EPISODE 121: Victor Furnells Shares Life Lessons He Learned as a Collegiate Wrestler that Have Shaped Him into a Sales Leader at Meyers Research
VICTOR’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Do self-analysis, look at your company, look at your product, look at yourself and look at your daily activity. Are you happy? Because again, I don’t see work-life balance being a seesaw, I see it being a circle and work bleeds into life and life bleeds into work. If you’re genuinely happy then continue going and don’t quit.”
Victor Furnells is the VP of Sales at Meyers Research.
Prior to going to Meyers, he was at Hargrove and OneSpring.
He was also a Director of Membership Sales at the Consumer Electronics Association.
Find Victor on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: You’re a VP of Sales at Meyers Research. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you sell today? Tell us what excites you about that.
Victor Furnells: Meyers Research is a market research data collector. We have an advisory firm but my direct responsibilities is selling market research data to industries in the housing industry – builders, private equity firms, mortgage companies, construction loan companies and even large building product manufacturers like Home Depot.
We collect and aggregate data from 6 different categories whether it be demographic, supply, sales, inventory and sales pace. We take that data and put it into a very succinct iPad app solution that makes it very easy for builders whether they be national builders like Beazer and Toll Brothers or a small builder like Williamsburgh Group in Annapolis to make very fast decisions on land purchases, and more importantly make fast decisions on pricing their homes effectively to maximize their sales velocity.
Fred Diamond: What excites you about that?
Victor Furnells: I think anyone that’s passionate and successful in sales is someone who likes to help people. I enjoy helping people and to me it’s a win-win. If I can generate a great income and a great lifestyle by helping other people succeed and increase their success, it’s just a win-win for me and that’s what excites me most about sales.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned that you were cutting lawns when you were a youngster, if you will. Tell us about how you first actually got into sales as a career.
Victor Furnells: I was working my way through college, former college athlete, I was in the gym longer than I should be. There came instances where people would come up to me and say, “Victor, can you give me a copy of your workout?”, “Can you give me a copy of your diet?” I finally caught myself going, “Wait a minute, why don’t I just start charging a nominal fee for that?” That actually turned into a personal training business that I did for a number of years. As a result, I paid off my student loans faster than ever expected and it really got me into the sales process, not just selling but also negotiating, working with people and listening to their exact needs because people come in different shapes and sizes and they have different health goals, athletic goals or body shape goals. I think that’s what really got me started into professional sales.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned you were a former college athlete, what did you play?
Victor Furnells: I wrestled in college. I played football in high school but if you know anything about wrestling it’s a very grueling sport, it’s not fun and part of the sport requires dieting in the worst time of the year. You have to miss Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, Christmas meals and you have to keep your weight down for about 4 to 5 months. That required an education in nutrition and dieting.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned? Maybe some of the lessons you learned from wrestling or maybe some of the lessons you learned from some of the first few sales jobs that you had that have stuck with you till today?
Victor Furnells: Lessons come from coaches, teachers, bosses and mentors. One of my first mentors was my high school wrestling coach. What he taught me was the ability to be disciplined and the three rules that I impose – and actually I still coach youth football and youth wrestling, so I impose those three rules that were given to me when I was in my team which is 100%, whistle to whistle and never ever quit. I just impart that to my players who range anywhere from 9 years old to 13 years old, going 100%, giving your best effort all the time. Whistle to whistle, apply yourself that 100% during your work hours or whatever else you do and never ever quit. In sales, 95% we’re going to get no’s and you just have to be disciplined and continue going after those 5% yes’s.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little more about you specifically. Tell us what you are an expert in. Tell us about your area of brilliance.
Victor Furnells: Again, it’s hard to brag about oneself but I think the best qualities that I can bring to my athletes and my direct reports is mentoring them and coaching them and giving them a positive mental attitude. I don’t think anybody wakes up or grows up and being asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I think very few people say, “I want to be in sales.” What I impart to my students and my players and my direct reports is find a passion, be disciplined. Mentoring them and giving them that positive mental attitude even when you’re not having such a good day, there’s still that silver lining in those clouds.
Fred Diamond: Be disciplined. Tell us a little more about what some of the specific things you may impart upon the people who work for you or for your team about how to be more disciplined.
Victor Furnells: There’s an old saying and I certainly didn’t make this up myself, I know I read it somewhere, but one of the terms that I use is that there’s two pains in life: regret and discipline. Where discipline weighs ounces every single day, regret weighs tons for the rest of your life. If you develop a plan and what I call turning mountains into moll hills, developing daily goals that you can achieve at the end of the day is something that’s really worked well for me. To this day, I exercise it every day and I think it’s worked very well for my players and my direct reports and most of the people that I work with.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned your first wrestling coach about how he was a mentor, were there any other impactful sales career mentors? If so, how did they impact your career?
Victor Furnells: Absolutely. Getting out of personal training, I didn’t see that being a long term career. I wanted to take that education and knowledge about athletics and sports and join an organization that was conducive to that. I actually ended up working for the American Alliance for Health and Physical Education, a nonprofit association. I was able to exercise those talents and better hone my sales skills.
From that, I moved onto another association called NAIOP, N-A-I-O-P which is the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties. The executive vice president, Tom Bisacquino, probably the most influential mentor of mine, he actually taught me what I called professionalism. Being empathetic, being able to listen and understand, not overselling and not underselling. In today’s day and age everybody’s going to work in Polo shirts and jeans but Tom was all about a suit and tie every single day. I still carry that practice on a daily basis.
Fred Diamond: We actually did a previous podcast interview with Christopher Ware. He’s currently the VP of business development over at NAIOP, he was one of our previous episodes and actually did a fantastic job on the podcast. Victor, what are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Victor Furnells: I think it’s rejection. Again, in sales you’re going to get no’s 95% of the time and the unfortunate thing about that is that you have to be diligent and without daily goals, those rejections are going to weigh heavy on you. You just have to be completely positive about yourself in moving forward. The other one is fear of failing, everyone is scared to fail but if you’re scared to fail that means you’re going to pigeonhole yourself in a certain radius, it’s not really going to allow you to meet the goals that you want to meet.
Fred Diamond: I want to ask you on that, on the rejection and the fear of failure. Again, you had wrestled in college, can you tell us something about wrestling for the Sales Game Changers listening to today’s podcast and how being on the mat and getting to the next level and trying to win your match, how has that helped you as a sales leader?
Victor Furnells: Fred, that’s a very good question. Wrestling is a team sport so when every wrestler goes out and wrestles their individual opponent, if you win by pin you get a certain number of points. If you win by majority score, you get less points. What I was taught through my high school and my college coaches was you have to be a team player, you have to wrestle to the very best of your ability. I think what wrestling taught me is you’re out there all by yourself and when you win and the referee raises your hand for the victory, you take all that credit but when you lose, it can be humiliating at times.
It also allows you to think about the negative and twist it, and turn it into a positive. I’ve come up with this statement, I’m sure someone else has done as well: stop looking at the starting line and start looking at the finish line. You can’t control what’s behind you or what’s under your feet immediately behind you, but if you focus on the finish line no matter what happened yesterday or a month ago, you’ll be able to run faster, focus on a specific goal and meet that goal.
Fred Diamond: That’s one of the components of Stephen Covey’s book, is starting with the end in mind. How did you do that in wrestling? What is it, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes a typical match?
Victor Furnells: Depending on the level of wrestling whether it be high school college or junior college, it can be a 6 minute match, 3 periods, 2 minutes long and those 2 minutes it’s nonstop effort. 100% to maximum effort and you’re literally using almost every muscle in your body for those 2 minutes, and that 30 second period between matches, it can be extremely exhausting sometimes.
Fred Diamond: I’ve got a quick question about wrestling, is there a network of wrestlers? Have you continued to maintain that type of a network in your business development efforts?
Victor Furnells: Absolutely. It’s a small family of wrestlers, again on a football team you have 45, 50, 60 football players in college. In wrestling you’ve got about a dozen or two and I’ve maintained friendships with wrestlers from the teams that I wrestled at and what’s most gratifying for me are the kids that I’ve taught in the last 13 to 14 years. Now some of them are in college wrestling, some of them are playing football and wrestling is a very great compliment to the sport of football as well. Very small network, and yes I have maintained those relationships.
Fred Diamond: Very good. One thing that we hear sometimes on the Sales Game Changers podcast is maybe a unique hobby or something that the person has as a personal thing that they really enjoy doing and how they’ve built business development networks from seemingly obscure type things.
Victor Furnells: That’s one of the examples that I use as well, I think my coaching as well as being coached as an athlete, I’ve incorporated into my sales strategies because it is a competition. The other thing I wanted to add with regards to challenges, I keep hearing this term work-life balance and to me, the visual connotation that most people have on a work-life balance is a seesaw where it connotes some sense of opposition between the two. I don’t see it as a seesaw, I see it more as a circle. One of the things that I would recommend for a new salesperson is find your passion, find a company that you’re excited about, find a product that you’re excited about and third but certainly not least, really interview the company supervisor. Who will be your manager? Because they might be the greatest mentors that you might have.
Fred Diamond: I don’t really ask this question, but since you brought it up and dealing with rejection and understanding the company, as a sales leader you’ve worked for a bunch of different places. Obviously not every company you’re going to work for is going to be at the top of its game. Maybe you come somewhere where the industry’s had some problems or some management problems, but hopefully to have a great sales career you’ve been at some great companies or some very successful companies along the way. What do you tell people if they’re at a place that isn’t really performing? Maybe the industry is having some challenges, maybe something’s happened, regulatory or something like that.
Victor Furnells: First and foremost, you need to look in the mirror first. Are you delivering those three rules? 100%, whistle to whistle, never quit. Regardless of whatever company it may be, whether it’s Google or Netflix or General Motors, there will be some people that you don’t necessarily agree with 100%. There might be some processes that you don’t necessarily agree with. If it’s impacting your life at home, then start possibly reconsidering something else or dig your heels in the sand and strategically speak with your supervisors and come up with solutions. If you see a challenge, come up with some solutions as opposed to just sitting back and riding the tide.
Fred Diamond: Take us back to the #1 sale success or win from your career that you’re most proud of.
Victor Furnells: This one is still clear in my mind, in my heart. I was working with Meyers Research, back then it was Meyers Group so this is my second go-around with Jeff Meyers, our president who is another great mentor. My job as a national sales person for the Meyers Group was to get in front of federal government entities and I had pitched to Fannie Mae an opportunity to subscribe to our national data. This was prior to the recession in 2008 and there was management turnover three times during my sales cycle with them. I had to represent this national agreement to three different supervisors, but their direct reports were still the same people.
The challenge was what can I bring and show something new and exciting to the folks who have been looking at this solution over the course of a year and a half and how can I impress that new supervisor? After the third stint, they finally decided to move forward and this was a result of teamwork, it was my research analyst updating the data making sure that it was spot on. It was my salespeople who were giving me the latest and greatest information on the economy, the demographics. Through a team, we were able to secure that deal but again three times around and ink finally came to paper.
Fred Diamond: That’s an interesting story, a lot of times you’ll be working on a long deal. We’ve interviewed some people on the Sales Game Changers podcast that have sales processes that can go years, sometimes 1, 2, 3, 5 years, especially if you’re selling to the government or to large enterprises like most of our guests do. Interestingly, you’ve just told us about this deal you were selling to Fannie Mae and management shifted three times. After the first group had departed – for whatever the reasons were – you very easily could have said, “The deal’s gone. I’ve been spending all this time and energy” but then you had to dig in and then you had to go to the second round. You’ve talked about some of the things you’ve done along the way, you’ve talked about 100%, whistle to whistle, never quit. Was that mentality that kept you going or how did you keep yourself mentally strong? Fannie Mae obviously is a large enterprise with a big budget. How did you stay strong and mentally tough to take it down three times around?
Victor Furnells: Fred, I think that came from the conviction I have in our product and the conviction I have in our company. I knew that the data that we were presenting to Fannie Mae would make them more intelligent and provide better mortgage opportunities for consumers. Having that “never quit” mindset, it could have been easy for me to just walk away and say, “Another day, another time, another company” but I was so convinced that our data was going to improve their services to the consumers throughout the country that I refused to give up.
Fred Diamond: Victor, did you ever question being in sales? Was there ever a moment where you thought to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s just not for me”?
Victor Furnells: Fred, that thought pops in my head on occasions when I’m having a bad day or a bad week or my team didn’t make quota for the month, but to me that’s a sense of quitting. The only reason that I would entertain moving to another opportunity is if it was negatively impacting my overall life balance. When I hire and interview people there’s one question specific that I ask them: what are the most important things in your life? Before that candidate gives me an answer, I answer that for them on my part. For me, my answer is the three most important things of my life are faith, family and friends. What comes in a very close fourth is finance, which is business development, earning enough money to take care of my family, support my friends and continue on with my faith. That’s been a driving force for me and it’s allowed me the discipline and the ability to dig my heels in choosing the right battles at the right time.
Fred Diamond: Victor, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the thousands of junior sales professionals listening to today’s podcast to help them improve their sales career?
Victor Furnells: Fred, I have two, I’ve already mentioned one. When you’re getting started in your sales career, be passionate about the company that you’re exploring. Remember, when you’re interviewing with a company it’s a two way street, you’re actually interviewing them as well. Find companies that you’re excited about. If you are a car guy, look for an industry that deals with cars whether it be the automotive industry or Carfax.com or something like that. Find a job that you find exciting, if it’s not business development or sales, find something in research or account management and just as important, make sure that you’re interviewing your immediate supervisor. Ask him what his management style is, there has to be a cultural balance and a cultural symbiotic thumbs up between the two of you for you to be successful.
Then the other thing I’d like to add is there’s something that I’ve mentioned earlier called making mountains into mole hills. I’ll give you an example and it’ll be a little detailed but if anyone wants to contact me, I’ll give you my contact information later. Let’s say for example you’ve just got a new job, you’ve been given a quota for the year of $500,000 dollars so you’re sitting there going, “How am I going to achieve a $500,000 quota in a period of 12 months?
Reverse engineer the goal from that mountainous goal of $500 thousand dollars into daily achievable goals. I actually wrote this down because it’s a little complex but I’ll take you through it. Your annual quota is $500 thousand dollars, if the average deal during that period is $25 thousand dollars you do the math very quickly and you realize that you need to close 20 deals to meet the $500 thousand dollar quota. If your win ratio is 1 to 3, every time you send a proposal you close one deal then you have to propose 60 opportunities or 60 proposals. Then incorporate that win ratio again, how many meetings do you have to conduct in order to submit 60 proposals, let’s say your win ratio is 1 to 3, so that’s 180 meetings and then again you continue going on.
To get 180 meetings, you have to identify 5 times as many contacts so 180 times 5 comes out to 900 contacts, and if it takes 1 to 5 ratio of calls, then you’re looking at 4500 calls throughout the year. That sounds like an enormous job, however let’s break it down even further. 4500 calls over the 50 weeks – again, two weeks for vacation – you’re looking at 250 days, it really boils down to 18 calls a day. Those 18 calls a day, if you spend 8 minutes on every call preparing, leaving a cold call, having a conversation, you’re looking at a daily investment of 2 hours and 24 minutes.
The best part about this and again, remember Fred that we get more no’s than we do yes’s. If you take $500,000, divide it by 4500 calls, every call you make – regardless of whether they tell you to pound sand or they say, “Yes, let’s meet” – is worth $111 dollars. You’re changing the mindset of a salesperson who’s doing a lot of cold calling. When they do call, even if someone tells you to pound salt, you hang up and you have a positive mindset going, “I just got $111 dollars closer to my $500,000 goal.”
Fred Diamond: Victor, what are some of the things you do to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Victor Furnells: Self-analysis. At the end of the day I literally look in the mirror for just a couple of seconds and I ask myself, “Did you have a good day? Was there something that you could have done better to improve your day?” You can’t lie to yourself, so very quickly take an index card and write down how you can make this better the following day. Self-analysis on a daily basis, again I impart that to my team as well and I think it works.
Fred Diamond: What’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Victor Furnells: Continuing to motivate my team and listening to them as well. The opportunity to give them autonomy, to make hard decisions and giving them that flexibility. As a matter of fact, with my team I actually have what I call a playbook meeting and some sports teams call it “players only”. It’s a mandate for them to have a biweekly playbook meeting without me as part of the meeting. What they come back to me are any initiatives that they feel that need to be corrected sometimes critiquing me as a manager. It’s hard to swallow sometimes, but again you have to be humble and be open to suggestions from anyone.
Fred Diamond: Sales is hard, people don’t return your phone calls, we actually just talked about that with your exercise a few seconds ago. People don’t return your phone calls or your emails. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Victor Furnells: Again, it’s helping people, Fred. If you have the passion and you’re convinced that your product is the best product out there to increase their sales, increase their productivity, increase their success, it’s a lot easier to be diligent and disciplined, to keep going after that person that keeps telling you no. Sometimes I have a call that’s called “going negative” and I’ll call a client who won’t return my calls for months and say, “Hey Fred, it’s Victor calling. I know you won’t take my calls but just one last time, if you give me 5 to 10 minutes of your time I promise you it’ll be worth your while.” Sometimes it does incorporate a proactive response.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you give us one final thought to inspire the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe today?
Victor Furnells: I’m going to sound like a broken record here, self-analysis, look at your company, look at your product, look at yourself and look at your daily activity. Are you happy? Because again, I don’t see work-life balance being a seesaw, I see it being a circle and work bleeds into life and life bleeds into work. If you’re genuinely happy then continue going and don’t quit.