Today’s post is by Jim Hooker, president and CEO of Televerde.
“Have you ever been to prison?”
That’s the question Selling Power magazine founder Gerhard Gschwandtner asked me onstage at the Sales 3.0 Conference in San Francisco on March 13. In preparation for the session, I had prepared a talk track to cover 30 minutes, including our business model. But, in true Gerhard style, he took the conversation straight to our business model. Not that I mind. I never shy away from a discussion of the great things we do – it’s just not usually the first thing I discuss.
Challenging Employees to Push Boundaries
For those of you who missed the session, it’s no secret that Televerde works closely with correctional facilities in Arizona and Indiana to arm a portion of our contact centers with the most highly-trained, knowledgeable, dedicated, and ambitious teleservices agents in the industry. Our employees have a passion that is unmatched and supersedes common perceptions of what an inmate is.
They come to work and instantly transition from an environment of not questioning anything to an environment where they’re encouraged to push boundaries and think outside the box. And they do it seamlessly because they’ve equipped themselves with a success mentality. They want to create a new future – for themselves, for their clients, and for the company.
I joined Televerde in 1995 when the company only had a part-time supervisor and five callers set in a trailer in the middle of the Phoenix desert. To say it was a small operation is an understatement, but I could see the vision of success.
Sculpting a Team of Successful Underdogs
I knew that, by applying the same kind of immersive sales training I had at IBM – teaching this group of motivated women how to have high-level business conversations, how to understand the ebb and flow of the conversation, and how to provide a consultative approach – I could create a team of underdogs that would succeed. What most would see as a risk or liability, I saw as an asset for the clients, for the women, for the community, and, yes, for the company. People don’t buy from us because of our business model. They buy from us because we are the best at what we do. And we’re the best at what we do because of our business model.
The women who work with us come from various walks of life with varied backgrounds. I was, and am, attracted to our business model because – if the workers follow the training and learn or hone a skill they didn’t have before – they can change the trajectory of their life. They’ll be successful upon leaving prison, able to reconnect with their families, and achieve personal success. What Televerde does can seem difficult and impossible to the outsider looking in. Don’t get me wrong – there are different challenges associated with our model. But, at a basic level, how is it much different from managing a typical sales team? As a leader, what are the challenges you face with your team mentality? With your sales processes? With optimizing your teams’ success? What would your team members achieve if their focus was aimed higher than where they mentally pegged themselves?
To get the big wins, your team has to develop a different mindset – from transactional vendor to strategic partner. I talked about my belief of “no jerks allowed” in How to Build Trust in the Age of Technology, but it’s worth repeating. When the focus is on providing value and building relationships, the salesperson becomes an asset to the prospect/client. Those lasting relationships are priceless compared to quick wins – both for the company and for the individual.