The Million Dollar Question
Greg Muzzillo is in the business of making millionaires. And after turning $200 into a $430 million-plus organization, the founder of Cleveland-based Proforma has decided to spill his secrets.
Earlier this year, Muzzillo launched Million Dollar University (www.MillionDollarUniversity.com), an online resource for those looking to “create wealth” in the print and promotional products industry. Along with Muzzillo, top industry influencers share advice in guest articles and videos.
“We started Million Dollar University because Proforma is the only organization in our industry that is run by a person [who] founded and built a multi-million dollar distributorship and helped over 100 of its members achieve million dollar status,” Muzzillo noted. “[...] Our Million Dollar University is positioned to help others, whether from our industry or not, to learn how to have a million-dollar mindset.”
Proforma’s Million Dollar University is the latest bullet point on a long list of wealth-building tools. If success is measured in numbers, it’s safe to assume that Proforma franchise owners have been using this support for years. Muzzillo responded with the Million Dollar Club in 1990 to recognize owners who reached $1 million in sales.
The money didn’t stop there. Approximately 13 years later, the Multi-Million Dollar Club was formed to celebrate owners generating $2 million or more in sales during a calendar year. Currently, the Million Dollar Club consists of 122 members, 40 of which are members of the Multi-Million Dollar Club. That’s a lot of dollar signs to be exact.
So, what separates the mediocre from the million-dollar producers? Print+Promo turned to the experts. Read on to learn what drives Muzzillo and some of his top earners as they expand on their thought process.
BELIEVE AND RECEIVE
Muzzillo’s business mantra is simple: Dream big to win big. In fact, that is the most valuable lesson he wants Million Dollar University graduates to grasp. “We want people to know what’s possible,” he said. “Achieving begins with believing and we want people to believe in what they can achieve.”
Muzzillo pointed out that dreaming big is a skill of visualization—something perfected by professional athletes.
“Golfers visualize their strokes. Baseball players visualize hitting the ball. Basketball players visualize making the shot,” he explained. “Einstein said that there’s no significant difference between that which is visually imagined and actually perceived. When we see ourselves accomplishing a goal it makes it that much easier to accomplish it.”
Setting goals has worked well for Brandon Kennedy, president/owner of Proforma Progressive Marketing, located in Bakersfield, Calif. “I try and set short-term goals (one to three months out) and my long-term goals are no more than two years out, at most usually one year,” he said. “Every goal I set is realistic and achievable with a ‘kicker’ of a slightly larger ‘wow goal,’ which would be cool to hit—like a bonus goal.”
Kennedy is modest. He has already hit several “wow goals” since launching his franchise in March 2004. It only took him three years to achieve million-dollar status. And with the help of an acquisition, he broke into the Multi-Million Dollar Club in 2012. Perhaps his proudest career achievement, however, was being nominated for the Inc. 5000 list.
“When I started with Proforma, I remember other owners being on [the list] and thinking that would be cool,” Kennedy recalled. “The economy in 2009 set me back two years on that goal, but I finally made it.”
Not every salesperson is wired with a “goal-centric” mentality. Sometimes, open communication with prospects and existing customers is all it takes. Just ask Brad Klingman, owner of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota-based Proforma Powerhouse Solutions. The Multi-Million Dollar Club member isn’t against goals, but admits that’s not what drives him.
“I’m not a big goals guy, and never have been. [...] I don’t say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do $5 million this year,’ because I’m not in control of that. I set the goal to be out doing what I do best, and that’s communicating with people and networking—just being out there,” Klingman commented.
Whether or not structured goals are a part of your business strategy, look for opportunities in all situations. According to Andy Mealor, president of Proforma Ascension Marketing Group, Macon, Ga., big breaks can happen at any time—even when vacationing.
On a recent getaway, the Million Dollar Club member bumped into an old college friend, who now runs a sizable company on the east coast. Their conversation inevitably turned to business, and through this chance meeting, Mealor was offered an introduction to his former classmate’s marketing team.
“Always be looking for opportunities because they are around every corner, whether you’re out to dinner with your family, or at a birthday party with your kids on a Saturday,” Mealor remarked. “There are people there that you can engage in conversation, that buy your products.”
Cultivating trust through confidence is another way to win business. Or as Kennedy put it, “mindset (i.e., how you view situations) and people skills.”
“You have to read people on the spot and understand needs and wants, and position yourself as an expert in your field,” Kennedy instructed. “The clients have to trust you, so you can’t be the slick salesperson either with scripts, etc. ... balance.”
Klingman believes trust comes from treating people right, starting with your internal staff. “I used to think that I should only treat clients right, but then I learned how important it is to respect not just clients, but suppliers and the people at my corporation,” he said. “Someone who [lacks] integrity and a love for people, in my opinion, is not successful—whether they have a big book of business or not.”
Klingman confessed to making some mistakes early in his sales career. “I’d do anything for a customer, but if you were working for me for our customer, you better get ’er done or you were in trouble,” he mentioned. “I wasn’t a jerk, but at the same time, I had a double standard there.
“In sales, and especially being in the distributor business, we’re middle people, which means that we get in the middle of communications and relationships,” Klingman continued. “We [have to be able to] manage both ends of those relationships well, and treat people—on all fronts—with the love and respect they deserve.”
None of these four million dollar-plus salespeople generated revenue from behind their desks. A typical day in the office means being out of the office. “The best advice for folks that need to drive their sales is get rid of the chair behind your desk. There’s no money behind your desk, only in front of prospects,” Muzzillo stressed. “Make it more painful to be at your desk than out selling.”
Mealor estimated that 95 percent of his time is spent on the road. Because his clients are mostly local, Mealor is able to make approximately 50 stops per week. Since time is limited, “seeing customers” doesn’t necessarily translate to hour-long visits.
“This could mean dropping something off, picking something up, calling on [clients],” Mealor explained.
Muzzillo cited call reluctance as one of the most common mistakes made by business owners and sales representatives.
“They are postponing success because of the fear of hearing ‘no.’ It sounds kind of silly when you say it that way, but it’s true,” he observed. “Most folks I have met in this industry will never achieve their full potential because of call reluctance.”
Mealor isn’t easily intimidated. Instead, he chooses to concentrate on available market share. “There is a tremendous amount of market share in our industry,” he said. “[Rejection] doesn’t bother me because I know there’s so much more business out there that I’m not even getting or touching. I just move on to the next one.”
Muzzillo agreed, and offered a final piece of advice. “Stop reading about the issues in the economy; stop worrying about how competitive your area seems; just go out and get a larger share of your market,” he concluded.