Grooming the best sales reps debanked

“It’s all mindset and work ethic,” in sales, according to Joe Camberato, president at Bohemia, N.Y.-based National Business Capital. His company works to create a culture that supports the right mindset by working with a firm called “Delivering Happiness.” Together, they forge to a set of core values based on integrity, innovation, teamwork, empathy, and respect for fellow employees, clients and clients’ businesses.

National Business Capital employees learn to live those ideals by working and playing together on the company volleyball team, through work with local and national charities, and at company mixers and staff picnics, Camberato maintains. “We adapt and change, and we’re committed to helping small businesses grow,” he says of the company culture, “and we have fun while doing all that.”


Likeability helps build relationships with customers, says Justin Thompson, vice president of sales for San Diego-based National Funding. “People will do business with people they like and trust,” says Thompson. “It’s really about establishing a relationship first and then establishing quality discovery.” From there, presentation and execution become paramount, he says.

Methodology can make the difference between success and failure in sales, observes Justin Bakes, co-founder and CEO of Boston-based Forward Financing LLC. “Have a defined process and stick to it,” he advises. A well-organized approach inspires trust among clients, establishes and maintains a great reputation; and fosters understanding of the customers’ needs, wants and business operations that help the rep choose the right financing option and appropriate funder. Using technology to wrangle multiple leads and high volume counts for a lot, too, he says.

It’s all part of the consultative approach to sales, says Jared Weitz, CEO of Great Neck, N.Y.-based United Capital Source. Long ago, sales reps may have succeeded by mimicking carnival barkers, sideshow pitchman and arm-twisting medicine-show peddlers. Thankfully, those days have ended – if they ever really existed. Most of today’s successful salespeople earn clients’ respect by becoming knowledgeable, trusted business consultants, says Weitz.

“Someone calls, and there are two ways of handling a deal, right?” Weitz asks rhetorically. Using one method, a salesperson can say, “We’ll fund you this much at this rate today – are we good?” he says. The other way calls for understanding the client’s business – how long has it been open, does it make more cash deposits or credit card deposits, would it be best-served by an advance, a loan, an equipment lease or a line of credit, how much can it afford in monthly payments?

Establishing how the merchant intends to use the funding plays a crucial role in the consultative sale, Marmott agrees. Objections can arise when a merchant learns that receiving $100,000 this week will require paying back $150,000 in four or five months, he notes. So it’s essential to demonstrate that using the money productively will more than pay for the deal. A trucking company can realize more income if it deploys two more trucks, or a restaurant can increase revenue by placing another bar outside for the summer, he says by way of example.

“A lot of salespeople ask a business owner what they need the money for,” observes Thompson. “The merchant says, ‘Inventory,’ and the rep stops right there. I train my reps at National Funding to go two or three clicks deeper.” Examples abound. When does the merchant need the inventory? From whom do they order it? How long does it take to ship? How long does it take to turn it over? What are the shipping terms?

The consultative approach can require salespeople to pose a lot of open-ended questions that can’t be answered yes or no, according to Thompson. Ideally, the conversation should adhere to the 80-20 rule, with the client talking 80 percent of the time and the sales rep speaking 20 percent, he asserts, adding that “a lot of times it’s reversed in this industry.”

National Funding trains salespeople to view their craft as being defined by two broad elements – art and science, Thompson continues. The science proves easier to master and includes asking the right questions to learn about the customer and the deal. The hard part, the art of the sale, consists of getting to know the business owner, building a relationship and demonstrating expertise. In one example, that’s based on learning how many trucks are in the fleet, whether they’re long-haul or short haul and whether they use dumpsters versus box trailers, he says.

Salespeople at United Capital Source talk sales among themselves almost nonstop, which amounts to daily sales training, Weitz observes. That can take the form of describing a challenge and explaining how to overcome it, he notes. A particularly good idea merits an email to the group to share the new piece of wisdom. It’s a matter of constantly refining the approach.

Training should teach new employees how business works because common elements arise in enterprises ranging from dog grooming to asphalt paving, Thompson notes. There’s inventory, marketing, employee expense, payroll taxes, insurance and 401k’s in almost any business. “We teach all that to the reps,” he says. Then after conversations with thousands of merchants, reps have a solid foundation in the workings of businesses.

National Business Capital’s formal two-week classroom training usually lasts three hours a day, focusing on systems, guidelines, product, general business principles and the company’s processes, says Camberato. Teachers include the sales management team, company culture leaders and the managers of IT and Tech, Marketing, Processing, and Human Resources.

National Funding provides three eight-hour days of regimented classroom training on the fundamentals to each of the four groups of 12 to 17 hired each year, says Thompson. The classes cover processes, sales strategy, marketing and the lender matrix. Next comes three months of working with a sales manager dedicated to working with the class. After a total of nine to 12 months, management knows which reps will succeed.

Some shops operate on the opener-closer model, with less experienced salespeople qualifying the merchant by asking questions like how long they’re been in business and how much revenue they bring in monthly, Marmott says. If the merchant qualifies, the newer salesperson who’s working as an opener then hands off the call to an experienced closer to complete the deal. Good openers become closers, but opening isn’t easy because it requires lots of calls, he notes.

National Funding doesn’t use the opener-closer approach because the company believes reps should Participate “from cradle to grave,” Thompson says. “They hunt the business down, build the relationship and handle the transaction from A to Z.” East Coast shops often focus on cold calling and use the opener-closer model, while West Coast shops tend to invest more in marketing and reject the opener-closer method, he noted.

Prospective sales reps who have just finished college should have a grounding in communications or business, Weitz believes. Experience in sales and a familiarity with dealing with merchants helps prepare reps, he notes. Job history doesn’t have to be in the finance industry. Someone who’s sold business services in a Verizon store or worked for a payroll company, for instance, has been dealing with small-business owners and may succeed more quickly than those without that background.

“The key to sales is marketing,” says Marmott. “You can be the best sales guy but if you don’t have anything qualified to call or follow up with, it’s a waste of time.” Social media doesn’t work as well for business-to-business contact as it does for business-to-consumer marketing, he says. Pay per click and key words have become more expensive and isn’t as cost-effective as it once was, especially for smaller shops, he contends. Mailers can work but require heavy volume and repetition, he says, adding that could mean at least 25,000 pieces and at least three mailings.

Besides allocating marketing dollars, companies can invest in sales by paying new sales staffers a salary instead of forcing them to rely on commissions to eke out subsistence during the tough early days. National Business Capital pays a salary at first and later switches reps to commissions and draw, Camberato says. “An energetic person interested in sales can plug into our platform, get trained and do very well,” he continues. “We believe in you, as long as you believe in us.”

Brokers can invest in sales through syndication, which means putting up some of the funds involved in a deal. Forward Financing favors syndication in some cases because it aligns the salesperson and the funder, thus demonstrating the sales rep’s belief in the validity of the deal and ensuring a willingness to continue servicing that customer, Bakes says.

While it’s still uncertain what role social media plays in the industry’s reputation-building efforts, it appears that text messages elicit quick responses if the client has agreed to communicate with the company via that format, Bakes says. He notes that unwanted text messages won’t work. Email messages provide more information than text messages but seem less likely to prompt response, he says.

So, where does the effort to succeed at sales lead? It’s the foundation for building “the pipeline” – the name given to the flow of renewals, referrals and leads that makes every day not just busy, but busy in a productive and profitable way. As a rep’s pipeline takes shape, the cost of acquiring new business also goes down, Marmott says. “It just grows from there,” he says of the successful salesperson’s endeavors at building a pipeline of business. It’s what successful salespeople seek.