While running like crazy around the Las Vegas Convention Center covering the 2013 International Builders Show last week, I didn’t imagine I’d find time to hear assertions about similarities between Jesus Christ and Bernie Madoff. Thankfully, I got a chance to unwind with author and sales coach Jason Forrest, for whom unconventional irreverence comes naturally.
We managed to find a somewhat empty meeting room to talk, just minutes after he sold his last Builders Show copy of his new book. Forrest already has two books about becoming a better salesperson under his belt, but his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching: Transforming From Manager to Coach, takes training to the brokerage level. I asked him about some of the challenges he, as one of Training magazine’s Top Young Trainers of 2012, encounters in the old-school world of established real estate brokerages.
“One of the biggest benefits of being younger is that I can wear jeans when I speak… If you’re older, you have to wear a tie and a suit that doesn’t fit well,” he joked. “People sometimes don’t like what I say at first [but] I am able to bring a fresh approach in an old-school way.”
One of the challenges Forrest faces at some of the more established brokerages is with his company’s emphasis on “culture change.” He said that if a company’s top brass is on board with the notion of change, the experience can be truly “transformational,” comparing the effort with working on turning around a failing school.
“You could have the best school system, hiring the most talented teachers and kids, and be teaching the teachers how to be great teachers,” Forrest said. “But if the parents aren’t involved, it’s like they sent their kids away to boarding school.”
Clearly, Forrest’s assertions are not without controversy. All that stuff about how selling is about building relationships? Bad old-school, Forrest said. That kind of tactic will work as well as any other when the market is good. But Forrest identified a recession-proof salesperson as one who knows their job is to convince the buyer that now is a “socially-acceptable” time to buy, even when the media suggests otherwise.
“They don’t want to hear that because it sounds manipulative,” Forrest conceded about some of his training clients. But he noted that people wouldn’t be talking with a salesperson if they didn’t want to buy, so that salesperson needn’t manipulate customers nor become their newest best friends. He added that the sales process is always fundamentally the same; what sets him apart from hucksters is that he has good intentions.
“Sales is understanding people’s desire to improve their life,” he said. “Jesus did that and Bernie Madoff did that… The only difference is their intent.”
Placing the shock value of Jesus and Madoff joined in one sentence aside, it’s clear Forrest’s intent is to use his observations—along with what he’s learned from others—to become a game-changer in the world of sales. Very early in his life, Forrest learned sales hands-on as a young boy working in his father’s jewelry store in Dallas, Texas. But he also got his share of sales philosophy from the late sales coach Zig Ziglar, who was Forrest’s Sunday school teacher, of all things. Both men taught him “old-school truths” he relies upon to shape his training systems today.
“There’s a good old-school and a bad old-school,” Forrest explained. “I’ve taken good old-school and I have reinvented it in a fresh way.”
Once trainees understand his “good old-school” philosophy, Forrest’s system works to ingrain it in their work habits. His training techniques emphasize what he calls “experiential learning” to create a pathway to better performance through repetition.
“The first time you do it, it’s a 56K modem. By the thousandth time, it’s like broadband,” Forrest said.
But he cautioned that bad sales techniques can be ingrained in sales people via the very same method. “The theory is not psychology; it’s biology,” Forrest explained. “The broadband connection doesn’t know what’s good old-school and what’s bad old-school.”
One of the biggest challenges in sales, Forrest said, is finding someone’s “why.” Keeping in mind top-level motivations such as family and core values is important because these beliefs guide people’s actions, and are often “what gets people out of bed in the morning.”
But Forrest also humorously cautions against reading too much into those motivations, as some of them can be far less grandiose than one would think: “Ninety-nine percent of the human race gets out of bed in the morning because they have to pee.”
Looking for more? Stay tuned for my upcoming review of Jason Forrest’s new book.