Potpourri: Sales Great Bill Brooks’ legacy: A friend
October 27, 2007, death silenced one of the nation’s strongest sales training voices and great human beings, Bill Brooks, at 62. It will not quiet the enthusiasm, knowledge, and leadership that will resonate for years with those he led, taught, and mentored for decades. (The Brooks Group has trained more than one million salespeople all over the world, he authored 19 books including 3 best sellers, was former CEO of a national firm with 3500 employees, a member of the Professional Speaking Hall of Fame, and was the only person in the world to concurrently hold the Certified Speaking Professional, the Council of Peers Award for Excellence and the Certified Management Consultant designations.)
Bill was also a former military officer and college football coach (who often called others “coach”). He would periodically telephone saying, “Hey coach Amme, did you hear the one about?” Then serious, he’d ask how your business was doing, suggest improvements, and give an unvarnished assessment of his own company. If business was off, he’d admit it. Much more often all was well and he’d delight in telling you of new innovations. Bill was the ultimate “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” guy. He once took me with him to Virginia to record some sales tapes. They bombed. He didn’t flinch and moved on to the next idea. He was a master at leveraging the sales process. For years Bill’s associates would evaluate sales students via testing before they went to the classroom. These tests flowed into Bill’s office daily. The staff would tailor training materials (usually Bill’s CD’s, audiotapes or books) to strengthen the sales weaknesses of each individual.
Bill always focused on getting more clients and finding better ways to operate. While most of us attended conventions to hear others tell us what to do, Bill haunted the hallways completing business deals with clients or new collaborators. At the exhibition rooms, instructional materials and programs available from The Brooks Group or his partners were almost always present.
Bill was a performing force of nature. He knew sales cold and stalked the stage while engagingly engaging audience members. He’d pick someone out of the audience by name and ask them questions to make a point. Sometimes they’d go on stage. It was fun, never threatening. Bill should have been a standup comic. At one speech he picked on me, saying. “Take Rick Amme here. Rick, stand up and tell us about this latest step of yours to attract clients.”
Often after he made an important point, Bill would look at the audience and ask, “Am I right? Am I right?”
His books, recordings, and the office telephone were equally energetic. While on hold to talk to him, you heard Bill’s voice conveying sales techniques.
He adored his family, was loyal, and trusted his gut. Some “friends” told me I would fail when I started my business 13 years ago. Meeting as complete strangers, I sought Bill’s advice and over lunch he said with utter assurance, “Rick, you’re going to do great!” I cannot overstate the inspirational power of that comment from a wildly successful man I had just met. He instinctively believed in me and I would never forget it.
Bill believed he’d kick his illness, fought to beat it, and worked as often as he could despite the disease and exhausting treatments. Between rounds of chemo, he and I even recorded a series of webinars. While thinner he was still lightning quick with sales advice. Yet, he didn’t bluff himself about what he faced. “It is what it is,” he said. He knew the odds. They fell the wrong way.
Fortunately for the many thousands of us who heard or saw or knew Bill Brooks, the dice rolled right. We’re smarter, savvier, and more human because we crossed his path.