our order books for our new ships are full down the road for the next 10 years. We’re having record-breaking years at filling our ships. It’s just full steam ahead.

Fred Diamond: What is the hardest thing? We’re obviously coming out, we’re not totally out, and we’re transforming. 2023 is a big transformation year for the world, of course. What is the biggest challenge in selling? Forget about the pandemic. What is the biggest challenge in selling what you do?

Grant Van Ulbrich: For us, it’s continuing what we learned with Dr. Phil and the Consalia Program. It is putting his winning value proposition tool and framework into our account management program, which is the biggest channel for sales for us globally. It’s putting those tools into play. Every single time we introduce this element from our master’s program to a new sales member, whether they’ve been doing account management for 20 years, 30 years, they always say the same thing, “We never knew that much about account management.” That’s because, again, Dr. Phil is being a pioneer leader in formalizing education for sales. That is our biggest opportunity, is continuing to apply that and embed that in our account management sales process globally.

Fred Diamond: Axel, with you, SAP, what is the biggest challenge coming out of the pandemic? Again, we’re doing today’s show in March of 2023. There’s a lot of layoffs in the technology industry, even from the largest companies all the way on down. Give us your insights into the biggest challenge right now coming out of the pandemic, and how are you solving it?

Axel Ferreyrolles: From a controversial perspective, I would say the pandemic helped us in the sense that each organization had to invest in technology, and each company has become IT companies. For us in the IT sector, that’s not a bad thing. We were already ready to sell remote, we just had to expedite that and make it more effective and invest more into that digital way of selling. From a pure sales perspective, the very interesting thing with the cloud, as the cloud becomes the de facto standard, is the shift to a certain extent as a center of gravity from sales to post-sales. The transformation you see around at the moment at SAPs, is how do we balance that new paradigm? We know how to sell, the salesperson cannot shoot and forget as it was before, and then give that consulting or partners. Now we need to make sure that we have a continuum of value till the value realization for the customer.

Customer centricity becomes really a key motto and a key behavior because there is no way out. We are really focusing on our customer value development and digital transformation. Of course, it asks us to rethink the way we engage in sales to expand their understanding and scope beyond the primary engagement and the signature of the contract. The migration from sales to post-sales is big in terms of collaboration, in terms of innovation, in terms of engagement in a simplified way with customers. That’s a big thing. That’s what we are focusing on at the moment.

Fred Diamond: Dr. Phil, what is your thoughts on what Grant and Axel just shared?

Phil Squire: Well, I think there are two things that are really important. One is the ability to deal with ambiguity. I think in both the cruise industry, and I know in Axel’s company there’s been so much change, you don’t quite know what’s around the next corner. If you’re looking at what is your source of competitive advantage, I would say your ability to be comfortable in making important decisions in an ambiguous world is important. The other one is agility and the ability to be able to think really quickly on your feet. I think the challenge with larger companies is the ability to change in a short space of time. Those two factors at a leadership level I think are rather critical to maintain competitive advantage.

Fred Diamond: Gentlemen, I’m going to ask you all for your final action step people should be doing right now after they listen to the podcast or read the transcription, but I just want to acknowledge you all for some great insights. Dr. Phil, I just want to acknowledge you for all the work that you’re doing, which was just obviously complimented from Grant and Axel for so many companies over your career who helped them transform. Transformation is something that we’re very committed to at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. We have a very robust Women in Sales program. We’re the center of excellence for corporate women in sales best practices, and through our Women in Sales Leadership Forum. Hundreds of women have thanked us for helping us transform their personal lives, which has helped them transform their sales careers. What you’re doing is amazing work. I’m glad that we had you on today.

Give us your final action steps. Let’s go Axel first, just something nice and pithy that the people listening to today’s show or reading the transcript should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Axel Ferreyrolles: The only thing I would say really is get your own master program for leading sales transformation into your organization. Create that space for transformation and take the time. It’s worth it.

Fred Diamond: Grant, how about you?

Grant Van Ulbrich: I’d say almost the same. But anything you want to do to move forward, let go of the 1980s consultative sales tips and tricks and everything else to manipulate the sale. We don’t live there anymore. If you want to learn how to advance, go to consalia.com and learn about the sales masters in science program. There are different master’s programs there. It will change your life. I’ve been in sales my whole life, and now I am a doctor of sales transformation. Go figure that.

Fred Diamond: The ‘80s are gone, the ‘90s are gone, customers are in charge, and it’s been that way for a number of years. Someone made an interesting point yesterday. A lot of people say that the customer’s in charge, and we all heard the stat that the sales process is 57% to 60% done before you even talk to the customer. A lot of people are now saying that, “Yeah, but customers don’t know everything they need to know.” A sales professional that’s going to help them achieve what they need to achieve is truly a valuable commodity. Dr. Phil, I want to thank you. I’m going to ask you to bring us home here. Give us your final action step for people listening to today’s podcast.

Phil Squire: Do you know what? I think Axel and Grant have said it all. It’s best to listen to those two rather than hear from me what the key action is. Listen to the customers, and they’re our customers.

Grant Van Ulbrich: They’ll hear from you in the master’s program, and that’s a joy.

Fred Diamond: Once again, I want to thank Axel, and Dr. Phil, and Dr. Grant for being on today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast. My name is Fred Diamond.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *