The secret lies in ethical sales. This week, Doug C. Brown speaks with Glenn Poulos, the co-founder of GAP Wireless, Inc. and author of Never Sit in the Lobby: 57 Winning Sales Factors to Grow a Business and Build a Career Selling. Doug and Glenn discuss selling with integrity to you and your clients, becoming a 1% earner, insights Glenn has gained after successfully selling two companies, and much more.
Glenn Poulos is the co-founder, vice president, and general manager of Gap Wireless Inc., a leading distributor for the mobile broadband wireless and test and measurement equipment markets. With over three decades of experience in sales, he has spent thousands of hours in the field or on the phone with customers and working with salespeople to help create several very successful companies. Using his extensive knowledge and experience in the industry, he lectures groups on sales strategy, consumerism, and what motivates people at a raw emotional level. Glenn lives near Toronto in Ontario, Canada, where he enjoys hiking, skiing, and playing pickleball.
Visit his website: www.glennpoulos.com
Glenn is giving away an audio version of his book, Never Sit in the Lobby: 57 Winning Sales Factors to Grow a Business, to CEO Sales Strategies listeners. Send him an email mentioning CEO Sales Strategies to email@example.com for more.
I have Mr. Glenn Poulos coming on with us. Glenn founded a couple of companies and sold them both over a 30-year period almost fifteen years to the day to each one of them. He and I are going to talk about how to be a 1% earner and how to always be a pleasure to do business with. In other words, how do you play the long-term game and get repeat customers over and over again because you’re such a pleasure to do business with, and what are the ways you do these types of things? Let’s go talk to Glenn now.
Glenn, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for being here.
Doug, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
Glenn, I know you’re the co-founder of Gap Wireless Incorporated. Why don’t you tell everybody what you do to set the frame for this?
Gap Wireless is a sales company. We’re a distributor. We find mobile wireless technology from around the world and sell it in Canada. It’s timely that we were bought by a US company. We’ve now changed our name. We’re now part of their bigger brand, so we’re now NWS Canada, formerly Gap Wireless for fifteen years.
We had a successful exit and I agreed to stay on with them. Now, I’ve moved to their North American operation. I’m driving sales and parts of the operation, IT, marketing, and customer service for them around North America. Bringing some of the stuff we did at Gap Wireless to their organization and some of the stuff they were doing to Canada. There’s a lot going on. A lot of moving pieces, but it’s been an interesting ride since I sold the business.
Firstly, you blur the lines between the United States and Canadian border with the wireless, so that’s cool. Congratulations on selling the company because a lot of business owners and people tuning into this would love to exit eventually out of their company. I’ve had the pleasure of doing that a couple of times and it’s a fun time when that happens most of the time. We were talking before and you came up with a great subject because I love this subject. It’s how do you be a top 1% earner while always being a pleasure to your customers in the process of doing so?
I cannot tell you how many people because it’s a lot, but a lot of people when they send in messages, they’re like, “How do I become more professional and better in sales but not be that pushy sleazy person that they never want to see again?” What is your definition of being a pleasure to your customers and always being a pleasure to customers so they always want you around again and again to buy from you?
The way I say it by my mantra that I built the business on, which I then sold, is how to get, act, and stay in front of your clients and be a pleasure to do business with always. Some people can get there, but they do not act or they can’t stay there. They don’t get any longevity or they’re not always or they are never a pleasure to do business with.
I try to blend it all together. That’s the experience of the brand I’m trying to build when I want people to think about the company. You have to build that from the ground up. We have competitors. Some of them are bigger than us. Some of them are smaller than us. They do well in their markets and they have their own thing, but being a pleasure to do business with is not one of them. To me, customers don’t put up the sale, “That’s the one we love dealing with.”
It’s like, “We deal with them a lot, but they’re not a pleasure.” I always like to draw a lot of attention to it. It needs to be a conscious decision to do that thing. How do you do it? One, don’t be a pain in the ass. That’s always my first answer. Don’t not be a pleasure to do business with. Also, it has to do with being genuine and building a sense of true rapport with customers. We can touch on a lot of that as we dig in, but it’s how you approach things and your discipline and how you approach it, whether you’re winning or losing over the long run so you can build a sustainable business with customers because you’re not always going to win. The recipe has worked well. I’m not sure if I answered your original question, but I’m happy to dig in wherever you want.
You’ve given me about 5 or 6 points to get to dig in on. Thank you. I appreciate that. Firstly, I want to clarify this. It’s not because you’re Canadian that you’re just nice and you want to do business and be pleasurable.
I can think of few Canadians right now that don’t fit that category. There are lots of nice people in our US offices as well. They are very much a pleasure. I know we suffer from that stereotype. Canadians say sorry for some reason, “How’s the weather?” “Sorry that it’s sunny. Sorry that it’s cold.” I don’t know, but we’re always saying sorry for some reason.
Canadians an amazingly nice people. Being a United States citizen and looking at Canada, I go, “They’re so nice,” unless they’re driving in Toronto, then it changes, or hockey. It’s the same with the UK. The reason I asked that question is we got a huge UK audience. They’re very nice people as well. We are in the United States as well. It’s just a different perception. I love what you said about the discipline of playing in the long run. When you approach a prospective buyer or potential buyer, are you thinking, “I’m going to sell this person once,” or “I want to retain this person for the next 15 or 20 years of my life?” What’s the thought process going on?
My experience has always been that I’m dealing in markets where there’s repetition involved. We’re dealing in a space. There’s a large group of A, B, and C-tier customers in that space. I’m going to need to go back to them repetitively. It’s not a one-and-done. It’s not like I’m selling them something that they’re going to buy once and never again or maybe a piece of software. Even that, you probably have to keep selling them.
I’ve always approached it from the long term, getting to know as many people in the organization and how I approach every new opportunity from the top down and the bottom up at the same time. To directly answer your question, it’s never one and done in the business that I’m in. It’s quite the contrary. It’s repetitive and we’re constantly bringing new technology to our customers and showing them the latest and greatest in the different aspects of their technical segment. It’s important that they take my phone calls when I call them back the next time.
Playing the long run is a trade of a 1% earner. Sometimes this is very difficult for people, especially when they’re entering new into sales in their first or second sales job. It’s like, “Here’s your quota. Here’s how much time you need to hit quota.” They’re like, “I got to sell.” Sales is a career. You’ve been doing this particular business for fifteen years. I don’t know if this is a fair question to ask, but now that the company is sold, do you still talk with the people that you were talking with before at times?
I went off into the sunset with all my money and I’m relaxing with my feet up on a lounge chair and doing whatever I want. It’s quite the contrary. As a matter of fact, I’ve never been more immersed in the customer and the people in our organization. Several companies all got bought by the same private equity into one silo targeting the same space in North America. They said, “Glenn, you did it well at Gap Wireless. Now you’ve got to do it for everybody.”
I have to talk to every salesperson and the marketing people. I’ve got to make sure all the back-end systems support being a pleasure to do business with, along with the people on the front end and visiting customers, talking to our biggest clients, and our smallest clients. I’ve never been more immersed in it now than I ever was. You mentioned about fifteen years ago, I had sold my other company after fifteen years.
I did it twice in a row. Both were nice exits. Prior to that, I was a salesman for a company for about five and a half years. I’ve been doing this since 1985. I pretty much do the same thing over and over again. I’m not expecting different results, so I’m not insane. If you’ve ever heard that saying, I do it over and over again because a lot of the little strategies that I do work. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
There are a couple of things you said that I want to queue in on. Number one, you’re doing this now, but you’re now the overseer of all of these divisions. How do you take that concept of being a pleasure always to do business with and infuse that through maybe hundreds of people? Because it’s not personality dependent is what I’m hearing if you’re doing that across the scale.
It takes some time, but what ends up happening is when you’re put in a position of leadership, you only have one responsibility and that’s to lead. What I’ve done and what I’m doing is I sit back. I set the vision as best I could articulate it in a manner that could be in the spoken word and through diagrams. I could explain to this disparate group of companies all coming together with egos and concerns about their careers and everything, where everyone fits in, and how it would all work.
I said, “This is how we’re going to do it and I like everyone to get behind me.” I pretty much got buy-in from everyone. They need to get behind something. Once they’ve determined that they’re willing to take a risk on someone’s vision, they do start to look to you like, “How are we going to do it? Great. I agree. Let’s do it.” Now I’m working with them on a one-by-one basis. I’m working with everyone in the organization and asking them, “How are you doing it before?” Then explain the differences in how we’re going to be doing it now.
It starts with customer service and with things on how we do our pricing. Let’s say, one division may have had several prices for different customers. Bob calls and he gets this price, but Jack calls and he gets a better price but they’re both the same class of customer. How do keep track of it? We go through our emails and try to remember. We’re going to normalize all that. If a tier-one customer calls, we’re going to have a tier-one price.
That’s a distinct discipline you have to build in, right? So now there’s a commonality on how people are treated. Things about where we don’t let phone calls go to voicemail. We always have someone answer the phone. I have a system. It’s in Canada. I haven’t got it working in the US, but in Canada, if you hit 00000 like you’re mad, it comes to my extension.
I’m like, “You got the owner. How can I help you?” They’re like, “The owner?” I’m like, “That’s what happens when you hit zero a bunch of times.” They’re like, “Normally, that’s not what happens when you call a large corporation.” You go into this endless cycle. I deliberately built that into our system. I’m starting to slowly build those things in and people are saying, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
Again, then I have my insanity definition. I’m like, “Do you want to keep getting the results you had before or do you want to do something different? If we keep doing it the way we did, we’re going to keep getting what we always got.” I’m suggesting that we try to tear down some of those past habits and things we were doing and do it a different way in order to get to a different outcome and a different destination. I’m doing it through the sheer force of will and leading by example.
We’re speaking with Mr. Glenn Poulos. He was the cofounder of Gap Wireless which he just sold off, and now you’re in the wonderful position of building out multiple divisions of companies from the parent investor who bought your company plus other brands. You said something which was you always answer the phone in your company.
I have two questions on this because I love the zero thing. We’re going to get into that in a moment if you don’t mind. Many companies that I have talked with are all trying to automate everything and dehumanize. I call it dehumanization. They’re pulling humans out of the whole process and they’re trying to do things through chat and automation. You’re saying, “This human connection, we’re always answering the phone, is a success point.” That’s what I’m hearing. Why? I get it but I have to get people to understand this concept.
I also want to oppose something you said about the phone. Where we do automate is not if they phone in. Let’s say they send an email. What we have automated is if they talk about their PO number and anything to do with dates. We have an AI interpretive bot that looks at these emails that are coming in through our team email system, which also is a very useful thing to have, these team inboxes that we have.
It’ll automatically go to our ERP system and it’ll check the line items or the parameters on that order. It’ll immediately reply back to the customer with the information, “You were inquiring about the dates for this change.” It’ll reply back immediately and they don’t have to wait for that. It gives them a choice of, do you need more information? Is this acceptable? Are you satisfied with the results or what have you? Do you need to speak to a live person?
We do automate things if people are sending us an email. That’s how we can answer it right away, through automation. When they phone, they’re in a different straight of mind. If someone phones about that PO number, they don’t want to have to leave a voicemail saying, “It’s Jack from Acme. I’m wondering where my PO is. What’s going on with my PO? It’s been a week. What’s been going on?” He wants to talk to someone, so when they call, we answer the phone.
It’s, “How can I help you?” Maybe they do get to a desk in someone’s voicemail. They’re away from their desk for a minute and they call 00000. That’s when it comes to me. There are other automations in our system where they can be transferred to accounting or other departments. We do have a phone system and it does work, but the idea is that when people phone our switchboard, people answer the phone.
We make an effort to try to connect them with other people. They’re not like, “That’s a different department, hit 207 forward.” It’s more like “Sally, there’s a guy on the phone. He wants to know about his invoice. Pass it over.” They hand it off and take the call. Those are the ways we tried to be better and be more of a pleasure to do business with.
You sold me already on this call because here’s the thing. I’ve been arguing with people and companies over this. They ask me for my input. I’m like, “Stop dehumanizing your business because we are splitting off the ability to communicate which splits off the ability to do cross-selling, upselling, down-selling, and all of those revenue bump things.”
Many companies now are making themselves non-differentiated. I’ll give you a couple of examples of consumer behavior that I ran into. Lowe’s, I’m picking on you right now. They’ve completely eliminated all their cashiers at the front end. Maybe once in a while, you might be able to go in and see someone. I used to shop there all the time.
Home Depot did the same thing, but they have live people there usually. I go into Lowe’s and I’m walking through. I’ve got like fourteen items and they’re big items because I’m building stuff. Now you’ve got to go through the cash register but there’s nobody there to help. There are missing SKU numbers on the items and you’re trying to get the thing through. You have to wait for someone. The person doesn’t show up because they’re on the other end of the store.
They show up and they’re upset to the pissed-off level, dissing Lowe’s at that point saying, “I don’t like working here anymore. They took out all this stuff and we’re not getting the help. People are angry because we’re all doing automation now,” They’re complaining about their own company, which is further making the people who are listening go, “I don’t know if I want to shop here with this experience.”
We go through the whole process. I get through. There are no SKU numbers. We get that. It took me twenty minutes to get through the cashier line. Before, I used to go there because I’m a veteran, so I have to wait now for the other assistants to come to give me my veteran’s code and find all this stuff, even though you can do it online, they still have to come and validate it. It’s like all of this stuff gives that impression that I don’t even want to shop there anymore. Now it’s like, “Home Depot is closer. I’ll go there or local Ace stores.” In Ace, they always have a person there.
What I hear you doing in the wireless side of the business is you’re saying, “We care and we’re giving common courtesy with the whole notion of we are going to be a pleasure to do business with always and make your life better and happier. You’re going to feel better after working with us through the whole concept.” Where does this come from?
I built a different company. In 1991, I was 29 and a half years old. I wanted to start a business before I turned 30 and I did. I quit my job and I offered to spin off a part of the company I was working for as a salesman with the ownership of that company and become a part owner. They refused me. They said, “That will never work,” so I quit. The way I always joke about it is it was based on this newfangled technology, the cell phone, which never went anywhere. This was in 1991.
When we sold the business in the mid-early 2000s, I realized that part of the DNA of the business wasn’t about being a pleasure to do business with. The company had grown to a hundred people and I didn’t control it all. Although I was the largest shareholder, I wasn’t the boss of everything and then we were bought out. I was another employee in a public company at the time. I realized I didn’t agree with the way they were doing that.
When the opportunity came up for me to start a new company, I said, “There are some things about the business that I didn’t like and I would never want to repeat.” I even touched on the pricing and the phones. When I started the company, I started with my initials, GP. I had to buy a vowel in order to make a word. I started with A, Gap Wireless and that was how I came up with the name for the company.
Another funny story was that the Gap clothing company wasn’t too happy with me because, around the same time, they introduced the Gap wireless bra. We were battling it out on SEO for the top spot for the Gap wireless bra and the Gap Wireless Inc. company. Nonetheless, I said, “This business is named after me. I’m going to build these systems up this way.”
When we started the company, there were only four of us. Those are me, my partner, a salesman out in Western Canada, and an administrative person. I built all the systems from scratch. I built them with that attitude in mind. I wanted all these first principles to apply and I did it that way. It wasn’t about what I wanted to be the low-price alternative. I didn’t want to be the high-priced Cadillac brand. That wasn’t the mantra of my business.
It was building a company that was a pleasure to do business with. We had other core values like results matter. It’s not just about being a pleasure to do business with. It’s like, “I gave him all of his money back and we didn’t sell anything.” The results do matter too. We built it on the basis of that along with other core values that we felt would resonate with the market.
Correct me if I’m incorrect, Glenn, because here’s what I’m hearing. You build the basis of your businesses on a genuine caring of values of being courteous and doing the right thing by the client on a consistent basis. You’ve been in sales for 35 years. Isn’t the foundation of a 1% earner longevity in the market? It’s doing exactly what you built your career on.
It is. I’ve built other 1% earners. I have examples of people who are 1% owners now who had no high school diploma, who started with nothing and built themselves up following a similar mantra and path to success. Honestly, doing that in a career outside of sales is very challenging. There are probably ways of doing it, but I can’t think of any. Sales has that unique ability to pay extremely well when you do a good job and work hard. It’s the worst-paying job for lazy people.
That’s why I often tell people to go into sales. It’s a career like none other because of the amount of leverage that you can get in selling. You could be a good accountant or any trade within your business, but you can’t get the same leverage that you can get in sales. You also don’t take the same risk. Everyone else gets a salary. They know exactly what they’re making every two weeks. The sales guy or gal has a different risk profile too.
One can make a year’s salary in one day. I’m glad you brought this up. I know you wrote a book and I’m going to highlight your book because it’s imperative that you all get this book because of what the content is in there. I have this conversation all the time with parents. In the United States, universities and colleges are super expensive for education. Kids are coming out with $100,000 plus in debt and loans and they have to pay them back over 20 or 30 years and they can only get a job for $40,000 or $45,000 to start. Their loan payments are $1,700 a month. It’s nuts.
Sometimes I’m talking with parents. The number one thing the parents always say to me is, “My kid doesn’t know what they want to do.” Who does at 17 or 18 years old? Go learn a life skill. Selling is great because no matter what they do, even if they choose to be an accountant or do something that has a structured salary, they still have to sell themselves to the company to get promoted. You still have to continue to keep selling.
It is a communication skill for life that also translates into personal relationships. What I love about what you’re doing is you’re doing ethics-based selling for the long term in doing the right thing by the client. That’s what this is all about, as you said earlier. I appreciate that. You have a book. If I remember correctly, it was called 57 Tips to Build a Career in Sales. Is that correct?
That’s the subtitle. The main title is Never Sit in the Lobby: 57 Winning Sales Factors to Grow a Business and Build a Career Selling.
Is that an accumulation of things that you’ve learned over the last 35 years?
When I started in sales back in 1985, I started getting mentored and taking on mentors from the company I work for and other people. I started noticing repetitive behaviors. I said, “That’s smart.” I would usually write their name and write the behavior down. Sometimes it would be in black ink and sometimes it’s in red ink, meaning don’t do that. That’s why I had to change the names in the book. When I named the rules, I had to protect the guilty.
I started writing these rules down. Over the years, I collected that year after year more and more. These became concepts that I follow to this day. When I’m helping new people to understand what to do next, I say, “Why don’t you do this?” It’s a rule. These are things that have worked well for me since time immemorial.
The cool thing about selling is even though technology changes, human beings don’t. Not in that time span. We’re dealing and communicating with one another, whether we’re selling ourselves on something or a one person sale or we’re selling to two people or it’s a multi-person selling situation. We’re still dealing with human beings who have feelings, wants, needs, and desires as you and I both know. How does somebody get a hold of the book? How do they learn more about you?
If you go to my website GlennPoulos.com, it links to all my books and some free guides and things on there that I have that I’ve written. Also, you can go to my LinkedIn and type in my name. You can contact me easily on LinkedIn. I’m happy to talk to anybody there. That’s probably the easiest way to get a hold of me. You can link to the book off the website or go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Chapters in Canada.
What was the one in Canada? I’ve never heard of that.
Is it like our Books-A-Million?
It’s like a Barnes & Noble. It’s quite a big chain. They’re super stores. The stores are quite large. They have a Starbucks in them.
I’m going to check that out next time I’m in Canada. Thanks for that. Glenn, I appreciate you being here on the show. I have one last question. You had brought this name up and you said mentors. I think I know the answer to the question already, but I want to ask the question of you. How important has it been for you to use mentors in your life? What would you recommend to other people who are considering mentorship?
You’ve got to find them. A lot of times, you even know the right answers but you don’t have the confidence. They can help you to push through the fear and get to that next step. That’s one of the great things about having a sounding board and a mentor or they can correct your course a little bit if you’re a little bit off course. They can help to say, “That’s a great idea, but it may not resonate as well with the senior guy. Maybe you might want to try this, or I did that in my career and I found this work better for me. Maybe you could blend the two together.”
I still use mentors to this day and I meet with them all the time. They’re from different walks of life and different levels. They’re not all super rich people looking for people who have lots of experience in different aspects. I’m always coming up with ideas, so they helped me to figure out the right ones. I highly suggest that people seek them out and try to build some reciprocity into it. Be a pleasure to be mentored. Don’t be a pain in the ass. It’s all about rapport. In my book, I go on about active listening, empathy, sympathy, and compassion. Why are you talking about that in a sales book? I’m like, “It’s because that’s what it takes to be the person to be a pleasure to do business with always.”
That’s great. That should be the next title of your book, be a pleasure to be mentored. What you’re saying is so key. Even if people tuned in to this like, “Why should I do this? Why should I do that?” It’s because you’ve been doing this for 35 years and exited successfully out of two companies doing so, and the greatest form of leverage in the world is not technology.
It is the knowledge of other human beings transferring that ability for us to be able to take that situation that is successful and being able to amplify it or escalate or cut the time frame in which we can keep the same or better even goal because they’ve already cut the path. That’s what I love about what you said about mentorship. Thank you so much. Glenn, thanks for being on the show and bringing your A-game. I appreciate it.
Thanks, Doug. It’s a pleasure to be here.
I hope you learned a lot here. I love the fact that he is playing in a genuine capacity and looking at the long-term. You’ve heard me say this numerous times throughout the process, play the long game. The long game means you’re not looking just for sale now. It’s always nice to get a sale now. We all love that. It’s like, “I got something.” The reality is if you play the long game and you get the sale now, you’ll get the sale again and again. It is a lot easier to gain leverage from working with people who want to buy from you repetitively.
Those same people trust you, so those same people will then refer you. That can be internal to their own company. I’ll call it what we call internal expansion or it could be external. Maybe in a different company or even a company that’s owned by the same company, but they’re a different brand. You’re looking for internal and external expansion and you’re looking for increased buying frequency. These people generally will buy higher dollar values each time because they trust you. That whole trust is built in.
What Glenn is doing is the genuine value of playing win-win with his clientele and doing the right thing without compromising his own values or the business itself. We all have a business purpose in life, but he’s playing win-win and that’s part of playing win-win. You all hear me say, play win-win or play win-win-win, three people win, because that’s how you build long-term relationships. Think about it. You’re going to be somewhere in 5 years or 10 years. Why not have a good cadre of people around there that trust you? You can pick up the phone and ask them questions.
They can pick up the phone and ask you questions. They’ve got your back and you’ve got their back. They know that and they want to do business with you over and over because you are a pleasure to do business with on a repetitive basis, always. Isn’t that the coolest thing out there? I recommend you go get his book. Never Sit in the Lobby is the title of the book. You can get it on his website and you can certainly get it on Amazon. Sharing the wisdom of over 35 years of doing this the right way and being a 1% earner. You can start pulling from those tips.
Even if you start, grab a tip here and there. You say, “This one works for me great,” and you implement it. You keep doing it over and over. You get a compounding interest effect. Remember, if you get better than 1% every single day, 70 days from now, you’ll be twice as good. Do the math. Take it out for 365 days, you’ll be shocked at how good you will be.
If you love the content of this, please review it and give it a five-star. If you can, I would be forever grateful. If you know somebody who is an expert or you’re an expert and you want to be on the CEO Sales Strategies, reach out to us. I’d be happy to respond. We respond to all inquiries. If you want to be part of our 1% academy or the university on how to learn, think, act, and be a 1% earner, reach out to us at the same address, YouMatter@CEOsalesstrategies.com because you do matter.
If you’d like our latest eBook. it’s called The Non-stop 1% Earner. The link is www.www.CEOSalesStrategies.com/1PE. Thank you for being here. If you are looking to increase your revenues, profits, and sales, one of the things that people have been writing in and asking us is, “Do I work with people one-on-one?” The answer is I do, but somehow some people through the show have thought “maybe he only works with large companies” and I do that too, but I love working with people no matter where they are in their journey in business.
If you’re interested in that, you can reach out to YouMatter@CEOsalesstrategies.com or email me directly at Doug@CEOsalesstrategies.com. As always, go out and sell something now. Sell a lot of it. Play the long term. Plant seeds. Ask for referrals. Get internal and external expansion. Get revenue expansion and your sales revenue expansion in the process. Get that buying frequency over and over, upsells, and cross-sell. Do it in an ethical manner of win-win. It’s good for them and for you.
I was taught by Chet Holmes moral obligation, which means if you believe that this is so right for them, then we have a moral obligation to make sure that they acquire it. As long as you’re doing that in an ethical manner and it is right for them and for you, it’s the best sale in the world. Until next time. This is Doug C. Brown with the CEO Sales Strategies Show, to your success.
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