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[EDITOR’S NOTE: We conducted this interview in late 2019. Since the show was released during the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked Jason what his advice is for sales professionals during the pandemic. He offered the following:
- Take special time and attention to care for your internal customers (employees & associates) during this time of unprecedented uncertainty. A real Sales Game Changer is concerned about BOTH internal and external customers right now.
- Many of your customers and prospects may be in distress and will be most receptive to creative solutions that addresses their current situation today charts a path forward in these difficult days.
- Double down on your website and digital marketing strategy as social distancing will likely be the new normal for some time.
EPISODE 218: Detroit Biz Leader Jason Wize Shares Web and Digital Marketing Ideas to Help Transform Your Sales Efforts During COVID-19 Pandemic
JASON’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “You’ve got to be Positive, that goes without saying but you’ve got to be positive, have a positive attitude towards your products, services, your company, your coworkers, your prospects, your customers and just life in general..“
We conducted today’s interview in Detroit, Michigan.
Jason Wize is the president at MediaProNow. He’s a business leader who understands sales.
Prior to becoming the president of MediaProNow and founding the company, he was a sales leader at Radio Shack and JPMorgan Chase.
We did the interview at TechTown, a really exciting co-working place, about 4 miles from Downtown Detroit.
Jason can be found on LinkedIn here.
Fred Diamond: Jason, it’s great to have you on the Sales Game Changers podcast, it’s great to be in Detroit, I’m excited to hear your story and get your perspective. You’re an entrepreneur – I can’t pronounce that word, but maybe you can – I’m excited to get your story. I know you come at it from a sales mentality so I’m very happy to have you on the show. Why don’t you tell us a little more about you that we need to know?
Jason Wize: Thanks, Fred. It’s great to be with you. The first thing I want to say is that I am breathing and I survived the blizzard that fell upon Michigan and the greater Detroit area yesterday. I’ve been a sales professional for my entire life, as you mentioned. I started off in corporate America leading sales teams for both Radio Shack Corporation and JPMorgan Chase. That served me well because in my current role as president of MediaProNow, a lot of those same skills I found to be very transferable and very necessary.
On a personal side, I have two children. I’ve got a son who’s a graduate of the University of Michigan, he’s got a mechanical engineering degree, he’s working in the medical robotics group for Johnson and Johnson and my daughter just started freshman year of high school so my hands are pretty full.
Fred Diamond: I love interviewing athletes on the Sales Game Changers podcast and I believe you also played college football.
Jason Wize: I did, that is very true. It happened a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I actually played football at Ball State University, played wide receiver for the Cardinals so go Cards.
Fred Diamond: We’ve interviewed some athletes in the past, some lacrosse players and we’ve interviewed a baseball player or two so don’t be surprised if I ask you some questions about applying your athletic skills and background to being a successful sales professional. I always like asking those questions as well. Tell us a little more about MediaProNow. Tell us what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
Jason Wize: At MediaProNow we provide search engine optimization or SEO, paper click or PPC, social media and web design services. There’s a few other services that we provide to support those efforts, but by a large that’s really our wheelhouse.
Fred Diamond: Who do you sell to? What type of companies purchase your marketing services?
Jason Wize: First I want to dispel the notion that our services are only for business and consumer, our B to C organizations and that’s absolutely not true. We have customers in the B to C space and we also have customers in the B to B space. Most of our customers are for-profit organizations but we work with a lot of non-profits as well.
Fred Diamond: Again, let’s get right to it. You’re a business owner, again you did lead sales teams but tell us, from a day to day perspective, what it means to think about sales as a business owner.
Jason Wize: Thinking about sales is probably not necessarily how I might characterize it. I might characterize sales as more of a lifestyle because when I think about selling activities, when I think about the sales initiatives that we’re putting together at MediaProNow it’s not something that you hit the start button on and then hit the stop button and check in and check out. It’s more of a daily process and it’s that process that gets us to where we want to go.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the things that you do from a sales perspective as the business leader for the company as well? Tell us some of the things you do to grow sales.
Jason Wize: Individually, I spend a lot of time doing some public relations. I’m involved with a lot of organizations not just here locally in the Detroit Metropolitan area but I’m involved with some national organizations as well. With those organizations shaking hands and kissing babies, as I like to say, and just playing head’s up ball. Often times when you give of yourself and of your time and of your talents and treasures, you’ll find opportunities that you didn’t know are in front of you.
Fred Diamond: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you either first get into sales as a career or how did you first get conscious of the fact that you’re really in sales?
Jason Wize: I like to say that I cut my teeth in sales in retail which I think is probably the easiest place to make that happen. Everything I learned in college about marketing and advertising was great but there’s nothing quite like real world experience and I certainly was able to get a lot of that heavy dose of it in the retail space.
Fred Diamond: That was at Radio Shack?
Jason Wize: It was at Radio Shack primarily.
Fred Diamond: What were some of the lessons you learned from some of those first few sales jobs?
Jason Wize: I learned the basic building blocks of sales and of salesmanship. Some of the most important lessons that I look back as key takeaways were how to be a good listener. I always like to use the saying that god gave you two ears and one mouth, you should use those in proportion. I learned how to qualify a customer or prospect properly, I learned also how to tighten up my sales presentations and be able to explain features and benefits of the products and services that I was selling. The last thing I learned but definitely not the least was being able to close more effectively and just asking for the business. Those are probably the major takeaways that I learned from my first early days and years in sales.
Fred Diamond: I have a question about listening, becoming a better listener comes up not infrequently on the Sales Game Changers podcast and actually some of the examples that you used, people say 66% solution, like you just said you have two ears, one mouth, use them in that order. What’s a thing or two that you’ve done, Jason, to be a better listener?
Jason Wize: The biggest thing that I’ve been able to do – and this is something that anyone can do – is being able to parrot back or paraphrase what you just heard. When a customer or prospect makes a statement or even asks a question, for that matter, being able to say, “Hey, Fred what I heard you say is…” and then be able to parrot it back. Not verbatim because that might be received in a negative light, but be able to parrot it back saying, “Hey Fred, what I heard is you said A, I heard you say B and I heard you say C. Did I get that right? Just checking in with you, did I hear you correctly?”
That’s a great way to get an affirmative from your customer or prospect that yes, you did in fact hear them properly and it also is an acknowledgement on their part that, “Listen, Jason thank you for hearing me out because I see that you actually heard what I said.”
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you’re an expert in. Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Jason Wize: I’d say that MediaProNow is an expert at search engine optimization so I guess that makes me an SEO expert by default. I feel like I have expert level knowledge around SEO and how to get a website ranking better and search results and eventually onto that much coveted page 1. I also feel from a sales perspective in terms of what our prospects and customers actually care about, what I truly am an expert in is reducing the cost of customer acquisition and also improving the ROI on advertising and marketing dollars.
Fred Diamond: To get to where you are right now you must have had some great mentors along the way. Why don’t you tell us about a powerful sales career mentor and how they impacted your career?
Jason Wize: First I should admit that I’m 100% believer in the power of personal development so I’ve been studying and learning from success and sales coaches since I was young, really in college. Folks like Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Les Brown, many others I’ve all studied from. With that as a caveat, I must say that the first mentor that I actually worked for that had the biggest impact on me was a district manager I had at Radio Shack, name Ruy Gonzalez. In the world of Fortune 500 big time corporate America, he was the first boss I had who really seemed like he loved his job and he was good at it. In addition to all the technical skills that he taught me, it felt great just to have someone that I could identify with who happened to also be a good manager and producer.
What I learned from Ruy, the biggest lesson is probably the importance of being able to connect with customers and prospects on a human level. Yes, you need to be able to qualify your customers or prospects, yes, you need to do a good job of making presentations. Yes, you’ve got to ask for the business and close but all of that may not matter if you haven’t made a human connection with the other person. It goes back to that old cliché that is people want to do business with others that they know, like and they trust. I think establishing that human connection is critical to making that happen.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned before that you’re involved with some organizations not just in the Detroit area but across the country. Tell us some of the ones that you’re involved with and how have they helped you become more successful?
Jason Wize: Here locally in town I’m involve with the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, I’m also a member of the Detroit Economic Club, I’ve spent a great deal of time working with the Detroit Economic Club. In fact, I’ve been a past Chair of the Detroit Economic Club Young Leader Board of Directors. The Detroit Economic Club has over 1,200 young leaders so it’s a large organization. My work in leading that group has been impactful for me professionally and personally not just for what it takes to actually lead the young leaders but some other opportunities have also come my way as well.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend Harvard Business School for one of their executive leadership development programs as part of the Young American Leaders program, I’ve had a chance to attend the Michigan Mackinac Policy Conference which is a gathering of all the top leaders in business industry and government for the state of Michigan. It takes place once a year on Mackinac Island, that’s a great opportunity as well as many others. Being involved in those two organizations in particular have been incredibly helpful for MediaProNow as a company and for me professionally and personally.
Fred Diamond: We have Sales Game Changers listening around the globe, they probably don’t know much about Detroit. They might know cars, they might now Motown, maybe something on those lines. Again, I’m broadcasting the show, we’re about 2 miles to Downtown from here, I guess?
Jason Wize: It’s about 3 or 4 miles to Downtown but TechTown is considered mid-town Detroit.
Fred Diamond: Give us your perspective. How’s it going in Detroit right now? For the people listening around the globe, again, you’re not the mayor or anything but maybe one day. Give us a little peak into how you feel it is here in Detroit.
Jason Wize: [Laughs] it’s funny you should ask that question. Before I even answer, let me just give a little backstory so that actually might provide some more appreciation for what I’m about to say. During my travels over the last 5 to 10 years, whenever I’d be on the road in an airport or another city and I’m asked the question, “Where are you from?” I would always say I’m from Troy, Michigan as in T-R-O-Y, the city I grew up in. People would say, “Where’s Troy?” “Troy’s half an hour north of Detroit…” and that’s how that conversation would go. Really I was doing that because there was a little bit of me that wasn’t so proud of Detroit and I wouldn’t have pride in the city. Fast forward to today, now when I’m on the road I’m beaming with pride to say that I’m from Detroit so shame on me for my previous ignorance, but certainly today Detroit is a bustling city. I like to say, “Don’t call it a comeback” because we’ve been here for years and the investment in the Downtown area is second to none certainly as you’ve seen it here in your time in the city. The last time you’ve been to Detroit, I promise you, if you come back you will not recognize the city.
Fred Diamond: It’s quite remarkable. For people listening around the globe. Quicken Loans is based in Detroit and of course, GM is Downtown and all the automobile industry still has a major play here.
Fred Diamond: I would definitely agree. There’s a nice buzz here, there’s a vibe that hasn’t been felt in a long time. Even in TechTown here, there’s a lot of interesting people working together, it’s got a great vibe. This is on Burroughs Drive for people who are students of technology. Burroughs, of course was one of the original seven mainframe companies and it’s really cool to see how this area has regenerated and rejuvenated itself as well. Again, we’re talking to Jason Wize, he’s the president of MediaProNow, a very successful entrepreneur, he also played football. I’ve got to ask you a couple football questions, if you don’t mind.
Jason Wize: Please.
Fred Diamond: Again, you played wide receiver at Ball State, Division 1 school. Tell us about a lesson or two that you took off of the gridiron that has led you to be a more successful businessperson.
Jason Wize: Something from game action or something from non-game action?
Fred Diamond: You tell me. Something that you think about that has led you to become a more successful businessperson.
Jason Wize: I’ll give you a couple quick examples, one from practice, one from a game. My second year at Ball State, we had what all the players thought was the death of a conditioning test and the conditioning test was ten 300’s, you’ve got to run them for a certain time and you had a one minute break in between. This was the conditioning test prior to fall camp starting. Those that did not pass the conditioning test were subject to something called dawn patrol which was essentially conditioning punishment before two-a-day practices started. You didn’t want to be on that lucky list.
I actually arrived at campus a couple weeks early to try and complete the conditioning test prior to. I had two failed attempts, the first day of fall camp was my last attempt to make this thing happen and on my second attempt I think I had gotten up to 5 or 6 of the 10 repetitions that qualified. I had some work to do. Long story short, I was able to complete that conditioning test just barely, but I was able to do it and avoid the whole dawn patrol. Honestly, that was just a situation where I didn’t know that I could physically do it, I had to find something inside of myself to carry me on. All those stories you hear about folks that come up with superhuman strength during times of distress or danger, I’m not going to compare my situation with someone who’s literally in danger but the mentality and the approach is still the same. As a result I was able to pass my conditioning test.
From game action I’ll take you back to my second year, we were playing the University of Minnesota and at that time the Golden Gophers were playing in the Metrodome where the Minnesota Vikings used to play. This was the first time I had a chance to play on television and in an NFL arena or NFL stadium, and it was also my first start as well so I had a lot of butterflies for a lot of reasons. I did not know if I was going to be able, I didn’t know that I deserved to be on the same field as these players from this bigger conference, from this bigger school that are playing in this fancy stadium. It was probably halfway through the first quarter, I had already made a reception, I had also been hit very hard by a couple of their defenders and when I realized that they were athletes no different than me, they put their uniform on the same way I did, they tied their shoes up the same way, etcetera it was then that I got comfortable enough in my own skin that I said, “Okay, let’s play.”
Fred Diamond: How many more catches did you have that game?
Jason Wize: I had five catches that game which was a season high, actually.
Fred Diamond: Good for you, have you caught a touchdown when you played college ball?
Jason Wize: Yes, but not against that team.
Fred Diamond: What does it feel like when you’re a college Division 1 player and you catch a touchdown pass? What was going through your mind?
Jason Wize: “Don’t get flagged for excessive celebration” [Laughs] that’s the main thing. No, it’s just a feeling of euphoria, it’s a feeling of accomplishment and it’s a feeling of collective accomplishment. It’s not just of individual achievement but it’s collective accomplishment. There’s 11 players out there on the field at any one point in time and I’m just the person who happened to touch the ball last on that particular place. There’s 10 other players that I need to go and give high 5’s, hugs and credits to because those folks are just as responsible for any success that I might have as me as an individual.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. This is going to be the corniest question I ever asked, but do you feel the same way when you make a sale?
Jason Wize: Yes, absolutely. I can tell you something right now, I think about all of the customers that we have and it’s the minority of the customers that I can point to and say, “It was 100% due to my efforts” or, “100% due to the efforts of any single individual on our team.” Typically the engagements that we have are a result of teamwork, they’re typically a result of a sales process that lasts weeks, months and in some cases lasts years. Along that way, it takes a group effort to make it happen.
Fred Diamond: What are the two biggest challenges you face today as a business owner from the sales perspective?
Jason Wize: Let me say this first. I mentioned earlier about working with B to B customers as well as B to C customers. That’s definitely a challenge that we face today, helping B to B business owners and decision makers in the sales and marketing departments of these organizations understand that it’s important to have a digital presence in the B to B space.
It’s important to look at your website and other digital marketing efforts as a way to generate leads and it’s also a way to help reduce your cost of customer acquisition. Starting to see some trends in the market turn where these types of organizations are inherently starting to understand how important that is, but it’s certainly a challenge out there to dispel some myths that are out there about SEO and any kind of digital advertising that’s all for direct to consumer. The other thing I might say is setting proper expectations and this might be similar in most industries. In 2019, 2020 and beyond, American pop culture, it’s a microwave society, everybody wants everything by yesterday afternoon and just setting up these proper expectations that anything that’s good is worth waiting for even if it is a relatively short period of time.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you take us back to the #1 specific sales success or win from your career you’re most proud of?
Jason Wize: That’s an easy one. That would have to be the very first customer that we had at MediaProNow which also happened to be the largest customer that we acquired for the first two years of us being in business. That’s the introduction and the eventual contract that we had with Hansons Remodeling. Your listeners around the nation and around the globe may not be familiar with Hansons Home Improvement and Remodeling but here in Michigan, Hansons is one of two of the largest home improvement remodeling companies.
If you’re familiar with the remodeling industry, you’ll know that Hansons is in the top 50 remodeling companies in the country so certainly a big outfit here in Michigan and certainly well-known and well-respected in the industry. Taking you back to about 6 years ago, I was at a conference center having an internal meeting and simultaneously, unbeknownst to me, Hansons was having a sales meeting. No big deal, it’s a big conference center and plenty of room for everybody but it just so happened that one of our breaks I went to the restroom, went to go get something to drink and I happened to see sitting in the atrium Mr. Brian Elias who at that time was the president and owner of Hansons.
I thought to myself, “Wow, Jason, you should go talk to him” and then as soon as I thought that to myself I said, “What am I going to say? I don’t have anything to say, I’m a brand new company and he’s a multi-millionaire, he’s got a company with hundreds and hundreds of employees and it could go very badly for me.” Once I got the nerve to say, “Yes, I’m going to do this” then I decided to say, “Okay, what’s going to be my approach?” Because if I just walk up to him I’m going to seem like a salesperson and I can’t have that. I decided to carry out my own individual plan which was, “Let me go get myself some water” and while I was at the vending machine I happened to buy two waters. I walked right up to Brian, I handed him a water and I introduced myself and a conversation was born. Three months later we had a signed contract for the biggest deal that the company had in the first two years of its existence.
Fred Diamond: I want to ask you a question about fear. Here you are, again I’ve brought up your football background in the past, you’re a wide receiver and you’re going to get hit on almost every single play. You’ve got to have courage to be out in the football field, you’re jumping for the ball, you know you’re going to get hit every single play yet here you are, your first sales opportunity and you’re nervous to go and approach the guy who’s running Hansons but you got past it.
Talk about that for a second or two, talk about getting rid of fear like when you’re out there on the football field, you said it took you a couple of plays to get comfortable and then you realized, “I belong here, I made it to this Division 1 school, I deserve to be on this field.” Talk about sales the same type of thing, if you will. Fear comes up all the time, I think fear is the #1 block in anything. Here you are in the football field, the Division 1, you’re going to get pounded every single play, you know it’s going to come, I don’t know what you do to prepare against it and here you are on the sales field. How do you get past that fear?
Jason Wize: Overcoming fear is a muscle like anything else. I talked about fear of being on the football field and having some anxiety that way, we’re talking here right now about fear approaching a prospect or a customer but it’s ubiquitous, it’s universal, it doesn’t matter what it is that you’re talking about. Will Smith has a great saying, he says that fear is an acronym that can stand for False Evidence Appearing Real and I’m a believer into that. It takes me often times in present day, if I’m struggling with something, if I’m fearful of something, have anxiety about something, I’ll go back years ago to not just days on the football field but other times when I’ve been playing sports and I’ve had to overcome fear.
There’s nothing like the thrill and the rush of running out of the tunnel onto the football field and there’s 50 thousand fans screaming for you – or booing, cheering against you. Either which way, that’s a large number of folks to be performing in front of and being able to overcome that fear is not something that I can say, “Do this one thing” or, “Do these 10 things”, it’s more of just getting it done however many steps it took you to get done and then once you’ve done it once, go do it again.
Fred Diamond: Jason, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the selling professionals listening around the globe to help them take their careers to the next level?
Jason Wize: If I could give two takeaways, one would be persistence. Persistence pays so be persistent. I know there’s statistics out there that selling attempts are not successful until the 5th, 6th, 7th, the 10th attempt and such is life. Life is beautiful in such a way that if you are persistent at something, whether it’s trying to close a sale or whether it’s trying to lose that last couple pounds or eliminate the weeds in your garden or anything along those lines, persistence pays. I would say absolutely be persistent.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about one or two of your selling habits that has led to your continued success.
Jason Wize: A couple things. I schedule all my sales activities or all the sales activities for MediaProNow, we’ve got a marketing calendar and a sales calendar that dictates all of the marketing and advertising initiatives that we have. The sales folks that are on our teams document all of their activities whether that’s outbound phone calls, whether that’s outbound emails, we’ve got a newsletter that goes out so we look at that distribution and the engagement from that. All of the activities including live events, we track all of that stuff and we measure versus results.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success.
Jason Wize: We’re working on a little rebranding but the major initiative for going into next year is going to be growing our sales funnel to source prospects from more outlets, more platforms and then building in some automation into that sales funnel.
Fred Diamond: Jason, I want to thank you for being on the Sales Game Changers podcast today, I loved talking to you, I loved hearing some of your sports analogies and talking about fear and things along those lines. Before I ask you for your final thought, again being on the football field as a wide receiver, you’re out there, you’re exposed, I’ve mentioned that a whole bunch of times as well. You’ve become a successful business owner, your company is six years old, why have you continued and why have you continued to sell? What is it about owning the business and selling your services that has kept you going?
Jason Wize: In general I’ve always been attracted and a lover of the sales industry because it gives me and it gives anyone an opportunity to have an equity stake, to have some ownership in their destiny, in their outcome. I know there’s variables that go along with that but I have not found another profession that allows you to have as much say in your future as does the selling profession.
Fred Diamond: I want to thank you again for being on the Sales Game Changers podcast, again I’m very excited, we’re doing this interview from mid-town Detroit, I called it Downtown before but actually GM’s old headquarters is like a block or two away, right?
Jason Wize: Correct, two blocks to our left.
Fred Diamond: A lot of history in this particular area and I appreciated the way you described it, you said it’s not a comeback, Detroit’s always been here.
Jason Wize: Don’t call it a comeback.
Fred Diamond: It’s showing all the evidence of all the power in this particular town. Give us one final thought to inspire the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe today.
Jason Wize: I know we covered a lot of ground but I guess if I could leave the audience with one key takeaway, I’d say to have PRIIDE in your sales career. Yes, you heard me right, I said pri-ide so that’s pride spelled with two I’s and we’ve got some acronym to go along with that. First you’ve got to be Positive, that goes without saying but you’ve got to be positive, have a positive attitude towards your products, services, your company, your coworkers, your prospects, your customers and just life in general.
You’ve got to have Respect for all of those constituencies as well and as well for yourself. Intelligence, personal development is something that all sales professionals need to take ownership in, you’ve got to sharpen your skills, you’ve got to sharpen the razor blade, you’ve got to become smarter, you’ve got to become better, you’ve got to become faster so that requires some investment in yourself. Don’t leave it up to your boss, don’t leave it up to your company, don’t leave it up to the manufacturer, don’t leave it up to the distributor, don’t leave it up to the customer to tell you, “You know something? Your skills aren’t what we need so unfortunately we’re going to go with the other vendor.”
That’s the call that you don’t want to get so be Intelligent, invest in yourself. Second I is Intensity, got to be intense, D is Desire and E is Enthusiasm. You might say Intensity, Desire and Enthusiasm are synonyms and I guess that could be true, however I think there’s some differentiation between those three. Be Positive, have Respect, be Intelligent, increase your intelligence, be Intense with what it is that you do, you’ve got to have a burning desire to make it happen and please, just do everything with Enthusiasm. If you have PRIDE in your sales career, then I think the future will be bright for you.