ramez helou

018: Ramez Helou – Nothing Happens Until Something Is Sold

Podcast

ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | RAMEZ HELOU

Known as “The Sales Doctor,” Ramez Helou is the Founder & CEO of The Academy For Sales Excellence, headquartered in the amazing city of Dubai.  Ramez has trained over 100,000 salespeople in at least 30 countries on 5 different continents over his illustrious career.  He spent 15 years with Cutco/Vector, advancing up to the position of Division Manager, and another 6 years with Unilever where he developed their sales organization all across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  For the past nine years, Ramez has been pursuing his passion in speaking and training sales teams all over the world, especially those involved in complex B2B selling.  He is also an adjunct Professor of “Sales, Leadership, and Management Skills” to MBA and Executive MBA students at Hult Business School, and he is fluent in Arabic, French, English, and Spanish.

Q&A WITH RAMEZ HELOU

Q: I would like to just let you tell a little bit about your story because it’s so fascinating; take us back and tell us a little about yourself.

  • I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon and I never thought I would leave my country but the war conditions in 1987 gave my family the opportunity to move to the US and that’s when everything changed.It was a life-changing experience.
  • I received a letter in the mail between my Freshmen and Sophomore year.
  • I started selling knives because I wanted some experience and make some money and little did I know that I would end up with that company for 15 years.

Q: What were some of the early learning experiences you had as a new rep or a new manager that you feel like were important for you?

  • First of all, asking.
  • Not just asking for business or for things from other people, but asking from yourself. Vector taught me how to ask.
  • So much of our communication is not just our words but our tonality and our body language and I learned to really learn the Cutco sales approach so that I could focus my energy on coming across the right way.Especially since English isn’t my first language.

Q: So after you advanced into management, eventually you made a decision to move to Puerto Rico and start running an office over there.  They speak Spanish in Puerto Rico and you didn’t know the language, what went into the idea of going to Puerto Rico to open that up as a territory for Cutco?

  • My girlfriend was from Puerto Rico and I ran my District office in Pennsylvania while she was down in Puerto Rico and we had a long-distance relationship and after about 3 years I thought how great it would be if I could go to Puerto Rico and make that the bridge for Cutco to Latin America.
  • So I had a conversation with Al, the president of Vector East, and presented him with the idea to potentially sell Cutco to a continent with 300 million people, so I could be by my girlfriend.
  • The day before I was supposed to leave for Puerto Rico my girlfriend tells me that I shouldn’t come because she didn’t love me anymore. I was devastated and faced with a real question… Do I move to a country 3,000 miles from my closest family members or do I stay where I’m comfortable and I chose to do the harder thing.
  • The night before my first big training class I went to get dinner and my card was declined so I had to go home to eat tuna and Corn Flakes for dinner. The next day I went to my bank to see what was wrong and that’s when I learned that it takes 10 days for US checks to clear in Puerto Rico.
  • That day I made a decision that I would never be in a position where I would have to eat tuna and Corn Flakes ever again.
  • I learned that our will power is like a muscle. As a sales rep, I thought about quitting many times but it was my managers who helped me through those feelings.
  • Once I realized my manager wasn’t trying to push me to sell more knives for him but rather to help me expand my comfort zone so that it would become my new reality.
  • In order for us to get what we want we have to help other people get what they want first. You have to lead from the heart.

Q: I’d like to hear about how your story took you to Dubai and describe for people about that path.

  • I had a calling to help people and I decided to move to Puerto Rico and bring Cutco into Latin America.
  • While I was running my Division, my number one District Manager was recruited by a pharmaceutical company, which I was a little bit upset about but I was excited for his new opportunity.
  • One day he called me and asked me if I would come speak at one of his sales conferences to inspire his team. At first I told him he didn’t need me because he was my number 1 guy, but he told me his company would fly me there first class and pay me for my time, so I accepted.
  • I didn’t know what to expect because I was only used to selling knives.
  • But it went so well that he invited me to come and speak again at another conference.
  • I had this urge to help others but I also had a limiting belief that I was only able to help others sell knives.
  • One of my brothers lives in Dubai and I had a lead for one company that I ended up interviewing with and at the end of the interview the recruiter told me he didn’t think my 1-to-1 sales experience would work well for the department I was interviewing with. I asked him if there was a department within that company that my 1-to-1 experience would be valuable for, and he gave me a lead to their food department because they sell directly to chefs 1-to-1.
  • They offered me a job as the Sales Training Manager but for the first 6 months I took on a role as a Key Accounts Manager so I could learn and experience what it was like to sell food to hotels and restaurants.
  • After the first 3 or 4 weeks I was struggling so I decided to go to other markets where people were very successful so I could learn from them.
  • Eventually I crafted a global B-to-B sales module and I trained 40 of their sales trainers in my first 3 years.
  • They eventually promoted me to a position overseeing a failing division within the company and I was put in charge of turning the division around. I sat down with each person and cast a vision that they were going to be a part of the greatest turnaround story in company history.  I then asked them why they were there and what their goals were and tied their goals into the company goals and within about a year and a half we turned it around.
  • These were the same things that I learned how to do in Vector.

Q: So the big keys were helping people establish a vision of why they’re doing what they’re doing, a vision of what you want to build as a team and how they fit in, and then giving them the structure, systems, and the best practices to be able to succeed, and that helped you build your organization?

  • And this is what we’ve done without even thinking about it in Vector and it’s not common sense.
  • When people have a big enough reason they can do anything.
  • But sometimes people give up on their reasons and start settling rather than listening to what their heart is telling them.
  • The statue David was always in the rock, Michelangelo just removed the rock around him until David was uncovered. The same is true of each of us. There is a work of art inside each and every one of us!

Q: You left your Sales Training Manager job after 5 or 6 years to start you own venture which is The Academy For Sales Excellence and now you’re training sales people and sales managers all over the world. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing with your own company.

  • I always thought I wanted to speak and train in front of a lot of people. My motto is, “inspire one more.”
  • I give sales people hope, and I give hope by giving education, by showing them things they are not doing, and I give them hope by giving them proven and tested ideas and best practices and methodologies proven and tested to give them results.

Q: What are some of the key principles for sales people?

  • The biggest thing is you have to do your homework. In the digital age, YOU have to become the value. Your product has to be good, but YOU are the reason your customer should buy from you.
    • You have to know your customers business better than your customer knows their business.
    • If you do that than you become an asset, an external asset, for that organization. You do that and your customers will clear their desk for you.
  • You have to listen. You have to ask and then shut up.

Q: As you’ve accomplished so much and you’ve done such great work, as you look to your own future 5-10 years down the road, what are you most excited about?

  • I’m excited to provide opportunities for other people because you can’t shine the light on other’s path without shedding light on your own path. And one becomes two and two eventually becomes millions.

Q: How can people reach you or follow you?

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Having strong enough reasons for all of the things that you want to do.
  • Have a vision for what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it.
  • Help other people in your organization establish their own vision for what they can be a part of with the team and also how they’ll benefit individually.
  • Structure and systems are a critical part of success and is a big part of what Ramez teaches all around the world.
  • “My new expanded comfort zone became my reality.” -Ramez Helou

CUTCO/VECTOR TERMS

  • Division Manager- a Cutco/ Vector manager who runs a team of District and Branch Managers as well as their own “Pilot Office.”
  • Homemaker set- Cutco’s original knife set offered as a 10 piece and 18 piece set.
  • District Office/ District Manager: a Cutco/ Vector office/ manager that runs a year-round office full time.
  • Launch- the term given to the moment a new rep leaves training and goes to their first appointment.
  • Challenge Week- a Division-wide sales contest the week leading up to the start of a Push Period designed to help sales reps and offices build momentum before a contest amongst multiple Divisions.
  • Push: a 2 week sales contest amongst reps in a given area

 

Show Notes provided by Carlo Cipollina

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