In this episode: Michael Mensink, VP of Sales at RouteThis, joins us to share the story of his journey and the trigger that let him know he was cut out for sales. How did he use his education in math to help him advance in his career? What lessons can you learn from looking back at your career periodically? And how do you grow in both sales and marketing as an Executive? Stay tuned to find out!
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In this episode: Michael Mensink, VP of Sales at RouteThis, shares the story of his journey and the trigger that let him know he was cut out for sales and more. Stay tuned to find out!
Joseph Fung: In today’s episode we’re speaking with Mike Mensink. He’s the VP of Sales at RouteThis. And he is recognized not only as a great Sales Leader and Manager but he has such wide experience from operating systems, enterprise content management, even EdTech. But we’re gonna learn how he started as a Co-Op in Food. You’re gonna enjoy this. Stay tuned.
Welcome to the seller’s journey, the podcast where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real stories from start to sale success.
Joseph Fung: Hi everyone, I’m Joseph Fung and we’re speaking with Mike Mensink, VP of Sales at RouteThis. Mike, how are you doing?
Michael Mensink: I’m great, thanks for having me, Joseph.
Joseph Fung: Thanks for joining me. Especially, for take two, much better weather today, than the last time, we tried this.
Michael Mensink: Yeah, no kidding.
Joseph Fung: So, hopefully, knock on wood, no lightning, power surges anything interferes with this conversation. Because I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks.
Michael Mensink: Yeah me too this is my first ever podcast so thanks for having me.
Joseph Fung: Well this is going to be fun then. So thinking about your journey, let’s start off kind of right at that start there. Where did you go to school? And what did you study?
Michael Mensink: Yeah so I mean I was born and raised in Waterloo stuck around close to home, I went to the University of Waterloo, and actually went for math so you know not a lot of people expect sales leaders to come from the math side. But’s that’s where I got my start.
Joseph Fung: Cool, so, straight math, we know that your journey has taken you through a few twists and turns. And I’m gonna come to them. But you’re now at RouteThis, can you help our audience? What the company do? What’s the value prop, the elevator pitch?
Michael Mensink: Yeah of course, so, really I mean as the homes become more and more connected right we add more and more devices in the home. There’s obviously a huge reliance on Wi-Fi and especially now more than ever with all of us working at home. we get frustrations with you know how do we optimize and how do we make sure that our home is working the best that it possibly can and that you know we’re able to make sure that all parts of our home have good Wi-Fi things like that. so the example that I can give really is around you know you’re sitting at home, you’re watching Netflix, it starts to buffer, you get frustrated, you call your internet service provider and they don’t really know what’s happening inside the home right, they know what’s happening in the lines and things like that. But typically speaking they start to ask you a whole whack load of questions to try and understand what’s happening which is obviously frustrating for the agent, frustrating for you they end up guessing as to what the, you know issue. Actually is in your home. So what we do is we eliminate all of that we actually through an app on your phone, allow you to scan your entire network, and what that does is, come back with a whole bunch of data points. and then through an intelligence layer actually tells you, okay what are the main you know issues that are happening inside of your home and how do we rectify that. So really it walks either agents at a service provider or more recently for us the actual end-user through an easy to rectify you know basically workflow that makes sure that you optimize the way that your internet works in your home.
Joseph Fung: This sounds like a really complex sale. Because I imagine you’re selling a B2B offering to these network providers and these service providers. But you have a B2C product in the app too. That sounds challenging.
Michael Mensink: So it’s it is predominantly B2B. So we’re selling you know vast majority to either connected device companies or to internet service providers. But at the end of the day, it saves costs for the service providers themselves.
Joseph Fung: Got it. Okay, now I alluded to your breadth of experience. And given the fact you’ve been at so many great tech companies. I can see how you’re nailing it there at RouteThis. But let’s rewind again kind of back to the beginning. You shared a great comment about how Co-Op at the University of Waterloo provided you with an interesting opportunity to kind of expose yourself to the sales and marketing work. But in the food industry, can you help our audience understand? What does Co-op look like? And what was the role that got you started in sales?
Michael Mensink: Yeah I think the, I mean the beautiful part of Co-Op is it allows you to test out a whole bunch of different jobs. Figure out what you like what you don’t like. So obviously you know taking math it gave me sort of the opportunity to start to try out some of your traditional math fields. So I mean I tried out accounting first, my dad was an accountant, so he kind of pushed me towards you know trying that maths, so I tried that first, and then from there, I went into doing some data analytics. Found out that that probably wasn’t really for me. and then my last couple co-ops got into Renee’s Gourmet and into sales and marketing role there and really learn to love you know the interactions that you get on a day-to-day basis with all of your customers understanding what’s important to them, what’s important to their business. And essentially mapping back I realize I’m talking about food and maybe I spent too much time in tech now. but you know you map whatever that solution is back to what the goals of their organization is and you know I just happened to start doing that in food.
Joseph Fung: That’s awesome. So I’m super intrigued. The first two roles it makes sense to me. You know a math student, I’m going to try out data analytics, and what triggered you to say, you know what I’m going to try sales and marketing? Let’s ignore the food thing for a moment, but what sparked you to try sales and marketing?
Michael Mensink: It’s funny. I think the story that I always tell like goes back to when I was young. My dad is an accountant by trade. And I worked at Conestoga College in education. I feel like any time that I wanted something as a kid; I had to tell my dad hard on whatever that was because you know money wasn’t just given away it was earned or it was you know you had to provide the value. So I remember you know when I was young I wanted this t-shirt and I had to tell my dad on this wasn’t just any t-shirt there was embroidery on it and just the itching and everything was so I feel like very early on I was able to kind of test out my sales skills on my dad in order to get certain things that I wanted and I feel like you know that’s kind of where that’s where I started and then you know I kind of thought alright maybe I should take some of the analytical sides that I obviously have with the math degree, and then take some of this salesmanship, I’ve kind of learned along the way and see if those two marry well together and obviously they’ve worked out all right.
Joseph Fung: I can empathize with the pitching parents on cool t-shirts for me it was one of those hyper color shirts that would change color. I don’t think I was successful as you were though. I did not get one. Okay, so I understand the journey in terms of kind of trying out sales and marketing. And you spoke a little bit about what you loved about it but then you did switch into tech, kind of post-graduation, how did that come to be? How did you land that first role? And what was that like?
Michael Mensink: Yeah actually, the way that I landed my first role was I don’t know if it was the person who ultimately hired me, I think said, I see a lot of myself and you which is obviously good. But I think he liked the fact that I came from food and I’m still to this day not entirely sure why but part of it is, I mean the food is such a low margin, so you know the idea that if you’re able to sell and pitch on something that’s the super-low margin you really do have to differentiate. And I think so the idea of being able to you know understand a market where you really do have to find other areas to differentiate, I think was something that was of interest to him and obviously gave me a shot and yeah went very well from there.
Joseph Fung: I love that idea of areas of differentiation. So if we step back to that then you know while you were selling food, what was that sales motion like? I mean were you, this is an area I don’t have as much experience in. So I don’t know, are you selling to grocery stores? Are you, is it like selling samples? You know what does that look like in the food industry?
Michael Mensink: Yeah the part of the business that I was in was food service so we were selling to restaurants and things like that. And actually, one of the probably if not the best experience one of the best experiences in co-op was the ability to be part of a pitch team that pitched back to pizza pizza so we went in and we pitched you know at the time, pizza pizza was just introducing salads and so there was the ability to go in and pitch, pizza pizza on using you know your dressing as part of the actual the salad launch. And we ended up winning that business, we did a huge launch in Downtown Toronto, remember at the time we had pinball Clemons was like the celebrity, we had La Vie En Rose come and do a fashion show, I don’t quite know how that fit in. but just being part of that was such a great experience actually going in and pitch and win the pizza pizza business.
Joseph Fung: So I can see there’s a bunch of lessons coming out of that kind of unique pitch, that brand alignment, you spoke about kind of finding a solution. Are there any examples where you can think about taking those lessons and applying them in the tech roles you’ve had?
Michael Mensink: Well I think you know there’s tons of similarities regardless of what you’re selling. I think you know obviously understanding your buyers, understanding what’s important to them, making sure that you know ultimately you’re aligned both on a value standpoint, but on a relationship standpoint as well, I think it’s important to set expectations. So I think there’s a lot of similarities as far as selling goes regardless of whether you’re you know selling salad dressing or selling technology. A lot of it comes down to relationships and making sure that you set the right expectations, you understand you know who your buyers are. And you have a good partnership going forward.
Joseph Fung: So thinking about the kind of partnership going forward, as we think about your experience and going forward, you land your first role at Novell and then you move on to OpenText, another great tech company. What was that shift like? Did you find it was a lot of the same kind of selling motions? Was it a big disruption? You know how would you reflect back on that experience?
Michael Mensink: it was quite different for me actually. Because the start that I got was in an industry where people were shifting away from technology. so that the company that I worked for you know we sold an antiquated email service group-wise and everybody was kind of moving away from the OS that they were working on. So customers tended to not want to necessarily give bad news. So I started my sales career in tech you know trying to you know call and sell to people that were trying to dodge me because they ultimately didn’t want to tell me that they were going a different route. So I was like oh man is this, what sales is really like in the longer term. And so I spent you know two and a half years there, it actually worked out really well for me because, in a tough market like that, you learn that you need to sometimes grind it out. And moving to OpenText, I remember you know making calls and having customers go. so glad to hear from you and I was like whoa, what’s happening you want to talk to me, you want like it was just completely different and I think the fundamentals that I got from you know just the selling motion that you go through when somebody doesn’t necessarily want to talk to you and give you bad news to somebody who really does. And you know the conversations that come out of somebody who really does want to partner with you. I think was like you know mind-blowing at the time and I was like finally, this is exactly where I was meant to be.
Joseph Fung: That must have felt really good.
Michael Mensink: I absolutely did have to try at the time.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so the juxtaposition of those two roles is really exciting. Thinking about your journey we’re kind of catching up to the areas where you and I first met. You’ve spent a good long time in the EdTech space, a desire to learn. But briefly, in between, you also spend a bit of time at Salesforce and we speak to so many people who aspire to get into tech sales, and they often kind of name drop the kinds of companies they’d like to work for. And they say, you know, Microsoft or LinkedIn, and the companies they name in Salesforce is often one of them. So we’d love to hear even just your brief thoughts on the kind of, what pulled you into that role at Salesforce? But then what pulled you into to desire to learn D2L after such a short period of time? Because that’s an interesting win yet, but you crushed it at D2L, so what did that transition period look like?
Michael Mensink: Yeah so I mean I think what caught me about Salesforce was exactly what you said right, there were very sexy companies at the time, I think Salesforce continues to be one of those sexy companies, I mean I think the year that I was there you know they were most innovative companies a second year in a row so as far as the technology and what they were doing and the growth rate and all that kind of stuff, I mean top-notch you know, I love the tech as a salesperson you know obviously you understand the technology that you use day in day out. So using this CRM and at the time you know CRM was sort of the big play, I know they’ve moved into a lot of other areas at this point but at the time. you know there was obviously most innovative company, you sell something that you really know a day in day out. So you know I went there actually loved my experience got a ton of training.
I mean that’s one thing they do very well, is they understand the sales process they know how to train all of that kind of stuff so got you know a great foundation just in selling from the time that I had there. But had a great mentor of mine at OpenText, move over to D2L, and yeah always sort of looked up to him in the selling role and you know managed to convince me one day that I should come over and you know D2L was the place where I should be and stuff like that. So yeah managed to convince me to move over to D2L and to help build and grow the enterprise business which at the time in 2013 was still relatively new.
Joseph Fung: That’s great. And that that idea of following a leader that you respect and admire that’s such great a great way for it to happen.
Michael Mensink: Yeah absolutely.
Joseph Fung: So thinking about where you’re at now I mean you’ve spent a good chunk of time at D2L. We got acquainted there, you’re leading sales at RouteThis and now when you think about your journey, I’m sure that’s impacted how you hire for sales. So as you think about how your team will grow and the types of people you’ll need to be bringing in, what would be some of the things that you’re particularly looking for? What would be some of the signs that you know people should think about in their own career planning?
Michael Mensink: Yeah I mean I think first and foremost you have to be curious you have to want to learn about other businesses. One of the things that I love about sales is you know every day is not the same, every company is not the same, even if you sell into the same industry. So you do have to be you know curious about you know what people’s businesses are like. What’s important to one person versus another. Things like that. I think you know the other piece really is more about coachability or the desire and the thirst for more information. Like I think all of us can continue to improve day in day out and you know one of the things that I felt very strongly about especially at D2L was this idea that you know it is about lifelong learning. So I think you know any sales rep, I think anybody, in general, should really you know want to continue to better themselves. And to have you know a coach or mentor or somebody that can ultimately support that vision. I think is important. so you know from my standpoint, I’m looking for people on the team that really do have that you know thirst for knowledge and want to continue to approve upon you know even little things if you can get just a little bit better every single day. Those are the types of people that I’m looking for.
Joseph Fung: I love that idea of the kind of continuous improvement and lifelong learning. We often hear from people that their ability to change or adapt are some of the things that they’re most proud of. What about you if you reflect on your career? Yeah, you’ve had so many highlights. Is there any particular accomplishment that you’d say you’re most proud of so far?
Michael Mensink: Well, I think, I mean I think, I’ll give two answers. I mean the first one again is you know going back to what I love about sales, to begin with, is, just the relationships that I’ve built over the years and that’s you know not only the people that I’ve worked with along the way, but you know I’m still friends with customers that I had you know in my first couple of years at OpenText, I still talk to them on a regular basis. So I think just like the breadth of knowledge and relationships that I’ve built throughout my career is probably you know the one that is most impactful for me because you know it not only affects business but it affects personal as well. so I think that’s the first one I mean if I, if I look at you, know on the other side, I think you know the combination of my first million dollar deal and my first million dollar deal that I coached my team member to achieve. I think are our two big ones.
Joseph Fung: Yeah, I can imagine how good that second one, in particular, would feel. Helping somebody else accomplish. That’s wicked.
Michael Mensink: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: Mike, this has been so good. We got a great glimpse into your journey. Thank you for sharing. I’d love to ask a couple of rapid-fire questions before we wrap up if that’s okay?
Michael Mensink: Yeah of course.
Joseph Fung: Cool. So you’ve been selling tech across a ton of companies and selling food. But thinking about the tools of the trade. What has been your favorite sales tool?
Michael Mensink: So right now I have to say, Gong. I think for our business and where we are today. Just you know the ability to be able to see into conversations and things like that has been hugely impactful.
Joseph Fung: Nice, outside of work, recreation, what’s been your favorite movie?
Michael Mensink: Favorite movie, like I think that I like all the dumb comedies, the wedding, singer, the ones like that. I’d say right now with two little kids of three and five, you know if it’s not animated, it doesn’t get played in this house. So you know right now probably ‘Moana’ or something like that.
Joseph Fung: There is there are a lot of cartoons going on in my place too. I can empathize with that.
Michael Mensink: Yeah.
Joseph Fung: I loved how you earlier you shared how you experimented and tested different careers as a co-op. but when you were a kid. What did you want to grow up to be?
Michael Mensink: I think I’m not much different than most Canadian kids who was like, you know some professional sport. I think I wanted to be a hockey player or a golfer or baseball something like that.
Joseph Fung: Nice, nice. Like this has been so good. Thank you so much for the time for sharing your journey and for all the little anecdotes in between, because this has been a fantastic conversation.
Michael Mensink: Yeah it’s been fun. I appreciate the time.
Joseph Fung: And we made it through without any internet hiccups or lightning breaking things down like we did last time.
Michael Mensink: Yeah, look at that, and like I said, if you ever need a hand with that, you know where to come.
Joseph Fung: Absolutely. We’ll make sure that we run that test next time and get us back up and running quickly. Mike, thanks again. I hope you have a great afternoon and looking forward to our next chat.
Michael Mensink: Yep. Me as well. You too. Thanks, Joseph.
Michael Mensink: Take care.
Joseph Fung: Bye.