Frank Swiatek | The Cure for the Common Cold Call (Part 1)

In this edition we have a unique opportunity to hear from sales consultant Frank Swiatek about how he’s helping the local branches of a national organization to transform their sales process.

Following a rigorous method, he’s showing salespeople how data they collected reveals small improvements they can’t see on their own.

We get to walk along with him in looking at factors that go into the sales interactions, and see some of the results that stand out. For example, the blog post includes an illustration with some live data from the client’s sales funnel.

In the conversation, you’ll hear a way to identify where and, perhaps, why people are dropping out of your sales conversations.

We also cover…

  • When are listeners (prospects) most open to new information and willing to continue a phone conversation
  • The ‘compound effect’ of improvements to stages of a process
  • What one thing good and bad results have in common
  • And more …

Listen now…

We’ll hear the actual end results of this project in a future episode titled “Six Sigma Cures the Common Cold Call (Part 2)”. Coming soon! For now, you can download this PDF to get more information.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Episode Transcript:

Michael Webb: Hello, this is Michael Webb. Some people focus on data, and evidence, and applied statistics to make businesses improve. Other people focus on customer value, reaching decision makers, and selling based on value rather than price. In this podcast, we concentrate on both. The Sales Process Excellence Podcast brings these two different mindsets together to help create more wealth for everyone. I’m really excited today with my guest Frank Swiatek. Am I pronouncing that right Frank?

Frank Swiatek: Frank Swiatek.

Michael Webb: Swiatek. I am not familiar with that name. I’ve never met anyone else with that name, but I’m pleased to have you on the podcast here with me today.

Frank Swiatek: Great, I’m really happy to be with you and to talk with you.

Michael Webb: Now, I know you, but my audience does not. Could you please give us some background, what you’ve done in your career, and what has led you up to what you’re doing now?

Frank Swiatek: Okay, well thank you Michael. Again, nice to be here. I had a couple of experiences, and I call them my signature experiences, that have brought me to where I am today with Six Sigma. My first experience was with a steel company. I was actually in banking and I met a person by the name of Dr. Ken Lipke. He was a chiropractor who bought a steel company who was stuck. They were doing $9 million in sales, and he bought the steel company, and he took it to a $100 million in 10 years.

Michael Webb: Oh my.

Frank Swiatek: When he talked about how he did it … He was asked to go to sales and marketing executive speeches, and chambers of commerce speeches and so forth how he did this. What he would say was, “The fact that we went from $9 million to $100 million is the bad news, the good news of course is profits.” Then he would get a twinkle in his eye, and he would say, “Let me tell you the best news of all. We did it with the same people that were there for 15 years. And I say virtually the same people, because they’re not the same people anymore.” So what I saw, first of all, was the tremendous potential an organization has and people. Ken did certain things that were great. He had a big idea. He says, “We want to be a model supplier for Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.”

And everything they did, accomplished that big idea, whether it was having somebody buying a piece of machinery. Training and development; he developed an institute to train people. Other companies started to come to the institute because of our success. He brought in Dr. Earl Strong, head of executive development at Penn State University. The institute was interesting and different because we focused on mindset, skills, and behaviors. And that’s still my motto today when I work, particularly when I coach people. Mindset is your way of thinking, skills are your observable competencies, and then behavior’s what you do and what you don’t do.

Michael Webb: So this is a company that you worked for, I guess early in your career?

Frank Swiatek: Yes, yes.

Michael Webb: What did you do there?

Frank Swiatek: Well, I was involved in helping develop the institute. It was called The Gibraltar Institute and bringing in Dr. Earl Strong. Then that eventually got me on to be doing seminars, and workshops, and speeches, and so forth. Started right there. Then the other thing that was terrific about it was a very optimistic environment. When you walked into Gibraltar Steel, a big sign greeted you: “Welcome to the World of Opportunity.” That was great.

Michael Webb: Yeah.

Frank Swiatek: Opportunity to grow, opportunity to develop, the opportunity to serve our customers. That was the initial experience that I had about the importance of a big idea, the importance of training, the importance of mindset, skills, and behaviors. Then my next experience actually was with Verizon Wireless. I was an outside performance consultant for 15 years with them. While I say outside, I was really embedded. I was in the inside. I attended sales meetings, sales rallies, operational meetings, strategic meetings, problem solving meetings for about 15 years. There was a time when Verizon went from $91 million in sales to $62 billion in sales. It’s staggering and the staggering part about … I tell people, “Whatever your revenue was last year, multiple it 325 times and you’ll see how big a number that was.”

Michael Webb: Wow.

Frank Swiatek: So based on that experience, the then president, Denny Strigl, and I wrote a book called “Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?: Hard-Hitting Lessons on How to Get Real Results.” It was published by McGraw-Hill and it’s in 65 countries, and eight countries have purchased publishing rights to the book. Now that one, we focused … Lessons from that one was, managers are accountable for results. The accountability factor in organizations, the trust factor in organizations, we find that any initiative, even Six Sigma, if there’s a lack of trust, the research shows that the lack of trust is going to cause the imitative to fail.

Michael Webb: Oh yeah, oh yeah that’s a huge thing in organizations. Well, those are two really different experiences, but from the magnitude of them both, I can see why they would’ve been formative. Now, what do you do now?

Frank Swiatek: Okay, so now I’m spending a lot of time in the area of Six Sigma, particularly I’m working with a client in call centers. I have had experience in call centers working with various companies, but the experience actually came with a pilot project that I did for the American Bar Association on a TQM project, total quality management project. They wanted to see whether, or not TQM applied to law firms, and a local law firm in Buffalo asked me if I would be their facilitator. So we ran TQM programs, the tools of TQM, the meeting skills of TQM, the communication skills of TQM, and so forth. Then we had to go down to Atlanta for these law firms around the country to report the progress on TQM. And our facilitator in Atlanta was Dr. Myron Tribus who was Executive Director of Advanced Engineering Studies at MIT. He said a phrase that really led me to all of this, and his phrase was this: “Results occur, good or bad because a process is in place producing them.”

Michael Webb: Correct, yeah.

Frank Swiatek: That led me to … TQM was kind of the forerunner of Six Sigma.

Michael Webb: Right, right. So let me stop you there for a moment because I have a little bit of familiarity with Myron Tribus. He was one of the early lights in the whole operational excellence, quality in management movement. And I actually talked to him on the phone one time back in the early 2000s. I think he passed away a few years ago.

Frank Swiatek: Yes, yes.

Michael Webb: In 2003, or ’04, or something. But I talked with him on the phone, and I had, at that time, started organizing conferences on Six Sigma in sales and marketing. I wasn’t organizing them myself, but I was one of the key individuals getting those off the ground back in 2005/2004 time frame. I told him that I was pursuing this as sales and marketing and asking him what he thought about applying these logical, rational, scientific kinds of approaches in management into sales and marketing. And his response I was sort of surprised by because he just was frustrated with it. All those guys in sales and marketing, they’re all just living [like data doesn’t matter] … It’s just all hearsay, and they’re resistant to all this, and it’s just corrupt, and it’s just … You just can’t do anything with them. He was down on sales and marketing managers.

Frank Swiatek: But he was right.

Michael Webb: He was, he was definitely right about it, but anyway, it was an interesting little … Just one conversation I had, but I did get him on the phone, and for the audience, he has written a couple of articles that are absolutely worth reading. I know one I continually refer to is … Now it’s running out of my head.

Frank Swiatek: Z Theory? Germ theory.

Michael Webb: “Germ Theory or Management.” Explain what that is.

Frank Swiatek: Well I’m not familiar, but I know the title.

Michael Webb: Okay, so I’ll explain what it is. So he’s comparing the state of the medical sciences in the early 1800s with the state of the medical sciences in the early 1900s. So they went through this enormous shift with the discovery by Louis Pasteur and others of germs, which you couldn’t even see. This led to the need for sterilization and sanitary practices. Completely changed the way doctors needed to practice medicine. So if you were in the medical profession in around 1860 or shortly after the civil war when this was really coming to the fore, you had patients your whole career where they just expected you, and you expected, to be wearing the same old dirty raincoat in surgery, full of blood. It never got washed, and your hands were dirty, and they went from one patient to the next patient, to the next patient and that’s how they did it. If all of a sudden you started saying, “No, I’m not going to do that anymore,” it’s like confessing that you were infecting your patients in the past. And those doctors didn’t want to do that.

So it was this huge mindset shift that was not welcomed by the medical profession. Just as in management at the time of Deming, and Myron, and others, when we were realizing in North America that there was a much more effective and scientific way to manage things. The old line of executives and managers, they didn’t want to change the way that they thought. It was embarrassing to have to admit that they were going on hearsay.

Frank Swiatek: Yeah, interesting point.

Michael Webb: Yeah, so he was, at the same time very sensitive and respectful of the way the people thought in the old mindset. He still was able to convey the value of this more scientific, more insightful way of using data and evidence and leading people in businesses. So he’s very, very major contributions to the whole theory. So that was your introduction to process improvement ideas, Six Sigma, and TQM, but you were also, you were involved in sales and marketing at the same time. So that’s an unusual factor.

Frank Swiatek: Oh yeah, yeah. I was, there’s no question about it. Yup, absolutely. I was doing learning dynamics in Boston. Had hired me to do programs around the country on strategic selling. Canada, it was the Waterloo Management Education Center, I did a lot of programs for them and the anatomy of a successful salesperson. So yeah, I was doing a lot of training, a lot of … I’ve done almost 3,600 presentations, and I’ve worked for over 25 Fortune 500 companies.

Michael Webb: For heaven’s sakes. Well, don’t say too much more about that or people will start thinking you’re an old guy like me.

Frank Swiatek: Oh well, yeah. Yeah, no, no, no. Absolutely not, but you were talking about what people didn’t know about germs. One of the phrases that I use is … Do remember a pitcher by the name of Satchel Paige?

Michael Webb: Yes.

Frank Swiatek: So he played in the … He was very flamboyant. He played in the old Negro League, and some innings he would have the outfielders sit in the dugout while he pitched. Sometimes he would have the infielders sit on the grass behind him while he pitched, but he came to the Cleveland Indians and he became a philosopher king of sorts, and one of the phrases I use from him, which talks about things that you don’t know. He once said, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know that just ain’t so that gets you into trouble.” And I use that a lot because particularly when I was doing this particular job working on these sales scripts, people were telling, “This is a good sales script. This is a good sales script, we use it all the time.” Then you get the results back and it’s not a good sales script.

Michael Webb: Right, then this brings us to the thing that caught my eye for my audience. Frank approached me and said, “I have been doing a Six Sigma project in sales.” And he described how the project went, and it was in a very traditional arena in the sales industry, the sales function, where people are doing a lot of cold calling. So I’d like you to describe this project. If you can, name the company that you did the project for. How did it get started? How did they perceive the problem they were having? What was the basis for this?

Frank Swiatek: Okay, well the basis was, we were looking at the sales script and it was a Better Business Bureau up in Buffalo. It’s called the Upstate New York Better Business Bureau.

Michael Webb: Now are those franchised organizations or how are those kinds of-

Frank Swiatek: No, they’re part of a network. They’re part of an overall organization and they’re governed by a council.

Michael Webb: It’s like an association or something?

Frank Swiatek: Yeah, yeah.

Michael Webb: Okay.

Frank Swiatek: And they’re very valuable. It’s really interesting. As an example, in upstate New York … This is an amazing figure. They get a call or they get a contact every 13 seconds about a business.

Michael Webb: Really?

Frank Swiatek: Can you imagine?

Michael Webb: Wow.

Frank Swiatek: And upstate New York amounts to about 2.5 million calls a year. So companies are losing money and they don’t know they’re losing money because they’re not an accredited member of The Better Business Bureau. So a person looks at them, “I want to hire a plumber.” They go to plumber, he’s not accredited and they go right down to the next person. So people are losing business and don’t even realize it. At any rate, the way we got started, we were talking about scripting and … Are you familiar with neuromarketing at all? Have you had any experience with neuromarketing?

Michael Webb: There’s another name for it, but if I understand it correctly, they are using some science that explains how the mind works so that if someone looks to the upper right, they’re thinking logically. If they look to the upper left, they’re thinking more emotionally or something like that. Neuro something, I can’t remember. Neurocybernetics or something like that.

Frank Swiatek: Okay, well that might be a different use of it, but neuromarketing actually came from focus groups, and they found that focus groups were not very reliable in providing information. That people don’t often tell the truth, or somebody takes over a focus group, and so forth. So neuromarketing was an attempt to get more accurate information, so it actually merges the field of EEG’s. What you do is you put the probes on people’s head, and you ask them questions, and you’ll see brain spikes, which are indications of attention and interest.

Michael Webb: Okay.

Frank Swiatek: So it’s not what they say, it’s how the brain spikes. Well, we did this neuromarketing study for the BBB, and we found … We brought a bunch of business people in, we took them to the DENT Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, and we had the practitioners, the scientists actually put the probes on their head, and we read parts of the script. And determined that part of the script that got the most attention were questions that forced the other person to think. That’s where they had the most brain spikes, and that they were most open to new information after the brain spiked.

Michael Webb: I found a definition of it. “Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing. It includes the direct use of brain imaging scanning or other brain activity measurement technology to measure a subject’s response to specific products, packaging, advertising, or other marketing elements.” So I ask them about the questions that caused them to think. Well, then that would make sense that, that would cause more mental activity that you could detect.

Frank Swiatek: Yes, yes. So now we started looking at the script and saying, “Okay, are we … Is it a tell, sell script or is it an ask, listen script?” So we found that when we were telling in the studies and when people were hooked up to the EEG machine, they flatline, their brain flatlined. There was no real peaks, nothing. So the more we talked about ourselves, the less interested they were.

Michael Webb: Right.

Frank Swiatek: Anyway, so then that was really the first step. Then, kind of introduced them to the notion that we can change the script. That led to a Six Sigma study with the local branch, then we eventually went and we’ve got 10 people in the study. What we did was we took the sales script and we broke the sales script down in two sections. So as an example, “How many calls did you make? What percentage did you reach?”

Michael Webb: You mean talk to’s?

Frank Swiatek: Pardon?

Michael Webb: You mean talk to’s? Salesperson dials the phone, and then customer answers and he’s talking to him. That’s a reach.

Frank Swiatek: That’s a reach.

Michael Webb: Okay.

Frank Swiatek: Okay now we do an opening statement. What percentage of people cut us off in the opening statement?

Michael Webb: Getting brutal here.

Frank Swiatek: Because that tells us how many sales opportunities we have left.

Michael Webb: Is everybody that they call automatically someone that they could sell to?

Frank Swiatek: Oh yeah, yeah. They’re calling small businesses, small businesses essentially.

Michael Webb: Okay, so while the Better Business Bureau you were saying before has 2.5 million people calling into it in a year looking for … Is that what you said? They’re looking for whether somebody’s a member of the Better Business Bureau.

Frank Swiatek: That’s right, that’s right.

Michael Webb: But these are outbound calls where the Better Business Bureau agency’s trying to get people to sign up?

Frank Swiatek: Sign up, right, right.

Michael Webb: Okay, go ahead.

Frank Swiatek: So then we look at what percentage of people cut off in the opening statement. Then the next part of the script, and we outlined it for them. And they all have different scripts, so we had to customize it for each location. Was it collecting information? What percentage of people cut you off during your collecting information? Then you stated benefits and value. What percentage of people cut you off when you were stating benefits and value, because after each cut-off, you have remaining sales opportunities.

Michael Webb: Right, okay.

Frank Swiatek: Then you state the accreditation fee and how many people cut you off for the accreditation fee. Then you ask the commitment questions and statements. You make commitment statements and there’s a cut off there. Then there’s an application process cut off. Then finally is your closing ratio. How many people did you close? So like any funnel, it’s a sales funnel. You lose people all along the funnel. So our goal was to first of all determine the ‘as is’ state, which we have just completed for all of the call centers. “Okay, here’s your ‘as is’ state for your sales team. Here’s your ‘as is’ state for each individual rep.” Then we took all the sales teams, and we developed a funnel for all the sales team as a point of comparison.

Michael Webb: So how was the data collected? Were sales people putting hashtags on a piece of paper? How was the data collected?

Frank Swiatek: It was very, very simple. It was just a hashtag, a little hashtag, takes a second to do. This doesn’t require a big software program.

Michael Webb: Okay.

Frank Swiatek: Four hashtags and then they cross it, that’s five. Then on a daily basis, they would send this to us for a two week period. Then we would take the data and we would aggregate the data for them and put it into a funnel. Now we’re in a process actually next week we’re bringing everybody together on a conference call to talk about each of their … Where they are in a funnel and where are the opportunities in a funnel?

Michael Webb: Okay.

Frank Swiatek: So if you have … As an example, let me just take a look at one here. If you have a high opening statement cutoff … Let’s assume you’re a salesperson and 47% of people are cutting you off at the opening. I got one here. 58% opening statement cutoff. And the average maybe is 33%, well that’s an opportunity to improve right there. So what are they doing in the opening statement that is causing these cutoffs? Are they not communicating value? Are they not communicating benefits? We tell them, “You got about 16 seconds in the opening statement. What are you doing during those 16 seconds? Are you just talking about the BBB? If you’re just talking about the BBB, you’re going to have a problem.”

Michael Webb: So these guys, they’re not following a particular script, or you don’t know what script and what they’re saying when they make their calls?

Frank Swiatek: We know what they’re saying. They have a script, so we broke the script down. The script is about seven or eight pages. We broke the script down into sections. This is the opening statement.

Michael Webb: Okay, so are they all using the same opening statement or not?

Frank Swiatek: They’re not, they’re not, no.

Michael Webb: Okay, so there’s different scripts, but you know what they’re saying?

Frank Swiatek: Yes, yes.

Michael Webb: So what conclusions can you draw from the data? Where was the primary bottleneck with them?

Frank Swiatek: In the opening statement, it was talking about who we are, what we do, as opposed to communicating value and creating initial rapport. So now we will test that. We will take an opening statement and we will test a new statement. And that’s the purpose of the call next week.

Michael Webb: I see, okay. All right, so you have, you said it was 12 of them?

Frank Swiatek: 10 altogether.

Michael Webb: 10 salespeople?

Frank Swiatek: No, 10 locations with multiple salespeople.

Michael Webb: Multiple salespeople at each location, and they were using different opening statements. And does the data tell you, which of those opening statements are better than others?

Frank Swiatek: Yes, yes it does.

Michael Webb: Okay, so you can share that information with them and hopefully then persuade some of those salespeople with the poorer results, weaker results, to try a different opening script?

Frank Swiatek: Yes, yes, that’s exactly it. That’s exactly it.

Michael Webb: So if you look at how many different stages you said, there was like nine or something stages?

Frank Swiatek: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight stages. Well calls made is a stage, but … And that’s part of the problem too. They aren’t making enough calls to take advantage of the closes. We find that they have a good closing ratio, but it’s a closing ratio on a very small percentage that reach the bottom of the funnel.

Michael Webb: Right.

Frank Swiatek: Does that make sense?

Michael Webb: Yeah. Ones that get all the way through. All right, so-

Frank Swiatek: There’s a point I’d like to … Can I make a point here?

Michael Webb: Yes, please.

Frank Swiatek: I want to make is that the two experiences I shared with you early on in this podcast with Gibraltar and Verizon Wireless. Both of those were exponential sales experiences. So what led me to Six Sigma is that I think the Six Sigma approach has potential for exponential sales growth because of the compound effect of improving stages in the sales process.

Michael Webb: Right.

Frank Swiatek: We used to do it simply before I got involved in Six Sigma. Take a look at how many prospects you have on a monthly basis. How many are you converting and what’s the average sale? Okay? If you know those numbers, and you improve each one by 10%, you have a 33 1/3% increase in sales because of the compound effect.

Michael Webb: Right.

Frank Swiatek: So that’s the other thing that we’re trying to share here is that we can improve two, or three, or four of these areas. You’ll have a compound effect on your sales.

Michael Webb: All right, so the data should have told you whether the bottleneck was in the same place for all the different branches and all the different salespeople? Was it?

Frank Swiatek: No, no, it was different. It was different. There was a range for each section.

Michael Webb: Okay.

Frank Swiatek: Okay?

Michael Webb: At some point it would really be cool to look at this data, but it sounds like you’re not finished with the project, so maybe we won’t have the opportunity to look at that data until the project is finished. Were there any other bottlenecks besides this opening statement? What was the next most common bottleneck or place where there was a falloff in the yield?

Frank Swiatek: First of all, let me just suggest that when you’re doing the opening statement, and you look at the opening statement, we also, all the calls are monitored, so we can go and listen to the calls for a period of time. So it’s a combination of the script, but it’s also a combination of the sales person themselves. How are they presenting the information in each of these areas? So that and particularly in sales call centers, there’s three factors. One is the script that creates success. Script is one. The second is the list that you’re using, and the third is the mindset, skills, and behaviors of the salesperson. So we may find, as an example, that the person is speaking in a very low, easy-going manner when they’re talking to a fast-paced person. That has nothing to do with the script, it has a lot to do with the salesperson not recognizing that they’re dealing with someone who’s different than they are.

Michael Webb: Right.

Frank Swiatek: Those factors come into play too, it isn’t just the script, but the script is a big piece of it. We have one person here who has actually pretty good all the way down the line. This person has only a 29% opening statement cut off. 33% collecting information cut off. Only a 3% benefits, value cut off. Only a 6% fee cutoff. 18% commitment cutoff. No cut off for application process. And has a 52% closing ratio. So this is a skilled person. Now she’s making … The other thing that comes out, you’re making a lot less calls, but you’re having better results.

Michael Webb: Right. Yeah, so life is a lot better for you.

Frank Swiatek: Yeah, well that’s it. That’s exactly it. We say, “Sales is a numbers game.” Well, that’s not necessarily true.

Michael Webb: Right, it’s a quality game.

Frank Swiatek: Yes it is.

Michael Webb: And issue always, when you are a salesperson, you’re one of the fish in the fish tank. You just have to do what you know how to do and work as hard as you can. And so often, sales managers are myopically set up to assume that sales results come from the salesperson working hard or, “Make more calls. Use magic words. Sell smarter.” But it’s an individual contributor sport. What strikes me here is what you’re learning with data that shows what kinds of communications, and manner of communications, and who to communicate to. I’m assuming you’re tracking the lists also. You’re looking at what customers respond to better, and with that knowledge, you might be able to change the structure of what salespeople do and when they get introduced to a customer. Isn’t there some … You had mentioned you’re using Six Sigma thinking, but Six Sigma thinking is systems thinking, which means you have to define the system that these people live in. Tell me about that.

Frank Swiatek: Well yes, and you do have to define a system that they work in, and part of the system that … We’ve identified part of the system, which is the script itself. We find the list, we find the salesperson, but there’s also something else called a manager. Is the manager high expectation manager? Do they communicate with Six Sigma terms is an example. Do they use Six Sigma terms like … I had a list of them here. In fact, I’m building a list of Six … So sales opportunities, defects, measuring themselves. And I love the notion that with these sheets that we use for tracking, that salespeople themselves can tell how they’re doing once you set what your standards are for each of these sections, they can see for themselves how they’re doing.

That’s what I like about management by objectives is, is nobody has to tell you how you’re doing. It’s like golfing, or it’s like bowling. Your feedback is the results that you’re getting from your activities. So I love that. I think makes coaching a lot easier for the manager because they can pinpoint a specific area, and then rather than give them a generality, they can be very specific. For instance, in this opening statement cutoff, just briefly state your name, state the organization, and how you help organizations. We help organizations to increase their visibility, increase their presence, increase their credibility with the marketplace, get right into some value for them. As opposed to just, you got to improve objection handling, or you got to improve your opening statement cutoff you know? So it forces the salesperson to be specific, and I think that’s very, very important in coaching.

Michael Webb: Yeah, this is … Okay.

Frank Swiatek: Do this.

Michael Webb: Yeah, so it’s very specific, not instruction, but very … You can communicate with great specificity how to do the job in the best possible manner?

Frank Swiatek: There you go.

Michael Webb: Is that fair?

Frank Swiatek: There you go.

Michael Webb: So that would mean then that the variation of results that the salespeople experience would be reduced?

Frank Swiatek: That’s what you’re trying to accomplish, which does a lot of things for you. Makes more people successful, but also when you hire people, it makes their ramp up faster.

Michael Webb: Yes, because you can give that concrete instruction on how to do the work, less interpretation.

Frank Swiatek: Yeah, and I think every person deserves the answer to the question, “What do I have to do to be successful here?”

Michael Webb: Yes. Do you have a target yield improvement? What’s the yield in the baseline, overall throughput yield and what you think you can improve it by?

Frank Swiatek: We’re not there yet. Next Tuesday’s conference call will get to that point. So this will be a process. It’s not a destination, it’s going to be a process, and it’s getting them to, and I’m dealing with the presidents and CEO’s of all the 10 locations. And I mentioned to you, and I’ll tell you why that’s important. I mentioned to you the American Bar Association and whether TQM can work in a law environment. Well, one of the things we found that was critically important for TQM was top management commitment. The top managers in a law firm are the partners, and the partners can do any damn thing they want to do, and not do anything they want to do.

Michael Webb: Right.

Frank Swiatek: So that was lacking, and that was brought out during the pilot project. So we’re trying to build the commitment, not the buy-in. Buy-in I think is soft. We’re trying to build a commitment of the top management that this is a philosophy that can yield real positive results for them. They had their skepticism when you first start, and it’s the old line, “It sounds Greek to me,” and those kinds of things, but they’re used to the old results, not the results, but the old activities that don’t work and that viewpoint is out.

Michael Webb: Okay, cool.

Frank Swiatek: I got to tell you. I remember early in my career, the answer to things was to bring in a motivational speaker, the answer to sales problems.

Michael Webb: Yes. “Let’s motivate these people. Work harder.”

Frank Swiatek: Yeah, yeah. There was one company from Canada that I got … Such a motivational company. I got such a kick from. It was Climb the Highest Mountain Limited.

Michael Webb: Oh my goodness.

Frank Swiatek: Climb the highest mountain, because they didn’t use corporation, they use Limited up there, so Climb the Highest Mountain Limited.

Michael Webb: Oh man, what an oxymoron moron.

Frank Swiatek: Yeah I know, without even realizing it. But anyway, those were the old ways, and I think that this is using Six Sigma, using sales process, gaining the commitment of top management as we’re trying to do, and they were all involved in this, giving them … Go ahead.

Michael Webb: A couple questions here. I’m sorry to interrupt. This has the earmarks of a really interesting study that you’re in the middle of.

Frank Swiatek: Yes.

Michael Webb: It’d be great if you were done, and we had some of the data, and we could share the data and so forth.

Frank Swiatek: That’s a second podcast.

Michael Webb: Yeah, okay fair enough, but this is a one call close type of a sale.

Frank Swiatek: Oh yes.

Michael Webb: So I’m imagining that these businesses, these business bureaus, would also have a web page that someone could go to, to sign up that has a sales letter on it where some of the same information would be there. Is that anything that you could also study with them?

Frank Swiatek: Well yes. They ask for information, and then typically what will happen, there’ll be some sales copy, and then they will get a call from one of the sales reps. Because there’s a lot that goes on during the sales interview, and it’s tough to put it really … Sales interview probably takes about 10 minutes and there are some aspects of it to let people know that not everybody is accepted, that there are some minimum requirements involved, that they agree, and then we record it. They agree to abide by the trust values of the Better Business Bureau, and they have to visibly agree. So they’ll say they’re interested, that’ll go to a sales manager, sales manager will distribute it to a sales rep for an immediate call.

Michael Webb: I see, okay so there is some of that going on. So that kind of a call is not a cold call for that salesperson, it’s a warm call, and you have a whole different set of measurements and results for that sort of thing I would imagine.

Frank Swiatek: Yes, yes, yes. Then some of the bureaus do some different things. They have a two call thing, or a two call process where the first call warms the person up and then they hand it off to another person to finish the call, and to close, and so forth. So we’re going to get into those dynamics as well.

Michael Webb: Well my hat is off to you.

Frank Swiatek: Pardon?

Michael Webb: Yeah, my hat is off to you for being involved in something in such a … I don’t mean this is a derogatory way, but a rudimentary, a single call close type of a sale is simple sale. You’re talking to one salesperson right? And it’s not simple at all, but for you to be involved in something where you’re actually getting data, and the data is actually proving some points, and going in a direction that will increase results if you can get the people to try these different approaches. This is huge in a sales operation where it’s always thought to be dependent upon the salesperson’s personality and there’s nothing that you can measure. You’re flying in the face of that. There absolutely is stuff that you can measure, and even more than that, it’s stuff that salespeople benefit from.

Frank Swiatek: Well that’s exactly it. It’s feedback that the salesperson that if you want to improve, this is how you improve. And it’s feedback to the sales manager that you don’t have to use many of those things you’ve used over the years like motivational speakers and sales contests. You can use some of those if you like, but don’t depend on it. Don’t depend on it, depend on Six Sigma to bring you the results.

Michael Webb: Cool, well I really look forward to hearing the outcomes and some specific changes and improvements that were made, and what some of the presidents of these Better Business Bureaus have to say from the study that you’re in. So definitely we should get back together on the podcast when you have some of these results. And I’d love to share some of the charts, even just a simple flow chart of the stages that we talked about today, and maybe some of the initial data if you’re able to do that. So we’ll include that in this podcast, whatever it is that you are able to share, because I understand it could be confidential. This is a progressing engagement that you’re in the middle of, and we don’t want to violate any confidence.

Frank Swiatek: Right.

Michael Webb: But yeah, any other comments or observations maybe? If someone is interested in learning more about you and what you do, how could they get a hold of you? And any other comments you might have?

Frank Swiatek: So I would suggest they go to the website, my website, which is www.f, as in Frank, Swiatek, ( And I’m there. I have an offer. There’s an e-book that I’ve written for the Canisius College Center for Professional Development called “How to Get Results and Build Respect All at the Same Time.” They can download that, and that’s sometimes an obstacle you get is when you’re getting data from people and all, and to be a results-oriented manager, you have to be tough talking, and you have to be hard-nosed, and nothing could be further from the truth. You can do all of this and build respect with people at the same time, and the book shows you how to do it.

Michael Webb: Very interesting, very interesting. Well, I look forward to hearing how this turns out. Thanks for reaching out, and if any of you in the audience are likewise doing improvements using data, and evidence, and systems thinking in your organization, please let me know because that is right in the sweet spot of what we talk about and what we’re interested in, in the Sales Process Excellence Podcast. So Frank, thank you very much, and we will speak again.

Frank Swiatek: Thank you, Michael, it’s been a pleasure being with you and discussing these concepts. Have a good sales day.

Michael Webb: Same to you. Thank you, bye, bye.

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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