October 12

Rick Barrera on Becoming Essential To Your Clients


Rick Barrera is known as the Revenue Accelerator for the work he does with entrepreneurs, small businesses and enterprise organizations to smooth the on-ramp and make them easier to do business with. He believes that you can generate any level of revenue you choose, whenever you choose to generate it.

Rick worked with Dave Zerfoss, CEO at Husqvarna to take the company from 29 million dollars to half a billion in just over 10 years. Rick is frequently called upon to turn around troubled companies, returning them to robust profitability. He has personally started many companies including a seed company, newspaper delivery, babysitting, landscaping, photo studio, restaurant, vitamin company, sales and customer service training, concierge services, financial services, real estate, an online training company and a professional speaking firm. He is currently engaged with two M&A companies doing consolidations in two different industries. His current passion project is PartnerHere.com, an online marketplace enabling entrepreneurs to find business partners and resources...without cash. His goal is to build the world’s largest online community for entrepreneurs of every stripe. As you will soon learn, he believes that entrepreneurship is the solution to many of the issues that we face as individuals, families and as a global community.

Rick is also the Head of Faculty for the Center for Heart Led Leadership in Denver, Colorado where he works with SEAL Team leaders, world class mountain climbers, Fortune 500 CEO’s, journalists, actors and astronauts to teach We Before Me, relationship focused leadership, to the next generation of leaders. His client list numbers in the thousands and includes Abbott Labs, American Airlines, Ameriprise, AT&T, AutoCrib, AutoZone, Bayer, Black and Decker, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cigna, Conoco, Dairy Queen, eBay, EMC, Fidelity, Ford Motor Company, Four Seasons Hotels, GE, GlaxoSmithKline, Hallmark Cards, Harley-Davidson, Hilton, Honda, Honeywell, HP, Husqvarna, IBM, Intel, Intuit, John Hancock, Johnson Controls, Kaiser, Lenovo, Les Schwab Tires, Lexus, Marriott, Merrill Lynch, Monsanto, Nissan, REMAX, Ritz-Carlton, Time Warner, Verizon, Volvo, Weyerhaeuser and Wells Fargo. Rick is a well-known business thought leader having written 8 books on leadership, branding, customer service, sales, and personal development including two best-sellers, Non-Manipulative Selling & Overpromise and Overdeliver.

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone! My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on the No Limits Selling Podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you, do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed, not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes, click on it to find out more. All right! Let's get started.

Umar Hameed 0:41
Hello everyone, today I've got the pleasure of having Rick Barrera here, he is the CEO of Rick Barrera and Associates. Rick, welcome to the program.

Rick Barrera 0:50
Well, thank you for having me. Excited to be here.

Umar Hameed 0:55
Rick, you know, sales has always been a challenging subject. And, and I just think about, you know, Ancient Egypt, Roman Empire, there had to be people selling rugs and camels and whatever. And there was a guy down the market that was doing a better job than we were and we were trying to figure out, "how does he do better than me?" So people have been thinking about sales and sales improvement for a long time. And you've been doing it not quite that long. So I'm really happy you're on the program with us sharing your wisdom.

Umar Hameed 1:25
I'm happy to be here.

Umar Hameed 1:27
So Rick, who was the first sales person that you came across that made an impact on you where you went, "Huh, so this is what sellings about!"

Rick Barrera 1:36
Well, I have a long and storied history of selling so, so I was, when I was little, I grew up in a little tiny town called Derrick City, Pennsylvania, it's very rural. There were 52 homes in Derrick City.

Umar Hameed 1:55

Rick Barrera 1:56
And not, not, not much of an opportunity to earn money but when I was in second grade, I joined Cub Scouts. And if you join Cub Scouts, they send you a magazine called Boy's Life. And in the back of boy's life, there was an ad and it said, you know, "Earn big money," and so I, you know, I was, you know, immediately caught my attention. So I sent in, and they sent me a great big book of Christmas cards. And so I went door to door to all 52 homes and said, you know, "Do you need Christmas cards?" and some people said, "Yes," and so that's how my sales career started. And that company, in the spring, sent me a seed catalog and said, "Go sell seeds," so I went to all 52 homes and sold seeds. And basically, I tortured those 52 people until I could drive and then I, and then I got what I would call my first real sales job, which was selling newspaper subscriptions over the phone. So sold through high school, and college and all of that, and I learned a lot. But then I decided to have a job after college and my sister came home, she was in the Peace Corps and after Afghanistan. And she came home and she wanted to start a business. So we were looking at different businesses, and I found a sales chant training franchise.

Umar Hameed 3:28
Which one?

Rick Barrera 3:29
So I bought the franchise. And I went for sales training. And it was really, it's the second time I had sales training because the phone people, you know, had a really good program, but that was only for selling newspapers, scripts on the phone, so it was very specialized. But when I went to the sales training for the franchise, they had an actual sales system for selling anything. And that was mind boggling to me because I'd had you know, at that point, probably 20 sales jobs.

Umar Hameed 4:04

Rick Barrera 4:04
So things that I was like, "Oh my God, there's like a method, and you do things in order," and, you know, all I could think of was how much money I had lost from all the sales that I didn't get because they didn't know how to sell properly.

Umar Hameed 4:21
So which sales training company wants this?

Rick Barrera 4:24
It was, it was, it was a company called Bob Vino, they're out of business. They, they, they went out of business a few years after, after I bought the franchise. And then I saw, I was just on my own, I've been on my own since then.

Umar Hameed 4:37
So Rick, don't name names, but you've worked with a lot of companies and a lot of companies that have been selling for a while, and then companies lose their way. What..

Rick Barrera 4:48
They do.

Umar Hameed 4:48
...do you think get in the way?

Rick Barrera 4:51
Well, a couple of things. So, so, so the first thing that gets in the way is that the world changes.

Umar Hameed 4:57

Rick Barrera 4:59
Okay, so you know, we're recording this in the middle of the COVID deal. So, you know, certainly COVID is changed the world, it changes the way we need sell. It changes, what we sell changes, how we sell. Tt changes payment structures, changes everything. So when the world changes, they don't adapt. Their competitors can change. But just as...

Umar Hameed 5:23

Rick Barrera 5:23
...often, they get, they get lost in their, in their own what I call navel gazing. So, so just to give you a perfect example, so that I mean, the typical entrepreneur, they start out and they figure out how to sell something. And so the company starts, right, they sells, you know, the owner sells something, and they're successful. Then they sell another one, then they sell another one, then they sell another one, and they kind of get the company going. And then they start to hire people, because now you got to worry about delivering what it is you sold. And then you got to have, you know, customer service, and then you got to have operations, and then you got to have HR, and then you got to have finance and you got to have accounting, and you got to have all these things that the company grows. And in the process of all that we get so internally focused, that we forget about the customer altogether. And so, you know, the customers evolving, the world's evolving, your company's evolving, and what happens is you sort of evolve apart, right? I love companies that, you know, they just go, "No, that's against our policy, right? I always say, "What's the customer say about the policy? Oh, my God, they hate it." Okay, well, then, why is that our policy, because...

Umar Hameed 6:47
It's always gonna be policy, right?

Rick Barrera 6:48
...it's gonna impact sales.

Umar Hameed 6:50
So what's kind of interesting is this, is everybody in business, plus or minus would know that, you know, if you don't adapt, you die. And so at one level, they have it inside the head. But when you're going through it, it's really hard to see even though the data is on the wall in terms of sales are declining, competitors are gaining market share. And then companies tend to sometimes focus at the wrong thing, and not take a step back. A, do you agree with that statement and B, what would be your advice to help companies keep their finger on the pulse of what's going on?

Rick Barrera 7:27
You have to live with your customers, but you also have to think beyond your product. So I just give you an example, I was working with a very, very large company, and a very well known company. And they told me, they're, you know, they're in construction. And they told me, you know, "You don't understand, you know, our customers love us, they love our equipment, they love, you know, everything about us, they can't live without us. They can't make money without us. They just think we are like, you know, the best thing ever." And so I sent the senior team out, but but sales were declining, by the way, which is always interesting, right?

Umar Hameed 8:17

Rick Barrera 8:17
So, so, so I sent them out, the senior team, I said, I want you to go out for three days, I want you to shadow a customer and different I said the different senior executives, the different customers. And I said, "For three days, you're gonna shadow the customer, and you're not allowed to ask questions, I just want you to follow them around because I want you to understand what their day is like."

Umar Hameed 8:45

Rick Barrera 8:46
And they said, you know, "Well, that three days long time," I said, "No, no, I want, I want you to know, three days because I want you to really understand their world from their point of view." So they all went off and did the assignment and they came back, and they were blown away. And I said, "What would you learn?" And they said, "You know, they never mentioned our company once in three days, you know, all of us, seven of us went out that's 21 collective days where we never got mentioned." Right? It was, it was kind of like ego shattering for them, they thought they were the center of the customer's universe and they didn't even exist.

Umar Hameed 9:29
And they were there physically and they still didn't exist.

Rick Barrera 9:36
But what they learned was that there was this whole other process that when the construction day ended, there's a whole other team that goes to the headquarters, they start at five o'clock at night and they work until five in the morning. And they reshuffle all the assets and the projects and the people. So they, you know, "What are we get done today on each of these projects? What is the contract call for? On which contracts do we have penalties were running late that we're going to cost us money? On which contracts do we have bonuses if we finish early? What equipment do we knew need to move to what site? What operators do we need to move to what site? You know, do we have any materials that have to be moved." There's all this logistical stuff that happened overnight, so that they could be a construction company the next day.

Umar Hameed 10:35

Rick Barrera 10:35
They didn't even know that process existed, and they were not part of it. So one of the insights that came out is, is that there's a lot of rental equipment. And they didn't, you know, they the the rental equipment, typically, you know, they get to the jobsite at seven o'clock in the morning, then they figure out by eight o'clock they need something, then they call, then it's another hour before you know, it gets delivered. So they've lost half of their construction day before they can even get the equipment. So one of the insights they had was, well, we shouldn't be doing this at night with them. So if they need equipment, we should have it there before 7am. And so it's that, it's that kind of thing where you really you know, we think we know what the customers doing but we don't, they're like, give me another quick example.

Umar Hameed 11:29
Sure, go on.

Rick Barrera 11:31
We were sending one of the companies I was working with was sending all this data, we were uploading all this data into our system, and we were sending it to the customer electronically.

Umar Hameed 11:42

Rick Barrera 11:43
I asked the question, "What do they do with it?" And they said, "Well, we don't know," and I'm like, "Why not?" And they said, "Well, well, why would we ask?" You know, I'm like I said, "Because whatever they do with it is relevant to whether we're serving them or not." So they said, "Okay, we'll go find out," so they went and they watched. And what they did is they got our data electronically, and they printed it all onto paper. And then they sent it to another department and the other department hand-keyed every single thing back into their system.

Umar Hameed 12:14
You can't make this stuff up, right?

Rick Barrera 12:15
No, you can't. But this is why you had when I say being close to your customer, I mean, the phrase I use is you have to be able to smell their breath. It's not a you know, "Hey, we had a sales call," or we, you know, we talked them through customer service, you have to go and see what they do, right? There's a saying comes from the Japanese from, from the quality movement, Genchi Genbutsu, it means go to the place and see the thing for yourself. And so, you know, so when we ask them, "Why are you hand-keying this stuff?" They said, "Well, because the format that you send it in doesn't fit with our system so we print out, then we got to empty it and then you know, goes into the new system." So we said, 'Well, you know, why don't we get our IT guys to give it to you guys the way you want it." And they were like, ""Oh, you could do that?" So we did, well, needless to say they can't buy from our competitors now, because our systems are integrated.

Umar Hameed 13:08
So let's pause there just for a second. Because you have you know, like dumb one of those obvious things that no one else will do. You know, this expression and walk in someone else's shoes, and you're basically living that here. And there's such a value out of showing up and noticing what's going on that I would think 99% of companies would never do, they just assume, "Oh, yeah." And also, from my point of view, I think for a lot of companies, there is a ton of sales that's trapped within their own systems and within their own people. Because sometimes, you know, sales is at odds with the rest of the company, in terms of them not knowing the rest coming, not knowing what sales actually does and sales not really knowing you know how what they do impacts the rest of the company. So you've gone in and seen a lot of companies, have you seen one of those disconnects where...

Rick Barrera 14:05
Oh, so many disconnects.

Umar Hameed 14:06
...everybody wasn't in alignment?

Rick Barrera 14:08
Yeah, well, I mean, that's why, that's why the title of the book is Alignment: The Shortcut to Marketplace Dominance, because we, most companies spend too much time fixing things, or changing things that they believe matter to the customer, when in fact, there are only two or three or four or five things that matter to the customer. And if you get those really consistently right, and they're aligned, then you have this, you know, huge lift in sales.

Umar Hameed 14:41

Rick Barrera 14:42
So you know what, one of the things you know, people, people think, you know, they say to me, "Oh, I don't want to be in sales because you know, it's pushy, and, you know, I'm not that kind of a person. I don't have a sales personality," all we do ever is problem solve, right? We just go and we say you know, "Look, what is it you're trying to do? What's the outcome you're trying to get? And then not how do I sell you my crap? But how do I help you get where you are trying to go." And that might mean, it's an off the shelf product or service for us, or it might mean something customized or tailored or changed or tweaked in some way that really makes it work. So it's, it's really about, you know, understanding exactly what their outcomes are. And then figuring out how you can align your company to do that. And that, so you know, that, that that's the key.

Umar Hameed 15:41
So brilliant. So just for the listeners, in the show notes, there's going to be a link as has generously given this book freely to anybody that's listening to the podcast. So there's gonna be a link there, we can go on Rick's site, and download this book, Alignment: The Shortcut to Marketplace Dominance, so thank you for that, Rick.

Rick Barrera 16:01
You're welcome.

Umar Hameed 16:02
So one of the other areas, I think there's a lots of sales potential trapped is within organizations. And let me give you an example, I was working with this organization in Silicon Valley. And the VP of Worldwide Sales, had said that, you know, "My people, we talk about selling on value all the time, but they always cave in on price. And that's where they go to too quickly, can you help us solve that?" But when I looked at sales, and looked at the other departments, it turned out that sales was relying on tech support, financing, other departments to deliver the support and the resources they needed to sell and they were finding that the other departments weren't doing it. Engineering was relying on marketing to predict what the customers would want three years from now, so they could build what was needed, and marketing was letting them down. So there was a company that was profitable but there was these distrust between the departments, and to fix the sales situation, what I ended up doing was getting all the departments to come together and figure out what the issues were and resolve those just like you're talking about, you know, resolving it getting alignment with companies and customers. If we do it within our departments, something magical happens, where everybody supports everyone, and you get efficiencies and performance and the most important thing, trust within the department so people can focus on what they need to focus on. And that's how you out thinking outpace the competition. Your thoughts on that?

Rick Barrera 17:39
Yeah, it's, it's a, again, this goes to the fundamental solving of problems or aligning around what it is that the customer is trying to do. So that, you know, the other departments. You know, what one of the great sayings, I'm trying to remember, was Jack Welch who said it, but you know, "If you're not selling, then you better be helping somebody who is," right? You know, if you're an engineering, you need to be out in the field, you can't rely on the sales team or the marketing team or whoever to help you with that insight. You got to go out and see what they do with the thing you make. The marketing team has to be out side by side with the customer. So this is what this is a term that Tony Alessandra no he was on with you, Tony Alessandra, and I point long ago is his bow tie selling, selling versus diamond selling. So the bow tie selling is where, you know, we have all these different, you know, positions in our company, you know, CEO, and CFO, and, you know, salespeople and purchasing and operations and all of that, and they have the...

Umar Hameed 18:54

Rick Barrera 18:54
...same lined up on their side. But the only two people who touch like a bow tie, are the sales people, the purchasing person. So...

Umar Hameed 19:03

Rick Barrera 19:03
...we want to turn that around so it looks like a diamond, where our CEOs getting what their CEO, and our CFO is getting with their CFO, and our CMOS get what their CMO and our salespeople are getting what they're purchasing people, and they're purchasing people to get with our salespeople and write all this, you know, all the way down their operations people, our operations people. So that we really start to understand how do we partner and integrate. You don't need you know, 1000 accounts or 10,000 accounts to be wealthy, you need a few great relationships because those great relationships will lead you to all the other relationships. And the more integrated you are and the tighter you are with them, the more valuable that becomes.

Umar Hameed 19:50
You know, at the end of the day, the most useful information that we come across is that obvious stuff that we don't do because we get too sophisticated. And you know, the entire conversations so far has been about, get to know your customers, go visit with them, don't just listen to them, see what they're actually doing. All of that stuff is fundamental human connection learning kind of stuff that pays off in dividends, big time. So have you ever had resistance when you're dealing with certain clients, we suggest this kind of stuff. And they said, "No, no, we know what they want." And how did you overcome that resistance to get them to actually go do, press the flesh go figure out what's going on?

Rick Barrera 20:37
Well, usually when people hire me, I work with two kinds of companies primarily, they're, they're either I do a lot of turnaround work. So they're either, their sales are, you know, really taking a nosedive, and they need some kind of emergency resuscitation, or I work with companies that are really aggressively trying to grow. So I was working with a company couple years ago, we had 150% compounded growth rate year over year. You know, we were trying to keep the wheels on the bus, and, and, and, you know, and handle that level of accelerated revenue growth. But a lot of the work I do is, is where they're in trouble. So in either case, they hire me because things are not normal, and, and, and so though, you know, they, there's a motivation for them to change. And if they don't want to change, then I leave, I mean, it's just that simple, it's like luck that you, you know, you called me in here to solve a problem, if you want me to solve the problem, then we got to change these things, if you don't, then I'm, I'm out, it's fine. Like it is, I mean, this goes to any sales situation, if there's a fit between the two companies, then great, you should be partnering, if there's not a fit, then it's okay to walk away, it's like, if there's not a fit, it doesn't, you don't have to make make it fit.

Umar Hameed 22:00
Brilliant. So as you're working with companies, right now, as we go through this COVID restructuring of the world, what are some of the tips that you're giving people, what do they need to do differently?

Rick Barrera 22:12
Well, one of the things I was talking about earlier, it looks like things are opening back up now, but early on, one of the things I was focusing with people's, how do you become essential? You know, what, what is it that you do that is essential, that allows you to stay open? And there are a lot of different angles to that I'm working with a company right now. And, you know, they were kind of panicking and I'm like, "Hey, we're, you know, we have government contracts, okay, so let's focus on that, because we have to stay open for the government." So we submitted, you know, appropriate paperwork, and they were like, 'Great, no problem." So, you know, those kinds of things first, you know, like, the first, first thing I always look for, is, is viability, right? And via means life in Latin, you know, do you have,

Umar Hameed 23:04

Rick Barrera 23:05
right? So, so we have to have (garbled), we have to be open, we have to have the doors open, right? And then the next thing we need is cash flow. And, and so how do we get cash flow? And you know, during this deal, it's, it's all about cash flow, so my, you know, my son was a caterer, and he lost all of his catering contracts in three days. So he called me in a panic and he said, you know, "Where are you?" You know, he's, I mean, he's been in business for like, six months, and he was doing great, but you know, all sudden, can't do it. I said, "You got, you know, you got to do Meals on Wheels," and he's like, "How am I gonna do that?" And I said, I said, "You're gonna start making food and delivering it to people's homes." And he's like, "Well, I don't have a model for that. I'm like, well, you better get a model for that." So he did, and he started to email people who had done catering with him, and he, and he got ordered, right? So you know, this one things I learned from my father was a big card player used to do these weird things when he was playing cards, and I would always watch them afterwards, I'd say, "Why did you do that?" They'd say, "Because I had to put some points on the board." Now, I can't sit hand after hand and not have points, because I'll get too far behind, right? And that's, I always think about that, from a sales standpoint, like doesn't matter what's going on in the world like today, right now, we got to put some points on the board, little points, big points, fat points, short points, whatever they are, but let's get some points on the board, right? They might not be our perfect sail, it might not be perfect margins, it might not be you know any margins, right? But we got to we got to start getting some motion in the ocean.

Umar Hameed 24:42

Rick Barrera 24:42
I have my very first client when I started my, my training company was a car stereo company and I traded for car stereos because the guy said to me, I said, "I can't pay you cash. I don't have cash. But I have all this inventory so if you'll train my sales team, how to sell I'll give you a car stereo." Well, I didn't need a car stereo but I took it because I had to get a customer, right? I had to get some points on the board, I had to get things moving, right? And then I had a relationship. And then I could go to the guy next door and say, "Hey, you know, this guy just signed up, so you need to sign up.," and he's like, "Really? He's a cheap, he's a cheapskate, he signed up?" "Yeah!" "Well, then I'll sign up." Right? So, you know, you, you, you got to scramble every day. When you've got something like this going on, you got it, you know, you just have to put points on the board.

Umar Hameed 25:35
Brilliant. Rick, this was a great conversation. What I took away from it was just certain ideas like follow your customer, walk in their shoes for exactly what they want, I mean, get so close that you smell their breath. That how do you become essential is basically asking brilliant questions. And last but not least, of course, everyday, get some points on the board. Rick, we're gonna put all your contact information in the show notes. You're a master at your craft and helping companies move forward. Thank you so much for being on the program.

Rick Barrera 26:10
All right, thank you.

Umar Hameed 26:16
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of neuro-linguistic programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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