Sales is a high-stakes team sport. At least, that’s what Lance Tyson would tell you.
#1 Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, Lance Tyson, is the President and CEO of Tyson Group, an award-winning, high-performance sales training and consulting firm. With more than 30 years as an expert sales negotiator and persuasion consultant for some of the biggest brands in the world such as the Dallas Cowboys, Mercer, Eli Lilly, and Topgolf, Lance specializes in generating measurable results due to his evidence-based approach to the subtleties—and the power—of the human-to-human connection.
With the goal of coaching sales executives in every industry to run and win complicated sales, he developed a proprietary playbook using an innovative method for team development called Assess, Design, Train, and Coach. This method brings together management, the market, and talent to produce a training process that yields outstanding, long-lasting outcomes.
Lance is a highly sought after thought leader whose writings are regularly featured in Forbes, Fast Company, and Selling Power. As the trusted advisor to executive management teams across the nation, Lance has had the privilege to consult on complex negotiation strategies for multi-billion-dollar naming rights and sponsorship deals for the nation’s most prominent sports stadiums. He has specialized expertise in sales coaching and training, leadership development, strategy formulation, and negotiation.
The Human Connection & Personal Development
While in college at Penn State, he sold radio advertising and got pretty good at it. He sold vacuum cleaners for a couple of years and got so good that even his family members were buying into his product. He waited tables and found the key to it all: human connection.
“I could connect with people. I got jobs in the service industry, waited a lot of tables, and learned pretty quickly that you weren’t getting paid a big hourly wage, so you had to do a good job performing at the table,” he recalls.
This human connection was paving the way to success, and he was becoming a master at sparking those relationships with his customers from the first impression onward. So, right out of school, he pursued a sales job where he was able to combine his love of public speaking and talent with human-to-human connections with his desire to become a lifelong learner.
Not long after, Lance received an offer from Dale Carnegie, a leader in professional development training, where he was able to hone his sales skills while delivering their programs. Because he had to build the credibility of Dale Carnegie’s programs in order to close deals, he quickly learned that he needed to become a shining example of the results of what he was trying to sell. Eventually, he worked his way up to CEO and Senior Vice President of Sales for Dale Carnegie Training in Ohio and Indiana.
Perfecting his sales & leadership skills
Lance points out that sales is always about relationships and making that human connection, so you’ve got to quickly develop rapport and trust, which comes naturally to him.
“I like talking to people. I like connecting and learning people’s stories. I think it’s so important,” he says.
Perhaps most importantly, Lance likes to get to know people as a leader and believes that the last thing any person wants to be treated as is a number. They want him to know their name and a little bit about them and their motivations. It takes a lot of time and effort but is well worth it in the end.
He values the instances when he receives a note of appreciation that he didn’t expect to get because at the end of the day it tells him that he’s had an impact on someone’s life.
Lance notes that he’s not the kind of leader that makes you earn trust and finds that most organizations struggle with accountability because they don’t know how to measure accountability or find the rules of engagement.
“My job is not to be a thermometer. My job is to be a thermostat. So, I need to be able to consider what the environment could be, should be, or needs to be, and then create the conditions to make sure everybody succeeds in that environment,” he states.
Lance notes that there are two types of leaders: One makes you earn their trust piece by piece, while the other will give you all the trust; and neither is right or wrong. He recalls that people saw something in him, trusted him, gave him room, and allowed him to fail and succeed which inspires him to be the very same kind of leader to his team.
“I had really good people that took me under their wing, trained me, and trusted me at a very young age,” he says. “Because of this, I’ve become somebody who’ll give you all the trust and you can work your way out of that. You can either jump off or work your way backward.”
Adopting a buyer-first mindset
The Tyson Group is ranked as a Top 20 sales training firm and consulting firm for a reason. With a willingness to adapt and a high sensitivity to the competition, Lance points out that it’s important to understand who your competition is and who they’re not.
“In our company, we believe you can’t win if you can’t score. Scoring is very important because most people, at some level in their life, are driven by comparison, whether it’s to a sibling or against your peer group,” he observes. Competition doesn’t always need to be cutthroat, but it stands as an opportunity to learn and grow, especially in the sales and training industry.
He also points out that, as a boutique firm, Tyson Group is not oversized. This gives them the often-uncommon ability to get really intimate with a client and their process as part of their approach. Lance would argue that most people suffer from the “disease of uniqueness”; any time his firm approaches a situation in a generic way, it’s a big loss that fails to look at the distinctive facets of each individual company. So, their core value is to treat each business situation as individualized to the buyer first and have the salesperson make that important connection.
“You must be adaptable, to be agile. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things we do time after time after time. A predictable process yields a predictable result. We believe a predictable process is taking into consideration the buyer first and adapting to that. That is the predictability in how we approach things,” he says.
Lance notes that the Tyson Group teaches an extremely proactive methodology where they assertively go after their ideal prospect profile. They have almost 10 different trainers and consultants, almost as many folks in business development, and very few people in the business wear both hats.
Publish or Perish
Lance also believes in the axiom of ‘Publish or Perish’. When he formed the Tyson Group, he wrote his first book called Selling Is an Away Game, which became their playbook and a main pillar in the company’s sales philosophy.
His approach to positioning the company as an industry leader is to constantly put out content that’s consumable, and that they’ve trained on. Lance published several articles and books in the middle of the pandemic, wrote a book titled Igniting Sales EQ, and in 2022, he put out a book on leadership, sales persuasion, and influence titled The Human Sales Factor based on programs that they had tested with clients.
“We’ve actually tested it, and it does work. That forces us into the trajectory of always looking for something that we can utilize to add value, that we’ve tested, and we can produce and reproduce in a client account to get the best results for them specifically. So, it’s not philosophy as much as its action,” he observes.
Navigating the new business reality of post-COVID sales training
The new business reality of the post-COVID world is that people want things done faster, better, and with fewer resources, which poses a challenge as it relates to budget and spending. Lance notes that most people must be agile, as the landscape has changed; it’s competitive, it’s demanding, and there’s more fierce competition for spending.
In the post-COVID virtual world, sales profiles have changed, and it has become essential to sell differently in order to grab your market. Building a relationship happens over time, but salespeople have to be excellent at engaging and asking questions, to facilitate a conversation extremely well even in digital spaces, which is an entirely different skill than face-to-face selling.
Lance notes that, since the whole sales leadership game has changed, leaders have got to game plan a little bit differently, since they don’t have the in-office culture of face-to-face collaboration on a regular basis. He recommends that organizations be adaptable and have a plan for adjusting to the new business reality or they are likely to end up losing market share and sales.
“You might have to run a virtual office and that’s a different game because now the onus is on leadership and how to strategize around navigating the virtual office,” he says. As the Tyson Group had already gone virtual in some regards, since 2007, they were able to convert very quickly to virtual training.
However, they did have to downsize, shut some offices down, start to leverage technology, figure out how to make the company culture work, and change the way they sold and delivered during the pandemic. The Tyson Group now uses Slack, a messaging program designed specifically for the office, and is looking for technology to augment training because virtual instructor-led training is important. While instructor-led face-to-face support hasn’t gone away, other systems needed to evolve to fill in the gaps of infrequency of face-to-face support and welcome the new age of remote work.
Lance points out that people see value in, and have a strong desire for, facilitated conversation while using technology in classroom learning experience platforms. Simulations – all the rage nine years ago – have come back because the AI is getting stronger. He notes that augmenting the training experience is not just one thing, but a perfect combination of different technologies.
Cultivating the self-discipline to do what’s required
As a leader, Lance is fond of the Albert E. Gray quote, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”
The quote goes on to say that successful people are also more concerned with “pleasing results” whereas unsuccessful people are more concerned with “pleasing methods”.
Lance notes that there are many things he has to do that he’s not necessarily good at, but as a leader and an entrepreneur, there are not a lot of people standing behind you, and the buck does stop with you at some point. Always trying to form habits or re-establish habits that you know you aren’t as strong in is essential to thrive. For him, this has evolved into actionable steps to facilitate a lot of self-reflection and awareness.
Creating the conditions that help people succeed
Lance observes that his firm does business with people that are optimistic about the future. They have good people in place and believe that the results are going to come through their people working to improve their methods and sharpen their skills. In the training industry, you’re most often working with clients who need to acknowledge that there are some deficiencies and some competencies that cause a gap in the path forward to success. This doesn’t mean that their teams are bad, but that they’re probably going to have to adapt and remain agile as the market around them continues to change.
While his comfort zone is being on a sales call or in front of the classroom, Lance’s role as CEO is to focus on culture, communication, and day-to-day on the Tyson Group’s strategic plan forward. He also focuses on his team, their major goals, and their KPIs, getting the group of leaders to have crucial conversations and pushing them toward constructive tension.
“The priority of my job as a leader is to get results. But my job as a leader is to develop people. One of our Tyson-isms is we eat our own dog food. So, whatever we train in, we do internally, and I’m just a firm believer that employee satisfaction drives customer satisfaction,” he maintains.
Lance also delivers about 20% of the Consulting and training to some of the key clients where he’s invested or involved and has to be talking to the C-suite at some level.
Building an evolving legacy
In both his business and personal life, Lance believes in the power of decision-making and role fulfillment over any attempt to maintain perfect balance in all endeavors. Since the pandemic, he got into a serious routine of daily meditation and yoga, which helps him get into a good headspace. Describing himself as an evolver, he believes that if you can’t lead yourself when running a company or team or a project, you’ll struggle.
“I don’t think you can actually manage time. You only get 1,440 minutes in a day, so it comes down to decision-making. When I make a decision, I need to cut off other possibilities. I don’t know if it’s balance as much as it’s a strategic decision, and just doing what my role is at that time,” he observes.
Lance’s vision for the Tyson Group is building a legacy. His goal is to achieve the 3 Rs and build an organization that classifies as the most reputable, most recognized, and has one of the highest revenues.
As a professional service business, Lance believes that the Tyson Group has to grow and evolve or die, so they’re consistently poised for growth and are looking to grow anywhere from 30-50% this year. In terms of geographic reach, the firm has done work in the UK and Spain, with a leadership team spread all over the country. The Tyson Group also has the benefit of strong female leadership, with very strong team ownership, and a good diversity of thought.
“The legacy ultimately would be that this organization gets sold internally to Partners as I retire. If my kids decide to get involved in the business, they will have to come up through the ranks, like everybody else, and that’s all set up,” Lance says.