Aaron Traffas: Hello and welcome to Purple Wave’s Auction Podcast, my name is Aaron Traffas. This episode is another in our series of territory manager interviews, and today I’m speaking with AJ Perisho of Moline, Ill. AJ is Purple Wave’s territory manager for eastern Iowa, northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin. Good morning, AJ, and thanks for joining me this morning.
AJ Perisho: Well thanks for having me, Aaron.
AT: Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up?
AP: I actually grew up in the Quad Cities Area. So, the Quad Cities is comprised basically of Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side of the river, and on the Illinois side, Rock Island and Moline would be the other two cities. So, the Mississippi River splits the states where I live there. When you’re from that Quad Cities Area, most of the time you either grew up on the Iowa side or you grew up on the Illinois side. I actually grew up on the Iowa side and then moved to the Illinois side, probably about 1997.
You have a couple different previous careers. Tell me how you got started in business.
Actually, my dad had his own business out in California, and I had made my way out that way as a young man, always thinking that California’d be a great place to live. Well, when you’re from the Midwest and all you’ve ever known is kind of the Midwest and winters and the four seasons that we have, you’re like living by the beach would sure be fun. So, I did that. I went out there and worked for my dad. I actually started out in the factory end of things helping assemble a machine that we made. It was a trailer-mounted aerial lift. After a while, he said, “Hey, would you ever consider trying sales for us?” I said, “I’ll try anything.” So, that was my first real entryway into what I would call – I don’t want to say the management side of business, but, you know, from the manufacturing side into more the business development side – learning sales. Probably, like most people, you don’t really learn sales from the company you work for. You kind of learn it by the seat of your pants out in the field. So, you learn a lot of product knowledge and that was kind of what I would say was my first entryway into sales when I was probably 23 or 24 at the time.
Part of your experiences is as a business owner. Tell me about that.
Probably my best experience after working for my dad and another company – I went to work for a local Cat dealer, and it was a great experience. It was something I always wanted to do. I look at selling that big iron as selling big toys for big boys. So, that was a lot of fun, but I always had a desire to – probably, I guess, a lot of people feel that I’d like to run my own business. There’s always that mystique, that oh, that look so cool when you see people making lots of money, but you don’t realize everything that goes into it. So, in 2005 I left the Cat dealer I was working for to start my own business and I did sales training, sales management training and business development for companies. Companies could be any size. Probably my core target market was those business with 50 employed or less. They probably had a sales force of anywhere from two to ten people, as kind of an average sized customer or average customer I did business with. I ended up doing some business with some bigger companies also that had 50 plus salespeople, so I got a lot of cool experience. In that role as that sales trainer, I really would get in depth. The sales training that I did wasn’t usually that one day, show up, do a seminar, try and get people motivated and jump back out in the field. The sales training I did was usually conducted over an extended time period. Probably the shortest time I’d want to work with a company would be a six month period, and, ideally, I had year plus relationships with most companies. I bet you on average I probably averaged anywhere from two to three years, on average, with a company, working with their sales people and, depending on the company – if they had turnover in their sales force, or what was going on, if they were kind of growing or just trying to survive – that dictated a little bit about what we did. I would usually teach them the basic system that I was a franchise owner of at the time. I won’t even mention the company, but there’s only one company out there that did that – that sold franchises for sales training, so it’s not too hard to find. It was a great company. I just kind of fell out of love with the whole franchise system. I didn’t really care for that model – I mean, it is what it is. I really loved the sales methodology. I taught people and it was really neat to see the growth and development of these people. Like I mentioned, you don’t really learn to sell from the company you work for. I have never come across a company yet that had a real good sales training program. What most people think of their training program is they’re teaching people which buttons to push and features and benefits of their machinery and why theirs is better than the competition, but they’re not really teaching you a process of how do I go out in the field and meet the right prospects to convert that prospect into a client. The reason I say client versus customer is because – I’m trying to remember who said it. I’d give credit if I could think of it offhand, but we define the client as somebody under your care, guidance and protection, whereas I look at as customer as just kind of a one-time, hey, I went into Walmart and I bought some paper towels. You may go to Walmart again, but they’re there because they’re the low price leader. They’re not there holding your hand, walking you and helping you figure out and make the best decision on that purchase. The companies I worked best with actually had clients that they did business with on a continuous basis. So, when you learned a good process to not only help that client discover if there was a good fit between the things that you offered and were good at and what they were looking for to kind of, what I would say, alleviate their pain, their frustrations, maybe, that they were running into as it related to your product or service – those were clients that I could really hit home runs with and really help them move that business to the next level. So, I had a lot of fun doing it and it was a great experience.
How did you end up hearing about Purple Wave and what was it that made you want to go from sales instruction to sales execution?
Well, as a sales trainer, there was nothing that was ever given to me. You practice your craft. People don’t go shopping for sales training, so you have to do some hard-core prospecting and cold calling. So, let’s see. It was, I guess about June of 2013, this year, that I got a message via LinkedIn and it was from Jason Moore, the Purple Wave human resources director. He had just put a message out there, I don’t know, because maybe my background, to see if I knew anybody that might be a good fit for a territory manager role. So I just started asking him some questions. “Hey, what are you looking for? Is it a full-time gig? Is it part time? What kind of background do you want them to have?” I got to thinking, because I had stopped the ownership of my franchise in 2010. I had continued – I had evolved my business a little bit to keep doing what I was doing to a certain degree. I just kind of changed up and added some marketing stuff. I’d grown a little disenchanted and I’d been kicking around the idea in the back of my head that you know, maybe I should get back and go to work for a company again. You know, the timing worked out and I asked Jason, I emailed him back or sent him a text back probably, I don’t know, a couple weeks after he approached me and I said, “Hey, would you be interested in talking to me about this position?” He said, “Sure. Let’s set up a time to talk.” One thing led to another. I talked to Jason and I talked to Andy - who would be my boss that covers our district that I’m in. The next step beyond that was to go down to Manhattan, Kan., and meet all the management team down there and, you know, go through that process. I really liked everybody. The way I like to operate – hey, I tell you something, I do it. There didn’t seem to be any agenda with people. It didn’t seem like people were trying to position themselves politically. Sometimes I think in big companies people play politics to try and move up the corporate chain. We’re a pretty flat organization, so I really like that. I like that small company mindset, even though as we grow we become bigger. There’s still that mindset of hey, we’re going to work hard, we’re going to do the things we say – those founding principles that Purple Wave is built on. They really do what they say they’re going to do. I heard good things about the company from talking to some different customers Purple Wave had done business with. I think that’s always a key thing. The company always wants to say great things about themselves – and we all do. We’re all politicians to a certain degree, promoting ourselves. But when you talk to a customer or client that’s doing business with them, that’s where you’re going to hear the real meat. “Tell me about your experience. What was it like doing business? Is there anything that they could have done better or that went wrong?” You’re never going to make 100 percent of the people happy. That’s not even a realistic goal. But, I think to treat everybody fair, to do the best you can for each person – that’s what’s going to keep that company moving forward, doing a good job, growing. Everything worked out well. I liked the people, they seemed to like me and the next thing you know, I’m working for Purple Wave.
You’ve got a few months under your belt so far. Tell me about your role and responsibilities. What’s an average day for you?
Well, an average day – we have pretty big territories. As far as a territory manager for Purple Wave – I’d have to go back and count, but I’d roughly about say 36 counties or so. Basically, I cover eastern Iowa, which consists, I think, of 25 counties in Iowa – kind of that far eastern tier of Iowa, probably as far west as about Iowa City, just past, and then almost – I hate to say a straight line – kind of a line going straight up the state and straight down, then, I would say that first tier of counties into Illinois, from about the Wisconsin border to the bottom of where the Iowa border would stop into the Illinois territory, and then five counties in that southwest corner of Wisconsin. So, basically, it’s a pretty untapped territory. The territory manager they had before was trying to cover the whole state of Iowa, which is just going to be impossible. It’s 99 counties. You know, 30 counties is a ton of counties to get out and see everybody that could benefit from doing business with Purple Wave. At the moment, I feel like I go out and do a lot of what I say – introducing myself, getting exposure for the company, seeing if I can meet the right people. With my background, with contractors, that’s my first area of comfort. Contractors are usually easier to find. Most of them have a shop. They have their equipment labeled with their company name so you can see stuff. It’s a little easier to find contractors. I find it a little more challenging on the ag side. Farmers are a little more – I don’t know if “discreet” would be the right word, but they usually do not have a logo on their equipment, they don’t have their shops marked well with ABC Farms, or something like that. You’ll see farms that you know is a farm, but absolutely nothing to tell you who would be there, unless you want to reverse-engineer all that, which gets to be a long process. But, on a daily basis, getting out, getting in front of people – you know, there’s a small cluster of people that have done some business with Purple Wave in this area. Keeping myself in front of those accounts, I basically like to see those top clients that I would say – or even those top prospects that I think would be good clients for Purple Wave and that we could do a good job with – if I can get in front of those people every one to two months and just at least give them some information and kind of keep making them aware – I always told people, I said, “Over a certain amount of time, you can probably get to do business with the majority of people you go after.” The challenge is that you don’t know how many exposures or contacts or touches that that specific company will need before they basically let down that wall and say, “You know, hey, this guy’s been dropping off a lot of information for us. Let’s talk to him.” If they have equipment, they’re moving it somehow. I think the majority of contractors typically trade their equipment in to the equipment dealer when they buy new stuff. I’m not saying that’s 100 percent, but that’s kind of the old school mentality or the way they’ve always done it, so they continue to do that. The one thing I see where Purple Wave can really help these people is, from what I’ve seen, in general, we usually get that person more money on the open market than they’re going to get trading it in. The goal of the dealer, of course, is to make money, so I’m going to give you wholesale cost so I can sell it at retail is the dealer’s methodology there. As I look at Purple Wave, I think we are evolving the way people traditionally move their equipment or manage their inventory. So, instead of me having to trade my piece of equipment in, the power of the Internet – which we have done a great job of utilizing – is going to change the way that these guys start thinking about hey, I don’t really have to sell this or trade this back in to the dealer and take a 30 percent hit on what I think I should get for this thing. I think with Purple Wave we’ve done a great job of shifting that marketplace to using the power of the Internet to get that person probably – I would say at least 20 percent more than the dealer is offering him. You know, again, I don’t have an exact figure and it’s going to vary from piece to piece, but, on average, we’re going to get that person more. So, we are really working to the benefit of that end user by putting more money in their pocket at the end of the day. So, yes, we do some business with dealers, and that’s all well and good, but they’re not going to be our first line of clients because if they end up selling with us, something probably went wrong on their end. Their goal is to sell stuff to that end user, much the same as our goal is. We want to sell stuff to that end user that’s going to use that piece of equipment. Yeah, we have a wide variety of people, but I would say the biggest portion of what I’ve seen of people that I’ve seen of people that buy from Purple Wave are the same people that would sell on Purple Wave. So, I really think that, yes, we are an auction company, but, man, we are evolving what an auction should even be thought of. You know, auction – I used to think, okay, that’s kind of the last resort. Well, I really believe that, over the next couple of years, we’re going to be seen as the first resort. Hey, lets go to Purple Wave. Let’s use Purple Wave. These guys have a process that are really making things happen. Traditional auction just sees how many people show up at an event and we’re going to give your piece two minutes. Well, with our process, we’re giving them 30 days and we’re getting exposure. We’ve got people behind the scenes marketing that piece, pushing that piece, making phone calls, shooting emails – letting people know, “Hey, take a peek at this. This is a nice piece of equipment.” So we’re doing the same kind of things that a dealer’s sales force would, but probably more effectively because we’re not only leveraging the power of those phone calls and the Internet, but, I mean, we’re just taking all that and wrapping it up into a package that is, in my view, very powerful. So that was one of the things that made me even want to go to work for Purple Wave because I really looked at them and said, “These guys are on that cutting edge of that next way that equipment will start to be definitely sold.” What I’m seeing is people, as we get better equipment that we’re selling – newer stuff – the people buying it – you know, it’s really changing the way they think about getting equipment, too. Yes, we’re getting close to those retail numbers but still offering pretty impressive value, so they can actually save a couple bucks versus what a dealer is traditionally going to probably want to get out of that same piece. So, I think that Purple Wave is really evolving that whole way that equipment is being bought and sold.
Well, AJ, as I mentioned, you’ve been on the job for a couple months now. How has the reception been from customers in your territory now that it’s yours? What kind of response have you been seeing?
You know, it really varies. Man, I’ve had some people that will jump on board right away, and they give you a shot, they like how you do a good job for them. I think one thing that’s always helped me is when you and I start doing business, I’m going to treat you like a VIP. You make a call to me – if I can’t answer that call, I tell you what, I’m going to have that phone dial back here in the next couple minutes. So, I know the speed that contractors need to move and make decisions, so I’m very, very sensitive to being in that real timely manner of getting back to people. If you need an answer on something, I’m on it. You know, I can probably get that answer in five minutes and be back to you. So, for those people that have got my foot in the door with early, it’s been a great experience. You know, there’s other people – it’s hard to get in front of people, and the timing of me getting into this – a lot of the contractors are really finishing up their seasons, so they’ve been tied up. They’ve been busy, which is fine. I understand that. I really look forward to probably the next couple months even though it’s going to be cold. There’s going to be snow on the ground, but that will also give these contractors a little bit of time, you know, to kind of catch their breath, and it will give me a chance to hopefully put my face in front of them and just, you know, learn a little bit more about their business. What challenges are they facing as it comes to moving equipment? Do they have any frustrations as it relates to, you know, I get sick of trading my stuff in because I feel like I take a hit every time. You know, it’s always worth more when I buy it and it’s never worth as much when I trade it in. So, learning some of those frustrations and just saying, “Hey, give us a shot. Let us see if we can help alleviate some of those for you.” You know, and if we can – if we can be a good fit for some of those pains and issues that they have when it comes to selling their equipment, great. If the timing’s not right and they don’t have any real frustrations and they like the process they’re using, no problem. “You know, if anything ever changes, you get frustrated, keep me in mind.”
How are you liking the job so far?
I like it. You know, I like being around equipment. One thing I really like about the job is when you’re working for a specific dealership or manufacturer, say a John Deere or a Cat, you become known as the Cat guy. So I was always the Cat guy when I worked for the Cat dealership and, while I love that, the reality is that yes, you may be the biggest manufacturer of equipment, but you may not always have the best piece of equipment. You know, there’s times when you may be in a specific segment size that the competitor has a really good piece of equipment. The other challenge is with – was with Cat, is you’re never going to be low price. You still sell a lot of stuff because you’re Cat. I like having that I don’t have to wear a specific manufacturer’s hat. My goal is going to be to help you get the most money out of that piece. I really feel like I’m really on helping that customer versus trying to promote an agenda for a specific manufacturer. I’m not saying anything bad about them. I think all the manufacturers do a good job, but it’s kind of fun not having to have just one hat of a manufacturer on your head. You can kind of be the go-to guy regardless of what equipment these people are using. So I don’t have any preconceived notions like, “Oh, this guy’s always using Deere. The chances of me getting a deal with him as the Cat guy is going to be slim. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it’s just going to be slim. Whereas now, I don’t care what kind of equipment you have. Yes, some equipment is definitely going to bring better money just because the way the marketplace perceives it, but, you know, it doesn’t matter to me, really.
Tell me some of your personal interests. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Well, that’s drastically changed here in this past year. Back in January, I had a partial knee replacement and, for whatever reason, I ended up with a stress fracture in it. So, for most of the year I’ve been hobbled. As time wore on, it got worse. Finally, about probably six or seven weeks ago, I had a new X-ray and the implant I had put in back in January totally collapsed. So at least it gave me an idea why I was experiencing so much pain. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go and get that surgery done right away like they wanted to because I was coaching my son’s football team and I didn’t have anybody else to take over the coaching. So, I had to wait until the season was over before I could have my surgery. So, two weeks ago I had a total replacement done, so I basically have been rehabbing myself over the last couple weeks. But prior to that, I was always an enthusiast in working out and sports and fitness and stuff. I’ve competed in a lot of endurance events. I did an Ironman triathlon in 2009. Before that I had done power lifting, but now because of this knee issue, I’ve had to drastically change the activities I used to love. There’ll be no more running. I can probably still do some biking as this thing heals up. I haven’t swam for about two years now. I was doing some CrossFit in the previous year. I can’t do much of that anymore because I can’t do any jumping or running, and that kind of limits me. So, my new habits are coaching my kids, helping my kids kind of hit their goals. I have a boy and a girl. My boy is 11 and my girl is 14. My son really loves football, so helping him evolve into kind of that ideal football playing athlete, teaching them how to lift and get in good shape has become my new goals while also still trying to maintain any semblance of fitness. I’ll never hit my previous highs. When you kind of hit a peak or pinnacle of fitness – when you’ve done an Ironman or when you’ve been CrossFitting for a year plus, you’re in pretty good shape, so I’ve had to resign myself that I’m just an old man now. I’m no longer that young guy. I’ll spend time with my wife and help her hit her goals. She still is pretty active. In fact in 2011, she did the same Ironman that I had done in Louisville, Ken., so now we have a house full of Ironman triathletes.
I’ve been speaking with AJ Perisho, Purple Wave’s territory manager for eastern Iowa, northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin. Thanks again, AJ, for joining me today.
Thank you for having me.
Find AJ on the web at purplewave.com/ajperisho – that’s A J P E R I S H O. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 563.508.5968.
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