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Episode 124: Sales training: benefits for relaunchers whether or not you’re relaunching directly in sales with Mike Montague

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Episode Description

Global Head of Content at sales training experts Sandler Training, Host of Sandler Training’s “How to Succeed“ podcast, and co-author of “LinkedIn The Sandler Way,” Mike Montague joins Carol for a lively discussion about effective sales techniques and relaunching in sales. They cover the art of consultative sales, the importance of being a good listener when selling, and how sales training can help relaunchers.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the Chair and Co-founder of iRelaunch and your host for today. Today we welcome Mike Montague, Global Head of Content at Sandler Training Worldwide and host of the How to Succeed podcast series. A Business Insider article on what makes top sales people at Salesforce, the cloud technology giant that builds tools to help companies connect with customers and employees, included Sandler Training as one of the main factors. This caught our eye and we immediately got in touch with Sandler Training Worldwide to find out.

I'm thrilled to be speaking with Mike to learn directly from him all about Sandler Training, why it leads to sales success, and especially whether and how it can be helpful to relaunchers. Mike, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Mike Montague: Hey, great to be here. I haven't had to do a relaunch after a career break in my career, but I've had to relaunch just from changing careers a few times.

So, I can certainly relate and I'm excited to talk about it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great. Well, we're thrilled to have you. Mike, in the Business Insider article, I actually need to read this to you and our audience, Anna Resio who is Salesforce's Executive Vice President of Global Recruiting, said, "The analysis showed that 40%," this is analysis that they did of who was successful in sales roles at Salesforce, and "the analysis showed that 40% of Salesforce's top performing account executives did not have a background in enterprise software, their primary product." And she said, "There had been a bias before that you had to have enterprise software experience in order to be successful at Salesforce. And many of the best salespeople," she said, "had previously gone through Sandler Sales Training." She says, "Sandler Training focused on solution selling which Salesforce values highly; it's about creating the larger narrative," she added. So let's start there. Can you please tell us about Sandler Training and what distinguishes it and makes it so effective, and how does it work?

Mike Montague: Sure. I think there are three things that I always bring up when I get that question. The first one she mentioned, which is the way we teach people how to sell at Sandler, is not the traditional salesy ways. We're not trying to make those sales bros that you see in the movies and stuff that are like suit wearing, business card- slinging select salesperson.

I don't believe anybody really wants to be that type of salesperson. We're trying to build highly professional, highly paid consultants that help buyers buy while the salesperson stays out of their way and removes other roadblocks from them being able to purchase what they want. And I think if you think about sales that way, it's a lot more palatable to most people, considering the career and it's how we all want to be sold to.

Does that make sense?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, it really makes sense to me, in terms of our context here at iRelaunch, you know, how we do a consultative discussion with our own prospective employers. So it's very relevant.

Mike Montague: Yeah. And I think a lot of people avoid the sales profession because they think, "Oh, I don't want to be a salesperson. I don't want to be pushy and have to hit up my friends or colleagues and always be chasing sales." And so we want to teach people how to change that game, how to get themselves out of the traditional sales thing and towards being a consultant, a facilitator of a process, and a problem solver for people, and that's the solution part of what she said. And I love that quote too, you found a great one, because a lot of people find that in their companies, the people that are selling well do this anyway. The best salespeople in every organization are not the pushy, high pressure salespeople. And so what Salesforce and a lot of our clients have found, is that when people take Sandler Training, they're top performers in their organization and they try to duplicate those types of people.

So one of the other things that sets Sandler apart is how we do that because the same thing exists in education. A lot of people think they can read a book or they can learn a script and they, "Oh, you just say this script every time you go on a sales call and you'll magically get more sales." And we know that's not true. We have to change our mindset. We have to change our behaviors, what we're doing. We also have to change some techniques and how we're saying things and how we present ourselves in the conversation so that we can get equal business stature and break some of those rules that we're talking about. And so we take a really holistic approach of working on your attitude, your behavior, and your technique to make sure that you really get to success and that you stay there. And you're not learning some slick gimmick that's going to work for a while until everybody learns the magic trick and then it doesn't work anymore, and people look for the next magic trick. That's just not sustainable. But Sandler has been here for 50 years because we really help people figure out how to sell sustainably in a way that everybody wants to participate.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So let's say I wanted to learn the training. What do I do? Is this an online program? Is it in-person? How does it actually work?

Mike Montague: That's kind of our third one. So I mentioned there were three, the third one is Sandler is all about ongoing reinforcement because David Sandler, our founder wrote a book, You Can't Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar.

You can't learn how to ride a bike by hearing somebody else talk about it. And you're not going to get better and change your career by going to a two day seminar in Vegas or Florida, and then, "Oh, I'm fixed. I magically know how to sell for the rest of my life and I can go home and do it on Monday."

We do have online programs. We have some virtual training that you can do as well, which is like live instructor led like you would think of an online college course. But the majority of our people go through some sort of reinforcement live training in person so that you can ask questions, you can practice and role play with other people and you can really get good at what we're doing. And those are typically like two hours a week ongoing for I'd say a year, 18 months is typical.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And you run them in locations across the country.

Mike Montague: Yeah. We have over 250 locations around the world, about 175 in the United States and all the major cities.

But if we don't have one new we do set up boot camps and those virtual trainings and stuff. But there's a good chance there's a Sandler one pretty close.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And how is it split between people who are doing this because their company has engaged with you and you're training a whole army of people from a particular company, versus an individual who wants to get the training for themselves, because they expect to be using it in the future?

Mike Montague: I would say it's split about 50/50. If there is a bias, it's probably towards those larger companies, just because they put in 10 to 100 people at a time. And so when we work with Salesforce, I think we were training like 15,000 people that would really skew our numbers. But, in those regular, local classes, those are probably 50/50. We get a lot of people that invest in themselves individually, especially what we call professional services people. because they didn't get into sales, they wanted to be a lawyer, a doctor, an architect an engineer, and then they realized, "Oh, to grow my business, I have to do business development."

And so they come to us for professional training for that. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs and people relaunching their careers realize that sales is a valuable skill that you can use no matter what you do. So if you have to build your resume, build your credibility in a way that's marketable for the rest of your life, having communication, leadership and sales training is a great way to do that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, I totally agree with you. Tell me this, are there certain people who have to take a personality test in order to be identified as someone who's going to respond best for this training? Who's best qualified to take it, and are there any times you turn people away? And also, do you, is it better if they've never had any other kind of sales training before because they're biased, or does that part not matter?

Mike Montague: Let's deal with that one first, because I don't think it really matters, and you can't change that. If you've already taken training or you're 50 years old, then you've been selling wrong for 30 years. Yeah, there's nothing new about that. I was really lucky that my dad is a Sandler trainer, so I got it in high school before I had any bad habits. So I think there may be a little bit easier a time changing your behaviors or creating new habits if you don't have bad ones to replace, but everybody still has to learn those new habits anyway.

I don't think that's an issue. It's one that we deal with a lot. The other part of the question was personality styles. And we definitely pay attention to this. And there are people that we will turn away, but really we give it to you as the option. So we do two types of profiles, one is a DISC behavioral profile, are you familiar with those?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes.

Mike Montague: If your audience isn't it's just really quick what are your natural tendencies about how you go about it. A lot of people think salespeople need to be outgoing and talkative and those influencer type people on the DISC model, but we found that's not necessarily true.

It depends on who you're selling to, that introverts make really good salespeople because they're better listeners than outgoing people, but you do have to be willing to at least go have a conversation, right? So some people are going to have maybe some natural tendencies that are a little bit easier to deal with than others.

The other profile we do is a sales-based profile, which really looks at things like your ambition, your drive, your money motivation, like whether you have the internal and external driving forces that will allow you to do the difficult things it takes to be successful in sales. And really, I think it just comes down to wanting it.

And sometimes we do those profiles and we realize that some of the people don't really want it. Somebody told them they should be in sales or they could make a lot of money, but they don't really want to do it. Or they just can't face the overwhelming amount of rejection and no's that you have to hear to be successful in sales.

And then we give those people a choice to either do the hard work to get better or to move along and find something maybe that suits their natural tendencies a little bit better.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And when you're making that comment about, there are introverts who can be very successful because they're better listeners, people who are trained as educators, is there a correlation there in consultative sales that they could also be successful?

Mike Montague: Yes. But I would hesitate that is one of the most common challenges salespeople have. Because I mentioned listening there, we have a rule in Sandler that the person who's talking is losing.

So if you have a bias towards over-explaining and trying to pitch features and benefits and over-talking, and trying to teach your customers all about what you're selling, rather than ask questions, listen, uncover their problems, and then use your knowledge to solve those problems, then you'll struggle in sales a little bit.

So depending on what type of an educator, whether it's like the traditional, speak and lecture or more of a modern, flip classroom, ask questions, help people draw out and discover why they would want to buy something. Then I think those are going to determine your sales.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it. So what happens in the classroom itself? Is it role playing? Is it quantitative? Like how was the material taught?

Mike Montague: Yeah, all of the above. That's a great question, and it's my role here at Sandler. So as the Global Head of Content, part of what I do is help build the training programs and role-plays and online courses that go together. And I think we found that the best results come from a mix of techniques.

So if you watch an online video before you get to class, you'll have that awareness of the topic and then you can come in with better questions. And if we teach you what to do and how to do it right before we have your role-play, you'll do a better role-play. And then once you apply that information and you practice and you do it over and over again, you start feeling more comfortable and you're more likely to do it when you go out on your next call.

So we very much base our learning on the Kirkpatrick model of awareness, knowledge application and skill. First you have to know that you're doing something wrong, then you need to know what the right thing to do is, then you need to try it, and then you need to try it enough to get good at it.

And if you do that, you'll get to success every single time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And what did you, what did you call that?

Mike Montague: Kirkpatrick model. It's been around for a couple of decades now, but it's a way of measuring feedback and learning to make sure that our trainers are doing a great job, but also that the learners are getting to mastery. That just knowing how to do something is not good enough, because we all know how to lose weight. You eat less than you exercise more, but that doesn't mean any of us are actually doing it. So we really try to focus on how we get people to apply these tactics and actually get better in sales when they go out on their next call.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Alright. And who teaches the course?

Mike Montague: We have over 400 trainers, in I think, 17 languages or so now. And they're all local experts. We have some national experts that travel around, myself, our CEO, David Mattson, do like big keynotes. I call it “training for show.” I do podcasts like these webinars and stuff where there's not actually students in the room. But we have over 400 trainers that are local trainers and coaches that work with you on a regular basis.

So if you have questions, you heard something on this podcast today, and you're like, "Man, I really want to know more about that." Dave and I can't take questions from the a hundred thousand people that we speak to every year. So we have these local experts that are really great, and have been around for a long time.

And they coach and train people every single day, doing the real boots on the ground stuff. And they're, most of them have a lot of sales and leadership experience. And they have to do it every day because they run their own entrepreneurial businesses. So they work directly with the students in the classroom on a weekly basis to make sure they get that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So they get certified to teach, they pay to become certified, and then they have the authorization to use the contents and the methodology to run their own sales training business? Is that how it's structured with the four hundred trainers?.

Mike Montague: Yeah, that's correct. And since this is the relaunch podcast, it's a franchise business model.

So if anybody here is looking to start one and has experience in sales or leadership, and you wanted to be a trainer, that's certainly an opportunity. You can go to and check out that business model as well.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, I'm glad you mentioned that. We certainly have people in our relauncher community for whom that might be an appropriate next step.

But that leads me to my next question. So have you had people, let's put aside the possibility of people relaunching by actually becoming a Sandler franchisee, and talk about the possibility where someone who was in sales before, and then has taken a long career break and wants to get back into sales, or the person who wants to career transition into sales as part of their relaunch.

Have you had that profile of the person taking your course? And can you give us any sense of the kinds of roles that people go on to get after they complete the course?

Mike Montague: Yeah, I hinted at it earlier, but obviously I'm a big fan of the sales profession when done right. And I think it's one of those skills that is extremely valuable.

If you can sell, you will not hurt for a job for the rest of your life. And one of the things I think is cool about Sandler is it's not specific around selling real estate or selling financial services or anything. We train everybody in every industry. And so when you get that skill, when you have management skills that translate, or leadership and sales skills that can be used to sell anything, no matter what it is, if you can move the needle and you can actually make sales, you'll get hired in a second. I can't say specifically what roles or that Sandler salespeople get higher base salaries or anything, but we really focus on being effective. So if you can sell and you get in the commission based thing, I think the sky's the limit.

And we have seen that Sandler salespeople are more likely to hit quota and to earn more in commissions than non Sandler trained salespeople. There's been lots of research on that. And so I think when I mix all that together, I would say it's a really great long-term investment in your career and a way to go to a company and say, "Hey, I've taken this course. I've learned how to sell. I am invested in being a sales person. This is something I want to do." And that's one of the biggest hiring factors when we're looking for successful salespeople is they have to want to be in sales.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's interesting. You could actually use the techniques that you learned in the course to sell yourself in terms of getting a job.

Mike Montague: Absolutely, that too.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, so that is also directly relevant to relaunchers in addition to using it once they're in the actual job. So just logistically. how do you enroll? How much does it cost? How long does it take to complete the course?

Mike Montague: That is a great question, and I think there are a lot of different ways to answer it. So let me start by saying traditionally our full program is very expensive. It's time consuming and it's difficult to complete, but it works. So we've been able to prove that out over the last 50 years. But that being said, you can also just get started by buying the book. We mentioned the "Bike" book. There's a lot of other great books, like The Sandler Rules was a Wall Street Journal best selling sales book. You Can't Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike is the best selling sales book of all time, you can get those on Amazon and audio format and all that kind of good stuff.

Or you can go to and get an online course for as little as $50, if you want to start learning about how to do prospecting without putting a lot of pressure on yourself and on your prospect. Probably the best thing to do would be to talk to a local Sandler trainer. Just find out who's in your area.

If you go to, you click on the locations in the very top header bar, you'll find somebody close to you and you can talk it out. Because there's a difference, there's an eight week program that could be a couple of thousand dollars. There is an ongoing yearly program that could be as much as $10,000 or so. So some of those numbers scare people off, but there's a lot of ways to walk into it and take a little piece at a time, start with those profiles and figure out whether you're trainable and whether this will work for you. And then work with your trainer to figure out what the best solution for timing and logistics wise is.

But the good news is, Sandler does this for so many people, over 30,000 a year, that we can figure it out. It might be once a month instead of once a week, or it might be mostly online or it might be mostly in person. It depends on what's best for you and your situation.

Carol Fishman Cohen: All right. That's very helpful. Now, Mike, I want to end by asking you a little bit about you and your background and how you ended up working for Sandler Training. I know earlier you mentioned that your dad was a Sandler trainer. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Mike Montague: Sure. My Sandler story is like a three or four parter now. So I'll give you the abbreviated version, but, my dad's been a Sandler trainer for over 25 years.

He bought his franchise in Kansas City when I was a junior in high school. And I took that first eight week foundations program in between my junior and senior year of high school. And I took it on and off without having anything to sell. And like you mentioned, I use it to get jobs. I used it to get dates.

I used it to communicate with people and teachers and solve problems when I had to get stuff through college into the programs or get somebody to commit to something. It was very helpful. And so I took it on and off throughout my career and I was a radio DJ in my twenties.

And then, at about 30, I decided to work for my dad and I became a full-time Sandler trainer and a general manager of his office in Kansas City, did that for five years. And I wrote a book called LinkedIn the Sandler Way, and if you're worried about how to set up your LinkedIn profile or getting back into the job market there, I recommend checking that out.

There's a free PDF at, you can get my book for free there. And that got the attention of our national Sandler organization. So Dave Mattson, the CEO hired me to be the director of content marketing and then vice president of online learning and now global head of content for Sandler over the last five years there. So it's been a long 25 year story, but a lot of fun. And I just love what Sandler teaches. I think it's really the best way to communicate, the best way to live. We do awesome goal setting and time management stuff and even building self-esteem because salespeople struggle again with that rejection.

And maintaining a healthy self-esteem and a healthy self-confidence is important for success in anything. And that's really what keeps me going at Sandler. If I can help more people figure that out. That's well worth my time and effort.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Very interesting. Cause I'm guessing they only would hire the best salespeople to be in a sales role for Sandler itself. You have to be a role model for all the people that you're training. But let's just spend a minute because I'm intrigued on the franchisee side. So what's involved there? Like how do you evaluate whether people are going to be successful as franchisees? What kind of investment do people have to make? And is there a training process? Let's say I want to relaunch by opening a franchise with Sandler, what happens?

Mike Montague: Well, yeah, let me start with that other comment, because I think there is a lot of people who feel like, "Oh, if you're going to teach sales, you have to be the world's best salesperson."

And I think those are two different skills. Teaching somebody how to sell is different than actually selling. Just like Tiger Woods has a golf coach. That golf coach doesn't have to be better at golf than Tiger Woods. He has to be a better coach than Tiger Woods can be to himself. So there are some different skill sets there, but with that caveat in there, this is a selling business.

You basically buy the rights to a territory, and it's your job to develop that territory. So selling is definitely a part of it. It's not just coaching. So there's three buckets there. There's the selling part of the business. There is the training part of the business, and then you also have to want to be an entrepreneur and kind of the management leadership part of the business. Those are the three buckets that we teach our franchisees how to do. But like you mentioned, we're a training franchise. So the training is great. There's an initial two weeks training course. There's weekly calls and reinforcements and teleconferences. And we have big conferences three times a year where we bring all of our trainers together to share best practices and stuff.

And it's really a great learning community. And we teach people how to sell and how to lead. So two of those three buckets are what we do for a living. If you just practice what we preach, you can be successful. We don't teach other people how to train, but maybe that's something we should do. And then we'd have all three buckets covered.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Interesting. Thank you for telling us about that piece of it. So we're running out of time, Mike, and I want to close by asking you the question that we ask all of our podcasts guests, and that is, what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today?

Mike Montague: I'm going to switch it up because it's one of the Sandler rules and it's a tough one.

So I'm going to challenge you as we leave the podcast here. We have a say in the rule that you are earning right now, exactly what you think you're worth, not a penny more and not a penny less. Now, if you've been out of work and you weren't focused on making money, that doesn't necessarily apply at that situation when you're getting ready to relaunch.

But when you're looking for jobs, what we found is people look for jobs at the pay that they think they can get. And so if you were used to making $30,000, you go out and you look for other $30,000 jobs. If you're used to and comfortable looking at a hundred thousand dollars or $200,000 jobs, those are the jobs you're going to go look for as you look to relaunch into.

So my advice to everybody leaving the podcast is, just raise your money concept. Just dream. Double what you think you're worth and apply for those jobs instead, and you might be surprised what shakes out and what happens there. You might just double your income just by asking. Sometimes it's that simple.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great advice. Thank you. And just, I know you've made some references, but just to be clear for our audience, can you tell everyone how to find out more about Sandler training worldwide?

Mike Montague: Yeah. is the website. There's a couple of offers that I've mentioned. is a way to get my LinkedIn book.

There's also another secret link. If you go to S E L L, that stands for the Sandler e-learning library and there's a 350 free podcasts, dozens of webinars, white papers and stuff, that you can just start learning sales for free on your own dime. And I think if you're looking to relaunch, that's a great way to get started and then invest in the books and the online courses and the training as you need help, and you know what questions you're looking to ask. So is the best place to start.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, I like that as a starting point. That's great. Mike, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mike Montague: Thanks for having me. It was really a great time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes. And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break.

I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chairman and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch, go to And if you liked this podcast, be sure to rate it on iTunes and your favorite podcast platform, and be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

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