In this episode: Nick Maldonado, Sales Manager at Communications Zone Inc, joins us to share how focusing on customer experience can set you apart in sales. How can you leverage your time bartending when finding a job in the corporate world? How to stay cool, in the face of danger? And how can you focus on customer experience, no matter what role you’re in? All that and more up next!
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In this episode: Nick Maldonado, Sales Manager at Communications Zone Inc, shares how focusing on customer experience can set you apart in sales and more!
Welcome to seller’s journey, the podcast where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real stories from start to sales success.
Joseph Fung: Hi everybody, I’m Joseph Fung. And today we’re speaking with Nick Maldonado. Nick is a sales manager at Communication Zone, TELUS Dealer of Business and Corporate Solutions. Nick, thank you for joining us.
Nick Maldonado: Good morning. Thanks for having me, Joseph.
Joseph Fung: I am really excited of this conversation today, because not only has a trusted kind of friend and partner introduced us, but I didn’t get to share this before, but I also spent some time overseas teaching English and so I feel like there’s a bit of affinity to your story. So, I’m really eager to hear more.
Nick Maldonado: Awesome! Whereabouts were you!
Joseph Fung: I was in China definitely not the same part of the world as you. But that time overseas was definitely insightful for me. So, I’m looking forward to hearing how it impacted your journey as well.
Nick Maldonado: Very life-changing. That’s for sure!
Joseph Fung: Now, you mentioned how you’re working at a dealer, you know Communication Zone. Maybe you can help our audience a little bit with kind of your elevator pitch. You know, what makes you and your firm different than you know other dealers or other service providers?
Nick Maldonado: Sure! so as I’d say, in general, Communication Zones been around for about 20 years. And for us, we’re focused on providing the best corporate and business solutions, and that’s both in terms of wireless, voice over IP, collaboration tools, and fleet solutions. But what makes us unique and different is we’ve really perfected a personal touch. And we have Account Managers that are experts in the products and what they do and really making sure that what we provide to the customer is something we can support through and through. Both during the sale and afterwards for the lifetime of the customer.
Joseph Fung: I love how that role of the sales group is so critical to the offering. So I love that perspective. So thinking a little bit about your journey and your story, maybe you can start off a little bit. You know where’d you go to school? Where’d you grow up?
Nick Maldonado: So, I actually grew up in Downtown Toronto. And I say the real Downtown. It was Sherborn and the Esplanade. So right around St. Lawrence Market. And I started going to an alternative school. They called it The Downtown Alternative School. And the focus there was more on peacemaking and conflict resolution, which sounds kind of hokey when you say it out loud but from an early age, it meant that when we had any sorts of conflicts, the usual playground scuffles and things you’d get between kids, we were actually training to have the kids ourselves, have the two people in the conflict and then we’d all sit in a diamond pattern or square, and you’d have two other kids that acted as the mediators. And in looking back, now I realize how important that was because it kind of set the stage for open communication and active listening right from elementary school.
Joseph Fung: So, I love that focus on active listening and communications. That’s such a great foundation for a fantastic sales curve.
Nick Maldonado: Oh yeah I mean growing up having to deal with all kinds of other conflicts like, you know the family and other friends when I left that school in grade six, it’s just something that I feel helped me to be a more effective communicator in all aspects of my life. So, I mean fast-forward to high school, and I went to Rockaway Men and I collegiate in Kitchener, so again another school with it’s a more of a pacifist focus or really focused on faith and in general on living a good kind of life. Me personally, I’m not religious, but I’d say I’m spiritual. So that whole part of the education just gave me first of all a higher academic standard but also reinforced everything else. I’d learned up to that point about proper communication and just being a good person.
Joseph Fung: And then continuing into University you spent a bit of time overseas as part of your university career. Right?
Nick Maldonado: Yes! Yeah so, I actually ended up. But, the rest of a friend who encouraged me. So, I have an older sister that ended up studying abroad as well. She lives with some family in Ecuador, spent a week or sorry a year working in Guatemala. And she was encouraging me to do it. But another friend explained to me how important she thought her study abroad journey was. And I was lucky enough to be able to work with the Spanish department at the University of Waterloo to get me into the University of Alicante in Spain.
Joseph Fung: Wow!
Nick Maldonado: Yes, that was a really awesome term for me. Good four months abroad.
Joseph Fung: So you went to school you’ve spoken a lot about how profound and how impactful it was. As you wrapped up at school, you know what was your first role? What was your first kind of working experience? Was it a sales role?
Nick Maldonado: it wasn’t! So, when I came back from Spain, I had done co-op jobs at the University of Waterloo, and during that time, I was a TA for a computer science course. It’s cs100 for any Waterloo alumnus out there. So it was just an introduction to computing, to a whole bunch of apps, the Microsoft Office Suite and Programming. So I aced the course, and then I saw a co-op job opportunity popping up to teach it. And so I’d say that kind of took all the other lessons I learned. It helped me focus on being an effective communicator, being able to be patient and really teach in the right way for different styles of learning. But, when I finished University or I’d say when I came back from Spain, I had no more co-op terms left. And so the gravy train was kind of running out at that point. So I ended up getting a job at Value Village. And I was a recycler in the back. So I was the one wearing the green vest that accepts donations, drives the forklift, it was really a physical job; I got to banter a lot with the people in the back. And to a point, that I would be pricing out the furniture and some of the bigger donations that came in. so, sometimes there were customers that have come in and try and negotiate a price and the manager was pretty strict, right it’s whatever I price it at is. What we should be selling it for. So that was sort of a basic negotiation I’d say. And before that, I’d even done Springmasters locally, which is sort of a door-to-door lawn care Company and that was, that’s probably my first real foray into sales, and it was tough because not everybody wants to pay somebody to know aerate their lawn or do their driveway things like that.
Joseph Fung: So, you know this you you’ve got a great opportunity to spend time interacting with a huge variety of people you know I think that that has a great job of you know building a foundation for empathy. But one of the things that you know jumped out is we got to hear your story and in the introduction that I had to you, is that you also spent some time at Maxwell’s Music House. Can you share a little bit about what that was like?
Nick Maldonado: Oh, man, that was a great time. So, first of all, I’d say, I’ve been in a couple of bands over the years one with two very good friends and another one, as well there were four of us, and another buddy that joined the fold and so Maxwell’s Music House was kind of the first venue in the Waterloo Region owned by Paul Maxwell of course. Local guy and a Laurier grad. And he was really warm and welcoming to all local musicians. So there were a lot of gigs that we played there, we got a chance to rent out the space occasionally on weekends to rehearse. And Paul was just awesome. Like there’s nobody better that would allow people that are interested in music or his creative expression to a kind of explore. And I briefly did do some bartending there. It was more you know three or four months or so just before he decided to move locations to where Billy’s used to be. And where he is now which is huge. So, I mean aside from just having enjoying the musical part of it myself as a musician, gigging and meeting lots of other people in the music community. I got to spend some time behind the bar which was you know an exercise in sales in and out itself, which is very fast-paced, I got to talk with different people, some people really like to talk and have a lot to say and other people you know they just want to drink and don’t want to banter. So, I definitely got to interact with all different kinds.
Joseph Fung: Nice! So, here’s the big question, these are all fantastic opportunities. And, you know really rich experiences. Your first real sales role though I think, was at a TELUS retail location. Can you share about how that came to be? And how you got into that role?
Nick Maldonado: Yeah! So, it actually came about because I was at the Value Village and you know I wasn’t exactly I’d say I knew that I could be doing better for myself. I was just doing the recycling position, it was great because it kept me in shape, but I realized that I’ve got a university degree. I’ve got a double major, I’ve got something on the wall with a gold seal that tells me I’ve achieved a certain standard for myself. And there were quite a few times where people would come in to donate things, and we talked, and on more than one occasion somebody would tell me, “you seem to speak very properly, you have a very good way with words, and you seem to know what you’re talking about, and you seem smart, what are you doing here”, and eventually, I thought to myself like, “maybe there’s a point here. I should probably start looking at some options, now that I’ve got a degree; I’m obviously qualified for something different”. So, I spent a few months and I thinking about what I wanted to do. I did apply for some jobs that I didn’t make the cup for. So, I did a few interviews here and there, and I ended up dropping a whole bunch of resumes around the KW area. The last place that I dropped a resume at was a TELUS store and its funny because, I was walking by with a friend and I just made a joke about, “how oh! TELUS, you know whatever, sure, I’ll apply here”. I like cell phones I’d spent a lot of time in university actually routing and installing custom software and charging people for it. So, I obviously knew the tech why not just apply just for the fun of it. And they were the first ones to call me back. So I ended up taking the interview. I liked the manager that interviewed me. And I worked there for about a year and a half. So I got to apply a lot of the other conversational skills that I learned and my tech knowledge too.
Joseph Fung: Now, the kind of big shift though, is now getting onto the, more just the business side of things and your move over to your current role at Communication Zone. You know, how did that opportunity come up? And you know what was that transition like?
Nick Maldonado: I’d say that it was another result of some chance encounters and some feedback from people in the store. So, I was consistently a high performer from a numbers perspective and really in terms of customer satisfaction. TELLUS is really big on that. And one of the metrics that they judge all people in the stores by is customer experience. So, I consistently exceeded one hundred and thirty percent of my goal and surveys and everything else, and my sales numbers were good on the retail floor, there were some folks that would come into the store, just to buy a phone for their kids or for themselves that were actually ex TELUS employees on the business side. There were a couple of gentlemen that had come in and said the same thing that few people at Value Village had told me was, “you seemed to know what you’re talking about, and you seem to be a smart guy. Have you considered moving up to business sales?” and at the time I was, well! How old was I? I guess it was about 24-25. I was in three bands, three gigging active bands at the time. I was enjoying life, and the job that I had was good. It was fun, it paid the bills, and it got help me exercise my nerd muscles a little bit. But, then there was one day that a gentleman came in and he needed something really simple. It was just a sim card swap. And normally we’d be able to do that ourselves, but when I tried to get into the account, it said it was a corporate account. And I didn’t have access. So, I had to call in, and there was about 10 minutes of hold time, and he and I were talking. It turns out that he was an area Sales Manager for TELUS Business Solutions. And he just left the company, and he said to me the same thing as the others had said, he said, “How would you feel about, maybe considering the business side of things?” Because he seemed to know the TELUS products really well. And I kind of laughed, and I said, “Well! You know, you’re not the first person to say that. But what do you mean?” that’s when he told me, who he was. And he suggested that “if you want, I actually know the guy that’s replacing me in my Sales Manager role. So, why don’t we fire off and email him right now, and see if we can score you an interview?” And, my heart kind of skipped a beat and I realized that this is actually a guy that would have some influence. So, I took him up on that.
Joseph Fung: I love how you seize that opportunity! That is such a wicked chance. Now, thinking a little bit about that role, your new role, I do have one area I would love to dig into because, when Heather introduced us, she also mentioned a really interesting story about Russell drama. So, if you’re comfortable with it, one of the things that always strike me, is we speak to sales professionals. And in many ways, the biggest and scariest things we need to deal with is our Zoom call dropping in the middle of a conversation. She’s told me that your store, your local office, was robbed. Can you share a bit about that?
Nick Maldonado: Oh, man! So, there were I guess there’s two different occasions, where the store that I work in has been robbed. One of them was on a weekend. Nobody was there. So, no problems, I guess other than the inventory and the cost, but nobody was hurt. But, that’s, I guess, it was, this was earlier this year, I want to say, February, but, I might have blocked it from my mind a little bit. Normally, by that time of day, because it was just before five o’clock, there would only be one person in the store. But that particular day there were four employees there, including myself. And so we were all three of us anyway, we’re getting ready to pack up. And I remember being on the phone with a colleague. he is in our Etobicoke office, and we were just chatting at the end of the day, kind of debrief and talk about some opportunities and pricing and whatnot, and it didn’t really registered to me what was happening at first, because, I heard someone come in and heard some yelling and I thought to myself well this is Branford, I mean we get people yell all the time in the store, so, nothing unusual. But, what kind of set it off was one of my other colleagues was in the back. She turned and was walking towards the security cameras because she also heard the yelling. And I was on the phone. I was focused on something else. She dropped her drink and just bolted out the back of the store, without saying a word. And was soon as she did that and I was like, “oh! That’s weird!” and that’s when I realized what was happening. And I just kind of told my colleague, very quietly because I had my headset on. I just told him, “we’re being robbed, call the police, I gotta go, I gotta hang up the phone right now in case they see”. So, yeah it was they were in and out in three minutes. They actually didn’t see me at first because I was behind a partition at my desk. But, they did kind of rough up the other two employees they were at the front, and you know it’s a robbery they had weapons, they were really aggressive, and at some point, I wasn’t sure what to do because they didn’t know I was there and I couldn’t exactly make a phone calls because that would make noise and race all an alarm for them. Eventually, I kind of stood up after a couple of minutes and just put my hands up and said, “Guys, is there anything I can do to get you out of the store? Can I help you in any way?” They didn’t like that! But, nothing happened they just…
Joseph Fung: Oh, man!
Nick Maldonado: And they told me to stand back. I did, I just kind of had to watch as they finished packing up the massive shipment did we receive that day, and they left.
Joseph Fung: So, is everybody okay?
Nick Maldonado: Yeah, I think the other two were definitely very shaken up because they all three of us had a gun to our face, but the two of them in particular got shoved and got hit with the gun and so they were, we were all okay, we didn’t really want to revisit it after that we just decided all right let’s take a couple of days off, our bosses or dealer principals were really good about obviously giving us a chance just to process what happened, and the next week, we were back to work and we just you know just try to keep the routine, keep business as usual.
Joseph Fung: That’s a quite the story and definitely something I think most of our, you know, interviewees and many of our audience you know don’t have to deal with. I thank goodness. I’m sorry that you had to deal with that, must’ve been extremely stressful.
Nick Maldonado: Thank you! It was kind of weird it’s one of those things that when it’s happening it’s very surreal and you almost don’t believe that it’s happening. But then after in fact, I think it was, I came home, I had to go to the police station, I ate a sub, I told my roommate what happened, and then I even went to karaoke that night to be at the Museum Downtown. I mean I sang a song, I had a drink, I was just kind of keeping to myself, and I guess putting off processing what happened and when I got home, and I got into bed that’s when it hit me, and I was like, “oh my god!” So, fortunately…
Joseph Fung: What an experience!
Nick Maldonado: Yeah, but I mean fortunately I took the next day off, and just kind of kept myself played the guitar, I called my boss and just talked to her about it. But, it was all good after a couple of days. It’s just again one of those things that when it happens, you don’t really realize the full gravity of something like that until afterwards. But, fortunately, we’re all rational adults, and we can process it over time and just get back to normal.
Joseph Fung: So, I bet all of this context makes it a lot easier to handle situations that would normally stress out a sales rep like objections or cranky customers. I imagine that puts it in perspective.
Nick Maldonado: Well, the good news is normally if we come up against objections people aren’t threatening us. But, salespeople on the phone or even going door-to-door always have to face maybe folks that aren’t so willing to see things from your side or don’t even want to entertain a conversation and people can be pretty rude when that happens, but you just have to roll with the punches. It’s the best thing you can do.
Joseph Fung: Nick, I have to say, I’m so impressed with how kind of grounded you are and how calm you are speaking about a situation that were scared to, scared a little crap out of me. So here you go. Hats off to you. I’m really impressed.
Nick Maldonado: Oh, thank you!
Joseph Fung: I know I promised that I wouldn’t keep you too long and I really, truly appreciate you opening up and sharing some of the details of your journey. Before I let you go, do you mind if I ask a couple of rapid-fire questions?
Nick Maldonado: Go for it!
Joseph Fung: Awesome! You’ve had a great variety of experiences, but specifically thinking about selling. What’s your favorite sales tool?
Nick Maldonado: I’d have to say it’s my Smartphone. Because, it’s something I can demonstrate features on, I can use it for video calls, it’s pretty much a full-on communications hub and sales tool in and of itself.
Joseph Fung: Right! And what about your favorite movie?
Nick Maldonado: Probably, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Joseph Fung: A great choice! I like that! Nice! And when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Nick Maldonado: Fireman! Definitely, a fireman.
Joseph Fung: Nice! This has been such a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for your time.
Nick Maldonado: I appreciate you having me on. And thanks to you as well.
Joseph Fung: I’m looking forward to our next conversation. And I hope you stay safe and stay sane and we’ll chat again soon.
Nick Maldonado: Likewise! Have a good afternoon.
Joseph Fung: Ciao.