On this week’s episode of Conversational Selling, we speak with special guest Morris Sims. Morris had a fantastic career at New York Life Insurance, eventually becoming the Chief Learning Officer for sales, and heading a training department responsible for training over 80,000 agents and managers. He has since gone on to become an instructor at The American College and President of Sims Training and Consulting.

“In my opinion, the real impact is on how we communicate with one another. Sitting across the table from each other probably isn’t gonna happen as much as it did once, in the olden days, prior to COVID-19, but the sales process itself has not changed, in my opinion. We still have to approach people, we still have to help them figure out what it is they want and need, and then show them solutions for that and help them make a decision. That’s the sales process— it always has been and always will be,” says Morris about the pandemic’s impact on the sales process.

We chat about the pandemic’s impact on the sales process, as well as:
  • His insights on sales training
  • What elements make a salesperson effective
  • The future of selling and what makes him optimistic
  • The importance of asking questions, and what kinds of questions a salesperson should ask

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:



Nancy Calabrese: Welcome everybody to Conversational Selling. This is the podcast where sales leaders and experts will share what’s working now in sales and sales management. And it all starts with that human conversation. I’m your host, Nancy Calabrese. And I’m excited, very excited to welcome Morris Sims of Sims Training and Consulting.

Morris had a fantastic career at New York Life, where after several promotions, he became vice president and chief learning officer for sales. He went on to head a training department and trained 80,000, yes 80,000 is the correct number agents managers, and that’s quite a feat. He is an instructor at the American College and, of course, the president of Sims Training and Consulting. I am so very happy to have you here on my first podcast. Welcome aboard.

Morris Sims: Nancy, thank you very much. It’s wonderful to be here. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Nancy: Wonderful. So what have you seen in terms of the COVID impacting sales today?

Morris: Nancy, I’d say, in my opinion, the real impact is on how we communicate with one another. You know, sitting across the table from each other probably isn’t gonna happen as much as it did once in the olden days, if you will, prior to COVID-19. But the sales process itself has not changed in my opinion. It has not changed. We still have to approach people, we still have to help them figure out what it is they want and what they need, and then show them solutions for that and help them make a decision. That’s the sales process. It always has been And always, I think, always will be the sales process.

Nancy:  Yeah. Well, you know, for many of us, and again, including me, I never thought I would be passionate about sales. I went to college to study, to become a social worker. And lo and behold, I got the bug when I turned 30. How did you get started in the business? I think I read that you were an engineer by trade.

How Morris Became a Master of Sales

Morris: Yeah, that’s where the education came from, I guess. I became a chemical engineer after five years of college at Auburn University and spent the next five years practicing my engineering and did okay. I was alright, but, you know, Nancy, I wasn’t having any fun. It was just not a lot of fun working in a chemical plant as much as I thought it might be. And I wanted to run my own business. And lo and behold, long story short, I became a New York Life agent and spent three years doing that.

And they came to me and said, Gee, you do that pretty well. Why don’t you come over here and teach other people how to do what you do? So I jumped into management and went from New Orleans to Little Rock to, pardon me, to Monroe to Little Rock to Dallas and then to the home office, where they asked me to run sections of the training operation and wound up retiring as the vice president and chief learning officer. So when you say 80,000 people that, my department had mentioned that at my retirement, and what it boils down to is that’s the number of agents who came through New York Life during my 30 years of working in training.

So that’s kind of where that number came from. It sounds a bit audacious, but that’s kind of where it was. So I had a tiny finger in the training of those 80,000 agents. And some of them I actually did get the benefit and the glory and the wonderful opportunity to actually train. So it’s been a blast but as you say, it’s a bug. I love sales. I love the process of sales because it’s all about helping other people get what they want. That’s our job. That’s what we do as professional salespeople, we help other people get what they want.

Nancy: No, I completely agree with you. And it’s hard to describe the feeling, you know, the thrill of the kill when you’re doing something to assist someone and the deal closes and you feel like everything’s been done right. That ties into another question I had, and I want to go back to New York Life. What type of sales training did the company and you provide? I’m a big believer in ongoing training and I’d love to get your thoughts on that.

Morris: Well, what we did as a company, and the company still does, is provide that training for our agents and managers. Some other companies and some other operations in different organizations actually require the salespeople to pay for their training. At my company, we did not do that. We provided it. And from the minute they walked in the door, we started with that whole discussion of the sales process and what it boils down to.

And it really became a question of how do you get on the same side of the table with someone, help them figure out what it is they need, and then show them solutions for that and let them make a decision and then help them make that decision. Because we all know that procrastination is out there in each and every one of us, and sometimes you just need somebody to help you see the right decision for you and let you make that decision.

That’s kind of the way we did it. The philosophy that we had about sales and that I still have about sales. And the training, as I say, Nancy, began when you walked in the door, it continued every week, two or three times a week for three years. And then after that, several times a quarter for continued training and continued the work toward helping people get better what they do all day long.

Nancy: Yep, yeah. Well, to master it, right? People that master it, don’t have to think about it, but they still participate in the training to keep their skills sharp, right? And I often, you know, it’s funny, I often use the Tom Brady analogy. He wins the Super Bowl and goes back to training. So he doesn’t miss a moment, right? Of skill development. And I think as sales professionals, not only is it a benefit, it’s really critical to continuing the skill set. Would you agree with that?

Morris: I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best salespeople in the United States. And I can tell you wholeheartedly each and every one of them is all about sharpening their skills. One gentleman that I work with has been the top agent at New York Life for several years. He constantly goes around to all the offices and does speaking engagements and talks about the sales process, how he sells, how he finds new people to sell and what he does in his business.

And he tells me, Morris, I do that because it helps me. It makes me think about how I’m going to approach and how I’m going to say things and what I’m going to say. And it allows me to sharpen my skills. So yeah, Nancy, the top, the best of the best are out there practicing some way. One way or another they’re out there practicing nearly every day.

Nancy: Every day. And you know, you kind of answered my next question, which was gonna be well, what do you believe will make some in sales successful while others may struggle?

Thinking on Purpose

Morris: There’s a couple of things that I really am strongly behind on that question. And at first, it starts with thinking on purpose, a phrase I coined a while back. Thinking on purpose, I mean, we think all the time, right? I mean, that’s kind of what the brain does. It goes around thinking, but every now and again, you got to stop and think on purpose about your business and about what you’re trying to accomplish. We salespeople get so involved in the minutia and the working in our business that we forget to stop and work on our business.

And it’s the people who stop and work on their business who know clearly, have clarity around their definiteness of purpose as Napoleon Hill called it. They know what it is they want. They know why they want it because that was going to get them over the hurdles. And then they’ve got strategies too, key strategies that are going to get them to where they want to be, and then an action plan to do it.

Now, you don’t get all of that without stopping the business for a few hours and think on purpose about exactly how you’re going to do that. Let the cat out of the bag here, Nancy, that’s my first big video on my YouTube channel is going to be the five ways to grow your business. And that’s a preview of that particular piece. That’s what makes people successful. Thinking on purpose and knowing what you want and getting strategies clearly defined, because focus is the key word, isn’t it, Nancy?

Nancy: Oh, very much so and just doing the activities that will take you to the next step. Speaking of activities, since we’ve all been experiencing life inside, if you will, and selling, in my opinion, is through COVID for sure. But there was a trend that selling was going to change from outside selling to inside selling. This COVID crisis really took a lot of salespeople, producers out of their comfort zone in their home office having to pick up the phone. What do you have to say to that?

Communication Will Remain the Same… Only the Methods Have Changed

Morris: I think you’re absolutely right. It is how we communicate that has changed, not what we’re communicating, and how we went about doing the communication. Once we connect, maybe that’s a better way to say it. It’s changed how we connect with people. We’re not going to connect face to face with everybody anymore, I don’t think ever again.

So we got to pick up on and utilize the technology that’s available to us. And certainly, the telephone is one of those things and doing what we’re doing right now, the virtual world, Nancy the webinar, the virtual meetings. I’ve become, our church is doing all kinds of stuff and I’ve become the master of the Zoom meeting, they say. It’s just, it’s so easy to put somebody on my computer screen and have a face to face conversation with them, yet they are 1000 miles away.

We have an opportunity there to expand our audience and as salespeople, expand our pool of prospects, if you will, that we can attract through our marketing and then engage them in the sales process. But it’s just a different way to connect with people. We’re not going to do it, you know, face to face and going up and meeting people and their businesses and other sundry ways. We’re going to do it online. We’re going to do it with email. We’re going to do it with text. We’re going to do it on a virtual space nowadays. And golly, gee, you know what, Nancy, our kids have been doing it for years. We just got to get on board.

Nancy: I may be dating myself, but I think of the Jetsons and the way they communicated in that TV show many, many years ago. We’ve been, we personally here have been fortunate because we’ve worked remotely for many, many years. We know that business can be done virtually.

But now the enhancement of all the video tools really allows you to have that human touch. And as I opened up, it’s all about human conversation, wouldn’t you agree? The connection of the sound of the voice in understanding, you know, and portraying that empathy, the active listening, all of those skills really come into play. It can work really well, I believe, over the phone, over a Zoom meeting.

Morris: Absolutely. I think you’re 100% correct. It still comes down to the conversation. And by definition, a conversation is a two-way street, which means that listening is probably more important, with all reality, than what I’m saying.

Nancy: Yup. It’s all about them, correct?

Morris: Yeah. Oh, totally and completely. If it’s not, if it becomes about me, I’m going to fail. It’s got to become, totally and completely it has to be about the person I’m trying to help and that’s the way I have and still continue to look at sales. I’m here as a professional salesperson to help you. I want to help you get what you want. You walk into Home Depot, Nancy, and you say I want a quarter-inch drill bit, you don’t really want a quarter-inch drill bit. You want a quarter-inch hole. It’s my job as a professional salesperson to help you figure out what the proper tool is to get the kind of quarter-inch hole that you need to get.

Nancy: A great analogy. I love it. So listen, I mean, what worries you about the future of selling?

The Future of Sales is as Bright as Ever

Morris: Oh, I don’t know that I’m worried about anything. It’s as bright and is as wonderful and opportunity today as it was 30, 40 years ago when I started messing around with it because we’re always going to need professional salespeople. There’s no way around it. Sales has been a part of our lives since the beginning of time, I believe, and they’ll always be a place for the professional salesperson. I’m not talking about the guy that’s out there trying to manipulate or coerce or drag people or push people into doing anything.

That’s not professional sales. That’s something else. I don’t know what it is. But it’s not professional sales. In professional sales, we’re trying to coordinate, trying to connect with someone who has a need. They’ve got a problem and it’s our job to show them what their solution opportunities are, allow them to make a decision, and if necessary, help them make a decision, and then help them solve that problem and get what they need for themselves and their family.

That’s what it’s all about. So I think that’s probably the brightest thing that’s ever been out there because people aren’t necessarily going to go to the store anymore. People aren’t necessarily going to go to collaborate with people face to face. So they need that professional who will reach out to them and engage them in the sales process for the things that are important to them. And that’s what we do.

Nancy: So they reverse of that, what makes you optimistic about the future? Anything that you haven’t said?

Morris: No, I think that’s the key, Nancy, to me, sales is one of those things, as I said, has been around forever and is gonna be around forever. And right now, because of the way that we as a society are connecting with each other, it’s more important and more necessary than it’s ever been, and more of an opportunity for people to go out there and do great things. And in the meantime, the other beauty of the sales profession is that it’s fairly lucrative because not everybody wants to do this. So, you know, I mean, if everybody was doing it and everybody wanted to do it, Nancy, they wouldn’t pay us as well.

Nancy: I hear ya. I hear ya. I, you know, going back to for me, it’s a drug. I just love it. I love learning about it and studying it. I can’t get enough. So let me, maybe we can end with this. You know, what I would really like our listeners to have is a takeaway. I think you’ve said a lot of really important things. And it’s all what I’m hearing from you, it’s about communicating with one another and asking the right questions to learn about their needs. What could be one takeaway that we can give our listeners that can be applied immediately?

The Person Asking the Question Controls the Conversation

Morris: The one thing that is out there that is always going to be a critical part of any sale and any particular sales process is asking questions. It is the person who is asking the questions that controls the conversation. It is the person asking the questions, who is going to find out and learn what they need to learn to be able to help people find the solution that’s right for them. Unless I ask questions and ask the right questions, then I’m never going to proceed in the sales process. So I think as far as the actual sales process is concerned, it’s asking the right questions and then listening to the answers.

Sometimes I’ve seen people ask questions left and right and they never listen to the answer. Probably one of the worst lines I’ve ever heard in my life came from, and not all car dealerships are a problem, but this particular young man had been taught to say, Mr. Simms, what is it that I need to do to earn your business today? And, you know, it just sounded so gross. It was just terrible because he didn’t really care what I wanted to do. He didn’t care about anything. All he cared about was making a sale.

So anyway, it comes back to asking the right questions and building that relationship. And people are going to say, Well, I can’t do that, Morris. I’m not face to face with people anymore. You can still build a relationship. You have the ability to have that conversation, Nancy, and that’s the key. If I can have a conversation with you, I can build a relationship. And once I do that and I get over that river of no trust, if you will, and we begin to be on the same side of the table where I can help you get what you want, then everybody wins. We all win and we all get what we need.

Nancy: Awesome. Awesome. Well said. So I, you know, I really want to thank you for speaking to us today about your insights selling. And I’d be curious to know how could my listeners reach out to you to learn more?

Morris: Thank you. Great question. The website is really hard to remember. It’s morrissims.com. So let me give you the spelling because there’s a lot of S’s in there. It’s MORRISSIMS.com. And we are experiencing a little bit of a technical difficulty right now. The forms aren’t connecting, so not working. So let me give you the email address as well. My email is morris@morrissims.com.

So again, very hard to remember. Morris@morrissims.com. And I would love to get an email from your listeners and enter into a conversation with them about the things that are important to them and what we might be able to do to be of service. I do coaching, virtual classrooms, speaking, training of all different kinds, shapes, forms and fashion. And we’ve got a podcast called the Business of Sales, a YouTube channel called the Business and Sales. And just trying to get out there and impact and have a positive impact on as many people as we possibly can.

Nancy: Yeah, well, I’m guessing there are a lot of people that are going to be jumping at that. So thank you. Thank you very much, Morris.

Morris: It. was my pleasure, Nancy. Thank you. I enjoyed the conversation.