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Automation Unplugged

Automation Unplugged is a Facebook Live show recorded weekly with our host Ron Callis, Owner and CEO of the digital marketing agency, One Firefly. In each Automation Unplugged episode, Ron speaks with leading industry personalities and technology professionals to discuss all things business development, technology trends, and more. These interviews are designed to help our clients and members of the custom integration industry keep up-to-date with the latest news as well as learn from experts in the field.

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Home Automation Unplugged Episode #201: An Industry Q&A with Mike Sajecki

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Mike Sajecki, President and CEO at C&E Marketing and M.A.G Sales shares the art and science of consultative selling

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #201: An Industry Q&A with Mike Sajecki

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Mike Sajecki. Recorded live on Wednesday, January 26th, 2022, at 12:30 pm. EST.

About Mike Sajecki

Mike began his career in the A.V. industry while installing car alarms in high school. During his time in college, he ascended to sales manager at a local retailer and began doing Custom Home Installations before they were even a category. His scope of work included: running wires in walls, mounting televisions, building custom speakers, and more.

In 1991, Mike became a rep for a small rep firm, and in 1993 he became a junior salesperson at C&E Marketing/M.A.G. Sales, the company he owns today. With a total of 16 salespeople and coverage of the U.S. Southeast region, Florida and the Caribbean, C&E Marketing / M.A.G. Sales is one of the largest rep firms in the country.

Interview Recap

  • The art and science of consultative selling
  • The importance of a CRM and ERP system in tracking and managing a sales team
  • What makes for a successful salesperson
  • Potential challenges ahead in the economy

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #200 An Industry Q&A with Lee Travis

 

Transcript

Ron:  Mike, how are you, sir?

Mike: I'm great, Ron. How are you doing?

Ron:  I am good. I didn't mean to put the age out there, but I saw the year ninety, and I was like, Man, I remember my high school years. I don't remember a whole lot before that, but I remember my high school years.

Mike: Well, thanks for making me feel really, really old.

Ron:  Well, you do have more gray hair than me. Now, I have a lot of gray hair as everyone in the audience; I cover it up regularly, but I think you have a great full head of hair, and that gray hair just means wisdom. That's what that means.

Mike: Sure. You know, the funny thing is Ron, I started a rep company in 1991, but I was 11 years old.

Ron:  That's what it was. You were ahead of your time.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, something like that.

Ron:  So for our audience, Mike, maybe introduce yourself and tell us about what you do and where you're at.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm Mike Sajecki; I'm the president and CEO of C&E Marketing and M.A.G Sales. We are a manufacturer's rep firm based out of Florida, with offices and salespeople responsible for covering the state of Florida, plus the southeastern United States, which is the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, as well as the Caribbean, which most US vendors in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. We represent several brands of high-end and residential audio, video products, commercial audio, video products, marine electronics and automotive electronics, and have 16 people on the team everywhere from as far north as Raleigh, Atlanta to Tampa to South Florida. So all over the place.

Ron:  And tell me what is what's the difference? C&E Marketing and I also see MAG sales. What is the difference between those two entities?

Mike: So two separate companies, all under the same umbrella, but with separate salespeople working and focusing on separate market areas. So C&E marketing is exclusively residential and commercial audio-video products, and MAG sales is primarily automotive, marine RV and some specialty mass merchant brands. So different salespeople that sell different customers, different products to different market areas.

Ron:  Now, I have so many questions to ask you on such a plethora of topics, but there is big news. Your business was successfully acquired just recently.

Mike: Yeah. Just recently, on December 3rd, as a matter of fact, C&E marketing and MAG sales were acquired by Patrick Industries. They're a publicly-traded company out of Elkhart, Indiana. They have a track record of buying owner-operated niche businesses that sell niche products to niche companies, and it's pretty much just by default or pure definition. They buy companies, and they keep the ownership group in place to operate and run in their own p&l and their own business unit as a totally separate entity. So we have the power and strength of a $4 billion-plus company behind us and all the great things that go along with us that are really, really hard to get as a company of 16 people like health care.

Ron:  This whole health insurance thing might be a biggie.

Mike: Yeah, exactly. So to be able to give my team world-class health care, but more importantly, to give us the power and strength behind us to drive us into the future and do a whole another level than we've ever could have imagined.

Ron:  Well, congratulations. For everyone listening and watching. I know if there are entrepreneurs out there tuned in, many of them aspire to one day say they were able to. I don't want to say, end their business, but they were able to put a milestone on the board of an acquisition or being acquired. And you did it and shoot; how many rep firms has this ever been done with? I can't. I've never heard of it before, by the way.

Mike: Yeah, It's not common, right? It's no secret manufacturer reps are contract sales agents. We have a short-tenured rep contract that gets technically reviewed or renewed every month if we're doing our job. Some of these relationships that we have with these vendors are 20, almost 30 years old. Various times brands get acquired, and you lose the brand. So it's really hard to put a value on a rep firm and successfully sell it. So what ends up happening is is rep firms transition usually to younger junior employees or junior team members, and I'm the recipient of that. I was fortunate enough to have transitioned to the founder of our company. And a few years ago, Allen Lundy, one day, I was able to help Allen retire and transition the company to being mine. Usually, that's what ends up happening. Either they go off into the sunset, or they transition to somebody within the organization. So being able to sell them is pretty uncommon. So you don't hear about it too often.

Ron:  Oh, congratulations, man. That is spectacular. Is it fair to say that you are in the sales business? You said a rep firm is professional outsource sales agents. And you're a career salesperson, and you've been able to now grow this to a level that is, I want to say, unprecedented in our industry. So I want to pull lots of threads about salesmanship, sales philosophy, relationships; that's where I want a lot of this to go, and I know that many of our listeners are really going to enjoy listening and learning from you. But I always like to go back in time. I want to go back to; I don't know, go to diapers, go to high school, go to college. Where did you start, and how did you end up/land at a rep agency in 1991? Like what? What did that look like?

Mike: So my very first sales job was in 1981. I was 11 years old, lived in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, and I lived in the neighborhood. So we were in Suburbia, USA, and I had a paper route. I delivered the McComb Daily. It was a local community newspaper. It was an afternoon delivery. I'd get home from school, and the newspaper would be stacked up. The newspaper stack was on my front porch, and my job was every weekday afternoon to go deliver those to the 50 or so neighbors in the house that subscribed to our daily delivery of that paper. So that was really my first sales job.

Ron:  Did you deliver it from a bicycle with a basket on the front of the bicycle, and you threw it like right out of the cliche out of the movies.

Mike: No, I wasn't that skilled. But yeah, pretty similar to either one, in the front porch or in the mailbox. But what I didn't realize it was a sales job. You know, I picked it up. Some kid that had it before got a real job, and you know, they sort of hand it down. I think I technically had to buy the business for thirty dollars; I think is what it was. So my dad lent me the money and kept track of it in his little black book because that's what he did. So that was my first sales job. I didn't realize it was sales until about six months later. I came to my dad and said, You know, dad; I really would like to get a new bike. There's this shiny red Hurrell BMX bike at the local bike shop. And in the early 80s, that's when BMX was just taking off, and I told my dad how much it was, and my dad, he was very old when he got married, so he grew up during the depression. So things like that, there was no frivolous spending. So when I said I wanted $200 for a bike, he about fainted. But what he did do is, and this is really one of the lessons, key lessons that he taught me very early was, is that you want something, you plan, how are you going to get it? And what do you need to do to get there? So, yeah, he said, well, bikes $200, you get about $50 a week right now in your paper route, you have about 50 customers. Well, why don't you go get ten more customers, and that'll pay an extra $20 a week, and in 10 weeks, you'll have enough money to pay for that bike. And I didn't get that, right. I was like; I thought I just was going to deliver 50 newspapers to 50 houses and make 50 dollars. I thought that's what it was. So that was my first sales lesson, and I did it, and I never bought the bike because I think that same around the same time, they opened a video arcade around the corner, and all my money went to that.

Ron:  Dumped it in quarters into the machines.

Mike: Yeah, that's exactly right. So, yeah, never got that shiny red haro.

Ron:  That's funny. It reminds me in the late 80s early 90s. Me and my buddies, we would go to; this might sound funny because I don't think they do this anymore. We would go to the local Hardee's, and the Hardee's had a whole back section of the Hardee's restaurant that was all the little mini arcade.

Mike: Yeah.

Ron:  They had Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat.

Mike: Sure.

Ron:  And all those classic games. Yes, they ate up, most of my, I cut grass. That's how I made my money.

Mike: I did some of that do, yeah.

Ron:  All right, so bring us forward. So you learned a powerful lesson from your dad; by the way, what did your dad do? What was his career, or what was he?

Mike: So my dad worked for a large company in Detroit called the Bud Company. Bud Wheel they were also known as they made stamping and castings for the Big Three Automotive, and his job was, he was they called it the transportation manager. So he bought all the shipping for the company. So, yeah, so he was all about logistics, and everything was all penciled out, and that also taught me some really, really valuable lessons. My work ethic came from him, and I'm proud of it today. You know, I still get up super early still follow those traits.

Ron:  What time do you start your workday?

Mike: The alarm goes off at five fifteen, and I usually get to my desk, I'm at my home office desk by about 5:30, and then I'm usually at my office in Tampa about 6:45.

Ron:  6:45. By the way, there's a comment that came in from LinkedIn, from Jason over at One Vision, and he says, you both should be happy to have hair. Congrats. There is hair under here. It's a little nappy. But yeah, I appreciate that, Jason.

Mike: Yeah, exactly. So yeah. So I always really liked music. My parents didn't work musically inclined. I always wanted to be. But I was the youngest of three, and they didn't have any interest in taking me to music lessons or whatever. So I was just always interested, and I was always mechanically inclined. At a really early age, I subscribed to Popular Mechanics magazine and literally read front to back every single month. I was just into stuff. So I, you know, I always liked cars, I liked engines, I like motors, I liked just widgets. So my oldest memories going back were; taking apart clock radios figuring out why they worked or didn't work. How can I hook more speakers up to this? How does the console stereo that my parents have work? How do you put more speakers on that? Just all of that was always interesting. Then when I had enough money, we moved to Florida in 84; I got a job at McDonald's, saved money, bought my first car, I think about six months after I turned 16. And, you know, the natural progression while it's the stereo sex, how do I make it better? So I did. And yeah, the rest is history. So I got a job delivering pizzas and in that plaza where the pizza place was, was a place that did car alarms and cellular telephone installations. You know, they weren't handheld phones; they had to actually install them. So I got a job there on Saturdays while I was still in high school, installing car alarms and installing cellular telephones. I would also buy installation parts so I could go hook up my own stereo or hook up on my friend's stereos in their car.

Ron:  For millennials that are not tuned in to what you're talking about with a cellular phone getting installed in the car. Can you describe that?

Mike: Yeah. So it was a three-piece install. There was an antenna that either adhered to the window, and you had to run a cable to it, you had to cut the cable you had to terminate that co-aux and or the really good ones, you actually had to drill through the roof of the car or the trunk lid, mounted. Then there was a transceiver module that was about the size of a box, a big box of cigars and that had to get connected and hidden somewhere under the back seat or on the back deck, and that had to get powered up. Then there was the handset module, which was installed like the old-style home telephone cord and handset, and you had to mount that somewhere and all that had to get connected. Then you had to be on the phone for 20 minutes to get it activated, and they were like eighteen hundred dollars and about $3 a minute to talk. I mean, it was just crazy. So yeah, that's what that was about.

Ron:  That's amazing. I remember in college, which would have been in the mid-nineties, one of my buddies, he got his dad's car, and I remember we thought we were the hottest stuff because the car had an installed cellular phone. It was the brick between the two seats, the passenger and there was this big console thing, and you open it, and there's a big receiver like, yeah, who are we going to call? We have no one to call.

Mike: No one to call, right?

Ron:  Well, let's call our mom. OK. Hey, mom. You know where we're at?

Mike: Yeah. So I did that, and I wasn't ever really good at it. I could make it work, and I knew the technology and how to make it work, but I wasn't good at making it look pretty. So I remember my boss telling me, Hey, you know, the stuff you do is really horrible looking, but boy, you do a really good job of explaining why it looks that way. You should be in sales. So I started selling cellular telephones and car alarms and then eventually helped them get into stereo. And while I was completing high school and entering college, I worked at that store part-time. Then that store kind of fizzled out, and I went to another store that was up and coming. And while I was in college, we really helped develop a really big store was called Ultimate Audio in Largo, Florida. We did car alarms and cellular telephones, and car stereo. That's really when I learned a lot more about car audio. This company was very, very big on training and knowledge and education and to us, there was really no limit. So you could come to us with anything; a car or a boat or bus, an RV, a motor home and people that we would do those things for would say to us, Hey, can you come to my house? You know, I liked how you hung that television up and hid the wires. I got a TV on my back porch with the wires look hokey. Could you come do something about it? Sure. So we didn't realize we were doing custom home installation, but we were doing custom home installation. We were putting speakers in places they shouldn't go. We were hiding wires in walls. We were building enclosures in cabinets and doing custom before anybody really knew what custom was. That was in 1989 and 90 and early 91.

Ron:  I have a question; I want to come back, so we're going to come back to 1990 to the present. I just have a question, so many guests that I have on this show, Mike. Talk about their origin story, starting in-car audio.

Mike: Sure.

Ron:  Is car audio even a thing anymore?

Mike: Yeah, it is.

Ron:  OK, so I wasn't aware of that; what does car audio mean today? Because I'm of the generation that I would go buy the Alpine DAC. I'd have to remove the faceplate or pull the whole console out. I remember how excited I was when I bought the six-by-nine better door panel speakers and all that sort of jazz. But do people do that in their car these days? Is that a modern solution, or who's doing that?

Mike: They do, but what they're not doing is they're not replacing the head unit as often because that whole dash cluster is a big integrated thing. It's part of a big, bigger part. I look at my wife's car today; her entire dashboard from the far left of the vehicle all the way to a portion to the passenger side is one big screen. From behind the steering wheel is the dashboard instrument cluster to the radio with the CarPlay in the navigation. And so you're not going to change that with an Alpine-style pullout radio. Now that stuff still exists because there are vehicles that still can fit that, but the technology has come a long way to now they can integrate to the canvas of the vehicle itself, and they can tie in and have the radio display my climate controls and to display the backup camera and tied into the factory system. Just like RAV integrators will tie in a control for a Crestron or Savant system to talk to other subsystems within a home. They're doing that same thing in cars. At the end of the day, if you want it better, there's always a way to make it better, whether it's your engine, whether it's your rims, whether it's your speakers and amplifiers. That still exists today. Guys do it all day, every day. It's a little bit harder to do it than it used to be. There's a lot less of them doing it, but the ones that do it are real artists and real quality technicians, and it's pretty amazing what they can do today. So it is different than your pullout deck back in the day. But now the business is still alive and, thanks to COVID, probably had some of its best years the past few years.

Ron:  You are in that business?

Mike: We are. MAG sales is one of the leading manufacturers representatives in the country and represents a handful of great vendors, and works with a large quantity of 12 automotive integrators.

Ron:  Is Alpine still a brand for car?

Mike: Alpine is still a brand. Yeah, they exist; we don't represent them. We represent Kenwood Car Stereo, amongst many others. But yeah, Alpine still exists, but one of the big ones are still around Alpine, Sony, Kenwood, Pioneer; those four still are there and still doing well now.

Ron:  That's awesome. All right. Let's go back to 1990 91, and you joined a rep firm.

Mike: I did. Yeah, you know, early days working those retail stores. I thought the rep guys that came in were just the coolest guys ever. It was just awesome to me because I ate, slept and breathed electronics. That's all I did. I eventually dropped out of college because it wasn't for me. It wasn't my thing, and it wasn't as much fun. I had a whole lot more fun messing with cars and boats and homes and RVs. So when the reps would come in, I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world to come in and show us new stuff. They had a trunk full of gear, and I thought, this is just, I was like starstruck every time they'd come in, and then sometimes they'd come in, and they'd have a guy from the factory, and I'd be like, man, that's the job. How do I get that? So it's funny, but it's kind of something I really looked up to, and there's a handful of those reps that I interface with, and they're still around. Some of them are still around today, you know, guys like Ed Meaning, and I don't know if you know Ed; he was a fixture in South Florida for a long time. Guys like John Schneid. These guys were fixtures and still are. I met those guys, and I was just blown away by what they did and how they did it. I figured that this is for me. So I had an opportunity come to me where a relatively small rep firm, it was a one-man band, he was expanding and needed more help, and he hired me on and we really helped grow the business, and I was twenty one years old. In fact, I accepted the job before I was even twenty. I accepted the job in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show, and they had to sneak me into the bar they were going to, so they could kind of continue the interview because I wasn't 21. I didn't have an ID at the time.

Ron:  That's awesome

Mike: Yeah. So they hired me, had a handful of small brands, and we built the firm, and we sold ADS at the time. ADS was a pretty big deal. Kind of our big claim to fame is we teamed up with this really small, unknown Canadian speaker company called Paradigm, and they hired us to be the reps, and I think they had three or four dealers throughout the state, were probably doing about ten or twelve thousand dollars a month? We became the rep, and man, things really took off. It was a really fun ride, introducing dealers to Paradigm, who today is one of the fixtures in the space and in that midnight performance loudspeaker category.

Ron:  Out of randomness, do you represent them or do you work with them today or not?

Mike: No, we don't. So yeah, that was a brand that they've gone and changed from a couple of different firms. That firm had some challenges, and in 1993, I met a guy that worked for C&E marketing, another rep firm in the territory at the time. One of the handfuls of really big firms. One of the sales guys said, Hey, you know, we've added some new brands, and I'm having a hard time getting to that Tampa and Sarasota and Naples market. We are in need of sort of a junior salesperson to come take over that market. So in 1993, they hired me, and I came on board as a junior salesman for C&E marketing, not MAG sales, just C&E marketing, selling the handful of brands that C&E marketing had from Tampa, not Orlando, just Tampa, Plant City down to Fort Myers and Naples, that was my territory. Small little territory, a handful of brands and I was told to go make it work.

Ron:  That's wild, so you've been affiliated with the C&E since 93.

Mike: That's right. Yeah, that's exactly right.

Ron:  How many people can say they've been with a company for. I mean, that's going on almost three decades.

Mike: Yeah, almost 30 years. You don't hear that, right? You don't hear people being in a company for five years.

Ron:  That's so rare

Mike: Yeah, it is. And I'm just pleased that I would've been able to do it. It's been a really fun ride, too, and I've learned so much, right? The people that I've interfaced with over the years and the amount of manufacturers I've worked with and watching these people, to your point, changing jobs and moving from position to position. You have these lifelong relationships with not only the vendors that we work for and or the dealers that we sell products to. These really are lifelong relationships. Somebody was at my office last week; it was one of the first sales calls I ever made in 1993 and still having that common bond and commonality of the things that we've done together and talked about our kids growing up in the next phase in our life, it's been a pretty awesome ride.

Ron:  If you think back to your career, not as the leader at C&E, but as a member of the team? What sort of sales, coaching or leadership do you remember that really sticks out to you that made a difference in you becoming who you are today?

Mike: I remember we went to, very early in the early 90s, we were the representatives for Robert Bosch Corporation, and Robert Bosch had multiple brands with the brand we were responsible for was Blaupunkt car stereo. They had sent us to one, an annual sales meeting. I think this one was in Chicago, and they did about half a day of product overview, product updates, line review what's going to happen next year. New model introductions and so on. Then they took another two and a half days. We didn't really know what it was. We thought it was going to be three days of just, you know, product knowledge and product exposure. But they took two and a half days and ran us through a consultative selling class and really taught us the whole concept of what a consultative sales process is. We've all heard these in various sales seminars that we sat through that, you know, the two best tools a salesperson has is your ears. But he went through all aspects of that and what that looks like to transition from somebody that, I have something to sell to you today. Would you like to buy it? Thank you very much, to, tell me about your business. Tell me about what you do. Tell me how you do it. Tell me what you like about the products you use. Tell me what you don't like about the product you use. Who causes you pain, who causes your pleasure. What makes life easy? What makes life challenging for you and learning more about that. Then turning that into a great I believe I have some solutions for you that will make your life easy, allow you to do more installs, put more profit in your p&l, make your team happier, make your clients happier, all of those things or any of those things, or all of those things at the same time. It was a life-changing thing for me to be able to learn that process. That's something that we've continued to follow today. So much so that I invest in sending my team members to become certified sales professionals, and that's a week-long class that the team goes to, and they learn all sorts of aspects of the whole sales process. But from that point forward, I think I was twenty-four, twenty-five years old when I learned it, and it was it really was a career-changing path for me because it really let me understand as a manufacturer's rep, I'm not selling a life insurance policy. I don't meet with Ron Callis, sell you the policy, and for 40 years, we don't talk ever again.

Ron:  Maybe the life insurance business is better. You will sell once, and you get paid for 40 years.

Mike: Maybe it may be that way.

Ron:  It's a lot more boring.

Mike: Yeah, that's exactly right. But you know, our process is more like nurturing. We plant a seed today that's going to bear fruit tomorrow and that tomorrow could be many years from today. So, you know, for us to learn that whole process and that the stages of the sale and the relationship, that's what's really been really interesting to me over the years to watch that process get involved in that process deeper and try to get better at it through all sorts of tools and processes, whether it be measurements or analysis or content, anything we have those are things that have really driven me to pay more attention to it and try to get better.

Ron:  Tell me about the sales organization that offers this training, and is this something that you think could be applicable to those that are listening or watching. Is it only for reps? Or is it for anybody in the sales or consultative selling trade?

Mike: It's anybody in sales, and it's a company, and I'll be happy to send you a link to it. But it's MRERF, and they're a company that provides two key courses. But the one that we send our team to is a certified sales professional, and it's a week-long process, and it really takes them through what that process looks like in long term relationship based selling because it really is a process, and it is a discovery, and there are multiple stages, and I send people. It's funny because I've sent rookie salespeople that have never really been involved in sales, and I've also sent long-term tenured people that have been involved in sales and successful at it. It really changes the whole model because now it takes those guys that know how to sell and know what it looks like. But it changes, and it gives them the knowledge as to why did I do this and why did it yield this result? Why did we go down this path? And where did we end up? So it really gives you the whole mindset behind it and that there really is a system and a process. To me, it made a ton of sense because I think back to my dad, who wasn't a salesperson, but he taught me the lesson of planning your work and working your plan. If you need $10 more a week to get to that bike in 20 weeks, then this is what you need to do. So there is a why behind it all, and there is a why behind the process. There's this yielded a better result, yielded a not so good result and what were the trials and tribulations from it.

Ron:  I'm gonna bring it pseudo to the present, but it's around the concept that you have a team of six salespeople. What's the key to managing a sales team effectively?

Mike: The results, I mean, winners keep score. And I've always believed in that. So in order to keep score, somebody's got to keep track of that somewhere. In sports, there's a scoreboard, and in sales, it's your sales reports. But there's a lot more data in those sales reports, and to be able to have that data at your fingertips is a really important tool. I think back to when I came on board with the company; they used a manual ledger and anybody that has already been through accounting before they teach you how to do accounting in excel or QuickBooks or anything else. They teach you how to do it in a manual ledger. Money in money out, charting and charting out a list of accounts. So that's how they kept track of our revenue as a company was customers assigned to a salesperson, brands, sales, dollars. That's how that all worked. So we need to be able to keep track of that, and we do. We have a CRM, and while CRM isn't new to anybody that's in sales, to be able to use that CRM that not only has contacts management but also ERP data as well. So we started using a system called Zoho. I go back, I think 2015 is when we started it, and it is a way to keep track of all of our customers. All of our customers sorted by brand. We can sort them by sales rep. We can sort them by geographical region, sorted by volume, by volume of brand and so on. So it really gives us an amazing amount of insight to be able to look at where our opportunities are, where our strengths are, where our weaknesses are. My salesperson, by brand, by region. That really becomes the key to analyzing what we're going to do and what we need to do to get to the next level.

Ron:  Within your organization, who's the person analyzing that data? Is that you? Have you delegated that within a mandate of what to look at to others? Not to get into your secret sauce, but just curious, what are you willing to share?

Mike: Yeah, there are no real secrets. One of the key differences with us is that I learned this when I came on board when I was an employee of the company was build your territory like it's your business. If you go out and make decisions every single day, they're your decisions, decisions that you would do if this were your business, then you're going to be successful long term. So I've always believed in empowering the team and hiring people and giving them a lot of rope, and hoping that they're going to swing from that rope. Some guys hang themselves from it, but most of them swing from it. If they're empowered to look at the data, and I teach them how to use the data, and we look at the data together, if they're doing their job, I don't need to tell them anything about analyzing their data. They're analyzing their own data. So the tools we have in place allow us to pull reports and pull data and things that I look at, and I'll sit with them sometimes and say, Hey, I've noticed something, or I spotted this, and my team members are smart enough to be able to look at that and say, I didn't think about that, or I saw the same thing, and then we just get excited and build off of that together. So really, I built the tools to allow myself and them to pull the data. I've taught them how to pull the data, and because I've got an amazing team, they do that themselves and analyze it themselves. Sometimes we'll even have our vendors look for more data. Hey, can you give me? I'd like to know where opportunities are, say, with Azione. Well, great. I can go to CRM, I can pluck a region I can click on sort by Azione and boom, I can list all right there, and I can see where we may be over-serving or underserving or over-indexing or under indexing.

Ron:  By brand?

Mike: By brand, by region, by salesperson, by buying group. I can overlay HTSA AIN and Prosource and see where the overlaps are. So it becomes a really powerful tool, and at the same time, because of who we are and how we operate, it's not uncommon to get a sales manager from a vendor, maybe a new one, call and say, Hey, I'd love to know who your targets are, which of your sales guys are working with on years past that used to be a pretty laborious process because each salesperson had his own list of, Hey, I keep mine here in an Excel spreadsheet, or I keep mine here in outlook, and I use categories, or, hey, I've used Goldmine because I used to use it when I was in real estate. But for me to find all the guys, where are they today? This vendor needs the list of leads by the end of the day tomorrow; that was a pretty time-consuming process. So now I simply go into the CRM, I click by brand, click by targets, print a report sorted by salesperson. I can give that to the vendor, and if they're looking for any particular data, I mean, it's literally a few mouse clicks away.

Ron:  I'm curious. You're working. Let's say C&E marketing. Is it public knowledge, how many brands do you represent? I guess it can be split because some manufacturers have different brands.

Mike: Exactly. So I don't keep a solid count, but it's in the 12 to 13 to 15 range.

Ron:  12 to 13. I'm just curious, do some of the mandates, the use of their CRM or their ERP? I can imagine all these people with heavy salesforce sort of mandates.

Mike: Not today.

Ron:  How do you feel that? I don't know if I'm getting into touchy territory.

Mike: You know, it's not touchy. I'm happy to talk about it because it is something that we mentioned earlier how these manufacturers will come in, and they want to know what it is that we do. They are paying us as a company to provide a service to them. And if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a noise? We talk about that all the time because if you think about it, somebody in an organization looks at an accounting line item that says the cost of sales is X this month. We're paying how much? So you can see how that works. So all of a sudden, somebody needs to justify it. So how do they justify it? Well, if they have an employee-owned sales division, they can just go look up and say, Hey, I need you on the phone Monday morning. We're going to talk about what you've been doing, or I need you to input that into Salesforce. While that works for them because they're captive and they work for that one manufacturer, and they have one brand to know, it's different when you're an independent sales agent. So we represent multiple brands. So while I don't only work for one manufacturer, I work for all of the manufacturers, so to be able to have me work for this vendor in Salesforce and that vendor in NetSuite and that vendor and another process. It's really time-consuming. So when the vendors do talk to us about that or start discussing some sort of mandate to be working in their sales CRM or their sales data organization tool, we ask them more about what it is that they're looking for. We found ways in various times when these vendors need that data. How can we provide you that data when you need it, how you need it, but provide it to you inside from our CRM so that we're not duplicating efforts. That's a pet peeve to me, right? Watch doing things twice, the same thing twice to get the same result. That's just nonsense. So it's touchy, but we've navigated that pretty successfully by being able to show a professional solution that can provide them what they need without asking us to duplicate efforts.

Ron:  Along this theme that winners keep score. I love that, by the way.

Mike: I have to credit Jeff Breuer, and I'm sure he got that from somebody, but I got it from Jeff. And it's a great one.

Ron:  Yeah, it's Jeff from Sonance for those that aren't aware. You saw me over here typing several of the things that you've been rattling off. I've been; that's a good one, that's a good one. I'm going to put those into my repertoire. That was awesome. What's your observation of what makes for a good consultative salesperson? I'm sure you've had many winners. You have a team of winners, you've had losers, you've had to let them go. What are trends or high level, if you're looking down and just saying, well, these are common traits of successful. If someone has these traits, they might have a higher probability of succeeding in this role.

Mike: Integrity is number one. Right? And I think that goes with just about anything. Do what you say you're going to do. Talk less, do more. Those are key traits, but to me, that ability to ask more questions, to listen more than you speak, take copious notes, not on your phone.

Ron:  That's a pet peeve.

Mike: Total pet peeve, and I get it, right? Because that's how they capture data, but you know, there's all sorts of studies that talk about. Yeah, and it's funny, Ron because I'm a paper guy as well, and when I get buried and overwhelmed, I go to paper. I'll literally go back to an old school, eight and a half by 11 bounce sheet of paper. I start a to-do list and scratch it off and start it all over again.

Ron:  Mike, are we just old and we like paper? Cause that's what my team tells me. You're just old. And that's why you like the paper.

Mike: Yeah, but I would argue with anybody that says, I typed it into my phone. I got it. It's never going to go anywhere, and that paper could get watered, get soaked or thrown out or whatever. But there's something that happens that you retain, and there are studies that show you that you retain more information when you write it down and not type it. So those are key traits to me. Punctuality, doing what you say you're going to do and asking questions. Questions are the key. The answers are in the field. If you ask enough questions, you're going to get all the answers you need to prescribe a solution to come up with an idea, to solve a problem that they have that they don't even realize they may have. Those are those key traits that really stand out to me of somebody that's going to make a really good sales rep.

Ron:  When you make a great hire in sales, how quickly do you know that? And the other side of that question is, when do you also know that it's not going to work? And when do you cut?

Mike: It's really hard and, you know, there's always signs, but it takes two years to really know and for them to know as well because there's so many intricacies that you have to know and so many subtleties about the relationships and the cues within a sales relationship with the customer or even a vendor. The amount of product that we have to know and understand and keep in mind, none of our vendors expect us to know every feature and every benefit and every spec of every model of every brand we represent. Nor do I expect my team to know. And I don't think our dealers expect that either. But what they do expect is if I ask you or if I'm asked, Hey, Mike, how does this work? If I don't know the answer, I better get them the answer. That's all I expect out of my team. I don't expect them to know everything. When you find those traits and when you follow up with our customers and say, Hey, how's my new sales guy doing? Boy, he's great. He always gets back to me. He always returns my call. He always keeps track of what we've got going on. Those are those key things. The harder ones Ron are analyzing are the ones that aren't going to make it because there's a lot of speak, and there's a lot of conversation, and it's tough to measure the success of a blossoming seed, and we talked about that earlier. You plant a seed today that hopefully bears fruit tomorrow, and that period, from seed planting to picking the fruit off the tree, that's a long time. So it's really tough to weed out who's not going to make the cut. But it happens.

Ron:  But maybe in fairness to what you said, if you find that they don't have integrity or if you find that they are not regularly doing what they say they're willing to do, then that maybe is a more obvious signal to part ways.

Mike: Exactly right. Yeah. So it becomes really clear when there's an integrity challenge or their moral or ethics challenge. And that happens; it happens in every business.

Ron:  It happens in every business. All right. I'm mindful of the time, and I've only scratched the surface on things I want to talk to you about. So, I want to jump to 2008, you know, eight through 10, that kind of terrible time for terrible, challenging, maybe high levels of stress for everybody. I want to bring it to the present. I want to start in 08 and 10 and talk about it, and I'm going to going to ask you a question I haven't asked on the show, but you have a different perspective. What sort of signals were you seeing? I'm going to say in 06 and 07 and leading up because 08 didn't blow up till mid 08 if I'm remembering correctly.

Mike: I think in Florida we saw it a little sooner.

Ron:  OK, so what signals were you seeing and did you, do you get to credit yourself with having said I saw something coming?

Mike: No, I mean, hindsight's 2020. So if I had that crystal ball, I'd played Powerball many years ago and won, right?

Ron:  Yeah. Amen.

Mike: So because of our process and because we'd like to get really deep with the customers we do business with, we know a lot about the organization. So not only do we know the things they do well, but we know the things that they don't do so well. When you're met with, and we started noticing this a lot and four five six seven, right early Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac sort of stuff that was in the movie The Big Short. We lived it here in Florida, and meeting with dealers in every meeting starts off with, I need people, can you help me find people? Do I need more people? OK, what's going on? I got more jobs than I know what to do with. I just bought three more vans. Don't mind my brand new Hummer out front, but we're doing really good. Look at my new Hummer.

Ron:  Oh, I remember going into a dealer's office. Look at my new 50 cal rifle on display in my front.

Mike: Yeah, here's a picture of my new boat. Here's my whatever. Right? All these things and the common thread between a lot of these was they believed that they were busy running in circles chasing their tail and they were busy. No doubt about it. They had more projects than they knew what to do with. They had more jobs in the pipeline than they thought that they had. They were buying more product than they ever bought. They were moving more product than they ever moved. They needed bigger warehouses. They needed more trucks that had more people. You sort of wonder, Well, OK, I see you're doing more jobs, but, you know, half the time there's a disconnect between what was specified because we helped you write the spec for that builder, we know what goes in that model home. You need three of these, six of those, twelve of those and four of those. And your office seems to always have a disconnect between what you ordered; you sold this, but you ordered that, and you didn't order enough of these, but you ordered too many of those. Where's the disconnect here? We realized there was a lot of shortcomings within organizations. So yes, they needed more people, but they didn't need as many as they thought what they needed more than anything were systems and processes. So, it really started us looking at, asking about their pipeline like we always do. That's an important part of our routine. The challenging thing is we rely on these businesses to put food on my table to pay for my kid's college; those are the things that we need. So your success is my success, your failures, my failure. So I'm sitting here talking to you, asking you about your pipeline and your future projects and so on. And your answer is, don't worry about my pipeline; it's more full than it's ever been. I need more installers. When we say, Hmm, we're fixing a lot of stuff, we're catching a lot of challenges. We're being called out to jobs because things aren't working because you didn't hook them upright, or you didn't program them right, or you didn't understand the limitations of the product, or you didn't understand how it worked, and we need to slow down. We can't slow down. We don't have enough time to do training.

Ron:  Mm-hmm. Red Flag.

Mike: Red flag. Yeah. You know, they're doing the plug and pray. Well, this didn't work, so let me try another one. That didn't work, either. This product must be junk. No. Guys, you know this wasn't set up, right. Let me do some training. I don't have time to train. So we saw these things, and it started to get us really worried because the second there was sort of a crack in it Ron, when the first months we saw because we track it, we track new housing starts, we track production, building development starts, we track high rises on the beaches, we track cranes. We pay attention to all that. We see that sort of change. And the second you see a dip after another dip, after another dip in new housing starts. Well, something's up. No, my pipeline is full as it's ever been. Are you sure? Oh yeah, I'm sure I'm busy. Don't confuse busy with success, don't confuse busy with profitability. And that's what they were doing. Next thing you know, hey, you know, anybody who needs some vans, I probably can sell four of these. I probably could sell five of these vans. Hey, what happened to your Hummer? I traded it in. They traded it in. Or was it repo'd? The next thing you know, a lot of these guys were out of business. Again, these are the guys that we rely on to put food on our table. So they missed the signs. I don't know that any of us really knew exactly what those signs were, but it seemed to be a direct correlation to I'm too busy, I can't get trained. I'm having challenges getting the product to work. I need more people and seemingly a lack of organization within the organization. So if I were to fast forward that to today? Well, first of all, by no means do I think we're going to go through what we went through during the Fannie Mae Freddie Mac crash because we can't. But we are coming off of unprecedented times. We are going to have to pay for what's happened the last two years. You can't just hand people this much money and expect everything to be the same. Inflation is going up. Cost of living is going up. And we're seeing it in Florida crazy. So there's going to be an adjustment, a reset of something. But the things that we're still seeing in a lot of our meetings today are, Oh my god, I need installers. I got to buy more vans. Do you know any programmers I can hire? We're busier than we've ever been. Our pipeline is great. OK. But. I'm noticing a lot of challenges with your order entry systems. I'm noticing big changes and misses from what was originally specified to what ended up getting ordered. We can talk a lot of these up to new people, product shortages, people shortages. But when you hear the same things, I don't have time to get trained. No, I don't use a system or a job cost analysis system; I don't use a project management software. Shameless plug for you and your services Ron. But when they say these things, you can't help but flashback to 2006, 2007 and 2008, and I trust that these guys are doing the right things. And many of them are. They really are. But it just makes you be just a little bit concerned and open up our eyes a little bit better, bigger and forces us to ask a lot more questions and help in more ways than we can. Because at the end of the day, if we're the first phone call, if we're a true business adviser, we're doing more than just teaching you about new products and helping you source goods. We're exposing more business ideas, concepts and things to make you a better business.

Ron:  I'm curious in that it sounds like your customers, and you know many of your customers for many decades. It sounds like they see you as much more than the speaker guys or the electronics guys. They're calling you probably for many aspects of their business, as you've alluded to.

Mike: Yeah.

Ron:  Do you build out your, I'm curious, do you build out your line card within service offerings like engineering services or accounting services or hiring an H.R. service? Or do you find yourself sending them to resources, or do you put them together to talk through and maybe guide each other?

Mike: Yes, yes and yes. Maybe not formalized. Maybe there's a whole other opportunity for us to list an ala carte suite of a host of services that C&E marketing and MAG sales can provide. But I've set up multiple, multiple people with our order entry system that we used to use. I've set up multiple people with CRM. I've engaged people with flowchart system processes. I engage people with marketing companies. I've sent you lots of people. These are the things that you have to do because if they're successful, I'm successful. So we noticed a big shift, and it sort of changed the way we operate as a company. But in 2014, we redid an office in South Florida. We had sold a portion of our distribution business off shifting sands dairy distributing. We sold that to Dow Electronics in 2013. And we no longer needed 10000 square feet in the Hollywood area, and we needed 3000 square feet in Sunrise. So we did our office because we weren't a stocking warehouse organization anymore; we were a manufacturer's rep office. So we noticed a big challenge in dealers' showrooms. Showrooms didn't exist at the level that they used to. Dealers were moving from retail to office complex warehouses. They had showrooms that were maybe destination theaters or operational multi-zone systems or conference rooms and so on. But next thing you know, the theater is now a rack-building room. And what was the conference room is now a bunch of cubicles where there's programmers exist. So our ability to do our job, walk into the showroom, bring a pair of speakers or our latest greatest piece of technology and hook it up to other devices that are already within that showroom. It was really minimized these guys didn't have those resources in the showrooms that they used to have. So we knew that we needed to build somewhat of a design center sort of feel. And I hate to say that because when you say Design Center, it populates everybody's brain with some sort of an idea, but we knew that we needed to have something that could show off various things. What is an invisible speaker look like? Well, it is invisible; it doesn't look like anything, but how does it sound? How does a Trufig linear diffuser get installed, and what does it look like when it's done? How does any ambient light rejecting projection screen look? What does a 4K LED RGV projector look like? How does an in-wall subwoofer sound? So we decided we built that and set it up in a way where not only we can invite our dealers into our showroom to let them see, touch, feel and hear our products. They can also use it to bring their clients as well. So we built that out in our Sunrise office, and it worked fabulously. It was always a challenge to get people to come. But once they did, yeah, I'll swing by for 15 minutes. Well, three hours later, we're rolling out plans. We've brought in lunch, we're doing take-offs, we're writing whole job listings, and then they're saying, Hey, can I get my customer here? How's next Tuesday at 2:00? And talk about a game-changer. It really allowed us to function more of an extension of them, a sales arm to let them be better engaged in what they do best, which is implementation, engineering, installation, programming and let us do what we do best, which is exposing our customers and their customers to the products and solutions that we offer.

Ron:  I was going to give you a shameless plug, I brought my team to your Sunrise location, and we've attended training there, it was a few years ago, but it was great. I'll show you when we go offline; there's a picture of my team in your facility sitting in training that actually is part of our image library and probably easily on hundreds of integrators' websites. You see the back of the heads of my team in a training venue, but when you see the sound panels on the wall, you'll go, Hey, that's my space.

Mike: Hey, that's me.

Ron:  That's right.

Mike: Yes. So we did that run. We emulated that in Tampa. We had a little more space here in Tampa, so we did it bigger and larger, sort of larger space, more space, more venues and more ability to do more of that. We've got Atlanta on the books here to come on board. Would've been on board right now, but COVID delayed that. So we're expecting the end of Q1, the beginning of Q2. We'll have a similar style and size facility like we have in Tampa in the greater Atlanta area.

Ron:  Is that a trend you're seeing take off throughout the rep business nationwide? I mean, it sounds like it's a great idea and it's working for you. So I'm assuming those are going to see that and go, Let's, let's copy those guys.

Mike: Yeah, there's a couple of other reps throughout the country that have done it really successfully, and it's been a great asset for those that do and can and live in a populace where it makes sense. You know, it's hard when you think of the, I know you mentioned on an earlier podcast, you lived in Minnesota. Well, other than Minneapolis, where else would you be? And how many people can you draw from there? What if you're a rep for upstate New York or New England? And where do you put that? So it makes it kind of hard, and we have that luxury of Florida in the southeast. We have enough large city centers or major demographic market areas where we can pull a large amount of people from one spot.

Ron:  Mike, you've been extremely generous with your time and your artistry and craftsmanship, not only in running a great business but in consulting and advising so many businesses. I could just talk to you about sales and salesmanship, and the art of selling, the art and science of selling that is a passion of mine. It's been a passion of mine since birth. So I'm right there with you. I'm driving with you. But we are at the time, and the listeners only tune in for so long before they finish their walk or their run or their trip to the gym. For those that want to get in touch with you directly, sir, how would you advise they do that?

Mike: Either on LinkedIn under Michael Sajecki or on Twitter @Sajecki or on my email, which is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ron:  Awesome, and we will put all those handles down in the Automation Unplugged landing page, which lives on the One Firefly website, as well as on LinkedIn in the chat stream and the Facebook stream as well. Michael, thank you for joining me on the show. This was Show 201. So you're kicking off the two hundreds here. It was great to have you on.

Mike: Ron, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

SHOW NOTES:

Mike began his career in the A.V. industry while installing car alarms in high school. During his time in college, he ascended to sales manager at a local retailer and began doing Custom Home Installations before they were even a category. His scope of work included: running wires in walls, mounting televisions, building custom speakers, and more.

In 1991, Mike became a rep for a small rep firm, and in 1993 he became a junior salesperson at C&E Marketing/M.A.G. Sales, the company he owns today. With a total of 16 salespeople and coverage of the U.S. Southeast region, Florida and the Caribbean, C&E Marketing / M.A.G. Sales is one of the largest rep firms in the country.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview:

Mike can be reached directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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