Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a successful salesperson? Or, just a great, well-rounded business professional in general? Well, Triangle Marketing Club presenter, Jack Kosakowski, knows just what it takes.
During an interview I conducted with him, Jack shared some valuable knowledge relating to his sales experience, and he gave me a lot of great advice. For instance, he stressed the importance of giving back to others, being adaptable with change, networking with smart people, and continuously innovating.
I learned a lot about Jack during my conversation with him, and you can too at the TMC event on July 25th.
It was a cold Monday afternoon, at least for me anyway. I was in the little town of Willow Spring, North Carolina and was about to call Jack Kosakowski, who was in Arizona at the time, to conduct a speaker interview for Triangle Marketing Club. Despite the fact that Jack will not be presenting at TMC until July, I wanted to talk with him as soon as possible to learn about his exciting career path. Due to the fact that we lived states apart from one another, we were unable to meet face to face, so we decided that a phone call would suffice.
After I had all of my interview materials in place, I dialed Jack’s number and eagerly waited while the phone rang. Once he answered, we greeted each other and discussed how we have both heard great things about one another thanks to our mutual connection, Chris Douglas. After chatting a bit, I explained the TMC speaker interview process and then we began the interview.
Could you tell me a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Iowa so, I’m a Midwest boy. I currently now reside in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I came out here to go to school. I’m a 12-year sales veteran, I guess you could say, now almost 13, and essentially, I have been in all types of sales.
Google pay per click was my first sales job before anyone knew what or who that was. Then, I worked as an assistant director of admissions at a nursing school, so I worked in higher education. After that, I went into manufacturing sales and sold manufacturing equipment for a pallet rack manufacturer, then I got into the world of SaaS.
I was with Act-On for about two and a half years. I did about $1.3 million in revenue with the startup and the average deal size was about $9-12k so it was a pretty big accomplishment. I guess, per se, what I found was social selling, or what they call social selling these days, was the real deal. So I was in sales, and then I learned how to become a marketer, and the main reason was because I was selling marketing automation software to marketers. I knew nothing about marketing but knew a lot about sales and then I realized, I can’t sell to marketers until I knew what the hell marketers do.
So, I started to understand social media from a marketing perspective and then kind of evolved, left Act-On, and started the U.S. division of a global agency called Creation Agency. And actually, the owner of Creation Agency, which is based out of London, United Kingdom, was my customer at Act-On. So now what I do is run a digital agency of the U.S. division and we have seven of the Fortune 500 as clients.
There’s my story in a nutshell.
So what led to your desire to pursue a sales career path?
I have two degrees in hospitality and restaurant management. I did hospitality for a long time so I worked in every department of a hotel you can think of. Once I graduated college, I was going to go into the management and training program at Starwood Hotels. Right before I was supposed to go in, I met with the manager that was kind of getting me into the program.
I looked around his office and saw that he had pictures of his kids everywhere evolving age as they grew up. So I said, ‘Why does it look like you have an evolution of your kids all over your desk.’ And he said, ‘Because I live the life of my kids through pictures. Get used to it that is the lifestyle that you are choosing.’ And I said, ‘Nope, not going to happen.’ So I decided because my family has a background in sales, and they’ve all been pretty successful at it that I would go into sales.
I never looked back after that… that wasn’t the lifestyle for me.
What is your favorite thing when it comes to working in sales?
People. I love people, and I love solving problems and disrupting people’s mindsets. I love to see the outcome as a result of those that listen to me.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I love to travel. I just got back from Paris and London. I’ve been to 6 different countries this year.
Do you mostly travel for your job or as more of a hobby?
Usually it’s for work. The company that I am a partner in they are based out of UK so a lot of times I will go over there. The other thing is that I do some international speaking. I just spoke in Warsaw, Poland a few months ago, and I have a few international gigs coming up in 2017.
Do you enjoy speaking?
Yeah, I do. It’s kind of grown on me. It’s a lot of work but, I do enjoy it. I’m running a company so it’s kind of tough to balance the two because it takes a lot of time from the business, but I love it. My passion is educating which is pretty much what I am doing when I am speaking.
After connecting with you on LinkedIn, I noted that you stated, “My goal each and every day is to add value to someone else’s day.” How do you go about accomplishing that daily goal?
In my role, I’m very fortunate to have a lot of people who want my time so one of the things that I try to be very aware of is giving away my time. It’s a little bit harder to do as I get more successful in business, but I try to give my time to the people that ask for it, amplify my message, or advocate for me personally or professionally. I try to give as many people my time to give back as I can. I get a lot of requests on LinkedIn of people that ask questions and so forth. My thing is just staying connected with the people who are the reason I get to live the lifestyle and generate the business that I do.
Could you tell me more about your experience working with the marketing automation company, Act-On?
When I started, Act-On had less than 100 employees. They had an excellent product but still today I think they kind of struggle with brand awareness. Some of the challenges were trying to sell a product that was, in my opinion, better than a lot of the competitors but you are trying to sell against brand recognition and trying to convince somebody that what they were seeing was actually real.
We do it on a daily basis. If you go out and try to buy macaroni, most people will pay more for the Kraft Macaroni because that’s what they know. It’s a branding thing. So, one of the toughest challenges in sales especially when you’re with a product that is new, a startup, is not a lot of people know about it. Not only do you have to sell the value of the product, but you also have to sell the value of the brand. That can be very tough when people don’t know who you are. There’s a correlation between trust and awareness, and it can be tough to convince people past that.
I’d also love to hear about your time with Creation Agency. What do you usually do on a daily basis?
I oversee seven employees, and we are managing four major clients and part-time three so we are trying to scale the business. I am pretty much doing every aspect of marketing, sales, content, management, client relations… you name it, I’m doing it. I have an amazing group of people that are around me that are part of this movement that we are trying to create but you know there is a lot of inner challenges. A lot of obstacles because what you think is right is typically never ever right. You always are kind of bobbing, moving, and trying to keep up with the change that happens on a daily basis. It’s sometimes like I say, ‘it’s minute by minute. You never know what is going to happen next.’
How do you usually go about keeping up with that change?
A lot of times it’s just about understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are and really evaluating what’s best. Not what you think is best, but what does the team as a whole think is best and understanding and educating yourself so you make the right decisions. Because a lot of times what happens is what we think is the right answer, because it is what all we know, is not always the case.
So it’s really just being adaptable to change and really listening to people that are around you. If you don’t do that, especially in a leadership role, you kind of stump yourself. You keep yourself from moving forward and sometimes you can be your own worst enemy by doing that.
Since you have a lot of experience using a marketing automation system, what is your opinion on the use of these systems?
That’s actually the main source of business for our agency. So what we do is run the marketing automation for companies. We are usually the team behind, for example, IBM we run their marketing automation in Europe.
We believe that marketing automation is not a “nice have” anymore it is a “must have.” If you’re not tying all of the different things you are doing in the digital world into one major source where all of the data flows, and you can’t market to your buyers or potential buyers on a one to one level based on their behaviors, then you are in big trouble in 2017.
Do you see that a lot of agencies are starting to implement that through their practices? Or do you see that a lot of agencies are still behind in that category?
Agencies are very far behind. Now, companies are starting to get it, but they don’t really understand all of the moving parts that are involved in order to be successful with marketing automation. Most people are sending an email or they are using one or two little components of marketing automation, but they don’t have the strategy, and they don’t have everything built around the strategy that they need to have a maximized true success through marketing automation.
With all of your experience, do you have any advice for marketing professionals such as myself?
Get around really smart people and have mentorship, especially for your age group in college. Get around the smartest people that you possibly can and give away your time. Trade value for value. A lot of time what I see… exactly what you are doing right now. You’re doing some internships and working with a really smart guy who has learned the ropes.
Get to know the right people, work in the weaves with brands and companies that are using marketing automation, and learn every aspect. Just eat up every single piece of information and apply it while you can. There’s nothing more valuable than learning and applying at the highest level at your age. So, you’re going to go really far for learning what you know right now because of your mentorship.
On the other spectrum, what advice do you have for someone who has been in the industry for a while?
You never stop innovating. I think if you want to get the competitive advantage, and you want to stay around long term, you have to understand that you never know everything. What you are doing always is going to change, and you need to change before everyone else figures out that they need to change.
Use innovation as your competitive advantage.
Without giving away too much of what you plan to present at the TMC event, what is the most important thing that you hope the TMC audience will learn from your presentation?
One of the things that I really want to get across and educate on is the power of digitally surrounding your buyers. So, being valuable everywhere that they live and encompassing that as a strategy. I think where a lot of marketers struggle is that they think they are going to do social or they’re going to do email, and what they do is they pigeonhole themselves into a strategy that is siloed. So understanding how to be everywhere at all times and stay in front of your buyers six months before they even know that they are ready to buy and do it in a way that organically brings the buyer to you over time when they are ready.
After the close of my interview questions with Jack, he mentioned to me that he enjoys knowing who will be in attendance at his presentations beforehand so he can tailor his message to the audience. He likes to research what companies the members are with, what are they doing now, and what should they be doing. Jack uses the audience’s own personal data to personalize the way that he presents.
I was given this amazing opportunity to pick Jack’s brain with multiple questions to learn about him and his fascinating career. Now, it’s your turn. Go ahead and connect with him on social to let him know you will be attending the TMC event on July 25th.