Bill Hart specializes in helping companies grow revenue through leadership development and improving the buyer/seller relationship by aligning a company’s sales strategy and tactics with how customers buy.
Bill has worked as an entrepreneur in the IT and medical fields, as a VP of Sales in the medical field, and numerous other companies across many industries for the last 29 years. Through these business experiences and his extensive training, Bill developed a methodology to help clients apply what he has learned in the areas of sales, business leadership, and personal growth.
After selling his business in 2010, Bill was hired by Alagasco–a local natural gas utility company–as a consultant to help increase their sales and make the company a more sales-centric organization. Bill developed customized training on leadership, sales skills, and coaching sales representatives and managers.
In addition to helping individual companies, Bill writes curriculum and teaches courses on sales, leadership, personal development, parenting, and marriage. He also authored a personal leadership book titled Life, Leadership, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Bill and his wife have been married for 26 years and have two grown daughters. He also has a great passion for the outdoors and enjoys mountain biking, road biking, running, whitewater kayaking, and fly-fishing.
3:10– What is Bill Hart Business Growth and What has God called you to do in the marketplace?
6:45– What specific biblical principles form the foundation God has given you to teach companies and leaders to help them sell in a biblical way?
11:01– A little bit about my background
12:22– What I’ve learned through some of the hard times
17:17– A word of encouragement
19:55– What are some of the challenges you have living out your faith in the business world?
26:31– The 4:23 Question
Ray: Well, hello everyone. This is Ray Hilbert, your host here at Bottom Line Faith. If you are a first-time listener, thanks for checking us out on the program today. If you’re a subscriber or a long-term listener, welcome back. You know that this is the program where we have the incredible privilege of traveling the country and meeting with and speaking with some of the top Christ-following business and marketplace leaders across the country. We learn their stories, we learn their victories, their failures, how they hope to live out their faith and are trying to live out their faith every day in the marketplace. And kind of the analogy, the word picture that we like to use here is this is where we’re going to lift the hood, and we’re going to tinker around in the engine of Christian leadership in the marketplace. So welcome to Bottom Line Faith. Check out all of our other interviews at bottomlinefaith.org. That’s bottomlinefaith.org. You can also scroll down to the bottom, and you could subscribe to the program. It’s out on a weekly basis, and you can subscribe on Google Play; you can subscribe at iTunes, Stitcher and many of those podcasts platforms, so check that out there. You can also check us out through social media. Look for the Bottom Line hashtags and such.
And also, if you’re a Christ-follower in business and you’re interested in being in a community of like-minded business owners check out truthatwork.org. Truth At Work is the sponsoring ministry behind the Bottom Line Faith program. Click on the links there to learn about our roundtable program that is meeting in cities across the country. We have several hundred Christian business owners and leaders meeting monthly together, and you might want to check that out and become a part of that community as well. Well, gang, listen, I am very, very excited for our guest today. I am in what is starting to feel like my second home, home away from home, Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve lovingly called this not only the Bible Belt, but we are sitting in the polished shiny buckle in the Bible Belt, Birmingham, Alabama. And my guest, my friend and now soon to be your friend on today’s program is Bill Hart. Bill is the CEO and founder of Bill Hart Biz Growth, and you can learn about Bill and his company at billhartbizgrowth.com. Bill, welcome Bottom Line Faith.
Bill: Glad to be here, Ray. I’m excited.
Ray: We have had a chance to have a meal together over the past few years and get to know each other. But our folks in the program don’t know Bill. They don’t know you. They’ve never met you. So tell us what is Bill Hart Business Growth? We’ll get into your story and your testimony and such. But right up front, tell us what it is that God is calling you to do in the marketplace.
Bill: I work with small and mid-sized companies, a few large ones to help them grow their revenue, grow their leadership skills, improve the communication, better care for their people, and overall better serve the customer. And really that services model is how are they serving the customer through the sales process. So many companies are transaction oriented, trying to sell something, I want people to stop that. And I want them to learn to help the buyer buy, and really help them discover the truth that they’re trying to help them with the customer. And it’s really a golden rule principle. I call it the platinum rule. There’s two golden rules. One’s the biblical, he who has the gold makes the rules, and then the biblical of do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. So the platinum is really sell to me the way I want to be sold to; help me solve my problems from my perspective; love me as I want to be loved.
Ray: So companies would hire you to consult with them to train their sales and leadership team on the methodology. You do workshops, you do seminars, and so take just a moment and walk us through one of the principles that you believe or maybe you have some terminology or methodology that could be a great tangible takeaway in applying what is your area of expertise.
Bill: I call it process customer aligned selling; it’s aligning with where your customers in the buying process. There’s a lot of research on buying stages and where customers are and how they think and make decisions and decide. And most people sell out of their own preference on the way they like to buy. And if you’re a sales rep in the field, you’re thinking about my quota, what I’ve got to do, and you’re very transactional oriented. Well, people can feel that, and they know, they feel like being manipulated. And since post-2008, everybody’s skeptical, you know, they’re all promises made. Kind of 2008 was the death of trust.
And so the old methodology of selling actually break trust, create risk, and right now the greatest thing I see from buyers is risk. I’m trying to reduce my risk, and I’ll try to reduce it through price or some other, or delay the decision just because I see there’s risk. So a customer-aligned selling approach actually figures out where the buyer is in their buying process comes alongside with them, and their goal is to add value throughout the whole sales process, helping them buy the right solution. If you’re not the right solution, you’re forthcoming, but your whole goal is to add value, and just as Jesus went in the marketplace to add value and therefore he built trust, our number one goal is to teach people how to build trust throughout the process. Trust is not a single event; it’s cumulative. Your character is your trust; your empathy, your competency, and your credibility all make up that. And most people think sales is a process, not a person. It really is a person.
Ray: Well, that is really, really good stuff And I, you know, my background coming into corporate sales and so but I remember working for a Fortune 10 company, and I remember going through sales training and biz dev training with them, and they, I remember them saying, now when you go in to see a customer, the answer is yes, then ask the question. And it was this mindset, do whatever you’ve got to do to get the business, and it really was not get to know this person, get to know their needs, their pains, their desires, and what success is for them; it really is like you said meet the quota. So maybe that’s old school or maybe it’s the world’s way, but what specific biblical principles are the foundation that God has shared, you know, given you to now teach companies and leaders? How can they sell in a biblical way? What are those principles involved?
Bill: Yeah, one is love your neighbor as yourself. So you really got to approach it how do I want to be treated? Treat others as you want to be treated. But actually it’s not treating others as you want to be treated; you need to understand that person from their perspective. We’re all God’s creatures created in his image, but very unique. And so people have different buying styles; they have different thinking preferences. I subscribe to and use the process called whole brain thinking by Herman Solutions. It’s the science of your brain; your brain’s got four unique thinking preferences, and because of that, different people have different ways they like to make decisions. Instead of selling them out of your selling and thinking preference, you learn to adapt to them. That builds trust that also helps that person make the decision. If you’re highly analytical and I’m highly relationship, and I’m selling out of let me get to know you, let’s go play golf, let’s play, that’s actually annoying to you. Give them the bullet points; give them the bottom line.
But if you’re a bottom line sales rep talking to someone who needs all the detail, that’s going to frustrate that detailed buyer, so it’s really more one learning to adapt, love them as they want to be loved, but two, treating them with honesty and respect. Jesus never screwed anybody over, and he wasn’t manipulative, and most sales techniques, especially through the early 2000s, had a manipulative component. It wasn’t a goal to add value. Solution selling was identify the need or the problems so I could sell you something, and then move on. The buyers only buying because they’re trying to have an outcome, a solution. And that’s why the risk increases as they get closer to buying it because they’re what if I don’t get this outcome? And old selling models were okay; I sold it to you; move on. So one of the things I do in working with companies is not only to make sure you got proper methodology aligned with what they’re buying; are you delivering the very things you promised? What’s your ethics in delivering? What’s the customer’s experience post-sale with a sales rep, with the customer service, with your employees? That’s living out the gospel because then you get opportunity when you’re adding value to share more than your product or service; you start having an opportunity to share your life and your business, and that becomes a platform where you can share Christ.
Ray: As we’re talking here, it’s almost as if you believe this stuff. It’s almost as if like this is for real.
Bill: Right, yeah it is.
Ray: No, all kidding aside, this really is the calling of God has given you, right?
Bill: Yes. Yeah, it’s been a long journey, but this is where I ended up, and I found a sweet spot, and listening to a Bottom Line Faith podcast, really God gave me the identity. I thought I was like a Joseph or Nehemiah coming into rescue. And I thought that because I pursued entrepreneurial ventures thinking, wow, I’m going to take this and grow, and they hadn’t worked, and God forced me into what I’m doing now. And then listening to a Bottom Line Faith podcast, I don’t remember what was said, but the identity God gave me was you’re a Barnabas. You’re going in as a son of encouragement into these businesses, helping them align their business with good principles, serve the customer and encourage and raise the whole tide within the organization, that people have better hope, they’re more encouraged, and their lives are impacted – not just from their income, but their family life, their marriage. Ended up doing a lot of counseling as I coach people because I do a lot of coaching and start asking them hey, can I ask you a personal question about your marriage? And I had one guy who I’m coaching who said, you know, this last year and a half, we’re going through the most stressful time in our company I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t be handling like am right now except you start asking me spiritually based questions a year ago.
Ray: That’s ministry.
Bill: Yeah. So my platform is God’s given me this platform to get in and council, encourage business owners and share the gospel in that process.
Ray: I love it. So we’re going to come back to maybe some of your failing, failures in business and so forth, and some of the challenges have been through in life. But did you grow up in a Christian home or tell us about your background?
Bill: Great Christian home; was born in Birmingham but grew up in Naples, Florida, suffered down in South Florida growing up. Wonderful Christian parents, still married, been married almost 60 years. My dad was an entrepreneur, started his own company, ran it, so I really watched him he really modeled serving the customer well, so I had a fantastic role model, and he really invested in me a lot and really was into you know, doing what’s right, ethical, in high competency, so grew up into that, well went to Auburn, got my undergrad in management, had family in Birmingham, so interned here and then met my wife after I graduated here, and so grad school became Birmingham, and so I have an MBA from UAB and then right out of that, we got married and I jumped into with an entrepreneurial company and really that’s where I began to really get my feet wet in leadership development right out of grad school. I joined a company that did leader development.
Ray: Folks, we are speaking with Bill Hart, founder and CEO of Bill Hart Biz Growth. You can check out Bill’s website at billhartbizgrowth.com, and I’m sure he’d love to hear from you and maybe even just send him a note of encouragement as you heard today’s program. So Bill, before beginning recording the interview you were sharing with me some challenges, some tough times, some dark times that you’ve been through. Would you mind just sharing a little bit more with our audience about what is some of that season of failure? What was that like? What did you learn? Just kind of walk us through that a little bit. The hard times.
Bill: I had a couple of instances. I had set up a satellite office; I was in the IT industry for 10 years, and set up a branch office in Birmingham, out of a company, it’s a national company, but ran in a satellite from Atlanta and I felt like a red-headed stepchild, and that was just such a challenge. I’d go get accounts, have this national company set up, and then I’d lose the business because of lack of support, you know, continually and so my credibility and ethics were really challenged, and I had customers going we love you but we’re not doing business with you anymore, because the support. I’m like God, where are you? Help me; I’m out there working my tail off trying to feed my family, and this company that’s supposed to be great supporting is really failing me. And that was learning to walk by faith, not by sight and just losing business that is no fault of your own and I had that happened twice with two different IT companies. I’ve just, you know, go out there and you do all you can. And so that was about 10-year stint. And then out of that God led me serendipitously into nuclear pharmaceuticals; I was the vice president of sales and business development for a company called Regional Nuclear Pharmaceuticals with the PET scan. We were making the radio pharmaceutical for PET scan. And that company grew; I invested in it. But due to a lot of pride and arrogance, that company went down and I lost money in it. And I’m like wow, Lord, I thought you left me here. And it was going to grow and we’re saving lives due to cancer screening. And wow, thanks for leaving me high and dry.
But being an entrepreneur, got the bug and I felt God’s calling to do something. And the internet was really coming together for online recruiting. And I saw a problem with online recruiting was there are a lot of niche markets that didn’t have good sites to match matchmaking. And I took the idea of monster.com, eHarmony, and literally YouTube, and built a unique online recruiting called Niche Recruiting Technologies. That was 2006. God brought in people, a lot of prayer, Lord, if this is to go, I need funding. I started getting funding, I’m like, wow, I got this momentum. And I get the software; we hit our self-worth that we actually got our programming deadlines in. And God was just bringing the resources. Then 2008 hit; nobody’s hiring in 2008. And I’ve just ran out of capital, and Satan started attacking me then. I mean, I had made that my dream, my goal. And that’s the challenge with entrepreneurs. I realize when an entrepreneur sets their energy, that’s fantastic. But man, you can make that your idol; you can put every piece of energy you have into it. And then when it starts to fail, you feel a failure, especially if you’ve built your self-worth and I almost did, it was clear.
I finally got my own and gotten out of the burden of everybody else, and I was going to do this on my own, and we had momentum and, you know, unforeseen forces, and that’s when Satan really started hitting me. I mean, really started feeding me lies. And the world was feeding me lies, you know, your self-worth is only in your profitability, your self-worth is only in your success. And success only has one measurement, and it’s called dollars, not what you are as a father, what you are as a parent, what you are as a neighbor, what you are as the church, what you are even going through hard times, the world says those are invaluable. That’s where the Lord looks, but Satan was really hitting me. And you know, my dreams were falling apart. And I started hearing voices. I mean, I literally started hearing voices of it’s not worth it. Take your life; you’re in despair. That probably went on and off for two months. But there was a two-week time frame that I heard voices every day. And I just go home and take a nap because I knew if I can get to sleep, God would rescue me. And I’d wake up an hour later, and I was fine. And I’d go pray. I tell my wife, we made a pact. Nothing. We won’t do anything stupid because we love each other. That was the hardest time of my life. And god carried me out of that.
Ray: So you know, one of our primary goals here at Bottom Line Faith is that if someone’s listening to a program, if just one person can be encouraged, can be brought out of a dark season or being inspired to do that thing that God’s put on their heart. So this is obviously a very real, very raw, very emotional sharing of the story for you. So Bill, what, what would you say to someone who’s listening to the interview right now, this program, maybe they’re walking on their treadmill, got their headphones on, they’re driving down the highway, got the podcast playing, and they’re in that dark season. They’re feeling despondent; they’re feeling despair; they’re feeling like they’re hearing those voices of discouragement, evil tormenting voices. Now, what would you say to them?
Bill: One, I’d say, what wall is your ladder up against? Because if, if your ladder’s up against the wall of success by the way the world defines it, even in success, you’re going to be in despair. So if you if you’re trying to build a business, and it’s truly God’s business, then he can either make it or break it. But what’s the lessons learned in it. So success is not defined by your success. Your validation is not defined by your success. Your validation is defined by who you are in God. And so whether you make it or whether you don’t, it doesn’t determine who you are. You’re God’s creature, created in his image for a unique role. And just in this crisis, that may be your unique role. My kids have since told me, dad, we watched you go through that crisis, and we watched other dads go through the crisis; their families fell apart. Ours didn’t. Thank you. And that’s the role of God. The other thing is learn to pray. I got where I took one day a month, and I’d spend half a day off in the woods with my Bible, pouring into the Psalms. My mother used to say; I don’t like blues; blues is sad, and the Bible is supposed to be make a joyful noise. I said Mom, then you haven’t read Psalms.
Ray: Or Lamentations.
Bill: 80% of all the Psalms are all blues tunes that David was, you know, he was the original blues artist. So I get solace in the Psalms. Psalms 88 is one of the saddest Psalms; he just leaves in despair, but he knows his, where is his despair? He’s left his despair with the Lord, so he’s put his despair in the holiest of hands and then David and others, why are you downcast, oh my soul? I read that one over and over and over. Then Psalms 27:1, God told me to read Psalms 27 every day for a month. Just bam, and there’s where you can get solace. Go to Scripture; go to the Lord; your hope is the Lord. If your hope is in a job or your hope is in your company, that’s gonna be a painful place that is going to fail you someday.
Ray: What are some of the challenges you face today in living out your faith? You know, obviously, your faith is cornerstone to who you are and how you live, and it’s foundational to what you teach and train but in the midst of all that, what are some of the challenges that you have in living out your faith in the business world.
Bill: Well, I’ve still gotta make a living. So I even though I do sales training and coaching, I’ve gotta sell; I’ve got to get prospects; I’ve gotta not only serve my existing clients, I got to generate new business. I’ve got my own revenue goals; I have my own quota. It’s called what I need to live and then what I need to give to the Kingdom. I’m very Kingdom focused, so if I’m not making enough income, I can’t give to where the Lord has put on my heart. So those are challenges. Those are stress. I’ve got to make a quota every month you know in that and believe me, we my wife and I pray about it. Hey, something hasn’t closed yet, or I don’t, my pipelines are really dry right now. So those are very legitimate things that I talk to a lot of sales trainers who get fed companies ‘cause someone else is selling well. I’ve gotta, I gotta kill and eat it at the same time.
So it’s, it’s a real challenge. And then what’s the balance of pursuing profit versus pursuing people? That’s one of my greatest challenges, and this is what the Lord really changed me over just this year, probably the last four months is I was pursuing profit. I’d set a new revenue goal I wanted this year; it was literally a 30% growth. I had gone to a workshop and gone through all the goal processing and right about April and May, God really said whose goal is that? And a lot of it too was to listen to Bottom Line Faith and involvement in Truth At Work and some of the topic we’re going through. And then in the summer, we covered the margin and how are you going to have margin if your sole goal is to increase your business by 30%. And I realized I don’t have any margin if my goal is to increase my business.
And so I began to say, okay, what is my goal? And I have started more and more seeking, how can I be a Barnabas to companies? And just trust in the Lord to provide and, and this month he has well, and I don’t know where it’s going to be in December, but he’s already loaded up January, so thankful for that. And I really have about a three-month time window for the way my sales cycle runs and but it’s, it’s so walk by faith. I still go off to the woods a half a day every year. It’s the beginning of the month; I journal, and I pray and said, Lord, let me be your instrument. And I pray for divine appointments, and sometimes those divine appointments pay me, and sometimes they don’t. But I have learned how bold are you? Ask to pray for them. Nobody ever turns down being prayed for. And I’m finding that as a greater and greater opportunity. And the impact of Truth At Work has made me more aware that I have a platform; I need to be using it.
Ray: I love it. That encourages me. You know, that’s what we set out two decades ago to be is that inspiration and that encouragement. And that’s what we’re trying to do here at Bottom Line Faith as well. And so I love, thank you for the transparency in that because you are under the same challenges that any of us have. You know, you’ve got, as you said, make a living. And there’s that tension. It’s always that tension. But I wrote this down. And if you’re driving, I don’t want you to write this down. But if you’re in a position to write this down, I loved what Bill just shared with us the importance of constantly evaluating the balance of pursuing profit versus pursuing people because you don’t get asked, a lot of times, Bill, people will say, I’m a Christian company, or we’re a Christian company, and I understand what they’re trying to say there. But we just don’t believe there’s any such thing as a Christian company. I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where Jesus came to die for a company. A company is an entity. He came to die for the souls of people. And so while in the midst of business, we have to make a profit, no doubt about it. But it really is about pursuing people. And you believe that and you live that way, right?
Bill: Yes, absolutely. You got it. And it really begins if you’re not pursuing your wife and your children, and how you probably won’t do it at work. It’s very intentional, to get up in the morning and say, I want to pursue people now. You get to pursue your own personality, your own gifts, and God gives the introvert a way to pursue them, and it may be through prayer or maybe writing someone a note, or he gives the extrovert like me, I could walk up and talk to a wall, so confident to pursue him, but it’s the idea of our impact is only through the people we meet and the value we bring. And so the challenge I’d say if you’re in sales, are you praying for your customers? I know you’re praying for your deals to close, there’s no question. But are you praying for your customers? Are you praying for your customer’s wife? Are you praying for your customer’s situations? Are you praying for your boss? Are you praying for your boss’s spouse? How are you engaging? Are you asking God to make you salt and light with him bringing the Gospel of hope?
I mean folks, we only have the message of hope. There’s no other faith out there that has the true message of redemption, that God, the creator of all the universe uniquely created you in His own image. And if you have faith in Jesus Christ, He has created you to carry that image forward, and what you do and who you are, and you have a unique role play, and you only can fulfill that unique role. Because your domain, your sphere of influence is only unique to you. Nobody else can fulfill it. So that involves people, that involves going forth and being bold and being intentional. And getting out from behind the TV and thinking, okay, instead of watching TV, I need to spend five minutes in prayer over the people I’m going to be calling tomorrow. It’s as simple as that. But as hard as that.
Ray: What I love in that is that what was in my mind, as I’m listening to, what you’re saying is that if I’m out there, as you’ve described, and God’s given me this unique mission field, I’m the only person on the face of the planet who has this specific set of relationships and opportunities, and that combination, that if I don’t step into that, that if I don’t, if I’m not obedient in that, that is a part of God’s plan that’s going to go unfulfilled.
Bill: Never fulfilled. If you don’t fulfill it, nobody will.
Ray: And I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of it like that. I think that’s, that’s very good. That’s very powerful. And if you’re taking notes, I would encourage you to write that down too. That’s great stuff. And so if you’re regular listener, you know that the last question that we ask every guest on the program is what we call our 4:23 question. It is based out of Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23. The words of Solomon who says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for from your heart flow the wellspring of life.” And so Bill, as I always ask, I want to ask this question. So let’s fast forward the clock. It’s toward the tail end of your time on this side of eternity. You have a chance to gather your family, your friends, your loved ones, those most precious people to you, and you have the opportunity to pass along one piece of advice. This is your legacy advice. And you would say above all else…
Bill: Yeah, and the two things we just talked about, you’re a part of God’s largest story, and you have a unique role to fill; no one else can fulfill it. But to do that, you can’t do it in your own strength. You have to remember that you’re more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37 says we’re more than conquerors. And then in 2 Corinthians 9:8, you can do it because God will make all grace abound with you, and all sufficiency in all things at all times, you can abound in that very good work that he’s called. This means that God will give you whatever you need to get through your situation. It’s not about how successful you are in the world’s eyes. It’s how well you fulfill your unique role in God’s larger story.
Ray: That’s good stuff, phenomenal stuff. And what I really love is when God allows us to talk with individuals like Bill who this is real; these aren’t words. These aren’t just examples. This is like real life. And this is what’s important. And so I just want to say thank you. It is fun having you. Thank you. And just thank you for your faithfulness and your modeling in the marketplace. Thank you for your investment in the program today. I do believe that God’s going to honor our prayer that somebody listening to this program, Bill, is going to be encouraged. They’ve been discouraged; they’ve kind of been down, maybe afraid to take that step of faith, maybe having a hard time coming through the valley. But listening to your story today. I just know in my spirit people are going to be encouraged. Thank you so much for that.
Bill: It’s great to be here; loving it. Thank you. Ray.
Ray: Well folks, believe it or not, we are wrapping up another wonderful addition of Bottom Line Faith. Again check out our interviews at bottomlinefaith.org. As I said earlier on the program, you can scroll down and subscribe there to the podcast through all traditional places: Stitcher and iTunes in Google Play and such. Check us out online at our social media sites. Also, check out truthatwork.org, and particularly look in that area on the website at Truth At Work around the roundtables. If you’re a Christ-follower wanting to be in community as Bill has talked about on the program today with other like-minded Christ-following business owners and leaders, you’re going to want to check out one of those roundtables again. And again, thanks for joining the program today. I am your host, Ray Hilbert. God bless and faithfully go serve God in the marketplace. We’ll see you soon.