Podcast 5: Kirk Feinswog – Director of Sales for Max Finkelstein Inc.
As Director of Sales for Max Finkelstein Inc., Kirk Feinswog shares his views, goals, and philosophies for growing this ninety-seven-year-old wholesale tire distribution company. One of the challenges Feinswog faces is fostering a work environment that will meet the career needs of Millennials as well as Gen Xers and Boomers. In this interview he covers attracting and hiring the right people and discusses keeping their work experience rewarding by having a personal relationship with each person on his team.
Time-Stamped Show Notes
[00:17] Ryan Kellogg introduces Kirk Feinswog, Sales Director at Max Finkelstein Inc.
[01:27] Feinswog discusses his professional work history in the tire business.
[03:50] Company growth and management of sales team.
[04:26] Demographics of a diverse sales force.
[05:28] The benefits of a career in tire sales.
[07:15] What type of person does Feinswog want to hire to build a better sales force?
[10:30] Recruiting techniques to locate and attract an effective sales team.
[14:00] Encouraging employee retention by providing them with challenges and increased responsibility.
[17:45] Feinswog shares how he cultivates an attractive work climate for a sales force that encompasses several generations, from Millennials to Gen Xers to Boomers.
[22:30] In an interview with a prospective employee, Feinswog reveals how he uses his unique conversational style to determine if the interviewee will make an effective sales person.
[26:30] With a simple and timeless philosophy, Feinswog offers some advice about what basic tools anyone can use to become successful at what they do.
How Did A Guy Like You End up in Tire Sales?
When Kirk Feinswog completed his graduate degree, he needed to find work but still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His desire for a paycheck motivated him to entertain all possibilities. He answered an ad for employment with Pirelli Tire, and was hired right out of school.
He had the opportunity to wear different hats with the company, but it wasn’t until he decided he wanted to move from Rome, Georgia and live elsewhere, that he learned that Pirelli had an opening in their sales department in Boston. Feinswog knew nothing about sales except that many of his peers who were in sales made more money than he did. That was enough for him. He took the leap.
“I had no idea what I was doing and felt they would fire me after six months, but they kept me on. I was able to have some success and took over more and more territories.” His sales excellence did not go unnoticed, and in January of 2015, Max Finkelstein Inc., his biggest customer, offered him a position on their team as Sales Director. He welcomed the opportunity.
Growing a Great Sales Team
Even though the ninety-seven-year-old, family-owned company grew double digits in just the past 4 to 5 years, Feinswog still sees room for expansion. As he reminds his sales team, “Everybody needs tires. This is a stable industry. It’s not going anywhere. It can be a good living.” He has twenty-two sales representatives reporting directly to him, ranging in age from twenty-seven to mid-fifties. He’s not looking to hire a stereotype. In a diverse sales force, every person offers something unique.
The Ideal Employee
The ideal employee doesn’t necessarily have identical characteristics to the next sales person. Feinswog has seen a 50-something sales person who doesn’t do computers very well, but has a motor that keeps on running. He works hard. He may not have the technical skills of a Millennial but he has a wonderful work ethic, and may be up and working by 6 a.m.
A sales person’s skillset may either be on the personal side or on the analysis side. He is always looking for someone who is willing to try something new, someone who is able to think. A good sales person doesn’t need experience in a relevant industry. They may know nothing about tires, but have a history in shoe sales, with an excellent track record. Those skills can be transferred to tire sales.
Recently he hired the first female sales rep to his team. Tire sales has not in the past attracted women, but times are changing, and Max Finklestein Inc. is changing right along with them. “Let’s face it,” he says, “Selling tires is not a sexy business. But it pays very well, and gives our sales force a good lifestyle. When we go to a job fair, it’s a tough sell to young sales professionals, but it can be a good life.”
Encouraging Employee Retention
Although high turnover is a problem for many industries, Feinswog says it has not been a problem at Max Finklestein. “I make it a point to develop personal relationships with all of my sales people, and to know what kind of motivation they need… We try to give our people challenges, because highly successful people like to be challenged, to be given more responsibility, to use the skills they have…they need leeway to make decisions, to keep them engaged and wanting to keep coming in to the job.”
Interview Style for Best Results
Feinswog is well aware that almost everyone these days is coached on writing cover letters, résumés, and interview questions. For this reason, he uses no standardized questions. His interview style is casual and conversational, but he likes to tell the interviewee that he has three other candidates for the job. Then he waits to see how they react. Do they seem upset by that news, or do they get excited, fired up, and take it as a challenge? Do they use the opportunity to tell him why they are the right person for the job? If they do, then they will likely be that way with prospective buyers in their sales career. If they don’t have the fire in them, he knows that upfront.
Simple Two-Part Success Formula
When asked if he has a specific motto or tagline, Feinswog responds that he is not big on those things, but he does offer one piece of advice. “I’ll tell you what I tell employees, and what I would even tell my younger brother – you can’t control much in life. So much of it is out of our control. But there are two things you can control: 1) Being on time, and 2) Working hard. You don’t always have to be the smartest guy in the room, but if you make it a point to be on time and work hard, you will find success in life.”