Sunday, June 11, 2017

How to "Break In" to the Outdoor, Firearm, Hunting and Fishing Industry

I certainly don't know how other people did it, and, with my experiences with some, even WHY they are still here. 

 I will never forget my first serious attempts to "get in" to the outdoor, hunting, and firearms world.

 I had been the victim of the massive layoffs that hammered the pharmaceutical industry back in the early 2000's and was located in a rural area with not many other options. I had met several traveling "reps" that sold things like hunting gear, fishing rods, etc.   and thought that as long as I was going to sell something, why couldn't I sell something that I really liked?
 As with most things that I do, I jumped in not only with both feet, but with a "Ready, Fire, Aim" mentality and MASSIVE action-taking including flying out to Las Vegas on my own dime and attending  my very first SHOT Show.
 I spent a TON of money (in the realm of several thousand dollars) on drinks, dinners, and taxis-and made a large number of contacts.
 I got some very good leads, chased down every single one of them, and basically went "one for 30."
The one?
 A position as a "pro staffer" for a large rep group in the industry.
 Things were a little different then as companies all paid pro staff a significant daily rate plus expenses and, usually, some gear as a "bonus." Because of this, they had high expectations and expected sales from their people. 
 I went after it with zeal and enthusiasm as well as implementing numerous different sales processes and skills.
I developed an inventory tracking sheet and customer questionnaire that is still being used in a revised for almost a decade later. 

 I thought that this would be a great "entry point" to being further along in the industry.
  I was wrong.
 Most of what I found was more opportunities to work events as a "pro staffer." No full time gigs. 
So... I build a business around prostaffing- and it went from there. 

 By the time I decided to "go it alone" and build my own "niche" in the outdoor business, I had interviewed with approximately a dozen different companies while submitting my resume to sixty or seventy.
For the right opportunity, I will still entertain a conversation and I have even interviewed several times again over the past several years.
 Several of those interviews stand out clearly in my mind if only for their unbelievable attitude towards experience and value.
Needless to say, it wasn't what I expected. 
 The first was for a sales position with a rather large retailer of apparel that crosses several markets in the outdoor and sporting goods industry.
 I made it to the "final" interview only to lose to what turned out to be a much less experienced person that had worked in a retail store and then sold for a small rep group for several years.
 I reached out to the hiring manager who was very amicable and asked him why they had chosen the other candidate and what I could do to further my chances for the next time.

His answer was rather shocking.

He said simply that "while we were impressed with your sales skills, your sales accomplishments, awards, and your personality and affect, you didn't have any experience selling apparel."

Ace Luciano has won dozens of sales awards from numerous companies ranking in the top of every sales force he has ever been in. #1 out of over 1300, # 2 out of 3300, and MORE. Wouldn't you want this type of performer for YOUR company?
Ace has won awards, smashed and set sales records for numerous Fortune 25 companies.  
 Big mistake, and probably for the best for me, anyway. 

At this time, I had worked for three different Fortune 10 to Fortune 50-level companies, winning numerous presidents club and other incentive awards, selling everything from marketing and advertising (and coming into that position with zero experience and going to the number one representative out over 1300+)  to life saving medications to advanced external defibrillators and resuscitation medical devices – pieces of equipment that, literally, were used to stop and start  peoples heartbeats after heart failure and/or cardiovascular surgical procedures. 
 I think I might have been able to figure out how to sell some jackets, shirts, and pants to retail store owners and management, don't you?
Ace Luciano has attended over 100 seminars and sales and marketing courses, including a "Mastery" level certification.
Ace Luciano has attended over 100 seminars on success, sales, marketing, and public speaking. This one included a day of "face time" with noted speaker Les Brown. 
Never one to sit idle, over the past decade I have also partnered with and received training from leading marketing experts and speakers like Dan Kennedy, Les Brown, Tony Robbins, and Steve Sipress, attained a "Mastery Certification" from SSS Marketing University, and built a network in the Hunting and Firearms industry numbering in the tens of thousands. Finally, in the last several years I have written two Amazon best-sellers in their category. 

I advise that if you are looking for opportunities of any kind, you do the same. 

Certification courses are readily available, online, full of useful skills, and will help you to attain an "expert level proficiency" in numerous things in a reasonably short time. 
That being said...
A few years ago, I had another experience with an employer that did what seems to have become a typical thing in the outdoor world...

They hired for "cheap" rather than "value."

 What do I mean by that?
 The company was clearly interested in working with me as they proactively reached out, contacted, recruited, interviewed, and maintained their interest over the course of 8 or ten weeks. They then  brought up a discussion regarding compensation and, specifically what I thought the job should be worth. .
 This is always a touchy one.

 You see, I am of the opinion that, regardless of your business (and your hunting equipment) you should always go with the best that you can possibly afford, plus some- because  something so very important is usually not glaringly apparent until you really, really need it.
 Think of a lower priced rifle scope with a "lifetime guarantee" and ""free replacement" that fails on top of a mountain during the sheep hunt  or even on a deer hunt in your back 40 where you can't see the big buck you've been waiting all season for as he steps out for 15 seconds at last light... 
 Yes it was less "expensive."  
Yes, you will get another scope for free- but that isn't worth anything to you sitting on the side of the mountain trying to pick off a rocky mountain bighorn that, in many places, is a "once in a lifetime" tag.
They were seeking over a million dollars worth of sales responsibility from me- but they only wanted to pay for $250,000.00 worth (and, by the way, if you ever want to absolutely GUARANTEE your salespeople won't sell anything, then don't pay them a lot of money or, worse, "cap" their earnings) 
 Suffice it to say, we were a significant amount of money apart in what we thought the position was worth and they were not open to a "performance based model"- so they wound up hiring the "other guy."

 Then, when he burned out, they hired "another guy."

And, less than a year later, they hired "another guy," Who also became noticeably absent from company communications and emails less than one year later.

 Did that company "save money?"

What do you suppose it cost them to interview and hire three new people in less than two years?

What do you suppose the business cost is having those relationships that are so hard to build "interrupted" three times in less than three years?
 What do you suppose the difference might've been with a high-level professional that is used to closing deals in the 6-to-7-figure levels in that position instead of someone who had sold " outdoor related products" for a pittance?

They, and we, will now never know.

Finally, and one that really surprised me, was the company that had churned through several of my acquaintances in 18 months whose recruiter called me and asked if I would be interested in the position for, not only a pay cut from my current compensation but SIGNIFICANTLY less money than either of them had made over the last 3 years!

 The lesson to take away is that getting "in the door" in the outdoor industry is not easy, and you need not only a plan of action, but a standard that you are willing to accept to get there. 
How often does this come up every day in your life or business?
 Do you buy the "cheap option," when a proven, high-quality option is available for not that much more in your gear? Your employees? Your business? 
 Do you "spray and pray" with your marketing and advertising, hoping that some of it works the way you want it to  because you want to "do it yourself?"

 It's a hard lesson on both sides of the equation sometimes- One that it pays to learn early.

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