In Pursuit of Quota
In Pursuit of Quota

Episode · 1 year ago

Let The Buyer Sell You - Mike Centorani

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Before the internet, yellow page advertising reps were both hated and needed by most local businesses. Mike Centorani’s approach to selling made him a top performer and is now used by thousands of sales pros worldwide.

Welcome to in pursuit of quota podcast where great sales people get their superpowers. If you are looking to add more superpowers, check out pitch wise nyc dot com and join the sales. Speak easy to connect with other sales leaders and founders Like Yourself Way are a new podcast, so be sure to hit like and subscribe so that you don't miss any of Season one. Today we're speaking with Mike Center Ronnie. He has a long history of empowering salespeople and has done so in over 22 countries. All this in spite of almost leaving sales early in his career until a single sales call changed everything. Join our host, Donny, die to hear his story, And the goal here is really just to talk about kind of just the greater career of sales. I'm a big I'm a big fan of things idea that that sales is a long term profession and it's more of a craft than anything else. So I want to start in kind of an odd place. That's okay with you. So most people, if you look statistically, most people don't get into sales by design. Was sales a profession that you actually looked at and said, This is something I want to jump into or something that you found along the way. It's something I actually tried to run away from in the opposite direction, as fast as s. Oh, I'll make the story short and quick. But what happened for me, Donny? Is that my senior year of college? I was this Broca's any kid could be. And so I was looking for kind of a part time job and being a semi decent athlete in high school, I saw an ad in the paper for a fitness instructor, and I had spent so much time, you know, in the gym and working out that I thought, You know what I could do that, that that could be fun. And it was really close to where I was going to school, too. So I did, and I got the job, and for the first couple of months, it was incredible. I was taking people through fitness routines. I was helping him get back in shape and I love the job. It...

...was outstanding. I get this on the door and it's from my boss and says, Hey, Mike, come on in here. I want to talk to you about something. He goes. I've been watching you and you interact really well with people. They seem to like what you're doing every time you're taking them through your fitness routines. I think I want to get you in the sales on the second eso It's like you're doing such a good job. I want you to no longer do that job, e still get to do it. But at the same time is I'm taking people through, like maybe a first routine Then Then the thing was, Okay, let's see if we can sell them on a membership now to remember saying to the guy, You know, I love what I'm doing and I love this job. But if it has anything to do with sales, are not interested at all. In fact, I kind of looked at sales is being kind of an evil thing. So I truly felt at the time that I was doing something to somebody and not for them. And and so that's what kind of made my whole internal chemistry on sales just feel like, No, I can't do this. And over time, that changed right, Because then I started to realize, you know, wait a second. Maybe maybe there's a way to do this where it's not an evil thing, but you're actually helping people. And for me personally, Donny, I had to find that otherwise I couldn't keep doing it. Okay? And then? And so how long did you do that job for the deciding membership? Yeah, I actually ended up staying with it for a couple of years after graduation because I really did enjoy doing it actually got into, like, a management thing. And but then, you know, my background was in advertising, so that's what I went to school for. And so I also was able to get, like, ship at an ad agency. And so from there, what I wanted to find with something in advertising And of course, you know, you and I, at one point working for the same company, I saw an interview for R. H. Donnelley, which was the Yellow Pages company back in the day on, and I interviewed for that. And it's a really quick, funny story here, but the when I was going through the interview process, the manager who hired me at the time, said, Why do you think he'd be a good...

...fit for this? And I said, Well, two reasons I said, I've got a degree in advertising I went to school for and design copyrighting layout and I got some experience in sales. And the funny answer that gave me back was he goes, Well, I love the sales part, but that advertising stuff on the play it all but you But you are selling advertising well, so that's what I said back to him. Wait a second. We are selling ads, right? And don't you put the heads together, goes, Yeah, but that doesn't really matter. And I was blown away by that. Now, the the funny other part of the story was six months later, he wasn't with the company. E. I've still been in this industry 36 years later, So e still remember this like it was yesterday. So I you know, I grew up in upstate New York and I was a little town called Binghamton. And so but part of our territory were areas like Ithaca and Courtland. Like we're Cornell University is an Ithaca admiring Corning a little bit to the West, um, Oneonta and Cooperstown, where the Hall of Fame is. These were areas that we would travel to all about an hour away from where we were s Oh, my. I'm a year and a half into the job and I'm hating it because I'm getting I'm getting beaten up all the time about you. Gotta make your quote. You gotta make a quote. You gotta make your quota. In the meantime, I'm not doing the things that I wanted to do, which was help businesses with their advertising campaigns. All I'm being asked to do is just sell, sell, sell kind of thing on. I'm really, seriously considering about a a completely new profession. And then something really cool happened for me. I mean, Ithaca, New York, and I'm talking to this one business owner and at the time, you know, yellow pages. If you were thinking about you know, this time, if you were a mover, if you were a plumber, if you were a locksmith, that was the only place you really could be, right? I mean, because, you know, it's hard to put advertising campaigns together for a locksmith at the time to say, Hey, just wanna let you know we've got the greatest deadbolts in the world. Or, you know, it was It was one of those things where most of we're making all their money,...

...things done, lockout cases, right? And so they had to be in the Yellow Pages. But at the same time, we knew they had to be there. It was a necessary evil. A on those were the exact words of the business owner would use with me every day that I hate you. I hate your company and I hate what you're doing. But I have to be with you because there's no other choice. And so because of that, we were taking advantage of them. In my mind, we were hitting with an 18% rate increase every year just because we could, right? So every time I walked in the door, they'd immediately start screaming at me. And so that was miserable. And I remember thinking, I just don't want to do this anymore until one day, one business owner said, All right, here's the deal. I am canceling on you. It was a pretty big contract. There's a few 1000 bucks a month, which was a lot of money back then and he goes, I am canceling. But he goes, I'm going to give you 20 minutes to convince me that maybe I shouldn't do this. And nobody had ever done that for me before. And I started thinking back, Okay, This is interesting. This guy's giving me a chance to actually talk to him. So I went back into my old advertising training and I started trying Thio interview him almost a ziff. I was trying to put together a campaign that he wanted me to do for him, and he loved it. He was eating it up and he was like, Okay, this is like, the best meeting I've ever had with one of you guys because all we were doing was brainstorming. We were white boarding, brainstorming, and I was getting him to try to sell me on why he was really good at what he did. And he was he was doing that. I was semi creative guy. I'm coming up with headline and I'm coming up with, like, graphic design ideas. I'm coming up with bullet points. I'm coming up with action statements, and he's like he's looking at this he goes, that's really good. That will work. That's going to get people to, you know, actually call my business. I've heard this so many times over my life. Might you become obsessed with the sales process like every component of what happens in the sales interaction? Why? And my come back is because that's where the money exchanges hands. If you don't know that part, that, then how are you doing anything? Because everything should be built to support that, right? We've got so many vice presidents that, you know,...

...like we could we could do so many great episodes of undercover boss with many businesses and companies. Because if you look some of those sales VPs and put him in the street, ah, lot of them can't do it right. But at the same time, this is the same people that are screaming at the front line managers to do a better job. Well, how you gonna help the front line manager get better if you don't know how to do it? Right. So So my belief is that every level of sales should know the core components to the sales called process and know how to coach to it well enough because that's the only way you create a culture of doing the right thing when everybody's in front of the actual customer themselves. But I gotta tell you, I've worked with consulted 46 media companies Now, in 22 countries, 90 plus percent aren't even close. Just which is why I think people are failing so much is because nobody really knows what they want that sales up to do. And they don't have a trained eye so they can help him get better. So that brings up an interesting dilemma. Then if if your your sales rep or are a new sales manager kind of listening to this and you're going Okay, so I'm gonna have a real problem finding the skill set that I need to be successful, and the person above is gonna have no clue how to help me. Where do they go? But in your in your view, what? What, what? What? What's that? What's a good step to make you know? And I and I believe Dani to that question is one of the biggest reasons why you see a turnover rates being so high, right, and a lot of companies. You'll see turnover rates organizations 30 40 50 60. I've seen 70%. And so, you know, when you start to peel that onion bag to say, Okay, were they all just bad hires? And the answer is no on that right? And so part of, like part of like the sales management training that I've tried to put together for companies is the idea. And I know you've heard this phrase a lot. You know, some people call it ability, desire, or there's a people call it skill and will. And either way, it's kind of like to me, that's the foundation. If I hired Donnie Die and I look at him and say, You know what, That guy's got a lot of ability. He does. And then the second part is, you know what? He's also got a lot of...

...desire to want to become great. If I'm your manager, Donny, and you're not great after that, that's my responsibility in my mind that I screwed up on you. But unfortunately, that's not how a lot of sales organizations look at it today. What best describes the style of selling that you use? You've heard this I guess the phrase consultative versus maybe more transactional, that kind of thing. But I really do believe that I try. Personally. I try to go in with the mindset of I'm not really worried about making the sale. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I want to go in and see if I can help that person. So it's very much more of a consultative type of thing. The sale itself is a byproduct of doing the right thing, even if it means walking away. What do you think makes a great seller? Someone who's really great at their job? I think I think it starts in that foundation of really truly believing in the product or service that you're selling first. I think it starts there, all right, and then I think the second part is trying to see if it's a fit for whoever you're talking Teoh, right? Because again, that old adage you can't really forced a square peg into a round hole, you can try. You could get the biggest hammer in the world and try to force it in there, but it shouldn't be that way. It should be more along the lines of You know what, Maybe my product or service isn't right for everybody. So go in with the idea that, let's see, based on where this person is in their world, if what I've got to make it better, some and if it if it is, try to approach it that way. But if it's not, be okay with what fucking away, too. Be okay with letting the person know. You know what, Mr Mrs Business owner or whoever it is? Customer. I could sell you this, but I don't think it's the right thing for you and walk away. I think you're going to feel better about yourself and better about life in general. If you look at it that way, you know, versus just trying to make, trying to sell anything, you can anybody, that's just a miserable way to go through it. Definitely agree. Number three. Do you feel your ability to sell comes from your nature or training? For me, it was It's definitely both. There's no, but for me, it's more than nature than anything else, Donny. And that's that's...

...not necessarily say Sara Lee. The way it is with everybody. I've known people who've been super successful in sales for decades, and they hate every minute of their life. Okay? And so so that they did it through training and learning how to do it through different techniques and tactics, right? It wasn't in their nature. They just did it because that's what they did right? For me, it is my nature, right? But it only became that way when I figured out how to do it based on helping and not selling. So the best people that I've ever seen start with that. But then they get trained and how to do it at a really high world class level, and that just takes him to a place where you know they become great at it. And and I also don't believe you ever really stopped learning how to become great. And I'm still trying to become better all the time. Myself and I definitely relate to that. So what are you happiest in your in a sales role? Great question. That's my favorite question investing so far today. I know this is a little weird, but I I figured out fairly early on that I am way more pumped up and excited when I have taken somebody who is already working as a sales person or manager, and I give them some ideas and how to help them get better. And I watched him succeed. So for me personally, it wasn't about me succeeding. It was watching somebody else succeed. And that's when I realized training was the right place for me, not because I can't do it, because I'll go out on the street and prove you right now. I could do it if it's just because it's like that was so cool. Tow watch that persons and higher life change because what I was able to help them to dio it doesn't get better than that. You know, at the end of the day, you're like, Wow, I just help that person. I might have saved that guy's career, you know, they might have had a family with small kids or whatever, and they're just beaming there, shaking my hand and thanking me, saying, Look, I can't thank you enough for how you've helped me become better at what I'm doing. That's what that's what keeps me in the game. That's what gets me excited. Very cool And then on the flip side, where you typically the saddest What is something that just really bummed you out in this world When when I the worst case scenario for me and I talk a lot of is about this and...

...management training is and I really it took me years to figure this out. This was not one of these things I figured out very quickly. Not not everybody can be great at this, and and I because of my nature, thinking that I could make everybody great, right? That was something that really made life miserable for me for a long time. What I realized is that if you get a person who doesn't have the ability or doesn't have the desire, because you've gotta have both, they're not gonna become good there. Andan. Sadly, I think that when you figure that out pretty quickly, you should try to guide them and maybe thinking about trying to do something else, because it could be really great at something else. Just this is for them. It's just sad as hell, cause I know now it doesn't have to be that way. If you could talk to your 18 year old self. What would you say to them about the career that you will choose eso? I was that cocky kid who thought that he didn't have to work hard at it, right, Because there were. There were certain things that I was pretty good at, and it did kind of come natural for me. And I would have said to them, You know what? Study harder, become, become or of a student practice. Or don't think that you're just naturally great, right? Try to figure out how to get Thio the next level by working harder, working harder. There was a There was a little bit of a laziness to me and something on things, especially when it came to school and when it came toe work. And I wish if I had to go back again, I will work so much harder on the first day of your retirement. What will you miss about sales? Not helping people anymore? Yeah, every day and in fact, a half hour from now I'm gonna be talking about 22 people down in Austin, Texas, and I've got one component of the process that they they've asked to try to get better in. And it's a really cool thing. It is every day I get to do that right. And so I take it slow, because those 22 people, I don't know, most of them, and I don't know what there is going on in their life, but I...

...know that if I do this well for them today, which is why I take this stuff really, really seriously. E can I could potentially say something. Do something, help them with something that could be life changing for them, that they could then become so much better at what they're doing. And then maybe they pass that along to somebody down the road based on what they're learning today to, You know, I'm gonna miss that more anything else? Because I I know that. Okay? I don't have the ability to help those people anymore, so that that's Yeah, that that'll be the hardest thing. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Understand that for sure. And then the last question is, do you ever regret going into sales? Not now. No. No, because, you know, the one thing is that Donny and this is the coolest thing in the world to this day. I still get tons of emails, phone calls, text messages, even to this day from people all over the world. Every country I've ever done consulting and work with, like sometimes it's 2345 10 years later, they'll say, Listen, hey, I got to tell you, I still remember when you help me with X y Z, whatever it waas and what a difference that made. And I'm still trying to apply these things. Or now I'm teaching people how to do those things. I just wanted to reach and say hi and thank you for that again and that zoos to me is the coolest thing in the world. Thanks for joining us. If you would like to speak to Donnie directly, his email is Donnie at quota nyc dot com. That's d o N n y at q u o t a nyc dot com. Also, be sure to check out pitch wise nyc dot com for exclusive content and to join the speakeasy till next time. Be well and hit quota.

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