CHICAGO — Baseball, home runs, and winning games were the general theme of The Unified Group’s Sales Forum. You could extend the metaphor and call the forum a training camp, where attendees were able to work in small, noncompeting groups with experienced coaches.

“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” The Bambino was talking about baseball, but the 40 commercial HVAC salespeople attending the forum learned how to apply his wisdom beyond sports.

For most of the three-day event, the attendees were split into six teams where they participated in videotaped pitching practice … er, sales calls. Each team’s coach acted as the customer, with a curve: They couldn’t give away any information about their facilities’ challenges, unless the salesperson asked that question.

Role Playing

Role playing figured prominently throughout the training. The contractors seemed to appreciate the exercises, even though it probably took many outside their comfort zones. “There will never be an opportunity to be with more people who do what we do, and then role play it,” said Matt Todd, Entek Corp. sales and engineering manager. “It takes people out of their comfort zones; role playing will do it every time.”

They learn still more from reviewing the video. “They are all eager to look at the tape and see how they do,” said Jim Bartolotta, The Unified Group’s managing partner.

Sales and marketing coordinator Allison Rodgers probably spoke for many when she called role playing “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — sales calls will be much easier!”

Shane Raymaker, service sales account rep for Tweet/Garot Mechanical, said he’s planning to use the video as a tool for review.

Extended Effects

Part of The Unified Group’s benefits is its work to encourage members to put the things they have learned into action, so they get their money’s worth out of the events.

“Even though I was here as a coach, I know I learned as much as I taught,” said Rich Bodwell of Innovative Service Solutions.

Coaches stay in touch with their team throughout the year, serving as a mentor for off-season conditioning.

“The learning doesn’t stop when the session ends,” said Bartolotta. “We want to ensure that our salespeople have a way to constantly improve upon the skill sets they develop here.”

“The whole idea of following up is to get them the information to help them succeed,” said executive director Julie Bishop.

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Publication date: 11/14/2011