Bill Ruprecht pulls from his decades-long career in sales and business development and shares the work-defining stories and lessons he learned along the way. Learn how Bill discovered the keys to building relationships around the dinner table with his parents, why building relationships isn’t solely reserved for people with the natural gift of conversation but is a trainable skill that anyone can figure out, and why being in sales is something you should be proud of.
Mo asks Bill Ruprecht: When did you first start thinking about business development as something important that you wanted to do?
- Bill spent many years in business when there were two kinds of business development. The first was a form of gunslinging more focused on extracting value and the second was centered around building more long term relationships. Inevitably, you come to realize that building relationships and adding relevance to potential customers is the way to go.
- There are three ways to differentiate a business: be an innovator and make things that no one has seen before, be cheap and provide the lowest cost service, or you can be customer centric and know more about your customers than anyone else in the world.
- Nobody should own a client. The team should always work together to get the job done well.
- If you have a lot of history with a client or they demand that a particular person is involved, that should be accepted.
- The end result of a deal is always a combination of relationship and price. In Bill’s line of work, certain clients tend to push on price but that always makes things tougher. Chasing the margins on a deal down to the point where the service provider doesn’t care about the outcome is always a poor choice.
- For another client, Bill tells the story of a semi-regular delivery of BLT sandwiches and how they were a barometer of the relationship. They may not have gotten the business because of the sandwiches, but they definitely didn’t hurt.
Mo asks Bill Ruprecht: What story did your parents tell you that shaped how you thought about business development?
- Bill’s mother was always extremely bright and driven, but she wasn’t terribly happy in her life. His father had the knack of being able to find commonality with almost anyone. It was at the dinner table where Bill was constantly challenged with questions on how he would deal with a variety of hypothetical situations.
- When Bill started in the antique business he was working with Persian rug dealers and in the process he learned what was relevant to them and how to build rapport, despite the considerable difference in their culture.
- Bill understood that those conversations with his parents around the dinner table were like batting practice, and those skills served him well in his work later on in life.
- When you do something for a long time, you give yourself the opportunity to get lucky. If you position yourself in the right way and do the work, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful, but it does mean you can get lucky.
- There wasn’t one single pivot moment where Bill got lucky and his career took off. It was a gradual process of taking on more risks and responsibilities over time and pushing past the fear to take the leap each time.
Mo asks Bill Ruprecht: What is your favorite science, step, or strategy from the GrowBIG Training or the Snowball System?
- Bill began working with Mo because he believed a more disciplined approach to building relationships was critical to the continued growth of his organization.
- When you have 90 offices over 40 countries is an enormous task. Bill recalls a meeting with a number of executives at Sotheby's along with Mo where it became very clear how some people struggled with the process of articulating value, even those who had been in the business for 30 years.
- Every business believes they are unique so they often believe a system of business development couldn’t possibly apply to them. But once they realize that almost everybody runs into the same problems and barriers, they see the value of a disciplined approach to relationships.
- The default assumption that most people make is that business development is not a learnable skill. That some people are just born with it and that assumption prevents them from seeing the possibilities.
- Bill is a born introvert and a learned extrovert. Giving speeches and connecting with people didn’t come naturally to him.
- Being a salesman is something to be proud of because it means you’re being an advocate for whatever you’re walking into the room and trying to do.
Mo asks Bill Ruprecht: What is a story of business development that you are particularly proud of?
- A business like Sotheby’s is a transaction business so Bill had been involved in thousands of transactions over the course of his career but one tale in particular stood out to him.
- Bill traveled down to Florida to help an older lawyer sell $20 million in vintage cars and that began a 9-month process of negotiating. After months of back and forth, they finally signed the deal, and the auction itself was widely successful.
- In extended negotiations, as the professional, you know what it will take to make the deal successful. It’s common for the other party to not fully know what they want and the key is to just keep the conversations going.
- When the other party doesn’t know what they want, negotiating becomes a marathon or experimenting and exploring until they land on what was missing from the conversation.
Mo asks Bill Ruprecht: If you could record a video around business development for your younger self, what would it say?
- You learn a lot more from failure than you do from success. Early on in Bill’s career, he had developed a relationship with an art collector, but after the collector passed away the business went to other people because Bill didn’t consider what would happen after that point or lay the foundation to make sure the family would work with him.
- It’s important to not rely on a single individual for your relationship with an organization. You need to create a team of advocates to work with a team of counterparts within the organization.
- Remove your ego from the equation and focus on building a team to team relationship.
- We tend to focus on our expertise and believe that’s how decisions get made, but that’s not the way it works. What should drive those decisions is that your company has a collection of skills to help clients solve their problems.
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