Randolph Sterling Introduces the SAM Peer Advisory Concept to the Raleigh/Durham Market

Thursday, August, 13, 2009 marked Randolph Sterling’s launch of the SAM (Sales and Marketing) Peer Advisory concept in the Raleigh/Durham market with a seminar to introduce it, sponsored by Business Clubs of America.

We have been running SAM groups in the Chicagoland area for 3 years, but with the launch of our new office in Cary, NC, we felt it was a great time to introduce our SAM concept to the area. Peer Advisory Groups are not new to The Triangle nor to most places, however most peer advice has been limited to CEO’s and key executives in groups like Vistage, and do not really cater to sales and marketing professionals.

I have been a member of Vistage for five years and have seen how working with my peers to uncover business problems has helped my company grow, and therefore have become a strong supporter of peer learning. As a salesperson, I noticed that most account executives really do not have a strong internal support system, not because they or management are doing something wrong, but because they have an intense pressure to perform and do not want management to know if they are having problems. We figured that we could change this with a peer advisory group strictly for sales and marketing professionals. We have been successful in our Chicago office doing this for three years, so we thought, “Why not get this program started in North Carolina?”

Our seminar began with an introduction to Randolph Sterling and why we decided to start our SAM Groups. Next we asked our participants one simple question: What is the largest obstacle for growth that you see in the next 6-12 months?

The responses varied as we went around the room, giving each attendee a chance to introduce themselves, their business, and their answer to the question. Many of the responses were along these lines:

  • How do I get my prospect to “pull the trigger” on this project? I know I am saving them money and time.
  • With a limited budget anticipated in 2009/2010, how do I decide how much to spend on sales, marketing, social media etc? I can afford to do these things, but I can’t afford for them not to work.
  • How do I get people to understand that I am a necessity when I am often viewed as a luxury?
  • One part of my business is going strong, but another part is just not converting into sales. What should I do?

Others simply said their biggest obstacle was themselves.

We then asked for a volunteer to present their issue.

One of the great values of a SAM Group membership is the fact that everything said in meetings is confidential. I can’t get into too many specifics about the issue we discussed, but I can tell you about the process. 

First, the volunteer takes about 5 minutes to explain their problem—they always think they need about 30 seconds, but come on, these are sales people, the only thing they can do in 30 seconds is cash a commission check.  Part of the explanation process is for the presenter to discuss the issue in detail, its overall importance, what they have done so far with regard to this issue, and most importantly what they are looking for from the group. Some look for guidance, some are completely lost, still others are just looking for assurance that they are on the right track.

Next, the rest of the group asks questions of the presenter to further clarify the issue. Most times the “simple” issue is not the issue at all and through this process we uncover the real thing that the person needs help with. This is also the hardest part of the meeting as salespeople are always ready with “solutions” and attempt to skip right over the clarification process. This can sometimes lead to a great solution to what is not the real problem.

Finally, once the group has a better understanding of the issue, they will offer suggestions. The presenter’s job at this point is to simply listen to the solutions being presented. Some of these solutions are presented by people who have been in the same position while others give advice based less on experience and more on theory. Both are welcome as it is the presenter’s responsibility to sift through the suggestions and decide what to do next.

“I really enjoyed seeing the process,” stated Creative Gifting’s Debra Simonette. “It was nice to see that people who always seem to have the answers have issues to figure out as well. I liked being able to be a resource to them.”

Robert Morris of Axia stated, “I think it is a great concept. I don’t have a local sales manager so it is nice to be able to talk to people in my market who are talking to the same people I am selling to and get advice from them.”

“I definitely see SAM Groups as a great addition to the business landscape of the Triangle,” stated Business Clubs of America’s Cathy Sanita.

Personally, I am very much looking forward to working with more companies both in Chicago and in the Raleigh/Durham area. 

But, after that, what’s our next step?

Taking SAM Groups global through the internet.

We invite you to try the process outlined above in our comments section.

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