Hello, listeners! Welcome to the Uncommon Leadership interview series.
I’m Michael Hunter with Uncommon Teams, uncommonteams.com.
Today I’m talking with Mark Hunter, CSP.
Mark is recognized as one of the top 50 most influential sales and marketing leaders in the world. He has authored three books, High-Profit Prospecting and High-Profit Selling and his newest, A Mind for Sales. Mark can also be heard on The Sales Hunter Podcast, one of the ones in my list, and a second podcast he cohosts with Meridith Elliot Powell, called Sales Project. His online learning program, The Sales Hunter University, is ranked as one of the top 10 online sales platforms.
Welcome to the podcast, Mark!
Mark Hunter 0:54
Hey, thank you for having me on today. Looking forward to our conversation.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.
You and I overlap in a number of ways. We share a last name. We both spent time in Seattle and in Omaha, Nebraska. And we are both on a journey to seeing people’s people and leveraging the unique gifts that each of them brings.
As you reflect over your journey on that, what stands out as most impacting your progress to achieving what you have?
Well, I think the diversity of the opportunities I’ve had.
Yes, I’ve always been in sales or marketing.
But it’s been the diversity of the organizations I’ve been able to be part of, been able to lead.
When I mean diversity, I mean it’s just terms of completely different styles of go-to-market strategies.
As a result of that, I’ve had a chance to meet just a lot of different people.
One of the things that I regret early on is I failed to realize the full value in people in situations I came into contact with.
Because I thought I was brilliant. I thought I had my act together. And in my mid to late 20s, I was achieving significant success in corporate America. And my arrogance got the best of me.
Without a doubt my arrogance got the best of me.
It literally caused me to stall out, because I couldn’t see opportunities to learn.
I couldn’t be open.
I couldn’t be receptive.
I wasn’t allowing myself to be influenced by other people.
I felt it was just my job to influence others.
No. No. It’s really our job to be influenced by the people.
And so that really, I think, hindered me.
Now I didn’t realize that at the time. That’s looking back 30 years in the rearview mirror. You really do see how we become the sum of the five people we associate with the most. Pick your friends wisely.
Our moms were pretty smart. You know? They said, “Be careful who you play with at school,” right?
What I also failed to realize is that life is continuous learning.
I’ve always been a voracious reader.
I’ve always had an inquisitive desire to learn.
I never want to grow old, not knowing something.
But you have to do it with a degree of tolerance and acceptance.
Tolerance to accept other people’s opinions may be counter to yours.
But acceptance as to what they mean. And then, how could they apply in your life?
And that’s something that only comes I think, with age.
Experience, anyway. Some of us manage to get that experience at a younger age. You and I have taken a bit longer to get through it.
You know, there’s something to be said there because in my last book, I talk about two individuals who very much influenced me a lot. These happen to be two bosses of mine.
They really influenced my life a lot.
I wish I had allowed them to pour even more to pour even more into me.
I really do.
I really wonder what would have been different.
Neither of them at the time realized they were pouring their life in me.
They were just doing their job. They were just going out doing their job.
But they were impacting me.
Stop and think about that.
How do we learn from those around us?
Many times, the best people we learn from are the ones who don’t even realize they’re impacting us.
I was talking to a gentleman the other day who has shaped an incredible business built around the belief system that he learned from his junior high—middle school—football coach.
Wow. Go figure that one out.
This was a middle school football coach who had imparted some wisdom not just on him but on the entire team. But it resonated
And I’m sure that coach did it every year. I’m sure that coach did it every year.
But it just challenged his thinking.
And 20 years later, he took that framework and used as the core to build his company. Very successful company.
That’s cool. That’s neat.
Yeah. How many kids has that coach impacted? And how many of them did something with what the coach tried to impart? How many of them took it to the level that this person did?
See now that’s a great question.
Because you stop and think about it.
That coach probably shared it with hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids over the course of his career, coaching football. And I’m sure he carried it over into the classroom and everything else.
But how many ultimately did something with it?
Probably very, very few. Maybe only one, or two.
Now others might say that, “Oh, wow. Thinking back,. yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, get that, get that.”
So, they were they were influenced by it a little bit. Or shall I say, you know, they were aware of it.
But they truly didn’t embrace it and run with it.
Probably not more than maybe a couple of people.
And that brings up a good point, because I think as leaders, we have to realize that our number one job is to influence and impact people in a positive manner.
And if we can influence and impact people in a positive manner, it’s amazing what we can achieve.
Because here’s the thing.
You know, I’m in sales. I spent my career in sales, but I’ve also spent my career in leadership leading sales teams.
One of the things that I’ve found is that the definition of sales and the definition of leadership is the exact same thing.
It’s the exact same thing.
It’s helping others see and achieve what they did not think was possible.
That’s what that middle school football coach was doing.
He was imparting some wisdom on his players to try to help them see and achieve what they didn’t think was possible.
Hmm, pretty cool.
That’s something to get excited about when you wake up in the morning.
To say that, “Hey, I’ve got the ability to go do this.”
That’s neat. That’s absolutely cool.
That’s exactly why I asked you to be on this interview series, Mark.
I’ve been listening to your podcast for most of the year now, as I’m learning how to do sales for my business.
I was struck by how much of almost every guest you have on your podcast, you and they, or the ones where you’re on talking on something on your own, are talking about exactly the same things that I talk with my clients.
You’re in sales. I’m doing sort of executive coaching, helping leaders in software figure out how to figure out where they’re going.
But it’s all the same process.
It’s the exact same process.
People think, for some reason, that leadership is some strange thing that people do.
That sales is something some strange thing people do.
But you know what’s interesting?
Both of those are at the fabric, at the core, of what we all do all the time.
The first person in the morning who we lead is ourselves.
I look at it this way: If we can’t lead ourselves, why would anyone want to be led by us?
It’s just not going to happen.
It’s one of the big differences between leading people and managing people. You manage activities, you lead people.
Oh, wow, that’s a throwaway line.
Everybody’s heard that line 10,000 times.
But let’s sink into what it means.
The example I love to use of a good leader is you take a business where people actually show up for work.
Okay, so I know, in this post-COVID era, a lot of people are working from home. But you’ll understand the premise here in just a bit.
When the manager, when the leader is not there, does the organization fall apart?
If the organization falls apart when the manager is right there, when the manager is not there, then guess what? That’s a manager.
If, on the other hand, when the manager is not there, but wow, things just happen. And it almost moves to a higher level. Then, you know what? That’s a leader.
Because they’ve trained and they’ve empowered the organization. To do things. Just to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.
The ultimate goal of a leader is to raise up people to be able to do everything you’re supposed to be doing and more, so that you can move up the ladder.
The idea is that we’re constantly lifting people up the ladder, and helping people get further up the ladder, wherever we are in the ladder.
It’s not a matter of throwing people off.
It’s making a bigger ladder.
I want to have a big ladder.
Because if we’re allowing people to grow—and I firmly believe people do want to grow, people want to be mentally challenged.
Now there’s a difference between a mentally challenged, and mentally stressed.
We all desire some level of stress in our life. It’s a matter of how we choose and where we choose.
But we all want to be mentally challenged.
What’s that mean?
That means we’re worth something.
That means we’re valuable.
That means my employer doesn’t just see me as a thing.
But my employer truly values my opinion.
I have a person on my team who does a number of very routine activities. And she does it very well. And I sent her a note this morning, I said, “Hey, I want to get your opinion on this. Here’s some things I’m looking at. Would you share with me your ideas? Let’s get a conversation going. Let’s talk about it.”
Now I could easily have blown that off. “I don’t need her.”
No, but I want her thinking at a different level.
I want her raising her game.
Because if she raises her game, guess what? Those around her raise their game.
And guess what then? Then the company does better.
That’s what success is all about.
It’s really unlocking the talent we all have.
And we all have tremendous talent. The talent we have in real life.
And success isn’t necessarily that I’m getting promoted to a higher job title, a higher level in the job ladder.
Success means something different for each of us. We each need different things to nourish us.
However, if we’re not growing the way that we’re thinking, if we’re not expanding our perspective, in whichever ways interest us, then we’re stagnating.
If we’re just stagnating, then we’re probably not really—I haven’t found anyone in my experience anyway—we aren’t really happy with our life. There’s something missing.
We may not know how to go find that.
We may not even know how to get started figuring out how to go find that.
But if we’re not learning and growing, then we’re just stuck. And we’re probably even dying.
You know, you bring up two observations I’ll share.
When I left corporate America in 1998, I had a great job.
I was director of sales 700 salespeople. It was great.
But looking down the road, I was afraid of becoming stagnant.
Yeah, I was actually afraid of becoming stagnant.
Because my fear was that somewhere along the line, you’re gonna get pushed aside, and you’re gonna get pushed into a cube, the proverbial cube.
And I never wanted to stop growing.
Even then, I felt I was getting so focused on just running the salesforce doing this, this this this, and I didn’t have time to breathe to see what else was out there.
And that was one of the reasons I jumped. Because I wanted to really continue expanding my growth.
The second piece is this: Warren Buffett and his sidekick, Charlie Munger, and Bill Gates were being interviewed. This was probably about I don’t know six or seven years ago now, by Becky Quick of CNBC News.
And Becky asked all three of them, “What book are they currently reading? What’s on their nightstand?” You know, the proverbial question.
I don’t remember what Bill Gates said.
I don’t remember what Warren Buffett said.
But Charlie Munger said, “I’m reading a book”—at the time he’s like 87 years of age—”I’m reading a book on electrical engineering.”
Becky Quick, she was taken aback.
She was like, “What? Help me understand this.”
And he said, “Well, I just have always felt that I’ve never quite understood enough about electrical engineering, so I needed to learn more.”
Now stop and think about the magnitude of this.
This gentleman is 86, 87 years of age. He could get a pass on not knowing something.
But he was actively learning.
That was a wake-up call to me.
That was one of those seminal moments in my reading patterns, in terms of how I view my reading pattern, and it just accelerated my reading pattern dramatically in all different areas.
Because if this guy is 87 and can be learning more, I need to learn more.
And that’s something I think we have to create.
A view of desire or passion in people we lead.
To me that’s fine. That’s what leadership is all about.
I find everyone is born wanting to learn and grow. I don’t know many babies who have not figured out how to crawl and then walk unless they had some physical impediments. And even then, I’m sure that they wanted to, even though they physically couldn’t.
And for some of us, that desire to learn and grow is stoked and fired and burns ever brightly throughout our lives.
For others, it’s damped down or even quenched somehow.
That breaks my heart, when I see someone like that who thinks that they don’t want to learn or doesn’t know that they have the capability to learn, because it’s all there.
Even if the fire has been quenched, it can be rekindled.
Oh, it’s all there is an understatement.
This is why the average person says, “I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to do this. Because there’s nothing to learn here.”
The great performer, the top performer in anything, top leader, will look at everything as “There’s something to learn here. There’s something to learn here.”
This is why the average person is the average person. Because they spent all evening binging on Netflix, binging on Hulu, or binging on whatever it is.
And the top performer is saying, “Hey, I want to I want to get better at this. I want to get better at that.”
At my own house, we don’t have cable. I’ve never seen Netflix. I don’t care about Netflix. I don’t care. Because I’m not gonna waste my time.
I would rather—the other night, I was home and I dug into a book and read the book.
And you know what tonight? I’ve got a whole stack of books here on the floor. And you know what? I’m gonna read another book tonight.
And what does it do? It helps shape my leadership. It helps shape how I interface with people.
Some leaders would say “Oh, but that puts you at a disadvantage because you don’t know what’s going on on Netflix.”
I hear it from enough other people. I look at news sites. I know what’s going on out there.
But I don’t need to be consumed by watching all nine episodes of something.
Leaders are very focused.
You have to just understand, what are you focused on?
And what you focus on, surprisingly enough, is what your people will focus on.
I’ll share a very quick story. It just popped back into my head the other day. I’ll go and say the company. Mattel, Mattel Toys.
20 years ago, now, maybe even 25 years ago, they had a CEO there. She was not a nice person. I mean, I’m dead serious. I won’t say that name, but people can Google and find it out.
It was brutal. She ultimately was fired by the board.
A new CEO came into the company, and I happened to be working with him and his staff about six months after he was there.
The guy was incredibly gracious.
We went out to dinner one night. There were about eight or nine of us and he asked the gentleman who was at the restaurant door while we were standing there waiting for our car, and he asked me, “Hey, how’s your day been?”
He’s really engaged and just asked.
This is a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
At that time, they still had their fleet of jets. They still had a helicopter at that time.
This was a titan of industry, and he’s actively engaged.
Meetings we were having at a hotel and people come in and prep the coffee and stuff and he’s engaged with “Hey, how are you doing? Thank you for doing what you’re doing.”
I asked some of his staff, “Okay, I didn’t know your other CEO. But this has to be different.”
“Oh, yeah, it’s really different. We’re still in shock, how nice he is versus the other CEO.”
I wasn’t gonna let the opportunity go by. So, I asked Bob, the new CEO, I said, “Bob, I’m incredibly in awe of your graciousness. And your staff has noticed that too. Are you always this nice?”
And in his “aw shucks, he grew up in Wisconsin,” he said, “Yeah, my mom always told me to be nice.”
But then he dropped the bomb.
He said “Here’s the deal. I am nice to people. Because I really do want people to succeed. But,” he says, “here’s something I found.”
And this is the bomb.
“When I’m nice to other people, I make better decisions.”
Think about that.
Now, it’s interesting.
He was CEO for probably about 12 or 13 years.
During that time that company went through a series of just major, major issues.
He was on a board of directors of several other corporations, which went through CEO deaths, which went through just major issues.
You know what’s interesting?
His own board never even looked at firing him. Even though there were some issues.
No, no, no, no, he was looked at as a leader.
These other boards he was on in major corporations, if I was to say the names, you’d recognize them in a heartbeat.
He was seen as a leader.
What’s interesting, he saw being gracious and nice to other people, not as a weakness, but as a position of strength, as power.
That’s a powerful leadership lesson right there.
It’s somewhat of a paradox that the more vulnerable and open we are, the more power we actually have to achieve the things we want to achieve.
The more able and capable we are to have the impact we want to have and for us to have that impact in a way that works for the people we are meaning to impact rather than harm them; in a way that lifts them up, not shut them down.
You’re so spot on.
What’s interesting is, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Okay, that’s an expression we’ve all heard before.
But think about that.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
If I’m a rising tide, that’s pretty significant.
Flipside is this.
Look at a forest.
A single tree, standing on the side of a mountain, is soon swept away because of wind, storm, whatever.
But that tree amongst a forest of trees will survive and thrive because it’s part of a forest of trees.
Leadership is not a singular activity.
Leadership is a plural activity.
Leadership is not something we do to people.
It’s something we do with people.
When we look at it that way, it’s amazing what happens.
What else should I ask you today, Mark?
You can ask me anything you want. I don’t really care. We’re having a great conversation. This is really good.
Let’s go back a minute to diversity, which we touched on at the beginning.
Are there certain aspects of diversity that you found to be more useful than others?
When I use the term diversity, I’m not talking about ethnic, I’m not talking about race.
I’m talking about diversity of business philosophies.
Something that I found in the three corporate companies I worked at is each one had a very different strategy as to how to achieve the financial goals they were wanting to achieve.
Dramatically different. Dramatically.
Initially, I thought, “How can that be?”
But once you begin to embrace that there’s other ways…
If I want to go from LA to New York, and I’m gonna go by surface road, there’s 10,000 different routes, I could take, 10,000 different routes.
Well, this one’s the shortest miles.
I know this one’s the shortest miles.
But you know what? There may be a little bit longer one that actually you can go faster or there’ll be less congestion, whatever it might be.
So, what I’m saying here is, that diversity….
In the second company I was in, I had the opportunity to work for a female president.
And initially, when she took the job, I was a little bit struck by it. “That’s interesting.”
I was expecting this gentleman to get the job. He did not and she got it.
Within probably about three weeks of sitting in meetings with her, gonna go, “Wow. She is brilliant. She is brilliant. The insights that she brings.”
What I found again, when you look at the diversity, there are some companies where things are done through bluster. It’s the noisy wheel. It’s just the noise of stuff.
And in other companies, it’s the quiet demeanor.
So again, you look at that different approach in different fields.
And that’s what we have.
If there was an organization made up of just people like me, it would go bankrupt tomorrow. It would go bankrupt. Because I’m not that good.
if you had 100 me’s, oh, wow, that’d be scary.
And 1000, really scary.
So in other words, we are at our best when we fill our world with different opinions.
It’s just like a football game.
There’s 11 positions on offense and 11 positions on defense. They all can’t play quarterback. Thank goodness. Could you imagine if you had 11 quarterbacks out there? It just wouldn’t work well.
We have to understand the lane that everyone plays in.
We have to accept the fact that when we’re in a lane, that’s the lane we’re in, and ultimately achieve the best.
When you do that, that’s how you’re lifting up those around you.
That’s how a rising tide lifts all boats.
And it’s fine if that lane doesn’t feel like it fits.
It’s fine to not want to be there long term or even short term.
However, if that’s where you are, then the better you serve that lane and do it what lane needs you to do, the much more likely you are to be able to move into whatever other lane feels like a better fit.
You may even discover that there are ways that that lane actually is a perfect fit.
And even if it’s not, like you mentioned earlier, there’s always something to learn from that lane that will help you be better when you move into that other lane.
There always is.
In whatever lane you’re in, do the best job you possibly can.
I always say, in sales, my objective with each conversation is to earn the right, the privilege, honor and respect to be able to have a conversation with that person again.
That’s the same thing in doing our job.
Our job is to do what we do the best we can, so we earn the right, the privilege, honor and respect to be able to move to the next position when the next position arises.
And even to continue doing our current position the best we can tomorrow and the day after, so that we have the wherewithal to make that move later on.
Yes, yes. Without a doubt.
What do you want to leave our listeners with today, Mark?
Well, I think the big thing I want to leave our listeners with is leadership begins with them, begins with ourselves.
We can’t lead anybody else until we first lead other people to assume responsibility.
Now I want to delegate responsibility to anybody and everybody.
But at the end of the day, it comes back to me.
I’m the one who is going to be held accountable.
It’s my job to lift people up.
If I can’t end the day without my people being stronger and better than they were at the start of the day, then I didn’t do my job.
Leadership is no different than sales.
It’s about impact and integrity.
I gotta have impact on my people.
I have to do it with integrity.
What does that do?
That allows us to leave a legacy with our people so our impact lives on long after we’re gone.
That’s a perfect ending to a fabulous conversation, Mark.
What’s the best way for people to reach you?
Well, the best way is, my name is Mark Hunter. And I kind of go by The Sales Hunter.
So, you just go to thesaleshunter.com.
We’ve got a lot of assets out there you can download.
We’ve got some leadership tools.
Prospecting and sales is my main piece, but I firmly believe that leadership plays a key role in that.
So, we got things out there that you can download.
From that site, you can navigate over and see all kinds of stuff that we have.
So it’s thesaleshunter.com.
And you have an e-book there for our listeners?
Yes, there’s an e-book right now. It’s 50 Prospecting Truths. And they can download that, they can grab it.
There’s a ton of other, if you click up in the Resources tab, there’s a lot of other things up there.
I firmly believe this:
Life is not a solo activity.
Life is a community.
When we embrace the ability to share and help others, it’s amazing how it changes our outlook on everything.
Thank you so much Mark, The Sales Hunter.
Sales leadership, software leadership, it’s all leadership.
We’re all learning from each other.
As long as we’re all learning and growing, then the world’s going to become the place we all want it to become.
Thank you so much.
Thanks for joining us on Uncommon Leadership today.
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