For James Furness, founder of JF Sales Consulting, there's no lack of passion behind his pursuits to engage with other business owners to help them maximize their sales force and, more importantly, their sales managers. Before moving to St. Petersburg in June of 2017, Furness spent 21 years in Atlanta. The majority of his time was spent working with AT&T. What started as a sales role quickly morphed into more of a sales training role and Furness, "walked backwards" into a profession he had never considered.
"In the early 2000s, I was put in touch with AXIOM and went through the Science of Selling Program, a sales and coaching methodology" he said. "In 2008, I heard about a contract that AXIOM was awarded by AT&T to provide sales training, so I threw my hat in the ring. I got the job and worked as an independent contract trainer and eventually developed into more of a sales “coach” role. Over time I realized that AXIOM was spending more time focused on the vehicle that was delivering the methodology, which was SalesForce, verses coaching to the methodology. My passion has always been coaching. In May of 2017, I made the decision to open my own consulting business and focus on businesses that don't have the bandwidth or the resources to provide a coaching structure to drive a consistently successful sales force."
Today, JF Sales Consulting is considered a distributor of the AXIOM methodology. Furness’ clients have access to the AXIOM learning modules. He puts them through “micro-learning” and coaches them to the understanding and application of the segments they're learning. Having his clients follow this model is more in line with what he was looking to do when he decided to start his own business. Leveraging and coaching to the methodology is what allows him to have more effective conversations with his clients.
According to Furness, JF Sales Consulting is industry agnostic. As he points out, the need is out there and it's everywhere. "The challenge is cracking the code," he said. "To be able to help someone, they need to first admit they have a problem. The ones you need to help are the ones hired to fix things. It's challenging to get them to admit they have challenges or problems with their sales team. So many sales leaders become leaders because they were good sales people, but this doesn't mean you'll be a good sales leader. This is what I call, 'promotion through osmosis'. So many large companies are rife with this." Being an effective sales leader requires effective coaching. Coaching is a skill that needs to be learned.
To reach potential customers, Furness relies on a variety of marketing and advertising techniques including email campaigns, word-of-mouth, social media, networking, attending events like 1 Million Cups and just getting out there and talking to business owners. For Furness, talking to business owners about the benefits of his methodology is easy. He wholeheartedly believes in what he's doing.
"The logic of the AXIOM methodology is undeniable, because it's rooted in human behavior," he said. "With sales training, there are so many ways to skin a cat. What drew me to the utilization of the AXIOM methodology is because so many other skills training programs require tools & forms. Tools and forms are only as good as the information you put into them. If a salesperson doesn't know how to have a conversation to elicit that information, the tool is useless. When it comes to sales, clarity of communication drives the probability of win. A better question will give a better answer. Once you understand the information you need, you become a shepherd to that conversation. Ultimately, this clarity of communication will get sales people to work smarter not harder."
Looking to the future, Furness is considering the possibility of zoning in on a niche. In the meantime, his "agnostic" approach with implementing the AXIOM methodology is allowing him create sustainable behavioral change with clients from all ends of the spectrum. According to Furness, it doesn't matter what you're selling. The process that someone goes through is the same. The evaluation process is identical. "There's always a light bulb moment when they realize they are subconsciously competent," he said. "At that point, they're able to insert themselves into the process."
Furness offers up some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "Check down your passion," he said. "Make sure you really believe in what it is you want to do. You have to know what “success” looks like for you and build a plan to reach it.”
“The biggest pill to swallow for most sales leaders is that you can't control the sale. The sale is an outcome of the process. The process is a handful of metrics within your control to affect. It's up to you to understand those metrics and to focus on solving a problem for your customer and showing them how your product or service will help."