Matt Sunshine | Sales Performance Strategies and Tips for Improving Employee Engagement
Smart Business Revolution

Matt Sunshine is the CEO and Managing Partner at The Center for Sales Strategy, a sales performance consulting company that helps sales organizations attract, retain, and develop the highest performing salespeople. His areas of expertise include growing sales organizations, finding and developing sales superstars, sales processes, lead generation, inbound marketing, and digital marketing.

Matt developed and launched LeadG2, an inbound marketing company that helps businesses establish thought leadership and lower lead costs. He also oversaw the launch of Up Your Culture, the third division in the CSS family, which partners with businesses to improve company culture and employee engagement. He is the author of Getting Prospects To Raise Their Hands and was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the “20 Speakers You Shouldn’t Miss The Opportunity To See.”

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Matt Sunshine, the CEO and Managing Partner at The Center for Sales Strategy, about tips for driving high sales performance. Matt also discusses strategies for maintaining long-term clients, improving employee engagement, and how he became the owner of The Center for Sales Strategy.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Matt Sunshine’s entrepreneurial background and his plan for starting work in media sales
  • How technological advancements impacted the radio sales industry
  • How Matt started working with The Center for Sales Strategy
  • Strategies for maintaining long-term clients, diversifying business services, and improving employee engagement
  • Matt’s journey to becoming an owner at The Center for Sales Strategy
  • How the pandemic impacted Matt’s company
  • The peers Matt acknowledges for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran. Here. I’m the host of this show. And if you are new to this program, you know, go check out some of our archives because we have some great interviews recently including with CEOs or founders of Grub Hub, and we had Quicken recently and we had Redfin recently, of course, you know, check out the archives we’ve got some great episodes with CEOs or founders of Netflix, Kinkos, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, and many more. And I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects.

My guest here today, his name is Matt Sunshine, he is a Managing Partner at The Center for Sales Strategy, a sales performance company that helps sales organizations to attract, retain and develop the highest performing salespeople. So if you if sales are something that you do, which is probably 100% of everyone who listens to this podcast, then you’re gonna want to listen to this because this is really his area of expertise, growing sales organizations, finding and developing sales superstars, sales process, who doesn’t need help with that lead generation, inbound marketing, digital marketing, there’s actually a bunch of different divisions of the company. And we’re going to talk about how he developed those different areas. He also developed and launched LeadG2, which is our inbound marketing company, which is a division in the company. And they also have a division called Up Your Culture, which is about employment and the importance of employee engagement, how to increase that which again, another area that’s important to talk about, and he’s the author of getting prospects to raise their hand and Forbes magazine lists Matt as one of the top 20 speakers you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see.

And this episode, of course, is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing, you can go to our website at, or email us at [email protected] if you want to learn all about it. All right, Matt, pleasure to have you here today. And we were chatting beforehand about this and you like I had a career before you became an entrepreneur, unlike my business partner, Jeremy, who went straight into entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, I think the last time he actually got a paycheck and had a boss was like at 16 years old or something like that, which just kind of blows my mind you like me, you actually didn’t start as an entrepreneur. But I want to go back to even before that as a kid. Were you doing anything entrepreneurial as a kid like lemonade stands or anything like that? That kind of was a sign of your future where you are today?

Matt Sunshine 3:00

Yeah, I absolutely was. As I don’t remember how old I was, but my neighbor and I started a lawn mowing service. You know, I grew up in the Midwest and back then, the way you got your, I mean, now there’s like landscaping services. It’s a big deal. But that a long time ago, people kids used to mow I’m not that old. But But yeah, we used to mow lawns, we even we, we had flyers made up and we’d go door to door and leave it on people’s door. And, you know, I bet we built it up to we had six or seven lawns that we were mowing and when you’re getting you know, 20 $25 a lawn that you’re doing, that’s pretty good money when you’re 12 you know, and, and so yeah, so that was always something. I always was a growth minded type person. I always looked at businesses, my my mom and dad own their own businesses, and I would help out in that business. So I was always very entrepreneurial, and always had that desire to own a business.

John Corcoran 4:13

I’m always fascinated by that. Kids who are second generation entrepreneurs because I didn’t have that experience. My parents weren’t entrepreneurs. What kind of businesses did they have? And what did you do when you worked in them?

Matt Sunshine 4:24

Yeah, so when I was a teenager, my my dad was in the executive search Headhunter executive search and my mom owned a and my they both own but my mom ran the temporary service so we had permanent search and temporary search and my mom ran the temporary search business and you know in high school I did outside sales for the for the temporary search firm and it was great if that’s hard selling but you’re

John Corcoran 4:54

in high school. So you knocking on doors. What are you doing? I love cold calling.

Matt Sunshine 4:59

I was I was a junior in high school and I, you know, I was 16 17 years old. And I was literally knocking on doors, giving a business card introducing myself telling them about the company that I represented, trying to get appointments to come back and give a presentation. Yeah, I really was. I mean, it was it’s, I look back at it and go, I was 16 years old doing that, but I was

John Corcoran 5:25

I mean, yeah, I mean, that’s encouraged it it crazy to me. I mean, did you like it?

Matt Sunshine 5:30

I loved it. I so what? So what did I love, I love the presentations. And I love the making a sale, and I love growing the business. I will admit that, especially when I was 16. The idea of walking into a business and not knowing anybody was challenging at first until I figured out a system to do it, which made it easier when I got in the mindset that I wasn’t walking in the door to do anything else than to find out who the decision maker was. And to leave my business card. It became way easier. When I when I initially started. And I thought my job was to try to walk in and make a sale right then I was daunting. But when I break it up into the only thing I’m trying to do here is find out the name of the decision maker leave my business card, so I could follow up with a phone call. Sometimes you would actually the person would say, oh, that’s me. What are you here for? And I’d have that conversation. But that made it better. That was probably the the first time I understood that systems and process really helped you to grow. Grow businesses.

John Corcoran 6:44

I don’t know what you look like in high school, but I experienced plenty of rejection at my high school and with girls. So I didn’t need any extra rejection in my life. So that’s amazing that you did so well with it at a young age. Did your like, were there any mentors you looked up to at that period of time? Did your father help with the right mindset? You know, were you listening to Tony Robbins or anything like that?

Matt Sunshine 7:07

Yeah. So, again, both my parents were very entrepreneurial, and ran business. And we’re, we’re very pragmatic, optimistic, for sure. But very pragmatic about this is what you need to do. And this is how it works. And so yeah, I guess I looked up to my parents, and I saw them, but I also kind of saw it as it was family business. And it was kind of my way of contributing. And I think in my brain, at least at 16, I thought, and if I do a really good job, then after I graduate college, I’ll just run this business, this will be my business. So it’s kind of easier when it’s your family’s business maybe than just going and working for someone else.

John Corcoran 7:49

It is interesting, though, because some people then have the opposite reaction. Sometimes they’re It’s a family business in an area that they’re not interested in, they kind of discover that along the way. Or they see their parents go through a lot of pain, or parents that operate a business that runs on the weekend or all the time and they’re stressed out by it. And so they end up you know, deciding on never want to do this. The funny thing is a lot of them come back later than you know, they go off do something else, and they come back and they run it later. I know a lot of people like that. For you, you’re going into sales as a profession, radio sales and media sales specifically. So you knew enough, you’d gotten enough exposure to sales to know that you wanted to pursue it professionally after you graduate.

Matt Sunshine 8:33

Yeah, I really enjoyed it. So when I went to college, I joined a fraternity in my fraternity. I was I was our rush chair person, right. And the when I joined the fraternity, my pledge class was like nine, nine kids. And we had about 30 guys in the house. And by that time I left the pledge classes were like 25 people and we were on pace to have like 80 people in the house. And and if if you can convince somebody to join a fraternity, which is a forever commitment, then making sales is you know, just a one time commitment or just an engagement. So I really did enjoy sales. I don’t know if I originally intended to go into media sales. Somewhere along the way, maybe my junior year in college, a family friend, actually ran radio stations. He was the CEO of what was a pretty large Radio Group back then. And he had mentioned something about radio sales or media sales. And honestly, I didn’t know very much about what that was. And so he explained it to me and I was like, that sounds really interesting. I could do that. I went to school at University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. And he said, and I grew up in St. Louis, and he said, I think I said to him, Well, do you think I could just get a job in St. Louis, when I graduate, and he said, Well, you probably want to start in a small market. So he encouraged me to just go knock on the door of every radio and TV station in Columbia, Missouri, and convince somebody, those are his words. Now, you just got to go convince somebody to give you a chance, give you a job. And that’s what I did. I convinced a local owner of a local radio station to give me a shot and radio sales. I told them, my pitch was, I will, you know, I don’t recommend saying this.

John Corcoran 10:27

But what I said, nevertheless, this Do they do?

Matt Sunshine 10:31

It worked for me. I said, I’ll work for free. All you have to do is pay me commission. That part I thought was really good. And this guy, one guy said to me, Well, why would you do that? And this is the part that I don’t recommend. I said, Well, my plan would be to work here for about six months, so that then I could go into St. Louis and get a job in St. Louis,

John Corcoran 10:51

and not have to say to a future employer. Yeah.

Matt Sunshine 10:55

But he appreciated my candor. And yes, I’m gonna hire you. And I’m gonna hope that you would you have such a good experience working here that you won’t want to leave in six months? I’ll make I’ll take that bet. And he was right. I ended up staying a year and six months. Before I moved on to, to Dallas and onward.

John Corcoran 11:17

Yeah, now you’re in radio sales for quite a while, up through the mid 2000s? I think it was. And we’ll get into how you became acquainted with The Center for Sales Strategy. You actually they were a vendor to you initially before you ended up joining up with them. That’s a that’s a kind of an attorney, that period of time, there’s lots change, I think in the industry, did you see a lot of change in terms of technology, podcasting is starting to take root in that period of time or any other streaming radio, any of that have an impact on the work that you did or no?

Matt Sunshine 11:51

Yeah, no significant. So when I first got into radio sales, right, in Columbia, Missouri, I immediately thought, what I want to do is learn every aspect of the radio station and then own a radio station. That was that was my parents had owned businesses, I kind of shared that. That’s what I knew, made sense to me. And I even talked to people and mentors of mine said, Hey, maybe in about two or three years after I kind of figure this whole thing out, I want Would you mind investing? Would you consider investing, I started to have those conversations, when I moved to Dallas, in the ER in the 1990, early 90s, and certainly in 1996, deregulation happened in the media industry. And all of a sudden, the idea of owning one radio station or two radio stations became a little bit more complicated. And companies were coming in and buying multiple and so you know, we’re when I started the most, most any one owner could own a seven AM’s and seven FM’s, and no more than two in one city will now use. I mean, if markets were in your city, one company owns seven radio stations, right? So everything started to change. That was one thing that changed. And then I started thinking, I don’t know, if I’m going to own a radio station, maybe I want to run one, or run a group or be involved that way. The other thing is digital started to play in streaming audio. And I happened, I was fortunate enough to the company that I worked for, we were actually the very first radio station in America to stream audio. And so we were at the very beginning of that, and we jumped on board. And you know, it was one thing to do it as another thing to make money at doing it. And so and I got to lead that effort and be a big part of putting the team together that would that would do that was exciting times. And we didn’t know what we were doing. But we were we were willing to take chances. And that was fun. I enjoyed a lot of that.