With a focus on business development, sales and marketing, David is a strategic problem solver who has held several C-level and executive positions in organizations across a number of industries including Food Service, Consumer Packaged Goods, and Technology.

 David’s experience includes, President/CEO at Kingsmill Foods, partnering with organizations such as, Tim Horton’s, Nestle, Kraft and Second Cup, Chief Strategy Officer at ChannelAssist, leading programs for HP, Rogers and Toshiba, CEO of XMTrade.ca and CEO of OtolaneSoft Corporation, both leading mobile online auction platforms for auto dealers and founding Sorger & Company Inc., a consulting practice with clients including, OTEC Research/GP8 Sportwater, Teaopia (acquired by Starbucks), XELA Enterprises and MTY Group.

 

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN THIS EPISODE:

  • The role of technology in the success of Domino’s Pizza  
  • How David sold his first business for $100K within one week of graduating from college 
  • The deadliest mistake salespeople make
  • 4 business trends shaping  our future today

SHOW NOTES

[00:24] Intro

[01:22] Welcome David

[01:39] Business success stories that inspire David

[01:51] Success of Domino’s Pizza 

[03:28] Leveraging the technology

[04:23] Starting his first company

[05:58] The meaning of ecosystem

[07:27] Talking Instead of listening

[08:23] How to engage prospects 

[10:35] Favourite Sales failure

[10:53] Building trust

[13:11] Food service, retail, CPG and automotive

[14:01] Kingsmill Foods

[15:46] Stories that excite David’s customers

[16:47] Personalization

[17:36] Future trends

[17:56] Smooth commerce

[19:52] Challenges facing today’s sales leaders

[20:37] Technology

[21:20] Time

[22:26] The art of storytelling

[26:08] Contact info

[27:42] Outro

 

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Ed Bilat:

David Sorger, welcome to the show.

David Sorger:

Thank you, Ed.

Ed Bilat:

It’s a pleasure to have you. I can’t wait to catch up on the stories. We had a great meeting back in April. So thank you so much for coming to the show today. But before we start, let me ask you our traditional question, what business success stories inspire you and why?

David Sorger:

The one that’s most relevant to me based on what I’m doing currently would be Domino’s success story.

Ed Bilat:

The pizza place?

David Sorger:

The pizza place itself and I’ll explain to you why. Approximately seven years ago they were on the verge of bankruptcy and they made a very bold and inspiring decision and that decision was to become a technology company first and a pizza company second. And they claimed that they don’t have the best pizza. They claim to this day that they don’t have the best pizza, but they wanted to make sure that they would appeal to obviously the growing new demographic that wanted the convenience over anything else. And so they shifted completely and became a technology company and made sure that any way you want to order Domino’s, you could order Domino’s. And as of last February, they overtook Pizza Hut to become the number one pizza company in the world. So a company that goes from the verge of bankruptcy to the number one pizza company in the world by doing something that no one would have even thought of doing, which is deviated from what they were known for, making pizza, and pivot to being a digital company that actually built technology and pizza was only the vehicle to showcase their technology. That story is extremely inspiring to me.

Ed Bilat:

Interesting. And you would think pizza is pizza. Better ingredients, better pizza.

David Sorger:

You would think so. In the days where that was the only factor, I would tend to agree with you. But I think this speaks to how businesses are evolving, how we need to leverage technology or any of the tools that are provided to us in the current state and future state to ensure that we capture the audience that we need to make successful decisions and impact meaningful change.

Ed Bilat:

Very cool. Very cool. Thank you for sharing this. So let’s turn the spotlight back at you. You’ve been dominating several industries. The food service, retail, CPG, all of it were the technology components and the automotive dealers. So how did you even get into the entrepreneurial/sales world?

David Sorger:

If I really want to go back to how it all started. I was in university doing a degree in kinesiology and health science and also studying business at the same time. The first thing I decided to do was to open up an actual company that just went around. I would sell to small, medium-sized, even some corporate businesses and go and set up their workstations, the elbow pads, the Gel pad to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. I would go and set up workstations and give them some small exercises to do some stretches and the proper way to sit. Things of that nature.

Ed Bilat:

That was at least related to your field of study. Right?

David Sorger:

It was. But the life lesson comes in this format. About three weeks before I was going to graduate, a gentleman approached me and asked me to buy my business. He said he really liked the concept and at the time he offered me $100,000. Obviously being at that age, I thought I was rich and I couldn’t sign up fast enough because I thought he was crazy and out of his mind. A little over a year later, I believe it was 13 months, he sold the business for $1.4 million. Now when I think back about what I could have done differently, given my level of expertise and business acumen at the time, not very much. I mean, if I think back, I think, maybe I should have sold 80% for $80,000, but I had dollar signs in my eyes and I was able to get out of my school debt and I was able to have a little bit of cushioning in my savings account. And so that’s what inspired me. That was the beginning of my understanding that I really had to not just have great business ideas, but actually have an ecosystem around me, people that I could engage with to ensure that I could actually have a complete offering and have the knowledge base required to really grow businesses and see where there were additional opportunities. So it really started off the path to what I believe is my entrepreneurial career and I am a serial entrepreneur.

Ed Bilat:

Absolutely.

David Sorger:

I’ve started and sold three different companies to date and obviously working on a couple of additional initiatives right now. So it’s not for everyone. Everyone thinks entrepreneurialism is easy. Everyone thinks sales are easy and that anyone can do it. But I truly believe that there is an art and a talent to it. And having to go from making nothing three months in a row to having a great month and making $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 or  $40,000 or whatever a great month means to you and then going back to making nothing again. It’s difficult when you’re starting things off, but it allows you to…

Ed Bilat:

Yeah, absolutely. And as my wife says, “whatever you do, entrepreneurship should be spelled with a T at the end.” So that’s true. That’s very true. It’s not for everybody. So with regards to making the first sale for your new business, is there any particular most common mistakes you have seen that salespeople do? That entrepreneurs do?

David Sorger:

Yeah. They talk instead of listening. I think that’s the best advice that I could give anyone. you really want to engage whoever you’re selling. To lead the conversation initially would be my advice. You have a very short window to be able to understand exactly what kind of day that individual is having. Pitching to even the same person at the same company on a Monday versus a Tuesday versus a Wednesday may be completely different and serve different outcomes based on what kind of day that individual is having. Have they just lost the biggest deal of their life? Have they just been yelled at by their manager or by their president or whoever? You really need to understand and really develop that relationship and provide that value and make that individual feel like there’s value in dealing with you before you actually start selling your product.

Ed Bilat:

Hmm, that’s a piece of great advice. How do you get them talking?

David Sorger:

This is the social element of it. Simple questions. ‘How was your day?’ Maybe being aware of certain body languages and seeing if they’ve had a difficult day. Asking if everything is okay. I’ve had sales calls in the early stages of my life once I realized that the person wasn’t having necessarily the best day, I stopped selling my product completely and wanted to really engage them in ‘how are you doing?’ ‘what kind of a day are you having?’ ‘Is Everything okay?’ ‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’ If you develop that relationship and that connection right away, then when it is time to talk about your product than the recipient is far more likely to be open to what you have to say and to engage with you on a business level with whatever you’re selling at any given time.

Ed Bilat:

Yeah.I absolutely love this advice. And as Confucius said many years ago, “you have to give first before you want to get something.”

David Sorger:

I couldn’t agree with you more. So I think everything… this advice was given to me actually by one of my sales mentors, “if you are offered with an opportunity that you either don’t have time for or that is not necessarily in your wheelhouse of what you are or are not capable of doing, then you should always recommend the solution to that individual. Introduce them to someone else, tell them that you’re not the right person for this, but you have someone that is the right person for this.” Because in my opinion, what it automatically does is it develops a huge amount of trust and when they call you up and you have the ability to engage, then price never becomes a factor. They will always trust you because you had the wherewithal to understand that you couldn’t best serve them with something and so you allow them or introduce them to someone else who could, which takes a lot for anyone to do, to give up revenue, to give a business and to say that there’s someone better suited out there for what that particular need is at any given time.

Ed Bilat:

Very interesting. Very good advice. I’m sure that came from experience, like, do you have a favorite sales failure or sales situation which was a complete disaster, but in the end, it gave you all the great experience you’re sharing with us today.

David Sorger:

Yeah. Well, I can speak to that exact last point. Early in my career, there was a philosophy that I had, which always said yes, if you can’t do it, find the people who can do it. And unfortunately, if you take on that philosophy, then it can cause you more problems than it’s worth because then you’re accountable. You become accountable for this situation. It’s not about, you know, you recommending someone and them assuming full accountability. You become accountable. So you’re managing projects and you’re managing situations that you don’t necessarily have the expertise to manage and it ends up getting you in a lot of trouble. You end up missing deadlines, you end up providing a product that isn’t ideal or isn’t what was agreed upon, and that just ruins your reputation. So you’re much better off to just understand what you’re best at and surround yourself with that ecosystem like I said, of people that are really good at the things that you’re not good at. And so then you have either the capability of creating a solution together and knowing who drives that solution, depending on which part of the business is being discussed at any given time or which part of the project is being discussed at any given time. But yeah, no, it’s definitely trying to just, you know, accept any offer that comes, it was the catalyst to me understanding that it goes much further beyond that.

Ed Bilat:

So would you rather say no more often?

David Sorger:

I think it’s less than saying no, it’s more of, this isn’t what I do best and I only would ever recommend what I do best, but I have some people in mind that I’m going to call on your behalf because you know, you can trust me and I’m going to recommend someone to you that can help you with this particular situation. Because what that results in is an individual having a conversation saying you need to call David or you need to call Ed because they’re going to be completely transparent and upfront with you. They’ll let you know if they’re the best person for the job and if not, they’re going to help you find the best person for the job. You will become a confidant to that individual and they will always give you the business without even questioning the pricing of the things that are in your area of expertise. Always leverage your network to be able to help them with anything that is outside of your expertise.

Ed Bilat:

Very cool. I love that advice. So thank you for sharing. In terms of the industries that you have picked; the food service, retail, CPG, and the automotive vertical, all of it with the technology component. What was the rationale for picking those? How did you get to those industries specifically?

David Sorger:

I wish I could give you some if I’m being honest, some really thoughtful and cogent answer. But again, I had a mentor early on in my life that once told me that everyone has a product or a service that they need to sell to an end user. The same business principles apply. And so if you take a step back and really think about that because when I was asked to go into food service by actually the president of Kingsway foods at the time, I said to her, I know nothing about food service. At the time I was building infrastructure, again, not my previous industry. I was at the Granite Club building the personal training and fitness consulting section of the actual club. And I was building that out and we went from 3 trainers to 35 trainers in one year. She watched that happen. And the reason she gave me that advice is that she said, all I want you to do for my business is the exact same thing that you have done for the Granite Club. And I didn’t really understand it at first. But then when she said that everyone has a product or service that needs to be sold to an end user, it made me realize that I’d like to give it a shot. A lot of the fundamentals about selling are the same. It’s really a widget that you’re replacing. Of course, you have to be brought up to speed and understand the points of difference that you’re offering versus your competitors. But that applies to every industry. So every single time I came up against, oh well I have to educate myself on X, Y, or Z, I automatically correlated it back to something that I had done before. And I was fortunate enough to grow the company considerably and I became President/CEO of Kingsway foods after my first two years of being there because I took a 60-year-old company that was relatively flat in growth and showed them a tremendous growth.

Ed Bilat:

Congratulations.

David Sorger:

Yeah, well for every success story there are war rooms that are associated to them.

Ed Bilat:

So in all of these verticals what type of stories excite your customers and partners, what have you seen? What drives excitement?

David Sorger:

Personalization. So you always need to be relatable. So the one thing that I would recommend for anyone is, I’m sure everyone has been to these sales pitches that you know, people talk about. And this especially applies to me now in technology. If I go into a room full of CEO’s, non-tech people and I don’t even consider myself a technology person to be quite honest with you. So if I go in and I start talking about different programs, different technology stacks and this and that, and it’s not something that they can relate to or understand, typically you’ll see a lot of head nodding and then you’ll walk out of the meeting thinking you did a great job. No one had any questions that they wanted to ask you. Everyone was looking at you and was smiling and you’ll never get another phone call. The reason for that is because no one ever understood what you were pitching to begin with. So you have to personalize your content based on your audience. If you are in an audience full of tech people, then absolutely bring your chief technology officer with you or anyone else and allow them to have a conversation at a technical level. If you’re not, then you really have to sell the 50,000-foot level idea and concept. In layman’s terms, to be able to make them understand exactly what they’re actually either buying or what they’re subscribing to or what they’re committing to or engaging with you on. That’s imperative. So I think that personalization, knowing your audience, personalizing it to the audience is extremely important.

Ed Bilat:

Yeah. I’m just looking at the notes after our meeting in Toronto. I asked you a question about future trends and I have two notes here. The first one, everybody wants full customization and the second one is nobody wants to cook anymore.

David Sorger:

Well, that’s through my business today. I’m president of a company called Smooth Commerce. We have a very unique customer engagement platform that you can actually self-export either via mobile or web and the mobile or the building app component that we do. The native Mobile Apps is probably the one that we’re seeing the most traction with. Thank you very much, Starbucks. Thank you very much Domino’s pizza for that. But even if you take a look at the simple things like how they’re building condos in downtown Toronto now, there are no kitchens in your condos anymore. You have a wall. It is literally a wall. And in that wall, it is not set up to prep food or anything. Everyone wants convenience. Everyone is busy. Time is the most valued commodity right now over anything else. So people are willing to pay premiums as long as they’re getting the service and the convenience. And really the quality, unfortunately, while it can be a differentiator is, in my opinion, moved down a little bit and convenience has taken over. I mean, we go back to what I told you inspires me about the whole Domino’s pizza story. I don’t think Domino’s is the best pizza personally. There are a lot of great pizza places out there that I believe have better pizza, but they are by far the most convenient. And they make it easy for you and they’re constantly reminding you whether it’s via Facebook, whether they’re telling you they’re going to deliver with drones, whether they’re telling you to order through your Google home, they’re always on top of the latest cutting edge technology to make sure that they’re satisfying anyone at any demographic. Right? So whether it’s your traditional person that wants to phone in and that doesn’t have the technology or whether it’s the newest person that’s coming through it that wants to order through Google home, they give you the option to do whatever you want.

Ed Bilat:

That’s interesting. My next question, what challenges do you see facing today’s sales leaders? Would you say that technology and convenience are becoming more important than the actual product itself or service?

David Sorger:

Yeah. So that’s a great question. I think technology without benefits has a lot of downsides to it. It actually can detract from that personalization, from that relationship building. And a lot of the times in a very competitive world, in any industry, everyone’s selling roughly the same product for roughly the same price and really the biggest point of difference end’s up being the relationship that you can generate with whoever you’re trying to sell to and technology in some cases has taken a little bit of that a way, you know, the ability to really personalize. No one wants to talk on the phone anymore. Everyone wants to communicate via email. No one wants to meet in person anymore. Everyone wants to communicate via webinars and things of that nature. The idea of people listening to podcasts a decade ago would have been laughable. Now it has become one of the major or definitely one of the ways that at least the younger generation engages with any kind of interest that they have. Right? Technology is a little bit of the challenge. Then the other challenge is just quite honestly, time, everyone is in a rush. Corporations are reducing headcounts and the expectations of what people are to do or to accomplish in a day or what they’re accountable for is increasing because of all these efficiencies because of all the competition out there. So I think the combination of those two is probably the biggest challenge that we’re going to face moving forward.

Ed Bilat:

Thank you for sharing this. For our podcast listeners, storytelling is the key theme so we’d like to see how you can use storytelling to keep that human component, which allows you to open up and tell the relevant stories and at the same time create the empathy and hear the client’s needs, right? So like how do you keep a human connection open and use the technology, is it like digital storytelling? Like is that the new wave if the technology component is so important? You’ve been in so many different verticals and been so successful, what does the art of storytelling mean to you?

David Sorger:

It’s exactly what you said actually I did. It’s bringing the human element to it. So, you know, I do quite a bit of public speaking. I’m a keynote speaker at a lot of events. When I first started doing it, you would think you would go up there and you would present based on the topic that you were given. I always love being in the spotlight. My wife jokes around, she says, I was born with a siren on my head and a microphone in my hand. But I realized, and it really was disturbing to me that, I’d see people in the audience glazed over, not interested, talking to each other. And I really took that personally and it wasn’t until I started sharing personal stories, things that actually happened to me that would somehow relate to the topic that I was actually presenting that I really saw a significant increase in engagement with what I was doing. People want to know about you. If you’re the person standing up there on the stage, it’s important to talk about industry statistics or where certain things are heading, but you always have to tie it back to a personal experience. If you can get out of the traditional way of talking to an actual product or an actual situation that you’re trying to address or anything else that you’ve been asked to talk about and you can constantly break off and draw a parallel to something that’s happened in your own life to support what you’re trying to say in the presentation and you’d do it relatively frequently, you’ll keep that audience engaged and I think that’s really impactful. You know, you get to talk about some crazy things that might’ve happened to you at the same time as talking about the topic that you were asked to speak about and tie the two together. It engages people up more. It promotes additional questions. After you’ve done your presentation, people come up to you, they feel more connected to you, they feel more engaged with you. So it really is about, I think, drawing it back to your own personal experiences because you never want the person in the audience saying, Oh, what does that guy know about what he or she is talking about? Right? They’re just reading from a script or reading from a PowerPoint. So I think bringing in real life events that have either happened to you or friends or anything you can draw from your personal life. That’s really the key to storytelling. When you look at even comedians today, your favorite comedians.  Comedians are always talking about things that have happened in their own lives. That’s how they begin the script. So why wouldn’t we as salespeople do the same?

Ed Bilat:

Yeah, that’s a great approach, right? That’s what makes you more believable. That’s what creates empathy. Because in the end, people want to see people, not, just another blah, blah, blah, like in how many sales presentations you have been through, you just sit there for five minutes and thinking like, why do I have to listen to this for another hour? Like, who is this clown? Like, have you ever sold anything in your life? You just read a couple of books and came to preach. Right?

David Sorger:

Exactly. It’s very obvious to me when you can tell someone is just regurgitating information that they’ve read versus someone who’s telling a personal story as you said, that has a much deeper meaning and connection and then relating it to whatever the topic is.

Ed Bilat:

Absolutely. That’s a piece of wonderful advice. So it’s been a wonderful interview. Thank you so much, David. What would be the best way for our listeners to connect with you or learn about the company and learn about the technology components you’re driving so hard in so many verticals?

David Sorger:

Yeah. The best way would be to go to our website, which is www.smooth.tech or email me directly with any questions, my last name Sorger@smooth.tech. That would be the best way to connect. We are re-doing all the marketing and everything on our website, so for those who want to quickly go on the website now and then come visit us, hopefully, a month from now you’ll see a significant change in how we’re positioning our product and what we can do to serve the industry and the verticals that we’re trying to address.

Ed Bilat:

Excellent. Excellent. Thank you. We’ll make sure to include all the links. I’ll include your LinkedIn profile as well. And It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience, particularly from your practical experience because you’ve lived through this and that’s what makes it very valuable.

David Sorger:

I have lived through it and you know, those who are people’s people will be unbelievable salespeople if that’s really the direction that they want to go to this. So much of this is still the human element, like what you said, so much of the opportunity is bringing that human element back, especially in this digital world. If you can be creative even in a digital way to bring that human element back then I think that’s the key to a lot of future salespeople success.

Ed Bilat:

Absolutely. I agree with that point 100%. Thank you so much again for coming to the show.

David Sorger:

My absolute pleasure and thank you for having me.

Ed Bilat:

Thank you.

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