February 19, 2021

Lance Tyson — Founder & CEO of Tyson Group, B2B Sales Trainer to NFL, NBA, MLB

Devin Hiett

1Huddle Podcast Episode #23

On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Lance Tyson, the Founder and CEO of Tyson Group, a top sales training company. In addition to his work as a CEO, Lance is a bestselling author and keynote speaker who has more than 30 years of experience training sales leaders in America’s professional sports teams and developing sales professionals so they can take their organizations and careers to the next level. Lance has also led negotiation strategies on multi-billion-dollar naming rights and sponsorship deals for the nation’s biggest sports stadiums.

Lance and Sam discussed what it takes to become a truly successful and innovative seller, what it means to be a great manager versus a great leader, and why it’s so important to treat people as individuals, rather than grouping people together, both in sales and in life.

Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. 


Below are some of the insights Lance Tyson shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.

  • “You can only change yourself.”
  • “Most managers don’t understand the difference between leadership and management.”
  • “You should treat people individually. Nobody wants to be treated in a group. I think we get ourselves in trouble when we categorize people in groups.”

Sam: “A true seller is someone who can create an opportunity where one did not exist.” This quote is from our guest today — someone who’s renowned as one of the top sales and negotiation coaches in America, according to Selling Power Magazine. Lance Tyson is the Founder and CEO of The Tyson Group, a top sales training company. He is also a bestselling author of the book Selling is an Away Game and a keynote speaker. Lance has more than 30 years of experience training sales leaders in America’s professional sports teams and developing sales pros so they can take their careers to the next level. Lance has also led negotiation strategies on multi-billion dollar naming rights and sponsorship deals for the nation’s biggest sports stadiums. Really excited to have Lance on today. He’s our first guest for season two of Bring It In. On this episode, Lance is talking about what it takes to become a truly successful and innovative seller, what it means to be a great manager versus a great leader, and why it’s so important to treat people as individuals, rather than grouping people together, both in sales and in life. So, if you’re interested in sales, leadership, sports, professional development negotiation, maybe getting the most out of your people, or if you just want to hear one of the nation’s top sales leaders give invaluable advice on how to succeed in your career, then this is a conversation you’re not going to want to miss. So for the first time in 2021, let’s bring it in! Let’s kick it off. Lance, you’ve done a ton of meaningful work throughout your career. How’d you get into sales?

Lance: I actually got in sales ironically enough, probably my first formal sales job was selling. I sold rainbow vacuum cleaners, not making it up. I know you watch a lot of these market funnel guys that said they did this and that. I legit sold rainbow vacuum cleaners. I got kicked out of a Cutco knife presentation. I got kicked out because I was so into it. They asked me to leave along with three other people. I responded to an ad that said, “you can make $10,000 a month.” I was in college. I’m like, this would be great. Then from there I went to Penn State for a bit and I sold radio advertising for a residence hall radio station we had. That’s kind of my first formal job in sales. I connected with folks, then I kind of started to figure it out a little bit. I went through college and communication was my thing, so I got into it.

Sam: What do you think makes a great seller?

Lance: That’s an interesting question. I think there’s two things. I’ll go back to when I met you. I think there’s one set of sellers that sold themselves. When I first met you and how passionate you were about 1Huddle, you had the entrepreneurial spirit. I sold myself and my product or service for entrepreneurs. It’s always tough for them to find people that can sell their product or service as well as they could because nobody’s going to be that passionate. Nobody sells Tyson Group as well as I do, because they’re not as passionate as me. I think that passion for a great seller could go to somebody who’s really passionate about their career. There’s a guy that works for NYFC, the New York soccer club, his name’s David Heller, and he’s on this path about his career. It makes him a great seller because he’s passionate about who he is, where he’s going and what his direction is. I think there are things about those intangibles you can’t measure, and in my business we measure a lot of things that salespeople do well. Grit and attitude and the passion to succeed makes it really hard to measure. It’s almost impossible to measure at some level. So that definitely makes somebody good at selling. I think the other thing though, I heard a really good customer say this one…he said: “A true seller is somebody who could create an opportunity where one did not exist.” That’s the art of selling.

Sam: You do a ton in your business, on the sales assessments, which I think are more relevant than ever today, specifically because managers need additional intel. Even with work from home and being apart, I would assume that an assessment tool that works is a powerful addition to your toolbox. Any big learnings from the results of your assessments over the last year?

Lance: We’ve done thousands of assessments in the last couple of years and we do a lot in sports and entertainment. Pre-pandemic you do an assessment on somebody and there was a lot of resistance like “this isn’t true,” or “I’m really good at that stuff” and we’re like, “no, you have to understand you’re not gonna be good at everything.” Some people think they should just be good at everything. I think inside the pandemic I’ve seen humbleness. I think you see people that are way more open to feedback. The reason why because I’ve been asked that before is if you think about this pandemic, if you go to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but if you go to Maslow, which is kind of more positive psychology, Maslow says survival and safety are two of your key foundational motivations. When you look at this pandemic, most people know somebody that has gotten COVID, or somebody that’s passed away from COVID, or somebody who’s lost their job. Have you feared for your own job? I think people are more open to getting that direct feedback now, where before they’re a little bit more resistant because they weren’t worried about losing their job. So I think people are saying, how can I get better? I need to increase my own value, my own stock.

Sam: What do you say to a salesperson who is trying to upgrade or raise their stock value inside of an organization? What do you tell them they should be investing in right now?

Lance: I think if we’re going to narrow it down to one skill, I think the thing I’m hearing organizations and salespeople screened for and even with my next book called Silva concept, the art of prospecting, selling time getting in the door, my publisher even said, Hey, do some more prospecting and we said it was in our pre-interview. We just recently had a really big pharmaceutical reach out to us and say, “Lance, our whole sales process is predicated on us being in front of the client, not getting in the door of the client. Our salespeople can’t even walk in the door anymore. It’s going to virtual calls. Now we have to compete against the payroll company to get to a physician’s office.”  I thought about that and I said, what I tell salespeople is that you almost have to be good at everything. I’m good at negotiating. I’m going to ask him questions. I’m good at presenting. Now, I think it’s getting pretty primal, right? You gotta be good at the whole damn thing, explaining a lead, getting a lead if your company’s not graded out. I think right now, what we’re focusing on is some of those foundational skills. Interesting enough though, people from your own business, if you’re a good prospect, you’re pretty decent at marketing or getting a message across, because that happens in a microcosm like a really quick hit. What can you say about the product or the service to get somebody’s attention? It’s that headline in the Wall Street Journal. This is the attention. So I think that’s the biggest thing we’re coaching on. We’re seeing people raise their hands and say we need help. It really doesn’t matter what industry, we’re seeing that across the board. We have six companies we’re working with right now. Seed companies and companies that compete against big companies. I think across the board organizations are struggling with that piece.

Sam: I’ve sat in all types of training with you, and I think it’s wild because you’re straightforward. You’re to-the-point. You connect super quickly. You get the audience on your side. They listen, but I can’t help but sit in the back of the room thinking that so much of what you’re saying is connecting directly to the manager. So putting myself in a manager’s seat right now, what are you looking for today?

Lance: I keep going back to the book Moneyball. I think the book’s boring. I think they took a very boring topic and put a really great looking actor in front of there and made it even more interesting. I’m looking for the stuff that’s more universal at this point, because I think managers struggle with a couple of things. Many managers have tried to falsely keep their people motivated this year. They’ve sold this false hope. I’ve been asked so many times in consulting to come in and say: “Hey, can you tell everybody to count their blessings?” I’m like, yeah right. I’m looking for somebody that’s a self soother, not a cry baby. I’m not trying to be insensitive to headspace. I think we all have to be good at that. There’s three types of people: People who can talk to themselves, sometimes you need somebody else to talk to, and sometimes you need meds to help you, and I’m not criticizing any of that. I want somebody that can kind of work themselves through that a little bit. I’m definitely looking for somebody who’s good in their headspace and can solve problems and things like that. Secondly, I’m looking for those universal skills because as a manager, you got to get something through your head and you’re in a learning business. Not every skill is trainable, period. So I’m looking for things I can train that are more universal. There are things I can train for. I’m looking for those general things, but I hate to be cliche and say attitude, but I’m going to go for a good attitude. I’m looking for people that can deal with themselves. Because look right now, I’m dealing with some teams in some organizations where people just shut down. They can’t move forward because of the uncertainty, and they’re nervous and scared. They should be, but you have to get some stuff done too. You’re going to have to fight through it a little bit. So the headspace piece is probably the biggest thing I’m looking for.

Sam: With things being so remote now, it feels like a long distance relationship. You need people that can get you. When I dated my wife and we lived apart for three years, sometimes I had to call her late at night and tell her where I was going. It wasn’t a matter of trust. It was just a matter of respect. And I had to do a little bit more because we were apart. And I think some people in the organization don’t understand that they have to do a little bit more to make the  relationship work.

Lance: Yep, and you can only change yourself. You’re going to have to do that. But you bring up another really good point; There are a lot of managers now who are struggling. We’re working more through the managers than anything else, and I think there are so many managers that raise their hand, when you say to them “are their  people in your team that you just don’t trust to work?” How long are you going to be able to exist that way? How’s that going to impact your culture? What does that look like? What are you going to do differently to hold them accountable? If you don’t trust that they’re going to work, you’ve got a big issue. And that could be because of you, but that could also be because of them and who they are, and you have to re-look this stuff. Are you going to go the extra mile?  I have one manager that works down in Miami that has gone so far overboard with that stuff. He checks on those people all the time and he acts like he doesn’t trust them because he’s trying to over-communicate. It’s this really fine line and there’s not a playbook for it right now. I think that’s an interesting concept because that’s so 360 — it affects culture, it affects accountability. It affects the long distance relationship. How often do you talk to people and then on top of that, who’s sick of the freaking Zoom cocktail hours. I am like don’t ever invite me to one again. I never want to go again.

Sam: You bring up a good point, because I want to talk to you about managers. The one thing I’ve seen that that’s a struggle is — and I think this is why so many people either tend to have tons of podcasts or they try to dive into a ton of books — they take systems and try to make them their own. It’s like formalizing what your philosophy is as a coach, as a sales manager. What is your own personal philosophy that when it’s put to paper, you’re going to live it every day? Whether it’s how you’re coaching people, how you’re hiring people while you’re developing people, or how you’re leading people. In every book, there’s always a page in the back that has the grid so people that understand: What are some big takeaways you can give to the manager? How do I get the most out of my people right now?

Lance: I think there’s something really primal that never ceases to amaze me; Most managers don’t understand the difference between leadership and management. It affects everything they do negatively from there. To put it simply, leadership is anything that has to do with people, communication, vision, motivation, and people skills. Management is anything that has to do with process, planning, organizing, directing, and coordinating control. You have to separate both concepts and you have to understand that you can be really good at one and not very good at the other. Here’s what’s really interesting… You ask people a question: would you rather be called a leader or a manager? Most people would say leader, like they’re not the same word. So I would say that’s number one. Whatever your philosophy is, you need to understand that they are not interchangeable words, predictable process yields predictable results. People support a process that helps them succeed. People support a world they help create. So you have these two conflicts. Secondly, there’s a very fine line between motivation and manipulation. That’s the next thing I’m gonna tell you, and you have to understand the dark arts. There’s a fine line and the word manipulation isn’t even bad. If you look at the first definition is to act in a skillful manner. You take 1Huddle, which is such a great product, right? Could you be running the games to motivate people? Yup. Could you be manipulating behavior? Yeah. Some people’s motivation is more from within. I can pick up a shovel and I get to manipulate the shovel to move the stone if I’m shoveling stone. You have to understand that concept too. So it’s all about your intent. The last takeaway that I’m big on is that I’ve never coached anybody without bringing their awareness up first. When I say that, people always ask me, what do you mean? If I was going to coach Sam on something, let’s say I saw he was in a meeting and  there was a way he could improve his communication, I wouldn’t just go in there and tell Sam what to do. I would go, “Sam, are you open for some coaching?” I would just see how he reacted off of that to decide whether I’d give him some feedback. I’d say, “would you be open for some feedback? If I had some information that could help you, would you want to know about it?” I’d never give anybody feedback unless I asked that first, and there’ve been plenty of times in my career where I haven’t given the feedback I wanted just based on the person’s body language or how receptive they were. Because if that awareness isn’t there, you’re wasting your breath.

Sam: I think the awareness aspect of having a conversation with somebody to make sure they can accept feedback is super important. I want to ask you one other question that has to do with new generations. If you want to make a lot of money a few years ago, you’d write a book complaining about Millennials. Now you’re going to write the book complaining about Gen Z. The next generation is Gen Alpha, which is my daughter, who is three. We start complaining about her. How do you feel about that? What do you think that affects? What should managers be thinking about when they think about the generational differences they’re facing today?

Lance: If you look me up, I have zero issue with Millennials or Gen Z. Zero. I actually think they’ll be better salespeople and better people. I would tell you if you’re in my age bracket, just freaking remember that the age bracket older than us complained about us the same way we complain about other generations and the same way your generation will and everything else. I just think that’s garbage. I think there’s some things that are universal. So for anybody to say “Gen Z or Millennials aren’t as competitive,” just isn’t true. I have kids and they’re pretty freaking competitive. I think during COVID, there’ve been at least four or five fistfights in this house. They all keep score on who takes out the trash more or the dog out. Look, is information more available now than ever before? Yeah. So you’re probably going to have to be a little bit more transparent, because somebody can go to Glass Door and see what you’re paying for a similar job. You’re not going to be able to be as cagey. I think my philosophy on that is there’s plenty of universal tools that work across generations; Treat people with respect to remember a person’s name is the single most important sound in any language, which means you should treat people individually. Nobody wants to be treated in a group. I think we get ourselves in trouble when we categorize people in groups. When you put people in a big group and you think about how am I going to treat this group? You get in trouble. When you do that with demographics, you get in trouble. When you do that with people’s age, you get in trouble. When you do that with gender, you get in trouble. There are some very universal tactics that work in most countries and most places in the world. We have plenty of age groups in my company and plenty of demographics. I think you decide as a leader to make that work or not. You do in your company, Sam. You have all different types of people. They’re all different types of jobs, and you know that as well as anybody.

Sam: This has been great, Lance. I want to ask this last question. What’s coming up for you and the Tyson group in 2021?

Lance:  We’re like any other organization. Surviving COVID was the name of the game this year. How do you transform your business enough to continue to do what you’re doing? So we’ve reshifted a lot of what we did in October. Selling Power named us as a top 20 online sales training organizations. I will tell you before that award, we literally were 100% instructor led, not virtual instructor led. We have transformed as an organization. I think the biggest thing for us is the platform that we’re building and going to launch some of our online programs.  We have a book coming out on prospecting. That’s going to be pretty important for our new program. We’re going to launch and we’re hiring. So if you’re listening and you’re in a sales job, give me a call. We’re in hiring mode right now, so it’s grow or die.

Devin Hiett, Content Marketing Lead at 1Huddle

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