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EPISODE 004, Will Fuentes Talks About the 40/20 Rule and How It Will Make You a Better Sales Professional
Will Fuentes is the head sales trainer for The Maestro Group, a Virginia-based sales and marketing consultancy. He has been in sales for more than 20 years spanning retail, software, and most interestingly, meat, as he started his sales career at a butcher shop. Will spent eight years with national retail chains training their sales staffs and managing stores. He then built a retail SaaS company that was on the cutting edge of in-store personalization and assisted sales. Over the past two years he has been hired by multiple organizations to train their salespeople to close more sales, accelerate the sales cycle, and increase deal value. On this podcast, he shares insights into how to provide a higher level of value for your customer in order to grow your career.
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Here’s a transcript to the podcast:
Fred Diamond: How’d you get into sales as a career?
Will Fuentes: You mentioned the butcher shop in the introduction. I needed a job because I wanted to go on a date. So I walked into the shop with my mom, and I knew they were looking for a sales counterperson. So I applied and started working there a day later, just to earn enough money to take this girl out. Then after that I actually ended up going to law school and did not think I was going to stay in sales. But I wasn’t a very good lawyer, so I ended up leaving the law and falling into retail and fell in love with it.
Fred Diamond: Very good. Tell us what exactly you sell today and what excites you about that?
Will Fuentes: What we sell today is sales training. We take people who are on the cusp of becoming professional salespeople and make them professionals. What excites me about that is when they’re done working with us, I feel like we’ve had a massive impact not only on their lives but their earning potential for the future. And that to me is awesome.
Fred Diamond: Take us back to one or two of your first few sales jobs and tell us some of the key lessons you learned that have impacted you today.
Will Fuentes: I think one of the biggest lessons is to never underestimate who is across from you at the table. I think oftentimes as salespeople we allow our own prejudice to come in, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. You start thinking, “Well, this person doesn’t have the power to make a decision” or “This person doesn’t have enough money, so I’m not really going to show them the good stuff.” In enterprise sales, a lot of times I find that salespeople feel that their product might be too expensive. And so they’re gun-shy about presenting it and presenting the value of it to people and asking them to pay the full amount. One of the lessons I learned very early on is that it’s not my job as a salesperson to determine how someone should spend their money. It is my job as a salesperson to show them the value of the product, the benefits of that, and let them make their own decisions.
Fred Diamond: You need to be creating and showing value continually through the process.
Will Fuentes: Exactly, a hundred percent, a hundred percent.
Fred Diamond: Let’s talk a little bit about mentors. Talk about one of your sales career mentors and how they impacted your career.
Will Fuentes: I think one of the biggest impacts I had in my life was being able to work for a gentleman named Bill Beverly. He is now the president of Magnolia Home Theater for Best Buy. Bu, at that time, I just worked for him in a store. He spent a lot of time teaching me the craft of being a professional retail salesperson. He took it incredibly seriously and really taught me what I’ve now come to call the 40/20 Rule: “40 hours a week you’re paid to be here at Best Buy and you’re paid to service our customers. If you really want to be good about this, take 20 hours of your own time a week to learn about the products, to learn about what the new technology is, to learn about why people choose one over the other. Then you become a professional. When you truly understand those differences and can share those with people you can become a professional.” I really abide by that now, and it’s one of the things that through the Maestro Group that we teach people, the 40/20 Rule. You’re not a professional until you’re really dedicating yourself to your craft to become better at it and become better at understanding what it is that you’re actually selling.
Fred Diamond: What percentage of the people do you think take advantage of that? Now, the people listening to today’s podcast, they’re devoting time and energy to listen to you…
Will Fuentes: Yup.
Fred Diamond: …And to other sales leaders we bring on to the Sales Game Changers Podcast to get better at the art and science of selling. How many sales professionals have you come across? What percentage would you say—20%, 50%, 80%—are applying the 40/20 Rule?
Will Fuentes: I’d probably say 10 to 15%.
Fred Diamond: Are applying the 40/20 Rule?
Will Fuentes: Yes. When we go to an organization, that’s really what becomes the big cultural change for people. People start to see that sales can actually really be a true profession, something to be proud of. Not something that you’re just doing to buy time or to get the next gig within the organization but something where you can make a true career out of it and really be proud of the work that you’re doing.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the things that you should be doing in those 20 hours?
Will Fuentes: I listen to podcast about sales. I read books. I call sales leaders and ask them for some advice. I have some very specific questions that I may ask, or I may read something that they’ve put out there on a blog and I’ll reach out to them. I wake up between three and four every morning, and I spend the first hour of my day reading information on software, information on retail; all of the things that I service I try to stay as up-to-date as possible. For me, part of the 20 hours is becoming an expert in the things I want to be talking about and talking to… Networking is a big part of that as well. It’s taking the time out, instead of grabbing beers with your buddies, maybe going to a networking event and meeting someone who’s been doing it a couple of years more than you and asking some really pointed questions.
Fred Diamond: Think back to one specific sales success or win from your career that you’re most proud of. Tell us about that one big sales success that you had.
Will Fuentes: I’ve actually written about this a little bit. It was at a Best Buy. A gentleman came in, an older gentleman wanted to buy a 36-inch CRT—I’m dating myself here; that’s a big old tube TV. He wanted to watch hockey with his wife because her eyesight was going bad. I said, “If you’ll allow me, I’d like to show you what hockey looks like in HD,” and walked him over and the set I showed him with all the accessories was probably about $2,000 more than what he originally was going to come in to spend. I ended up walking him through the financing. He got out some financing. He got everything together. We sent someone out, we hooked it up for him, and about two weeks later there’s another gentleman in my store and I’m talking to him,,, and I feel a tap on my shoulder. As I turn around, the gentleman from two weeks ago, the man who had come in for the set to watch hockey, looks at the other customer and says, “Whatever this man sells to you, you buy. He only has your best intentions at heart.” He’s like, “He gave me my wife back. We watch hockey together. I make popcorn. I feel like we’re right back at the Verizon, at the MCI Center.” And, you know, in that moment I came to realize that for me the win wasn’t the fact that I took him from a $300 set to a $2,300 sale. The win was that I had a positive impact on his life. And to me, that’s really what sales comes down to. We’re always figuring out and solving problems for people. It may be something as simple as they need this product, or it may be something as complex as you’re saving their job because they need that solution to prove to their boss that they’re capable. To me that’s the beauty of sales.
Fred Diamond: That’s an amazing story. I remember reading the blog that you had posted about that and I believe I might have shared it on LinkedIn or something like that. But yes, providing true value, and we’re always looking for customers to validate that for us and to have that customer on the show floor, you know, tell the partner or the customer you were talking to about the value you provided for him. That’s a great story. So you’ve had some great success in your career in sales. Did you ever question being in sales? Was there ever a moment when you thought to yourself, “It’s just too hard” or “It’s just not for me”?
Will Fuentes: Absolutely. I think every salesperson goes through it. You have a couple of bad losses. You feel like you’re doing all the right things but things just aren’t breaking for you. Perhaps you even feel like sales is beneath you because people think you’re slimy or that you are not honest in your dealings and whatever because salespeople have a bad rap. I’ve had all those moments. I’ve had all those feelings. I think probably over the past five years I’ve really moved away from ever thinking and feeling that, and it really has been because I’ve adopted the mentality that this is an honest and good profession, and if you treat it as such there are so many rewards for you.
Fred Diamond: Will’s given us some amazing insights into the career of sales, talking about how to provide value for your customer, talking about how to ensure that you treat it as a profession. We talked about the 40/20 Rule: You work 40 hours a week but then you need to devout 20 hours per week to your own personal development. Will, what is the most important thing you want to get across to junior selling professionals listening to today’s call to help them improve their career?
Will Fuentes: Really, it has to be the 40/20 Rule for me: the idea that you are putting that much effort into becoming a professional and becoming an expert—that is where you see the biggest changes. I can go back and talk to multiple salespeople who will tell me that’s what started to change their career and not only made them feel better about what they were doing but that the financial impact for them over time has become something that they never thought possible.
Fred Diamond: Yes, you need to put it into your career. Your company will help you, hopefully, as much as they can, offer some training, offer some branding, offer things to make it easier for the sale to happen, but at the end of the day, it comes down to you doing the right things to grow your career. What are some things you do? Talk more specifically about some of the things that you do to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Will Fuentes: So, I’m now going to give away my secret. I’m a big sports fan, and what I’ve taken from the greatest athletes out there is that they never stop practicing. I do a lot of role-plays. I listen to a lot of my calls and game tapes. I analyze it. I go back and say, “What question could I have asked here that would have gotten me a better answer or gotten me more information?” I look at the misses where I don’t ask the right question or I don’t listen well enough and then try to improve on that. The other tip is every, before every sales call, I write down the three goals of that call and I hold myself to getting the answers to those questions or to being able to articulate whatever that value is that I feel is important for that call.
Fred Diamond: Practice. You know, a lot of times selling professionals practice in front of the customer. You know, they don’t do the role-plays. They don’t sit down and go through conversations. They don’t look in the mirror and rehearse the presentation or think it through or work with their manager, and that is definitely a great thing that they should be doing to take their career to the next level. Tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Will Fuentes: We’re working on something really exciting. We have created a process. It’s called the Phoenix Sales Method, and that name comes from the fact that I have risen from the ashes of the sales doldrums to really create a great sales career. We are creating a video series to help others out there learn the basics, which we call the Seven Pieces of Sales, and really drill into them how if you do those things, you’ll be okay. This isn’t going to make you an incredible salesperson, but you’ll be good. The idea is then you take that and you add the 40/20 Rule to it and you become an expert.
Fred Diamond: Will, sales is hard. People don’t return your calls or your emails. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that keeps you going?
Will Fuentes: I think I mentioned it a little bit earlier. But when I define sales, I say it’s two people moving in parallel deciding when to bend towards each other. Really, it’s about a union. And so, what keeps me going is that I feel that I can have a positive impact on people’s lives. I don’t sell things that I don’t believe can have a positive impact. So I take a lot of time to understand what those products are. I take a lot of time to really understand the value to others, put myself in their shoes, “What does this offer them?” And so, what keeps me going is there’s going to be a ton of nos, but that one yes might be just like that guy who walked back into Best Buy, where you have such a positive impact that they can’t help themselves, not only singing your praises to you but to others around you. And that to me is the exciting part of all of this.
Fred Diamond: That’s very powerful. So, you sold in a butcher shop, you sold in retail at Best Buy. You’ve sold software as a service. What’s the difference between selling retail and software as a service?
Will Fuentes: I think part of it is, at least in large retail, you have massive branding behind you. And sometimes software as a service, you’re a much smaller company, you’ve got to create that excitement in that brand. But I will tell you, I see more similarities than differences, and the biggest is that if you really get down to what it is, it is just human interaction and it’s human understanding, and when you can get to that place as a salesperson, when you really are about connecting with someone across the table, it doesn’t matter what product you’re selling. It doesn’t matter whether it’s retail or if it’s enterprise sales or SaaS. You really can have a positive impact on people’s lives. The problem is that—and I’ve seen it across the board, retail, enterprise, profession, it doesn’t matter—people are scared to believe that sales is an honest and great profession. You just got to open yourself up to that.
Fred Diamond: Profession, again, that’s the keyword. It is a profession. You’ve got to treat yourself like a professional. You’ve got to implement the 40/20 Rule. You’ve got to practice. Will, this has been some great information. You’ve given us some great ideas. You’re the first person that we’ve interviewed who worked in a butcher shop, so you gave us that angle there too, talking about the customer, how to provide customer value. Will, give us a final thought that you can share for our listeners to inspire them today.
Will Fuentes: Really, you’re spending so much time doing this already., so you should really push yourself to do it the best possible way. Take the time to care for yourself and understand what it truly is to be a professional. Take the time to be as good a sales professional as you possibly can be. The skills that you’ll learn getting there are skills that’ll translate even if sales isn’t for you. And, really, at the end of the day, just remember that sales really is about solving people’s problems. Just keep that in the back of your mind and, you know, it’s an honest and great profession.
Fred Diamond: Very good. So, this is the Sales Game Changers Podcast. I was with Will Fuentes today, from the Maestro Group. Thank you so much for being on today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast. Will, how can our audience reach you?
Will Fuentes: Yeah, if you want to get in touch and talk butcher, retail, sales, football, hogs, any of that stuff, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.