Our special guest on this week’s episode of Conversational Selling is Mary Lombardo, CEO and Founder of the Sales Impact Group. They offer virtual sales solutions that save businesses the time and expense of hiring, training, and managing. As someone who has personally generated more than $50 million in sales, Mary helps SMEs drive sales growth through diagnostic and prescriptive sales training and outsource sales management. She is also a national speaker, a two-time winner of Salesperson of the Year, and is a member of The Million Dollar Club. 

We chat about effective virtual sales practices, as well as:

  • Sales training with diagnostic and prescriptive methods
  • Coaching timelines for practicing new methods learned in training
  • Offering outsourced sales management to help start-ups transition into market
  • How and when to reevaluate why you received a “no”
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to The Conversational Selling Podcast with Nancy Calabrese.

Nancy Calabrese: Hello this is Nancy Calabrese and it’s time for Conversational Selling, the podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today and it always starts with the human conversation. Joining us today is the fabulous Mary Lombardo, CEO and Founder of the Sales Impact Group, offering virtual sales solutions from outsourced sales management, sales training and coaching. 

Her company saves businesses the time and expense of hiring and training, managing. And as someone who has personally generated more than 50 million in sales, Mary helps SMEs drive sales growth through diagnostic and prescriptive sales training and outsource sales management. She is also a national speaker, a two time winner of sales person of the year and of the million dollar club. Listen, folks simply put, she knows sales from the ground up. And you know, Mary, we we’ve had a chance to speak earlier and the world is really pivoted to virtual these days. And we’re always looking for leadership to guide us through these crazy times. So let’s get started. And welcome to the show. 

Mary Lombardo: Hi, Nancy, thank you so much for having me. 

Nancy: I’m excited. And folks, if anybody is passionate, her name is Mary Lombardo. So stick with us here. I want to start with companies have had to adapt to selling virtual in today’s world, you know, and my question is, do you think virtual selling is so much different from face to face? I kind of feel that many people believe it can’t be done effectively. I’d like to know your thoughts. 

Mary: Right. I certainly think that sales can be done effectively, virtually. My own company has had to make quite a few pivots to sell virtually, and make sure that we are getting in front of people virtually the way we onboard our clients need needed to pivot to virtual. And as someone who’s done a ton of sales training, all of our sales training has now pivoted to being done virtually just given the the life that we’re living right now, the situation we’re all going through right now. I certainly think it can be done effectively with some minor, some minor tweaks and changes. I mean, clearly we’re not in front of someone, we can’t shake someone’s hand. 

Nancy: Right. 

Mary: But we can certainly make a connection virtually it just takes a little bit of tweaking. 

Nancy: Yeah, but why are there so many naysayers about it? Honestly, it’s baffling to me, because that’s the only way I’ve ever done business. 

Mary: Right. Right. Well, you know, I think it’s just human nature that sometimes people are resistant to change. And, you know, webinars and podcasts and zoom meetings, and people that really aren’t technologically adept can just be afraid of, of the technology. But many of my clients have had to interact with technology in a way that they haven’t before. And so I think it’s just fear of change, or being averse to trying something new, quite frankly. 

Nancy: Yeah. So you know, what was caught my attention is your diagnostic and prescriptive sales training program. Tell us more about it.

Mary: Sure. So, you know, I’ve been in sales for 25 years at a variety of different roles. And so, I have sat through my fair share of trainings, and I’ve also delivered my fair share of trainings. And what I’ve discovered over the years is just like with any other type of learning, Nancy, it, there’s not a one size fits all, you know, it really depends on where the particular salesperson is at in their career and their experience. And so what we do is we, we have an assessment, that’s a very comprehensive process that pinpoints the exact skill gaps of a salesperson and their sales skills. 

And then we create curriculum to remediate those gaps. And we group people together with the same types of strengths and weakness. says so that we’re teaching them something that’s relevant to them. And most importantly, is going to change their behavior. Because the bottom line is companies hire salespeople to increase sales. And so they need to be equipped with their own specific toolbox in ways of interacting to close the sale. And you know, there’s a place for generalized types of sales training, like getting past the gatekeeper or overcoming objections. 

And but that would not be an appropriate curriculum for somebody who has been selling for 15 years. That would be, you know, something that would be much more appropriate for an entry level sales person. So right, the, the diagnostic and prescriptive is to really pinpoint the skill gaps of every individual sales person and teach to those gaps. 

Nancy: So you know, everybody has a different learning curve, right? Some people pick things up quickly. In your experience is there an average time span that you have seen for behaviors to change? 

Mary: It typically takes three to six months, because as they, you know, once the independent practice happens, so there is a guided practice and independent practice, and then checking for mastery, but then those folks have to go out in the field, and actually practice what they’ve learned to integrate change. And so we then are out in the field with them. 

Right now we’re not, but we’re a company now, virtually, to offer coaching in real time, just like any other professional would have a coach, you know, we always use a sports figure as an example of, you know, Tiger Woods didn’t get to be worried that without a coach, so we, we are with them to assist them on sales, negotiations, sales, discovery, meetings, sales, closing meetings, and just offer observation. And so, again, it takes about three to six months to make that happen, because they have to have time to go out and practice the new skills that they have learned with coaching. 

Nancy: Yep. And then what happens after that period? I mean, from a coaching point of view. Do you believe in the ongoing sales training as just part of daily activity? 

Mary: I do. The thing is that the coaching has to change in to meet where the rep is that I think the coaching needs to happen, ongoing, because our skills change, situations change. And so the coaching needs to change along with those, those individual players. 

Nancy: Yeah, yeah. 

Mary: And I also think, really importantly, is that the manager and leadership needs to be involved in that as well. 

Nancy: Yeah, you know, it’s really interesting. I just got out of another meeting about predictive performance. And there’s so many tools out there nowadays that leaders and managers can rely on to help become a more effective leader, a manager, and every individual is different, right? You can’t it’s not a one stop fits all. So yeah, yeah. And you know, I also know that you publish an E book 20 questions to audit your sales team. 

Mary: Yeah. 

Nancy: Which is really important. Why do you feel that auditing is important?

Mary: Well, because I think in general, you know, we all do the best that we can every day. And we all certainly I believe, think we’re doing the right thing by our business, or whatever we might be responsible for. But oftentimes, we don’t take the time to really reflect because we’re so busy in the doing. And it’s a good idea to pause and kind of self reflect and make modifications along the way. And I think that’s a good skill set for any business owner, for anybody in leadership. I know I don’t have all the right answers at all. 

I think the point is this point in my life, I have more questions than I have answers. So it was created for as a spot check to really offer some reflection points on where salespeople are at where sales leaders are at different components and pieces and parts of a sales process that they might want to take a look at. Just their offer just as a self reflection point that then they can use as a tool to move forward in any areas that they think that that assessment shows that they might have a need. 

Nancy: Yeah. I want to talk now about your outsource sales management, is that a separate program in and of itself? And how do you do that virtually? 

Mary: Sure, yes. So it is a separate offering. So the two things that we do at Sales Impact Group are two verticals. So outsourced sales managing, and the second is diagnostic and prescriptive sales training. Now we can do the sales training as part of the outsourced sales management. But outsourced sales management is a standalone offering. And so what that is, oftentimes, our customers are people that are companies that are in a startup phase, they are very brilliant minds behind having created a product or a service, but they really do not have the capacity or the knowledge to be able to go to market. 

So they have all these really great ideas and plans and finances in place, but they do not know how to take it to market. So what we do is we come in, and we provide people so vetted, experienced sales people, territory, quotas, commission, create a marketing calendar, and a go to market strategy. And we’re with that client. So we act as a turnkey sales division, and manage that process for approximately 18 months. When they are able and ready when we’ve met the financial goal, we can then transition by helping them hire sales people and train those people so that they will then be able to manage their own internal sales division. 

Nancy: You know, I talk to so many business owners, and these are also businesses that might be established. And the owner is the brainchild of whatever service or product they’re offering. And they don’t consider themselves as selves as sales people. And I’m thinking that any business owner has to be responsible for sales. What do you say to that? 

Mary: Oh, my goodness, yes, yeah, everybody should be selling, you know, that. Everybody should be selling that A B, as always be selling. And, and yes, I come across that often times with an owner, who is the CEO that is selling and managing and you know, their bandwidth is very, very stretched, but they do not consider themselves a salesperson. And there’s no real formalized sales process in place. 

Nancy: Yeah. 

Mary: But you know, they have to be selling. So we all we all have to be selling. 

Nancy: Well, selling is really communication, right? First, engaging with initially a stranger, to determine if this stranger and you could have some kind of interaction that would be beneficial for both parties, right? Yeah. Why don’t we, you know, I always like to bring up stories. And everybody who’s been in business for any period of time has one or two stories that I know, is appreciated by the audience to hear. Is there anything that jumps out to you? 

Mary: Oh my goodness, Nancy, there are so many. 

Nancy: I love it. 

Mary: The first one that came to mind is I crossed a picket line to make a sale. And, and I will never forget it because it was on my birthday, which is February 21st, in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. So it was a rigid, frigid, frigid cold. And I went there because I was working for an edtech company at the time, and our contract was going to the board for approval that evening. And unbeknownst to me, the teachers union was having a strike at the school district. And there was a picket line. 

And these teachers were not happy at all. And so I just, I was in the car and I was thinking well, now what do I do? The board meeting was going on regardless of the angst of the teachers and the strike and my contract was on that agenda. So I sat in the car and just took a deep breath I put on my mittens and and I walked across the picket line. And those people were not happy at all. And so I went in and the contract was passed unanimously, and I called my office from inside. And I said, you guys really owe me one for this. I’m taking my life in my hands to make sure that this contract gets closed. 

Nancy: Wow. And you got out safely? You got out safely? 

Mary: I did get out safely. 

Nancy: Awesome. Did they pay you more commission for that deal? 

Mary: No, absolutely not. 

Nancy: Well, they should have. 

Mary: I agree. I agree. Yeah. 

Nancy: So tell me something, share something with us that is true that almost nobody agrees with you on? 

Mary: I think this is a really polarizing topic. And I think that in sales, for me, the word no, doesn’t mean no, it means not now. And you know, there are people that are on both sides of the fence that, you know, if if somebody says, no, that’s it, leave him alone, you’re going to become a bother. And I vehemently disagree with that. I believe that no means I haven’t done my job well enough, that I need to go back and review what I did what I said, who I met with who the decision makers are. What didn’t I. What did I miss that got them to no? 

Now, clearly, there are times and I can share another story with you, Nancy, where, you know, there really there are times when no really is no. But for me, it’s rare. So for example, another story is while I was working at the same edtech company, I went to the district because I needed to get a contract signed by the superintendent, who was being walked out of the office in handcuffs, by the police, because he was under indictment for misappropriation of funds to the tune of $2 million. Goldman. So that was really a big No. Well, that’s an extreme case. So I really believe that, for me, sales is 100% my responsibility, and every interaction that I have, that I make, if I get to know I have missed a step, and oftentimes people will vehemently disagree with me on that. 

Nancy: Yeah. Well, you know, the only I agree with you, here at OOAKS, it’s always a no means not now. Not now. And I don’t want to badger a prospect. And I think it really has to look at what you did, what you could have been improved on, and then you recycle it for a period of time and get back in front. But wouldn’t you say that there are legitimate no’s that a person or a company can be perfectly happy with the current service?

Mary: Not if they’re not at their goal, you know, read their right, you know what I mean? Like, so if they’re not getting what it is that they were talking to me about, that could be complacency, fear of change somebody’s jobs on the line. If I make this decision, oh, my gosh, that means I’m responsible. If it doesn’t work, I’ll get fired, like people go into that headspace of fear. But again, if I haven’t cultivated the relationship and demonstrated that I am a subject matter expert, and I have flipped the perception from salesperson to trusted advisor, then I had to earn that business and I haven’t earned the right to make that to compel them to make the change. 

Nancy: Yeah, very well put. So what is the one takeaway you’d like to leave the audience with? 

Mary: Do what you love, and I love sales. And so sales. To me, it’s a calling, but it is a lot of work. Sometimes it’s a grind. But for me, honestly, it is the calling of my life. It is I have been blessed by the ability to meet so many different people and help so many different industries. And it’s an art and a science. And I guess I would leave it with, hone your craft and give a damn. 

Nancy: Hone your craft and give a damn. I told you folks, we had a little bit of passion on the phone with us today. And I’m right up right there with you. Thank you so much, Mary. Now before we leave, how can my audience get in touch with you? 

Mary: They can go to my website, www.salesimpact.group, and they can reach out to me there any time. They can also find me on LinkedIn.

Nancy: Awesome. And, you know, for all of the people listening out there, there’s always a passion that should be included, I guess in your day, and I encourage you all to believe in what you’re doing. Be persistent in what you’re doing. And look at what you’ve done well each and every day and you will, you will thrive so thank you all for listening. And Mary, thank you for being on the show. 

Mary: My pleasure, Nancy.

Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at Nancy@oneofakindsales.com. To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at oneofakindsales.com/book.