How to Overcome Obstacles in Sales and in Life
Every rep at one time or another has struggled with obstacles in sales, and when it comes to sales motivation and sales strategy, there’s a lot of white noise out there trying to solve the problem with a series of tips.
But here’s what we want to ask: Is any of it actually helpful?
Recently, we talked with Bobbi Kahler, a bestselling author, about what it takes to truly remove the obstacles in sales that you face, and improve your personal life at the same time.
Episode 9: Overcoming Obstacles in Sales and in Life
Scott Cassidy: Welcome back to another episode of sALES with ASLAN where that little less upfront makes us your best friend for a selling career. Hopefully, whether you are in a week where you’re celebrating, you got a beer in your hand and we’re going to enjoy that with you. If you’re commiserating after a bad week, that’s fine too. We’ve got a great line up here for you today because our guest, Bobbi Kahler, who is a bestselling author, at least bestselling in her family, of a book that she calls “Travels of the Heart”. We’re going to get into that in her story how she’s overcome all sorts of obstacles in her life, how that’s transitioned into a great career in sales coaching. Before we get too involved, let me introduce Bobbi Kahler. Say hi Bobby.
Bobbi Kahler: Hey Scott. How you doing?
Scott Cassidy: Good. Good to have you on board sALES with ASLAN. Now as I think I prepped you, we start each of these episodes with something very, very important and that is cracking something cold and frosty. Since you’re our guest, why don’t you tell us that story you were telling me about. I know you’re not a huge beer drinker-
Bobbi Kahler: No.
Scott Cassidy: … but I know you, I know you’ve enjoyed at least one beer in your life.
Bobbi Kahler: That’s right. I’m not a beer drinker. I’m more of a wine girl. But my story about beer is back in the day when my husband and I, well we weren’t married yet, we lived in Portland, Oregon and we were planning the rehearsal dinner and he loved the Rogue Brewery, which is based out of Portland, specifically Dead Guy Ale. That was his favorite. I thought, what a cool thing if I were to plan the rehearsal dinner at the Rogue Brewery, even though I don’t drink beer. That’s where we had it, and his buddies loved it. Everybody had beer and I had my wine, but that’s okay.
Scott Cassidy: Well that’s perfect and that sounds great. It was called Dead Guy Ale?
Bobbi Kahler: Dead Guy Ale at Rogue Brewery.
Scott Cassidy: All right, well hopefully the folks out there at Dead Guy Ale enjoyed that promotion. I’m going to crack something interesting. I’ve never had this before. I’ve had Guinness black and tans before, but this is a Yingling black and tan. It comes in a can. It’s out of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, a porter and premium beer mixed together. I’m very curious how this is going to pour. I’m going to crack that open here and I’m going to pour that in.
Bobbi Kahler: Sounds good.
Scott Cassidy: Yeah. Let’s see how this all … and let’s take a taste of that here. Well that is delightful. That is as good as I expected actually. All right.
Bobbi Kahler: Does it look like a Guinness?
Scott Cassidy: Yeah. It looks like a Guinness, it does. It’s mixed together like all one color. I’m going to pour a little bit more here since I’d chugged that first bit. But it’s not separated like you would expect a black and tan, but I don’t know how you would do that in a can either, so that’s some kind of physics thing I’m not really willing to get into, I guess.
Bobbi Kahler: I don’t want to go there.
Scott Cassidy: No, no. Bobby, thank you so much for taking to join sALES with ASLAN and talk a little bit about something that all sales reps and sales leaders go through and that’s just different obstacles that hit us in our life. I know the back story for you is a really interesting and compelling one, so why don’t you just tell our audience a little bit about what you went through years ago and how you overcame it.
Bobbi Kahler: Okay. Well the story around as a child, I had really severe speech problems. In fact, when I was about six years old, the school I attended, I grew up in rural Illinois, they brought in a speech pathologist just for me, which I didn’t feel very special with that attention, and I thought it was a waste of time because everybody knew I couldn’t talk, and now I’m being asked to prove it basically. As a conclusion of the speech evaluation, and it did not go well the speech pathologist told my mom, he’s like in his expert opinion, I had catastrophic speech problems. I had no hope of overcoming them, and that I would almost assuredly suffer a lifelong disability.
Bobbi Kahler: When he said that and my mom told me that, I think she realized just how devastating those words could be someone, especially someone who was only six years old. She pulled me into a big hug and she whispered in my ear, she said, “Bobby, we’re not going to listen to him, because you never let someone else tell you what you can or cannot do”. That was a long time ago when that happened, and yet, I think that her leadership in that moment and those words really changed my life, because that just became part of my story. If I want something, it’s how do I go after it? How do I work hard? How do I stay motivated and optimistic even in the face of challenges? It was a long journey, but I was blessed. I had my mom and she worked with me.
Bobbi Kahler: This was always interesting too, and this always comes up in the sales coaching, where my mom refused to let me work with the speech pathologist. My teachers and the principal, they kept calling my mom and they’re like, “Why won’t you let her work with the speech pathologist?” My mom’s response was always the same and it was, “Why would I let her work with someone who’s already decided that she’s going to fail?” I think that when we’re doing sales coaching, I want managers thinking about that too because if you think the person you’re coaching is going to fail, what are you going to coach them to? How much effort are you going put into it? I’m just blessed that I had someone like my mom there. She wasn’t the only one, but she’s the one that really just kind of stands out.
Scott Cassidy: That’s incredible. That’s so true too. The bad news that that fills our daily lives and especially in a circumstance of something so catastrophic as what you were having to hear, the ability to rely on someone like your mom, or your coach, or your mentor is so important and it really is true. What happened next? You got that bad news. Your mom is there for you, how did that inspire or change things in your life?
Bobbi Kahler: I think that my parents both did a lot of stuff by instincts. It’s funny because now that I have my graduate degree and this is what I’ve studied, the science of human performance, I understand why it works now. But a simple thing that my parents always did is I was never allowed to say that I couldn’t do something. If I was struggling to say a word, for example, a word that took me forever to learn how to say was milk. I couldn’t make the L-K sound. I just couldn’t do it. My mom would always say, you can’t say it yet. Yet is such a small word, but it’s such a powerful word. Because what it showed me is that if I keep working, if I keep practicing, if I put the effort in, I will get there eventually. Gosh, I was in my early 20s before I stopped thinking of someone that had speech problems.
Scott Cassidy: Really?
Bobbi Kahler: Oh yeah.
Scott Cassidy: 14-15 years later, you’re still … Yeah.
Bobbi Kahler: What’s really funny about that is when I was in the eighth grade, as you can imagine, I hated speaking in public. The thought of it made me want to be sick. It was awful. I thought, well I can’t stay in that comfort zone. I have to be willing to move past that. I decided to take a speech class when I went to high school. The first speech wise I took, Mr. Jordan was the teacher. As luck would have it, he was also the speech and debate coach and he said, “Pick a subject that you’re passionate about”. I was really passionate about muscular dystrophy, so I picked that, and I gave my speech and it was awful. It was an absolute train wreck. I don’t think you could understand a word I said, it was that bad.
Bobbi Kahler: But at the end of it, Mr. Jordan came up to me, at the end of the class period and he said, “Bobby, would you consider being on the speech and debate team?” I just looked at him, I said, “Were you in the room? That was awful” He said something, he smiled and he’s like, “Yeah, it wasn’t good”. He said, “But I think you have potential”. He said, “I think that if I work with you,” he said, “I think that that you could be really, really great at this”. I have no idea Scott, why he saw potential. But another person that I’m just so immensely grateful to because the next year I started competing at tournaments, and I actually started winning. But even though I was winning tournaments, I still thought of myself as someone who had speech problems because I still knew the effort that I was putting into it all the time.
Scott Cassidy: Amazing. That is amazing. I understand that then once you moved into college, and I think the book sort of was born out of obviously the background that you’re sharing with us. But tell me how that experience led you to the book and how that all ended up as something published by Six Seconds Press that’s available on Amazon and that’s the “Travels of the Heart”.
Bobbi Kahler: I think because of my experience, it made me very curious as to what went into it. The other thing that happened is because I was so blessed to have people like that in my life, like my mom, like Mr. Jordan, I had other teachers, well some teachers made fun of me, but a lot of my teachers they were just there for me. I think it just pulled my heart in that direction, like that’s what I wanted to do for others. That’s why I love coaching. That’s why I love facilitation, because what a gift to be able to give. I think because I’ve received that gift, it makes it even more special to me.
Bobbi Kahler: When I was doing my undergrad at DePaul, I started studying, it’s human performance improvement, which is basically the science of human flourishing. How do we help people be at their best? What’s the science behind that? That’s where it kind of grew out of. I started studying and learning. I had to take neuroscience and that was just painful. I cannot say that I like neuroscience, but I learned a lot.
Bobbi Kahler: Then as I went to grad school, my master’s, it has a huge component for leadership, coaching, adult learning, so it’s all this together. My husband always jokes, he’s like, it’s kind of like your sandbox, it’s where you like to play, and that’s true. But I just feel blessed that that’s how I get to show up for others.
Scott Cassidy: That’s terrific. I’m sure a lot of people have been able to glean some hope and some understanding with that book as a backdrop now. That’s in your early career and as you’re in school now, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you manage that and became the proficient sales coach and facilitator that we all know today? What were those transitions like and those experiences that led you where you are as a professional?
Bobbi Kahler: That’s a good question. I’m not sure it was a straight path. I started my own business back in 2000, and I made my way to ASLAN in 2008 and it was through a client of mine. At first I was hesitant because I had my own business, I was loving what I was doing. Then when I met with Tab and Tom, I fell in love with the philosophy and it felt like the right thing to do. I think that, for me, working with salespeople … Talk about a bunch of people, a group of people who are so motivated and yet who have to face challenges every single day.
Bobbi Kahler: I was just doing a catalyst program yesterday and we were talking about how every day for salespeople you get up and you start again, and you’re only as good as your last sale, and so much pressure comes with that, and it’s not easy. I think it’s a great place for me to be able to, I don’t want to say intervene, but to participate and just help people along that journey, and help them see that the one thing that always stuck out to me is that overcoming challenges or adversity, whatever you want to call it, if pursuing your success, whatever, it’s not a singular event. That’s why I like the role of persistence, is so important than that. I don’t know if that fully answers your question-
Scott Cassidy: Oh, no.
Bobbi Kahler: … but that’s kind of what came to mind for me.
Scott Cassidy: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been on sort of a little bit of a hot streak on sales coaching and coaching philosophy over the last several weeks on the podcast. I think it’s because it’s so important. Reps can really feel like they’re out there on their own. Some days, you mentioned it, they wake up every day and it’s you never catch the prize because you’re always chasing the next one. You have a great year and you get a higher quota and you’re back at it again.
Bobbi Kahler: Congratulations.
Scott Cassidy: Congratulations, here’s a higher quota. But what’s interesting, and I think when that partnership between sales rep and sales leader is strong, and that you understand what motivates one another, that partnership can really lead to really great things. I know you share that philosophy cause you’ve chosen a profession and a career and helping make sure that happens, right?
Bobbi Kahler: Absolutely. With that too, Scott, one of the things I love is when a manager, when I can help them understand how they can help their team develop … I had one manager tell me this years ago, he said, “You finally got me off the sidelines”. He said, “I understand how to help”. That’s just exciting.
Scott Cassidy: It really is. We were talking about the Catalyst Dashboard, which of course is the software that we leave behind with a lot of clients after they take the Catalyst Workshop. It’s a way to manage and measure the performance of their reps from the coaching perspective and the desire. We realize that you can’t coach everybody, and it’s working with those folks that really want to improve isn’t it? That’s part of what the sales manager’s role is, is making sure they’re clear on that.
Bobbi Kahler: Absolutely. With that too, the desire is so important because it reminds me of myself because I always had desire. I think that the one area that I was really blessed in, in a lot of ways is I had so many people willing to look past my present performance because it wasn’t good, and they were willing to look at my potential. I think that’s what as a coach, if someone has desire and we can help them develop that potential, the skills and everything that leads to the potential, that’s when it’s … I don’t, it’s almost magical to me.
Scott Cassidy: It really is. It really is. This has just been an amazing story to share with our group on a Friday afternoon with some cold libation in hand. I so appreciate you coming on board. I want to just give the name of the book one more time, “Travels of the Heart” by Bobby Taylor. You can most likely find it on Amazon and other places that you buy books. It’s published by Six Seconds Press. Really good, interesting way to look at things. We all have to overcome obstacles or challenges in our careers, maybe not to the extent of what Bobby went through, but something and it’s important to know a few things that I jotted down. You’ve got to have a good mentor. Your mother was your mentor, and your confidant and your support system during a really rough time in your life. That’s important. That’s like a sales coach, right?
Bobbi Kahler: Yeah, very much so.
Scott Cassidy: Right. It’s so funny, I did a little shout out to my high school baseball coach because he used to say, “Can’t means won’t try”. When you were telling your story, I haven’t thought of that line and 30-something years. But I do remember him saying, “If you can’t, you’re just not trying”. By the way, you might not be able to do it, but can’t means you won’t try. I just love that line.
Scott Cassidy: You also talked about getting outside your comfort zone, and I think you said Mr. Jordan, your teacher in high school that got you to join the speech and debate team. I love that story of just believing in you even though your initial performance might not have measured up to what would make sense for that team.
Bobbi Kahler: Yup. I didn’t come close to measuring up.
Scott Cassidy: I think if you have a good mentor, a good coach, you have people that believe in you, you can overcome a lot of these obstacles. That is so analogous to what it is we do as sellers and sales leaders in the market every day, and we need each other. I jokingly say on this podcast from time to time that we’re marriage counselors between sales leaders and sales reps, try to bring those two together and really build a strong relationship because we all get better when that relationship is solid.
Scott Cassidy: Good. Thank you so much for joining. Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us and all the things that you’ve overcome to become such a successful part of not only our company, but the workforce in general, helping us spread the truth throughout the market. Thanks Bobby. Any parting words or wisdom for our audience?
Bobbi Kahler: No, no parting words of wisdom, but thank you so much. It was my pleasure.
Scott Cassidy: I really appreciate your time. Thanks everybody for another episode of sALES with ASLAN, we’ll see you next time. Not yet subscribed to sALES with ASLAN? Check out our other podcasts here, and sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date on our latest episode, industry news, and more.
The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.