Jeb Brooks is President of The Brooks Group, one of the world’s Top Twenty Sales Training Firms as ranked by both Selling Power Magazine and Training Industry, Inc.
The Brooks Group is a sales process improvement company whose passionate and engaging people create long-lasting learning and development experiences for business-to-business corporate sales organizations.
Jeb a sought-after commentator on sales and sales management issues, having appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of four books and actively writes for The Brooks Group’s popular Sales Blog, “Sales Evolution.”
A graduate of Washington & Lee University and Elon University’s School of Law, Jeb serves on the Guilford College Board of Visitors. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about travel.
Spending time with Jeb Brooks
Moments in time
What ignited the spark in you to start your business? How did the idea for your business come about?
I didn't start our business. Instead, it's in its second-generation. I took over after my father, our founder, passed away. Ours is a sales training firm. He began the business because he'd been in a sales role and found the "tactics and techniques" he was exposed to were manipulative and that there was a better way that was more focused on customers. He built The Brooks Group around that concept. Since he passed away, we've been fortunate to have the opportunity to grow the firm pretty dramatically and, in turn, help to elevate the profession of selling.
YOUR ADVICE TO BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS
What advice would you give someone wanting to become an entrepreneur?
Hold onto as much cash as possible. Starting a business is expensive. In fact, it's probably more expensive than you first imagine. So, that means holding onto more cash than you think you'll need.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I don't know whether I'd characterize it as a formula, per se. But I would say success comes most often to those who (1) identify a hole that needs to be filled in a market and (2) remain laser-focused on filling it.
What do you fell is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
I think entrepreneurs have a strong need for freedom and flexibility. They need to call their own shots without anyone looking over their shoulder. Most others don't mind -- indeed perhaps prefer -- being told what to do and when to do it. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, suffer mightily under those conditions.
Building your brand and your vision
What kind of culture exists in your organisation?
Empowerment. We work very hard as an Executive Team (our VPs) to drive decisions affecting our clients to those closest to them. We believe that the members of our team who directly serve our customers are very often in the best position to decide how best to deliver an excellent client experience. And, as long as the decisions they make are in accordance with our core values (Excellence, Flexibility, Accountability, Integrity, and Simplicity), they're almost always the right call.
How do you find people to bring into your organisation that truly care about the business the way you do?
This is the hardest part of what we do. We're in the people business. In other words, our clients are hiring the people on our team. We develop professionally intimate relationships with the individuals we serve. So, that means we have to hold ourselves to an unbelievably high standard when it comes to hiring. We use a suite of assessment tools for every candidate we look at. This gives us great insight into whether candidates will fit within our culture. We also have a rather lengthy interview process that involves everything from panel interviews to job shadowing. People come to The Brooks Group because they want to be on our team, not because they want "a job."
How do you build a successful customer base and brand?
It's about every client interaction. And, ultimately, our clients are the ones who define our brand. We can't afford to deliver anything other than excellent interactions. And, again, "excellent" is defined by our clients. We have to understand what they expect from us and deliver that.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow?
I have a coach with whom I meet monthly. I invest a great deal of time reading personal and professional development books. And I'm constantly exploring what's happening outside of our industry to see how it might impact us down the line. For example, this year I attended the Consumer Electronics Show, which is the largest exhibition of technology for home use. On the surface, it had nothing to do with our business-to-business sales training, but truth be told, it will have massive implications on us. For example, 3D Printing is a huge disrupter on our manufacturing clients. When looking outside our industry, I can't help asking myself, "how will this impact our business?"
DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR? IF SO, WHAT TRAITS ARE YOU SEEKING IN A MENTOR AND WHY?
Yes. I have many mentors. And, in that role, I'm seeking someone who has views and experiences that are different than mine. A person who has biases that are unlike the ones I bring.
WHAT BOOK HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST?
The Four Agreements.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SATISFYING MOMENT IN BUSINESS?
Seeing our team execute in lockstep toward our agreed-upon vision. Sure, it's not a moment -- indeed it's happening now -- but it's awfully satisfying!
DESCRIBE YOUR TYPICAL DAY?
I can't. They're all so different. Some days, I'm on the road heading to a conference or a client meeting. Others, I'm in the office with back-to-back meetings. Regardless, I start each day at 5:00 a.m. and use the morning to knock out my most focused work. That's when I'm freshest. From there, it's time for phone calls and meetings. If I'm at home, I try to wrap things up by 3:00 or 3:30 so I can head to the gym.
WHAT'S THE MOST EXCITING THING YOU HAVE DONE OVER THE PAST YEAR?
Seeing Machu Picchu in Peru certainly ranks up there. Something that's so massive, old, and remains largely intact puts what we do everyday into the proper perspective.
WHAT'S LEFT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST THAT YOU ARE DYING TO DO?
I'm working towards visiting 100 countries. I'm only at 29, so there's a long way to go!