Mike is a current Chair of a Vistage CEO Group in the New Hampshire/Maine area where he facilitates a group of 12 -16 small/midsize businesses in Northern New England helping them become better leaders, making better decisions and delivering better results.
Most of his career he was working in manufacturing companies in business development and then the last 15 years as President of Russell Athletic Team Sports, President of Yankee Candle, and most recently CEO of Challenger Turf. All made in the USA brands and businesses. Mike’s passions are: Family, Adoption and Foster Care (Chair – Elect for the NCFA, National Council for Adoption where we are the leading advocacy, education, and research source for adoption), Adventure events (Just finished the Ironman70.3 in Maine), being outdoors and around water. His Mission is to restore human dignity to unleash greatness in people. He is a transformer of people and organizations using Personal Trust Communities to accomplish this.
[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]
Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone! My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on the No Limits Selling Podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you, do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed, not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes, click on it to find out more. All right! Let's get started.
Umar Hameed 0:41
Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of the No Limits Selling Podcast. And today we have Mike Thorne with us today. Mike, welcome to the program.
Mike Thorne 0:49
Thank you, I'm really excited to be part of this and appreciate the opportunity.
Umar Hameed 0:54
Mike, what is a personal trust community.
Mike Thorne 0:57
So a personal trust community is those people in your life that are there for you at all, under all conditions. So think of it as you're on a trampoline, you're bouncing up down, having a great day very, very happy, then all sudden, you start getting close to the edge. And these people are moving the trampoline so you're always safe in the middle. And you build around the five pillars of your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual. So think of it this way there are people in everyone's life, who you wish you had a closer connection to them. And I don't think of this like it's a network, I believe these are the kinds of people in your life. I had a CEO tell me one time he I laid out the five strokes and he said, "Mike, I think what you're sharing with me is I have a very good friend of mine who is a college friend, we've known each other for 30 years, we go out and have dinner together, we laugh. He said he's actually an incredible intellectual. He's a great business leader," and he goes, "I've never been comfortable talking to him about my business at a detail level." And he said, I think what you're telling me is I need to have a trust community where I can share anything with him, he won't judge me. So trust [garbled], don't judge you, they're there to support you and help you but they also challenge you." And so that's a very unique way to think about the relationship building your life. And when you do that, I believe when you're going from where you are today, and you have this Northstar, you want to get to the head trash in the middle is where people get hung up, they were both reasons why they can't get there. If you have this trust community and these people across these five pillars, they'll help you get there along the way, and you can reach out to them whenever you need them. Those people are invaluable, and you got to build them over time. I have people that a spiritual leader of mine that I've known since fourth grade, my football coach from high school, people like this was in sales. And so I think if you stop and pause and think about who those people are in your life, and you have a deeper relationship with them, when you're having ups and downs in life, you have people to share that with it is enormously powerful. So as you're navigating on that trampoline, you always stay centered.
Umar Hameed 2:58
Oh, brilliant. You don't one of the interesting things is we have this obsession with the Marvel universe and all these superheroes. And once they have a movie or two, they go back to the origin story like how did Wolverine start? And one of the things I liked about your work is you're looking at the origin story of salespeople, why do you think that's important?
Mike Thorne 3:19
So part of it is my own experience. I had a lived experience I was put up for adoption. So I struggle with abandonment and trust issues. And I think if I understood that better at a younger age, and other people did, I probably could have developed much more aggressively. The second thing is I think salespeople in general come from all different types of backgrounds. And if we don't know where they started, where they came from their own experience, their own stories, I think we miss out on how to help them grow and develop.
Umar Hameed 3:45
So can you give me a specific example, you may change names to protect the innocent of a particular salesperson you were helping and then what problem you discovered and how you uncovered the origin story and how that helped them transcend the issue.
Mike Thorne 3:59
So I had somebody who came to us he had been working for the company, and he was interviewing for a very, very important sales leadership role in our biggest division. And I wasn't comfortable that he was ready for that role. And so I go down this path of just ask him to share his story and what I found out was he was one of four or five kids. Brothers are much, much older, his dad passed when he was young, he had no father figure. So we struggled, not having that person that he could aspire to be, and he found out that that was really holding him back quite a bit. And he saw me as someone that could be that person for him. And so we ended up going down a path or a few months working together and understanding that what was holding him back and he went from someone who would fight me to deliver the quarterly results, financial results of the business to someone who I knew well enough. I knew he was a big Tom Brady fan. I just really had a knock on his door and say, "Buddy, it's Brady time." And he said to me after work me for seven years and, "Mike, we used to settle for field goals before you came here," he said, "No, we go for touchdowns."
Umar Hameed 5:08
Nice. One of the issues is, a lot of times, salespeople or just general folks, a don't know what the pivotal issue was that got them to this spot, and also sometimes they don't even realize it's a problem.
Mike Thorne 5:23
Umar Hameed 5:23
And it takes someone that they trust to get them to actually see what's really going on.
Mike Thorne 5:29
Right. You have to you have to ask people. So I always ask people a simple question, I said just tell me your story and that can be three to five minutes. And in that timeframe, you're going to learn an awful lot about somebody. And if they feel that they trust you, you're asking a genuinely they're going to give you a real good picture of where they're coming from what might have happened that might be holding them back or some of the fears they might have. And I think that's a place that isn't always comfortable for leaders to have those kinds of discussions are afraid, not skilled in that area. Just an area that my experience is when you do that you open up opportunities, like you can't believe for people.
Umar Hameed 6:03
Absolutely, I think a lot of leaders would be like, I don't know shit about what happened in the past I'm just worried about now, and the reality is the past defines now for them and how they see the world. And that's why I think really leadership is all about belief management, the beliefs of the organization, we call that culture, beliefs of the individual people, and our own beliefs and what we believe we're capable of and not capable of, I think that's one of the elements that's missing from the curriculum on how to be a CEO.
Mike Thorne 6:32
I agree. So I believe everybody goes through a three phase process and every transformation their life, it's you decide where you belong. I don't know if you've experienced this, but whether you're going from high school, to college, getting married new jobs, having kids, you always wonder whether you belong,
Umar Hameed 6:49
Mike Thorne 6:49
And then once you feel like you belong, then you build up your confidence and you believe, and to me, the faster you go through that transition process, the faster you're going to be successful in those transformations that you make in your life. But in order to go through all that you need to understand yourself, if you don't understand yourself, and what's who you are, then boy, you're going to really struggle. And I think that's hard for leaders to take the time to go do that because they're so focused on the operations and financial results of the business when reality is people's where the differences and and company.
Umar Hameed 7:19
Absolutely. I think you know that old adage, know thyself wasn't like just a greeting card. It's essential to becoming who you were always meant to be. Because if you don't know that, you're lost. A manager a long time ago had said, "Do you know what they call it when you don't know where you are?" I said, "Ah." What being lost is that if you don't know, that doesn't matter if you know, Paris is here. But if you don't know where you are, it doesn't do you any good. And so I just getting a real foundation on, this is Umar, this what defines Umar, gives me the ability to move forward in any direction that I choose.
Mike Thorne 7:52
I think especially in sales, you have a lot of people that. So like I said, people who are in accounting or manufacturing have a certain skill set and it pretty typically very similar, but salespeople can come from all different types of backgrounds. And if you don't understand where they're coming from, you can really derail or misdirect somebody and sales, they can get pretty because they're out in Ireland a lot of time.
Umar Hameed 8:16
Absolutely. Part of it is like, you know, the myth of the salesperson, the myth of the salesperson is, "Hey, Mike, you don't understand, I don't need this CRM, but you want me to fill in the CRM and you want me to sell and you know, I do things my way," and what we need to realize is, you know, sales, really, a lot of it is science. If you can lock down a process that's followed diligently, you can figure out where the shortcomings are, and fix them. If everybody's doing what they want to do, there's no way of knowing what works, what doesn't.
Mike Thorne 8:46
I think there's a basic framework. So I always have this belief that, you know, if you have a dog, and you put your dog in the backyard, it'll be fine with a fence back there. But if you have a horse, which I like, and salespeople are like horses, they need to roam. If you put a horse in the backyard or trying to bring the horse in the house, they're gonna get pretty frustrated. So I think you need to build a guardrails, like you would for horse, let them roam quite a bit. I had a salesperson years ago, who was a relationship driven salesperson drove me crazy. I'm more process driven, more analytical, and so on, and we struggled at first. But what we both learned was the outcome is we got to get to the same place at the end of the two of us work together. After a year working for me, he called me and he said, "Mike, [garbled] a time, I never thought the two of us would work well together but we're actually a great team." It took both of us to sacrifice a little bit of what we were thinking was right way to do it. At the end of the day, we know what the outcome had to be for both of us. And it was a very valuable lesson for me as a sales leader.
Umar Hameed 9:42
Absolutely. My wife and I, I'm very much a hey, let's go do that and execute first and execute quick and she was a very, very kind of detailed person. It's like, "Hold on sailor, we need to build this infrastructure to go do that," and if we let her run everything, we wouldn't get anything new accomplished. And if you let me run everything, everything would be a failure, and just adding those two elements together, made a really good team. And that's what it sounds like you did for your salesperson, I think that's one of the things sales managers have to do is very much, not one size fits all, it's like, okay, how can I connect with each one of the salespeople, there's a process in place, we need to follow it, but how can I work with them to get them to want to do that?
Mike Thorne 10:26
Right. I think once you understand the story of the person, and then I believe you've got to, there's a company called Predictive index.
Umar Hameed 10:37
Mike Thorne 10:37
It's a scientific way of infamy that I'm certified in that and I really found that years ago to be a great way to sort of understand how everyone's hardwired. So if you have everyone has a briefcase, which is their background, their experiences, then they're hardwired to be behaving this way. And then you got to figure out what inspires them. And when you put those three things together, and you got to spend time on it, you can really start to move people from compliance, to really committed to the organization. Big difference.
Umar Hameed 11:06
Absolutely. And I think one of the things that we really need to do is to, you know, how do we get people to put the organization first and themselves second, which is a hard thing to do, because we're almost like hot wire to, "Look at me, I did the steal. And it's all about me and my ego," and sometimes I might say, "Well, a little people help, too." But when you get people that are truly committed to how do we win as organization, it just changes the dynamics and also add speed to the organization, because all that office politics, all that friction just disappears. And it's all about how do we outpace the competition and how do we win?
Mike Thorne 11:40
You had a young lady who was in sales Kennedy, one time she had an issue that we were dealing with, and she came my office, and she said before I get to my issue, she goes, "I just want you to know that I don't always agree with your decisions," which I thought, okay, here we go. But what she said was, "I always respect as does the sales team, that you walk us through, what the situation is, what the options that were considered, who are the people that were involved in trying to navigate it," she said, "We understand the other day, somebody has to make the decision. " And so we have a lot of respect for the fact that you take the time to explain what's going on, what the options are, get people involved, and then make a choice. And that was a long time ago, I was like, wow, that is so powerful gets at what you're describing, which is people feel like, okay, I'm part of something bigger than myself. I understand why we're doing what we're doing. I think that's a big deal as a leader, especially in sales.
Umar Hameed 12:32
Absolutely. And I think every, every time you do something like that, Mike, you're training new leaders.
Mike Thorne 12:38
Umar Hameed 12:38
This easy to come up with the answer, we're doing this, which is doesn't add any value to the organization. But once you articulate this, in my thinking process, one of two things is going to happen. A is everyone goes, that's amazing, or B somebody might go, "Yeah, but how about this, but least a discussion at a higher level happens?" And I think,
Mike Thorne 12:57
Umar Hameed 12:57
that's, I'm not sure if you've heard this before. But I've heard this more often than I would like, it's like, well, I really don't want to share that information. Because I don't want to be indispensable. So if they know it, then why am I here, and it's like, then you don't belong here. If that's your attitude, you shouldn't be here in the first place.
Mike Thorne 13:13
Right. Now, it's very hard, especially as a young leader, if you have people on the call here, the young leaders is very hard to feel vulnerable. I struggle with that early on in my leadership, and it did stem from my own lived experience. But once I was around people, that helped me understand the power of being vulnerable, doesn't mean you have to share things that are real deep, dark issues in the business, because that could scare some people as a leader. But there's no doubt you get a lot more people that when they understand the bigger picture what's going on, the more chances are going to bring you new ideas to help you get through that. So it is hard for leader but it's really powerful when you become vulnerable and let people in inside of what's going on. Big deal.
Umar Hameed 13:51
Absolutely. I think in our culture, there's a sense that if you show that vulnerability, or the transparency, or I know what they are doing, that it's weakness, and the reality is no. If you've got the right team in place, people step up. And it's like, I think it's real strength to be able to do that.
Mike Thorne 14:08
The strength isn't asking questions more than having the answers all the time, I found that to be so true. Most of my career, the last 15 years has been going into businesses not as a subject matter expert, but helping reimagine the business. And so being able to ask the kinds of questions to draw people. The information out of people is very powerful, yet hard to do.
Umar Hameed 14:28
Yeah, I can't do this trick. But I was reading a book recently, it was actually a fiction book. But they described this one person in the book that they have the ability to resolve a complex issue, down to the question, or the element that was the driver. And they got rid of all the BS and just got right down to the heart of the matter. And that is, that's a hard trick to do.
Mike Thorne 14:50
Yeah, yeah. I think though, sometimes it's, we're leaders walk into a meeting and if they're typically the ones that are relatively new, they always want to walking with the answers because that's what they think they're supposed to be able to do. But more often than not, if you just listen to your team and start asking them questions, many times, the team will start to realize that their ideas, "Okay, that really doesn't make sense, I get it." And that's hard, because you're really sitting back and doing more questioning, then you are doing all the answering.
Umar Hameed 15:18
So Mike, you may not realize this, but I'm a genius. Many moons ago, I used to work for Hewlett Packard for a little while. And I was doing tech support. And sometimes I just asked a couple of questions. And they would go, "Oh," and they'd solve their own problem, I just gotten them in the ballpark. And for some reason, they thought I was a genius. And I had not solved their problem at all. But I agree, if you can help people get their own epiphanies. And sometimes it seems like people see like, it's a manipulation, but sometimes just asking questions, because you're curious too, and it gets them to kind of get that realization. One, it allows them to be better thinkers, better leaders, and then it also allows you to go, "Huh, who knew?" So it's one of my deepest values is learning new stuff and being curious. And I think if you can just do that for other people, A, lot of people don't feel heard, like most people are telling them their problems are telling them what to do. But if you're just curious, it allows people to, A, feel valued and B, be more valuable to the organization.
Mike Thorne 16:23
I took over my first time moving from selling in a territory to key accounts, I went to visit a customer of mine, and I had noticed it was at a show they were having in their, in their office. And I said to the guy said, "Hey, can you tell me which one of the people that are in this room do you admire the most so I can learn from them?" And he said, You want to talk to John over there?" And I said, "Why is that?" he goes, "Well, he sells me all the fishing and tackling product I have in my store." He said the guy doesn't know a damn thing about fishing and technique could even find a rod if he had to. But he knows my business inside and out and he knows what sells. That's the person I want you to talk to. And so it's a really eye opening experience, because you're so focused on what you're trying to sell in reality was it's more like getting on the side of the table with a customer and try understand where they're coming from where their pain points. That was a real valuable lesson very early on.
Umar Hameed 17:15
Yeah, that's brilliant. And I think oftentimes we're trained to be, you need to be smart, and if you don't know you pretend you do. And somehow that's going to work out and people that are totally brilliant are the ones that are learning. And if they don't know, they ask, and like you said, asking questions is a great way to get at the right answers.
Mike Thorne 17:36
Yeah, I had a customer's target as a matter of fact, years ago, the buyer was very difficult. And we chatted a while after and he said, listen, he goes, he goes, "I just want you to know something,"he said, "You are very smart, you know, your product line, know your company,you know the industry, knows what's going to sell," he said, "But what I'm looking for is for someone who even though I know you work for the company you work for because I want someone who I feel like is working on my behalf, on my business is on my side of the table" And he said, "You need to learn how to go do that, and you'll get more business because of it." I was 24 at the time, I was like a two by four hit me across the head but boy was that so helpful. And I grew my business after that, because I really had to rethink how I presented what we're doing and how I could be a solution orientated person versus selling him. It's a big difference.
Umar Hameed 18:23
So if we've got sales managers listing, or CEOs of small companies, what are the five things they need to be aware of and leading and managing a sales team?
Mike Thorne 18:34
I think the first one we touched on earlier is you got to understand where people are coming from. And that is number one on my mind without question. Number two is you got to be intellectually curious as a leader. And by that I mean, you've got to be understanding where people are throughout the journey. Because people are dealing with stuff in their personal lives that you don't always know what's going on. So the second thing is being intellectually curious, checking with people all the time, which is harder in today's environment, because you're out and about and you're working remotely in some cases, and many times salespeople always have been. The third thing is have a process in place where your team knows that there's going to be certain things have to be delivered on certain times. I think as much as we complain about that I believe salespeople do like to be held accountable, the good ones do anyway. And then number four is to celebrate the wins,
Umar Hameed 19:23
Mike Thorne 19:23
If you're always celebrating when things as little as they are to celebrate. And the last one is I would say is always debrief is there's a guy John Foley is great guy and he has a process. It's all about being grateful. And he always talks about the debriefing process, he was a pilot. And he talks about how at the end of every journey you debrief, and I think in sales, we don't always do a good job of that. And so after every event that takes place debrief, let's talk about what went well. Why do we think it went well, and create that safe environment for people to feel comfortable sharing and the learning that goes on in that debriefing process is for now So that's sort of the last thing. The fifth thing would be the debrief.
Umar Hameed 20:02
Nice. And I think a lot of companies do the debrief thing, but they do it for negative events, and it's not designed to uncover what happened is designed to actually punish the person. Whereas we got to do it on wins and losses with the intent of how do we do better, as opposed to who do we blame?
Mike Thorne 20:18
You got to you have to celebrate no matter how small things that happen, people need to know that there's some good things happen in the company. And I would say that the support staff a lot of times gets lost in the shuffle on the sales, celebrations and debriefing. I think the answers are inside the companies, you always got to make sure you're including people that are throughout the process in the company. And so celebrating that is really, really important. So debriefing, you're right, it sometimes be perceived as debriefing in a negative way. But it's really more about hey, let's just talk about what just happened. What can we learn from it? Everything's learning, life's a team sport, man.
Umar Hameed 20:53
Absolutely. And I think oftentimes, we take winning for granted. And there's lots of lessons there as well to repeat it and also teach it to other folks.
Mike Thorne 21:02
Umar Hameed 21:03
So Mike, one of the things, this is my personal theory, yeah. So I think we have two driving factors as human beings. One, we need to belong to a tribe,
Mike Thorne 21:12
Umar Hameed 21:12
Like, we want to belong to a group. And the second thing is we need to retain our individuality. And sometimes those things are at odds with each other. I had come across this study a long time ago, it was people looking at people joining conservative churches, only conservative people would join a conservative church. And they look at how conservative they are, and the church they joining. And what happened six months later. And what happened was that these people became a lot more conservative. If they join that church, they did the same thing, people that were quite liberal, joining liberal churches, that after six months, they became more liberal. And the justification, at least the way I read, it was in general society, I'm the conservative guy, that's part of my individuality. But if I join a conservative group, I lose that and the only way to retain it is to amp up my conservatism or liberalism, doesn't matter what it is. So how do you balanced that when it comes to sales and teams, the need to belong to a team and the need to be an individual? And how do we balance that to get the best performance for the organization as well as the individual?
Mike Thorne 22:17
So I'm on a mission to restore human dignity to unleash greatness and people, I just believe you've got to really understand where people are coming from. And a lot of times people don't feel like they belong, they try to fit in, and your ability to spend the time with somebody. And make sure you understand, you know, where they are coming from liberal, conservative, whatever their backgrounds are, whatever. And you respect that and honor that is really, really important. And I think when you do that people will come along with you. And they will accept the fact that everyone's got different points of view. As long as everyone respects each other. I really worry about the way we teach leadership in this country. It's a very win lose environment right now. And everyone's trying to step on each other. And I think getting others focused is really, really missing today. And the pillars of society that we look at religion being one of them, the Boy Scouts Olympics, have really destroyed the confidence of people when I talked to them about whether we really have a society that cares about others. So I think it all starts with this trust community that I call it a trust community, you call it a tribe. I believe it's personal trust communities, what I call it, that means you got to really spend time helping your key sales people build their own personal trust community.
Umar Hameed 23:34
Mike Thorne 23:36
So trust community is really around your, your personal well being let's put it that way. In this five pieces of in my mind, it's physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual. And helping people identify where they are today and where they want to get to and then building this personal trust in the middle, I think is essential. And that to me, is what will elevate leaders and bring the trust back to businesses and teams sales specialists.
Umar Hameed 24:05
Sounds brilliant. Mike, before we part company, a couple of questions for you. Number one, what is a mind hack that you know, that you use that allows you to be happier and more productive? Is there a tip you can give our viewers and listeners?
Mike Thorne 24:19
Yeah, I would go by the five minute journal. So very simple little book, and it's really helps you get up in the morning, you spend five minutes the morning, what are you grateful for? What are the things you want to happen today? And then at night, you do the same thing. And to me, instead of get the morning grabbing your phone, looking at your emails and worrying about what's going on. It gives you a very simple way to stop and pause. I think it's a very, very simple, powerful journal that I would highly recommend everyone take a look at,
Umar Hameed 24:48
Mike Thorne 24:49
Before you once you're up in the morning and then when you go to bed at night, it's really helpful.
Umar Hameed 24:53
So for you what are the three biggest challenges you have right now as you're growing your practice?
Mike Thorne 24:58
Well, number one is, is so Vistage is all about helping small and medium size CEOs and business owners. That's what we're all about. And the challenge is finding the kinds of people that are ready to be growing personally, professionally. Not every CEO is ready for that.
Umar Hameed 25:15
Mike Thorne 25:16
So that's, that's the first challenge I deal with as it relates to that. The second thing in terms of the practices, I'm in building out this idea of building a personal trust community, and I'm trying to get to a point where I can actually share that with some of the business leaders and as I do that, having them work through that concept was is very unique for them to go do that. And the third thing is to as you listen to leaders today, they're really, really struggling this Coronavirus continues to just happen.
Umar Hameed 25:44
Mike Thorne 25:45
And they're trying to work their way through and I'm trying to figure out what's the path going for? What's it gonna look like for me down the road. Because everyone sees the growth out there, but they all see all the hindrances along the way and trying to help them get those roadblocks out of the way is probably the third thing right now.
Umar Hameed 26:00
Brilliant. Mike, thanks so much for being on the show today, and I'm looking forward to our next conversation.
Mike Thorne 26:05
Thank you. Appreciate you having me on there. Good luck.
Umar Hameed 26:12
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.