They say that the best teachers are the ones who have personally experienced what they are teaching. Robert Weese, Sales Coach, Spark Centre Advisor and Managing Partner of B2B Sales Connections, is a prime example.
With a career that spans broadcasting, sales, presenting and authorship, Weese has more than 35 years of lived experience (and success!) in sales and utilizes this expertise to help startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs achieve their revenue goals.
We sat down with Robert to learn more about his varied career and how it led him to become an award-winning, highly sought-after sales coach, entrepreneur and mentor.
You were once a professional broadcaster. What made you switch to sales?
As one of the on-air talent who drove crappy cars, lived in what some could consider ‘dumps’ and scraped to get by, I wasn’t blind to the fact that the station’s sales reps were driving expensive cars, living in nice houses and had what I saw as an enviable life. I thought that if they could do it, I’d like to as well. I convinced a station manager to let me try my hand at sales by selling part-time while I was still working on-air. The rest is history.
How do you feel your broadcasting and speaker experience has helped you in the field of sales?
My broadcasting and speaker experience has been paramount to my success in sales. In broadcasting, you learn how to interview guests to get to the root of the issue and to focus on your audience. The same skill is necessary for sales. The best salespeople know how to ask great questions, understand their buyers and don’t tell their customers what to do but instead help them find solutions to their problems with education and insights.
Your station manager let you start selling part-time, and that opened the door to a successful career that spans more than 35 years. What made you decide to branch off on your own to co-found B2B Sales Connections?
During the recession in 2008, the company I was working for was looking to downsize and offered me a severance package. Susan Enns, my business partner and I had an idea to help small companies that were having trouble generating sales revenue caused by a “lack of sales.” The plan was to act as part-time, outsourced directors of sales and help them find, manage, train and build a sales team and process. It worked, and we now have a track record of helping startups and SMBs (small-to-medium businesses) grow their revenue.
Clearly, you’re an entrepreneur at heart, having co-founded B2B Sales Connections and the Ajax Fencing Club. Are there any differences between selling for a business/corporation and selling for your own business?
The biggest difference between selling for a business and selling for your own business is that for your own business, you are on your own, and the safety net is gone. If you have a bad sales month, it impacts your company and your family. You had better be persistent, resilient and self-motivated because you can’t afford to sit back and wait for things to come to you.
If you could go back to your early days of entrepreneurship, knowing what you know now, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
I could write an essay on this! If I had to mention just one, I would say that most founders of technology startup companies want to perfect the product before they take it to market. Often they will even go back and upgrade it and add more features before they show it to potential customers. My advice is to “build ugly.” Create an idea or rough concept of the product and then go to your ideal customers and try to sell it. It’s those ideal customers who will help you validate the idea and let you know if they would be willing to spend money on what you are building. You will save a lot of time and money in the long run.
“The most rewarding part of being a Spark Centre Advisor is when a client tells me they have taken one of my suggestions or ideas to heart and it turned into success for them.”
What is one thing that you feel is most important to know about selling as an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs will grossly underestimate the amount of money, time and resources needed to find customers and will overestimate how willing people will be to buy their products or services from a new and unknown company.
You’ve been named Sales Manager of the Year by a North American tech company, received the 2014 Ajax Pickering Board of Trade Emerging Entrepreneur Award, have been part of a 100% Sales Club at a Fortune 500 and have achieved exponential sales growth in a national channel sales organization…what is one sales professional trait that you feel has been a constant throughout your success?
Simply put, work harder than your competitors.
You have a philosophy: Success by making others successful first. Can you explain what you mean by this?
Most salespeople who meet a prospect immediately jump into “selling” their solution. They say, “what you are doing is wrong, and I can fix that for you.”
Telling someone what they are presently doing is wrong is not a great way to start a relationship (business or personal) Instead, you need to help them uncover the depth and implications of how that problem impacts them and then help them uncover and implement the solutions that they want. This makes them successful, and they will rely on you for trusted advice which in turn grows your business.
You are a Sales Advisor at Spark Centre? How did you first meet this innovation centre, and what made you want to be an Advisor to their clients?
Spark Centre invited me to teach a workshop at their Spark Ignite pitch contest in 2015. The goal of my involvement was to help startup founders present their ideas clearly and confidently on a stage in front of an audience. Three of the winners pitched on the Dragon’s Den later that year.
Giving back and sharing with the business community is important to me. I have seen a lot of technical founders who have great ideas and amazing technology but they can’t articulate their vision to customers and investors. I knew I could help them be heard and understood.
Is there an example of a startup that you’ve helped as a Spark Centre Advisor that you’re quite proud of?
I’m extremely proud of iApotheca. I met iApotheca’s Co-Founder Spencer Turbit when he was a university student with an idea and an amazing drive. I have worked closely with him and his team, and they have built a strong, successful business providing their courier network to more than 1000 pharmacies across Canada and empowering small businesses to offer same-day delivery to compete with larger eCommerce platforms. With that number growing, they’re now exploring opportunities to expand into additional markets.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a Spark Centre Advisor?
When a client tells me they have taken one of my suggestions or ideas to heart and it turned into success for them.