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

John Corcoran 13:51

Yeah, it’s funny, I did college radio. When I was in college, I had a radio show and all kinds of stuff. My dad had been in radio. And so I was kind of interested in it. It was a lot of fun to do. I got up at like five in the morning on a Saturday morning, which you know, the way I would party the night before, it was not the best idea but and I remember it was like this is like the mid 90s. And it was all cds throughout the states. And I’m sure there isn’t a single one left anymore. And very there was like there was like one machine that did could play things digitally. And I think it had like three songs on it or something like that. But you can see that kind of that change starting to happen. Now is this how did you become acquainted with The Center for Sales Strategy because you didn’t found it? It had been found by someone else. And you actually worked with them as a vendor?

Matt Sunshine 14:35

Correct? Yeah. So I was in. I was in radio in Dallas, Texas, and the company that I was I had been named the group director of sales recruitment and training for the entire company. So I we had seven we were in seven cities, we own 23 radio stations. We had about 100 salespeople across the company and And I thought that we were the expression I somehow used. And and I’ve said it a number of times is I thought that we were accidentally good. And I wanted us to be intentionally great. And here’s what I meant by that as as radio was expanding, as companies were buying additional radio stations, someone once said to me, Hey, Mack, you guys are really good at what you got at what you do. Do you think that if your company bought another radio station that you would be equally as good in that new radio station? And that was really, that hit me hard? And I said, No, I don’t think so I don’t know. If we have that repeatable, predictable system process, that universal language that we use in every market that we could, we could have competence that this market would do as good as this one. We kind of had, we were very autonomous. We made the same mistakes and all of our markets, we let every market be its own thing. And there’s some charm in that for certain. I was on a hunt to put in systems and process and a common language. And so I went and I looked at all of the companies out there that did that. And what I really liked about The Center for Sales Strategy, and I knew about them, because a previous person I had worked with had had an experience of them consulting that company. What I really liked about The Center for Sales Strategy is that they had a complete system. And it wasn’t that different than what I think that our top performers knew to be truth. It was just it, put it in writing it put it in words it gave it gave structure to what we all knew to be true. It wasn’t like they came in and said, Okay, we recommend and this is how you do it. And everyone went, Oh, well, that’s totally different than what we currently do. It’s almost like they came in, they said, Well, this is what we recommend you do a good win win. Oh, we didn’t call it that. But yeah, we do that. And all of a sudden, all of the markets started doing things the same way, we became intentionally great. And by having a system and a process in place, I started to feel really confident about spotting bottlenecks and opportunities to significantly grow the performance of the company. So yeah, I became a raving fan.

John Corcoran 17:35

That’s kind of shocking that they were able to come in. I mean, I would expect that in that kind of scenario, you have so many different operations operating independently, not the same way that there would be a lot of friction with that, that, you know, there’s pushback, you see it in the movies all the time, right. Some outside consultant comes in. It’s a roomful of people, they’re all distrust them, that kind of thing. What do you think it was that they were able to come in? And they were able to establish it without a lot of friction?

Matt Sunshine 18:03

Yeah. I think that if it was, if it was Dallas, people telling the San Francisco people, Hey, you should do it our way that causes friction. The fact that it was an outside company that really understood the best practices of how to do it, we all kind of said, Okay, well, hold on. Let’s take a look at that. The other thing is, all of the CSS consultants, had industry expertise at a really, really high level. So they came in with a lot of credibility. Not only was the system and the process credible, because they could point to others that have used it and had success. But the person leading it and teaching it also had credibility to the point where you’d go, oh, that person kind of knows what they’re talking about. So I can I can learn a little bit. And again, because it wasn’t, it wasn’t way different than what we were already doing. It just kind of gave us the recipe for what we were already doing. Yeah. Cooking by scratch of following the recipe.

John Corcoran 19:13

Yeah. Now what I might be jumping a little bit headed in the story here. But one thing that’s fascinating to me, having listened to a couple of interviews that you’ve done before, one is with our client, Todd Taskey, Potomac Business Capital, Second Bite Podcast, who interviewed you is that you’ve got incredible long term clients that work with you for a long period of time, but the way that you just describe what you just described, it sounded to me like okay, that’s like a six month engagement, and then you’re done. Yeah. But somehow you’ve managed to turn these into those long term arrangements. So what’s the secret there?

Matt Sunshine 19:46

Yeah, well, I can’t tell you the secret.

John Corcoran 19:49

No, and that was a great show. Thanks, everyone for joining us.

Matt Sunshine 19:53

Know so we’re real proud of that. I mean, you know, we retain about 90% of our of our customers. Is year in and year out. And, and and some of our clients, our average client is with us just over seven years. And so we have some clients have been with us over 30 years and we’re celebrating our 40th birthday as a company in 2023. What’s the secret? It’s

John Corcoran 20:16

phenomenal. I think the secret is grandfathering them in at $1.90 a month, I think that’s probably what it was.

Matt Sunshine 20:22

I’ll tell you the biggest the secret. The secret is this, that from the outside looking in, you might think of us as a sales training company. We’re a management training company. And I think we thought of ourselves that way in the very beginning. And when you think of that, then once the training is done, or the repeat training is done, you check that box and you move on, leap back intentionally in around 2008 2009 said that we are going to become a revenue company that we’re going to be we’re going to we’re going to develop we’re going to think of ourselves as a total revenue performance platform. That’s what we do, we help businesses grow their revenue performance. And when you start thinking of yourself that way, the job is never done. So this year, it might be that you need help with your sales training. But in other years, it could be that you need help with your organizational structure or your compensation design or onboarding, or succession planning. We’re training of your future leaders, right? I mean, there’s all sorts of things that you start paying attention to, when you’re focused on growing revenue. Versus Do you want to do you want to implement our system? Yep. Yeah.

John Corcoran 21:49

And of course, there’s always a tension for any company between the idea of we’re going to stay within our lane. This is what we do what we do best, and hearing what the client needs. And maybe it’s now it’s, as you said, it moves from sales training to lead generation to marketing to culture. How have you decided, when is the right time to jump into those areas and not jumped in too quickly? Or maybe you have in some instances?

Matt Sunshine 22:15

Yeah, we’ve certainly made some mistakes along the way and tried some things that that didn’t work. The so we’re humming along as The Center for Sales Strategy, and we’re getting getting great results. We’re thinking of ourselves as a revenue company. We are we’re, we’re helping our customers grow their business. We’re becoming partners with our customers, not just vendors, which is really what we always strive to be. And we started hearing from our clients that the number one challenge they were having, was getting up their salespeople getting appointments, it was just becoming harder and harder and harder. Well, a couple of years prior, we had started doing inbound marketing for ourselves, we started being putting ourselves out there as thought leaders and doing lead generation and lead nurturing and sales enablement for ourselves. And so when we started hearing that this was a need from our customers in a bigger way than what we’d had in the past, we’re like, Well, I wonder if we should get into the business of helping our customers do what we do. And all of a sudden, it’s like, well, why wouldn’t we do that? We know we’ve made all the mistakes. We made all the mistakes, we know how to do this. And so that’s when we started LeadG2, our inbound marketing division. And you know, we’ve grown that division the company successfully over 12 years were diamond HubSpot partner, we wrote a book, I wrote a book on getting prospects to raise your hand, because we knew that that was important. Well, so fast forward and and then, you know, I’ll pause a little bit on this part of the story. But we help our customers select the very best people, we give them the training, we give them the coaching, we help them with sales enablement and lead generation we got all the systems and process but if they’re not engaged, if they don’t like where they work, if they’re not if you know if they are, you know, buzzword of the day, quiet winning, but if all that’s happening, it doesn’t matter how good all those systems are, you need a really strong engagement. Well, we started looking at ourselves and go you know, we have 40 people that work for us, we were 100% virtual company and have been forever and yet we have some of the strongest engagement scores of any company around well in you know, super high and we’re like, Well, what do we do? How do we make that happen? And so then we said okay, well we need to get in the business of engagement and and helping people to up their culture and that’s where we created the Up Your Culture division, because the same way so a lot of times it starts with us and learning on ourselves. And then we get and we have to hear it enough from our clients. But these things don’t become successful overnight. They take time.

John Corcoran 25:04

Yeah, yeah. And while we’re on the topic of employee engagement is a great one because I literally was posting in a Slack community asking about this day how to improve engagement. You know, we’re recording this as, at a strange time, this is the end of 2022. You know, we’re stepping back into the real world. After two years of strangeness with the pandemic and everything. Lots of companies have got workforces that maybe were in person before, then they went totally distributed. Some people moved outside of their geographic region. Now there’s these weird hybrid things going on. Talk to me a little bit about what you see working, what is the key for good employee engagement as we head into 2023?

Matt Sunshine 25:47

Yeah, great question. So we did a survey recently, and I don’t have the I don’t have the data in front of me. But something when you ask leadership, how important is working, getting everyone back in the office? Those scores are significantly higher than when you ask the people, how important is it to you to get back in the office, those scores are way lower. And so there’s this chasm happening, you know, the workers are saying, Adam, we feel like we need to go back in and the leaders are saying, I think I need you to be back in what we think are some of the most important things and I’m pulling something up on my computers, I want to reference it is that that you really have these four things in place. And the first thing is we call them the four engagement elevators, and their shared mission, people development, valued voice and earn trust. Right? When those four things are in place, you have the foundation of a really strong, stronger engagement. Unfortunately, what people think of engagement is Friday, happy hours, or us I had someone seriously, I’m not kidding, say to me, we’re thinking that we’re going to put a cereal bar in. Because that’ll get people to come in in the office that’ll help with engagement.

John Corcoran 27:22

I said I had to be in Silicon Valley. Right.

Matt Sunshine 27:26

I said, I don’t know if that’s true. I said, I think people that like cereal and rd light coming into the office will really like that other than those people. I don’t know if that causes good engagement. So to us good engagement is are you sharing the mission with everybody? Is everyone on board? Does everyone know what where you’re going? And is it clearly stated? And are you committed to people development? Are you committed to hiring the right people, I heard a quote and I think I probably I might be wrong, but I think it was from the guy that owns or started Chick fil A, where he said, you know, people that consider themselves to be in a nine or a 10 like to be surrounded by others that are nines and 10s. But people that consider themselves to be like a six like to be surrounded by people that are like three fours and fives. And if you’re committed to hiring the right people, who want to be surrounded by other people that are of excellence, that helps grow the organization and then valued voice in other words, not that everyone has a vote, but everyone does have a voice and that we want you to contribute and we want to hear what you’re thinking and that matters to us and then earn trust just the fact that you know, it’s it’s you got to work at it. Right? You got to earn you don’t just get trust, because your title says you should be trusted. Yeah, you earn the trust.

John Corcoran 29:00

Yeah, it’s interesting, because I don’t know if you’ve experienced this but as you roll out these new initiatives, sometimes you go into this space of feeling a lot less uncomfortable, especially you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing for a long period of time. And you know it you’ve mastered it, you know, the ins and outs, answer the questions, you you help the clients with it, and then you have something new like this here, right? New structure, you know, new deliverables, all kind of stuff that you have you experienced that as you’ve rolled out these new divisions within the company we’re hosting, and you’re like, Oh, my God, I don’t feel so comfortable with this anymore. Maybe your team members do.

Matt Sunshine 29:33

Oh, absolutely. And I think that you gotta be gotta be, allow yourself to be a little vulnerable, right? And to share the fact that we don’t know if this is exactly correct, and we’re gonna give it a shot. And you know, what, if we’re not doing it, right, we’re also going to have the sense and the competence to say, You know what, we’re going to pivot a little bit we’re going to adjust it. We thought we thought the our initial way that we were going to Do inbound marketing for clients. The initial way that I was my idea was we were not we were just going to tell people how to do it. We’re going to be their consultant, we’re going to tell them, here’s what you got to do. And 100% of the customers that we took on, we would tell them what to do. And none of them did it. Yeah. And, and they weren’t getting results because they weren’t doing it. And so we had to have a conversation internally say, Okay, this isn’t working, we need to get in the business of doing it for them. Because just telling them they need to do it isn’t working. So you got to be vulnerable, you got to be okay with saying, You know what, we need to change this up a little bit. But yeah, of course, you have those fields.

John Corcoran 30:42

Exactly how we got into what we do, as well as just like saying to people here, you should do this and saying like, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t know if I could do it and seeing no one actually following through with it. Let’s talk about so how did you go from this is fascinating to me to go from using CSS, your company as as a vendor, to then joining as an owner?

Matt Sunshine 31:05

Yeah. So here’s, here’s the story. So first, there was an opening at the CSS for someone in their talent department in the talent department is working with talent assessments and helping to select the very best people that while I was a client of CSS, I saw the opening and I reached, I told my wife, I said, Hey, I think this would be a perfect job for you. And she applied for it and got the job. So I kind of knew what it was like to work at CSS because I had been watching it from the outside for a couple of years while she was there. But when they But then what happened to me specifically is I always liked the idea of CSS, I was enamored, I was a raving fan of the company. But I was really happy where I was the company I was working for sold in 2006. It was a privately owned company had been in the guy’s family for 65 years he was successful sold it for $1.2 billion. That’s a be too shabby. Yeah. Not not to shot good day for his family. And, and he sold it. And on that day is when I decided they the guys that CSS came to me and said, Would you like to come to work here? And I said, I really would. And Sunday because I was that got me thinking when my new my company was for sale? I started thinking do I want to start my own business? Is this the time now to start my own business? And then I saw CSS I was like, really like what those guys do. I liked their mission. I liked their vision. And I even said to them that, you know, if I come to work here, is there going to be an opportunity for me to grow? And maybe one day if if things all worked out, even by the company and run it. And they were like, sure those sure can’t promise you anything. But yeah, that would be there. And so that’s what made that’s what allowed me to go there and why I was excited to do it. And as your wife still work there. She does. And she if she was here right now, she’d remind everyone that she’s worked for the company for two years longer than I have.

John Corcoran 33:12

What is it like going from newbie at the company that your wife works to, to then working your way up and then acquiring the company and becoming your wife’s boss? Yeah,

Matt Sunshine 33:23

that’s something right. Thankfully, my wife and I started dating while we were in college, and had been married a really, really long time. 30 years. Congratulations. Yeah, absolutely. And, and so we actually worked great together. And it was, while I was new to the company, I wasn’t as an employee, I was not new to the company, as I’d been a client for 10 years, and had a whole lot of competence and comfort with everybody there.

John Corcoran 33:51

Yeah. What was your relationship like with the founders as you went in from vendor to the company to then working as an employee for the company, to then buying in as an owner of the company? How was there any tension at any point in that relationship, or

Matt Sunshine 34:07

No, quite the opposite. I am so fortunate. The founder of that company is gentleman named Steve marks, he’s passed away. And I will tell you, Steve was a mentor of mine. And I shared that with him. He was a mentor of mine before I came to work at the company, I just thought his his his his ability or his constitution to always doing the right thing was so impressive to me, that he would put his his employees and the end the reputation of the company before $1 Right before before making money it was do the right thing. And I always really, really respected that that he was so true to the core values of the of the company. Me. And so no when there wasn’t any tension, as he was significantly ill he was 21 years older than me. And then his next in line was another gentleman who is also a mentor of mine that I just have a tremendous amount of respect for who was about 14 or 15 years older than me. So I was very fortunate in that the way the ages stacked up. I was in line for succession planning the right way.

John Corcoran 35:31

And you’ve been managing partner as your title now, since about 2015. Of course, you’ve got five years into that we have COVID, that hits I love to ask them I guess about that. You know, where? What was that? Like for you? This is? Oh, yes, five years into owning a company. So it’s not exactly it was like year one. But what was that like for you? Were there moments of oh, crap and march 2020? We’re like, Oh, crap, what’s going to happen here?

Matt Sunshine 36:01

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So I bought into the company in 2015. And in, and for the most part, prior to 2002, March of 2020. Our CSS consultants, that division, the company, the consultants were in an airplane every week. Each consultant probably traveled about 130,000 miles a year, on on, on their line of choice. So we do a lot of travel, a lot of travel, and a lot of the revenue that we got earned came from us being in your office delivering something,

John Corcoran 36:46

I can see why that would frighten you that if all of a sudden is like, ah, we can’t travel.

Matt Sunshine 36:50

And the way it happened, I guess the basketball was game was canceled on a Thursday. And then the next day, something else canceled, and we were all texting and calling each other and saying, you know, what are you what are you hearing? People are like, I’m good. I’m getting on Play Monday. Other people are like, my client just called and canceled. And, and I called the meeting for the following week of kind of our leadership team. And I said, we need to, we need to assume that we’ll never get into a plane again. And how are we going to operate our business if we never allowed to get in a plane again? Let’s imagine I said, because our clients that we serve, need us more now than ever before, because they’re dealing with stuff too. And so they need revenue performance, in spite of all that. So at the exact same time that we’re being we’re being challenged with not being able to get to markets, is the exact same time when our clients need us so So how should we deliver service if we never get an airplane again, and I will tell you, the team was brilliant, we came up with ideas that we’re still using today, now that we are back to doing some traveling. But we’re not traveling as much because we don’t need to in I would never have guessed it, but I think it was the best thing to ever happen to our business. Because we became better at what we do. It’s really

John Corcoran 38:23

interesting how many companies say that, that where travel was absolutely integral to their business before. And now they like it. They like well, I don’t need to travel as much as I did. I can when I want to, but I don’t need to as much as I was before.

Matt Sunshine 38:38

Yeah, the biggest thing for us is, let’s say let’s say you’re a client of ours, and you were having a challenge. And so you might call up and say, Hey, I’m having this challenge and need you to come in. And so we’d say Okay, great. And we say, let’s look at calendars. And we’d say Okay, six weeks from now, I can be there on Thursday, six weeks from now, seven weeks from now, and you would say okay, but then you’d still have that problem for six or seven weeks. Yeah. Now you call and we say okay, well, let’s get on a zoom call, or let’s get a team’s meeting. Tomorrow, Monday, just so much better. So much better. We’re running

John Corcoran 39:14

a little short on time here. And so we’ll wrap it up in a moment. But first, I’d like to ask people about one of the most excited about Now as we come out of this weird phase in time. It seems like over the last so many years, you’ve added different divisions to the company. So that makes it a very different company from what it was even 610 years ago. What are you most

Matt Sunshine 39:37

excited about? Well, I’m like I said earlier, I’m a growth minded person. And to me the opportunity to grow the company and really expand on that. That total revenue performance platform is exciting to me. Continuing to watch li G to grow continuing to really excited about At the growth of Up Your Culture, employee engagement, but I’m also in acquisition mode, I’m also looking to expand our services. Because if you’re going to be a total revenue performance platform, you should have, you should have lots of services that companies and we work in the b2b world, be that b2b companies that are trying to grow their revenue performance, say, oh, you know what, I should come to these guys, because they can do that. I’m so excited about that. I think it represents the biggest opportunity for one for this company to have a tremendous amount of success, but also so that we can continue to serve our clients, they they expect this from us. And I’m super excited about that.

John Corcoran 40:43

You mentioned, I think his name was Steve Marx, earlier, the founder of The Center for Sales Strategy, as someone who has a big influence on you, I love to ask my guests as we wrap things up about, you know, I love to share my passion for expressing gratitude, especially to those who helped you along the way. If you had to pick out a few, who would you want to acknowledge?

Matt Sunshine 41:07

Yeah, so Steve would definitely be on that list. Even when I was just a client of The Center for Sales Strategy, he always found time for me. When I needed it, there were some other people the I had a gentleman that was my boss percent for 14 years. His name was Dan Halliburton. And he cared about me, right? It doesn’t mean they didn’t hold me accountable. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t sometimes, you know, have to, you know, point me in the right direction. But he did that, because I know he cared about me. And I tried to give that back to people, too. Right. And I but I look at those two people that probably I worked with the longest that I had the biggest influence on me. And it wasn’t, it was more about the way they treated people the way they cared about people. And the way that they focused on growing and developing others versus growing and developing themselves, which has made the biggest and most lasting impression and something that I try to do for others around me as well.

John Corcoran 42:13

Yeah, man, this has been great. Where can people go to connect with you? Reach out ask any questions, getting more information about what you guys do?

Matt Sunshine 42:20

Yeah. So you can always go to thecenterforsalesstrategy.com. You on LinkedIn, and it’s Matt Sunshine, and that’s the easiest way, there’s not very many Matt Sunshines. So it’s pretty easy to get a hold of me but happy to do that. Or my email address is [email protected] And I’m happy to have a one on one conversation with anyone that enjoys this topic. Love to have those conversations. Matt, thanks so much. You got it.

Outro 42:48

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com. And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.