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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: Leadership, “Interview with Mark Hunter - Career Lessons and Tips for Salespeople”
May 19, 2017 | Canadian Professional Sales Association, Leadership Series lock
CPSA Leadership Podcast: Mark Hunter Talks About His Career Path And Lessons For New Sales Professionals

Mark Hunter is a speaker, sales trainer and author of High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price. He has 18+ years of experience in the sales and marketing divisions of three Fortune 100 companies, before he became an independant consultant. He is for his recognized  cutting-edge thought leadership, entertaining value and actionable strategies.

Tim Baker: Welcome, Mark, to the Leadership series, brought to you by the CPSA. Great to have you with us today.
Mark Hunter: Hey, thank you for having me on today, looking forward to share with everybody.
Tim Baker: Mark, could you tell our listeners about your career path and why you've decided to pursue sales as a career?
Mark Hunter: I did not set out to pursue a career in sales, let's put it this way, I was pursued by the Police Department. I went to school in the States, and the Seattle Police Department decided to give me 3 speeding tickets in the course of 2 months, the last semester of college, which meant in 6 months I could no longer afford car insurance. I did not want to go into sales, my career was going to be in marketing because I wanted to do advertising. When you can't afford car insurance, it's amazing how you suddenly say, "I've got to get a job that provides me with a car." That put me into a sales job, because it gave me a company car. You talk about stumbling into a career, but you know what I found? Took me about 5 years to embrace it, but I love it. Me now thinking about not being in sales, I couldn't even begin to think about that. I thoroughly thank the Seattle Police Department for giving me those career enhancing speeding tickets.
Tim Baker: That's an interesting introduction to a career in sales for sure. Tell us a little bit about how you started, and your path to what got you where you are now.
Mark Hunter: My career path was, first of all, it was just finding a job that provided me with a company car, and I went through an interesting career path. I joined a small, family-owned company, and they supplied me with a car, and about 9 months later I got fired from that job, I got fired because there was a family member that wanted my job. I went to work for what I thought was going to be a great corporation, was with them for 8 months, and guess what, got fired from them. What they did was they got rid of the sales force, so clearly, I'm not doing too well on this sales enhancing career, wound up with the next company, and again, I thought, "Okay, this is it, this is it, and this is going to be the perfect company." Actually it did wind up, I spent 12 years with them.
Spent 12 years with them, and during that time, one of the most fascinating things I learned about sales, and really about career enhancement, you've got to be open for what other voices are telling you. I think it's very easy, and this was the mistake I made coming into sales, I resisted sales initially. I was like, "Oh, these are your stupid people, these are people who can't get real jobs." When I began to shift my thinking to realizing, "No, these are the smart people, these people have a lot of things that they could share with me," that's when my career finally really began to take off. I spent 12 years at the company, and during that time was able to be exposed, and again, this was the thing that I found and I tell people from a career growth standpoint, volunteer for anything and everything. I'm not saying to volunteer for the social committee to plan the Friday afternoon barbecue, whatever.
Maybe that's a big thing for you, but it wasn't for me. What I mean by volunteer for taking on those difficult customers, those difficult challenges, here's what I found early on in my sales career. I didn't really know what I was doing, but if I agree to take on the difficult customer that nobody else could be successful with, there was nothing but upside. I remember there was a customer early on in my sales career that my boss gave me, he called me into his office and he said, "I'm giving you this account because everybody else is really screwed up and we're not getting any business from them." It was, to me, this was like Mecca, this was absolutely incredible because I didn't know what I was doing, but clearly all these great gurus didn't know what they were doing either. You know what's funny? I stumbled my way to success, because of my own sheer stupidity, I stumbled my way to success.

I was able to parlay that into another account, into another account, et cetera, et cetera. Along the way then I began to realize that, wait a minute, just because other people aren't successful doesn't mean you don't listen. Listen to voices, listen to people out there and take it and make it fit for your personality, for your style. That's something else that I love to tell people, sales is a personality game, and you have to let your personality come through. Think about it, we've all been blessed with a wonderful personality, and when I'm able to use my personality I am so much more comfortable and so much more relaxed. I hear things from the customers, I can ask better questions, I just do a better job of connecting with people. So many people coming into sales, they think it's this ROTE process, this process that I'm going to go boom, boom, boom, and I'm going to be successful.
NO, no, no, you do want to have a career path, you do want to set goals, but boy, be open. Like I said, I keep harping on this, be open to the voices out there, they will share with you and you'll amend the process, but along the way you'll wind up with a much better outcome.
Tim Baker: That's some fantastic advice, thank you. You did talk about, you just mentioned at the beginning, I found it quite interesting that when you talk about volunteering or taking on those tasks, the difficult challenges that might be a little bit risky too, especially early in your career. Based on that, what in your experience, what are some of the typical challenges maybe based around that that someone might face when they are starting the early stages of their sales career?
Mark Hunter: The 2 big issues is there may be accounts that people don't want to take on or, "No, you've got to deal with this customer issue. Can you go back to this customer and get this correct," or something like that. Again, it's like, "Oh no, let me give it to somebody else, let somebody else do it, no, maybe my boss should do it." Jump up and do it, do it, because here's the whole thing. The sooner you learn how to do it, I remember the first time I ever made a cold call. I was shaking in my boots, but you know what's interesting? The sooner you do it, guess what, the second one was easier, the third one was easier. The sooner you get to experience, one of the things that I don't like sometimes about career growth is, we shelter people from problems, we're going to slowly take them into this. I get that, but boy, I'll tell you what, there's something about being thrown into the middle of the fire and figuring out how to not get burned.
There may be a difficult contact, your customer service department might say, "Hey, this person's really hard to deal with." Say, "Fine, you know what? I'm going to go have lunch with them, I'm going to call them up on the phone, I'm going to talk to them." Whatever it might be, those are those volunteering assignments, because then what happens is they go, "Wow, this guy, this lady makes it happen," whatever it might be. You know what happens? It increases your level of confidence, and confidence is so critical in sales. What it also allows you to do is it allows you to build your integrity, you think about one of the foundational tenants of sales is your integrity. If you have the integrity to follow through, if you have the integrity of reaching out to people, being in communication with people, what I find so many times with sales people is they don't learn this up front.
As they get developed, they become more mature salespeople, more developed, more seasoned. They try to hide and run from various problems, because they're just not comfortable, they don't want to be embarrassed. I want to be thrown in the fire quickly, early. It really worked for me, and remember, I did not want to be in sales.
Tim Baker: It's interesting, because you touched on a couple of great points there. It is quite a balance really, that when you're early in your career, or whatever stage you're in your career, that you need to balance that level of comfort and confidence with that risk/reward, taking on those challenges, not fearing "failure," and being able to make mistakes and move from them and move on, and to build and strengthen and grow, and be more confident. To expand on that a little bit more, that's what people can do. What are some of the characteristics, in your opinion, of a successful leader in sales? To become that leader, whether it's in your company or it's in your industry, or whatever it might be.
Mark Hunter: First of all, you want to be seen as a learner. I can't emphasize this enough, you know what's very interesting is, a 2 watt light bulb looks pretty good in a light room. Surprisingly enough, I'm amazed at the number of sales people that don't take the time to really spend their time learning. I'll tell you what, I've been on a mission for the last 6 or 8 months and I'm determined to continue it, I want to be reading a book a week. I'm reading a book a week, a characteristic of a successful leader is one who immerses themselves in their industry. We've all heard about that $10,000 rule, you do anything for 10,000 hours and you become an expert. I don't think it's 10,000 hours, I think it's [inaudible 00:10:16] just about 100 hours, 500 hours, because again a 2 watt light bulb looks good in a dark room. Here's something else, your whole objective is you want to be seen as a successful leader.

What is a successful leader? A successful leader, and there's a phrase that I like to use. Sales is leadership, leadership is sales. I don't want to sell my customers, I do not want to sell my customers. My goal is to help customers see and achieve what they didn't think was possible. Stop and think about that for a moment, my role is to help others see and achieve what they didn't think was possible. That's the goal of a great sales person, and that's the goal of a great leader. Being a successful sales person and being a successful leader is the same thing, a characteristic of a great salesperson is they don't view themselves as a sales person, they view themselves as a great leader who just happens to use sales as the tool to help you create a greater outcome. Let's come back, and let's put in a couple of other characteristics. I mentioned the word trust, and I mentioned the word integrity.

I can tell you what, neither of those really can you visual, they aren't things that you can see. I tell you what, trust and integrity, they take a lifetime to build and only a second to lose. I can't stress this enough, this is why one of the things that I tell young sales people, find somebody in the industry, maybe it's not your industry, maybe it's just in the business world. Benchmark yourself against them, watch what they do, watch the leadership characteristics that they do, that's what you want to be emulating. When you emulate those role models that you see, I like to use Warren Buffet, he's one of the richest people in the world. If you watch his level of integrity, his level of openness, again, some of his views and opinions, totally the opposite of mine. I don't care, I don't care.

You watch his thinking process, you watch his thought process. The other piece that I see in a successful leader in sales, yes, they're very goal-oriented. They don't use goal, my numbers, I've got to hit 100 for this core. That's not their goal. 100 is only the halfway point. Successful leaders in sales never allow the goal to be their goal, they always set their goal much higher. To me, that's a person who is without a doubt looking to over-achieve. I'll tell you what, if I don't do it with a foundation of integrity and trust, get out of sales, get out of business. We do not have enough people who really demonstrate and live with integrity and trust in everything that they do.
Tim Baker: Certainly integrity and trust are 2 very, very important foundations of strong relationships, and that in itself is very important, in the business world, anywhere, for sure. I'm going to shift the next couple of questions a little bit towards the topic of prospecting, and it just happens to be part of the title of your new book. For the young professionals that are early in their career, what are some good habits or practices to start early with respect to prospecting?
Mark Hunter: One of the things is, the best advice is found on the back of every shampoo bottle, repeat, repeat. One of the biggest problems people have with prospecting is they fail to do it, "Oh, I don't want to prospect, I don't want to prospect, I don't want to prospect." Prospect is something you have to do every day, it's a little bit like that discipline of going to the gym and working out. It's very easy, people think about, "I'm going to get the gym membership." How many gym memberships go unused? Everybody thinks they're out prospecting, but they don't. Here's what I say when it comes to prospecting, don't start what you can't finish. What do I mean by this? I would much rather have 5 people and prospecting on a routine basis than having 100 people I'm contacting once, and never contact again. We burn people out of prospecting because we throw this big thing at them, and we expect them to get 100 prospects.
I don't want 100 prospects, my goal is to have fewer prospects I can spend more time with. When I do that, I actually have a simpler prospecting process. The reason it's a simpler process is because what I'm doing is I'm able to move people through quickly, I'm able to spend enough time with you that I can bring you through to the close that quick. A good habit when it comes to prospecting is A, schedule time on your calendar, this must be sacred time. You have to determine what works for you, and don't discount, "Oh, we can't prospect on Mondays, we can't prospect on Fridays." I tell you what, there's a lot of people who, Mondays and Fridays are their best day. You don't know what works until you actually do. When you set up your prospecting process, and I talk about this in the book quite a bit, use all the tools. It isn't just email, it isn't just social media, it isn't just telephone.

It's all of the tools, because it's not what works for us, it's what the other person wants to hear. For some people it might be email, for some people it might be telephone, for some people it might be social media, many people, it's all 3 or all 4. I've got to be able to use them all, for younger people the telephone is a wonderful tool, you can actually talk to people on the telephone, it actually works.
Tim Baker: I actually have an app on my phone, that I can actually call somebody, I just found it a few weeks ago.
Mark Hunter: That's why it's called a smart phone.
Tim Baker: I know, right? That's true, I think especially these days, the volume of technology, the different ways, and I connect with people in about every different way you could think of, when I'm talking to people on my network. Often times I do forget to, you know what, pick up the phone, give them a call.
Mark Hunter: You know what is interesting? Just on Tuesday this week, Sales Force just came out with a new study, major study. The top 2 ways to connect with customers, this is based on sales people and everything, was in person, and 87%, I may be off by a percent or two. Then it was telephone, like 86%, and then it was email, like 83, and social media was down around 44%, whoa, wow.
Tim Baker: I'll have to look that up, that is interesting.
Mark Hunter: It just, just came out.
Tim Baker: I was watching a few of your videos earlier in the week, very interesting, some great stuff there. You speak often about the downside and dangers of discounting the price, and I'm sure it's very natural for many young sales professionals to lean this way in order to make that sale, to prove themselves. Tell us a little bit, in your perspective, about why this is a bad habit to start early in your career.
Mark Hunter: If you start thinking price, you will always be price. Here's the whole thing. I believe that more price discounts are given because the sales person likes confidence than are given based on the demands of the customer, I firmly believe that. Don't think for a moment that the customer is looking for a discount. The customer's asking for a discount, or looking for a discount, why? They know that sales people will roll over and play dead and give them one. It is not for you to determine the value of what you sell, it is for the customer to determine. When a customer is demanding a price reduction, and I used to do this, early on my sales career. I could have been a lot more successful if we had just lowered our price. I wish my boss had had the guts to tell me, "No, it's not that our price is too high, it's just that your selling process is too low. You don't know how to sell."
The whole thing that you want to be able to do, and this is very difficult. You want to be able to put that price on the table, and if that customer doesn't accept it you walk away, you walk away. You know what's interesting? If that's the only prospect you have in your pipeline, you'll freak out and you'll roll over and play dead. What's interesting is, when you have a full pipeline it's amazing how you are far less willing to discount your price. When you discount your price, you know what happens? You don't change your cost of good sold, I'll give you a quick example. I had a gentleman call me the other day, president of a company. He called me up and he wanted to hire me for his company, and he said, "Your price is too high, is there any way that you could cut your price?" I said, "No, I really can't cut my price, but I can change the value." Then I asked him a quick question about what I knew was one of his outcomes.
 He got talking about his outcomes, and he goes, "Wow, that was really, really good, I asked you about price, and you got me talking about my problems," bingo, you see? Keep the conversation on the customer's outcome. Price, lowering your price, you should get in the mindset, you're thankful that your price is not higher, it should be higher, it should be higher, it should be higher.
Tim Baker: That's a great insight, thank you.
Mark Hunter: Thank you.
Tim Baker: Give our listeners a little bit more about how they can reach out to you, how can they get in touch with you.
Mark Hunter: Sure, just jump onto my website, Thesalecenter (site) that's the easiest way. Lot of stuff out there that you can grab.
Tim Baker: One stop shop at the website, I like it.
Mark Hunter: You got it. You know what, when you have the last name of Hunter, isn't that beautiful? I can be the sales hunter, I love it.
Tim Baker: It really couldn't have been better.
Mark Hunter: I know, I thank my dad all the time.
Tim Baker: That's great. Mark, thank you so much for taking the time today to share your thoughts, and insights and advice with our listeners. I know that they will certainly have a lot to take away from this.
Mark Hunter: Thank you for having me on.
Tim Baker: Thank you to our listeners, this has been the Leadership Podcast series, brought to you by the CPSA. We'll talk to you next time.

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