Jose Ramirez is a steady presence at industry events around the country. He can be found both at the meetings, and behind-the-scenes of the many association boards he serves on. I see him equally at events in Los Angeles as I do on my Instagram feed as posts from many airport tarmacs, bound for meetings and tradeshows he attends as Director of Marketing for AFR Furniture Rental.
And yet, as much as I’ve seen him, talked with him, and drank wine with him at events over the years, I realized how little I knew about his background until he asked me for my input on an introduction he was working on for a sales meeting. I read it and … Wow! His is a great story fueled by passion, hustle and a kind soul. I asked if I could share it here because what he’s learned and how he does business can inspire everyone from creative starters to seasoned pros. Plus, it is DEFINITELY one for the #passionsthatdriveus! Enjoy!
THOUGHTS ON SALES AND MARKETING
By Jose Ramirez
There are two things to know about me. One. I’m passionate about AFR. And Two. I’m passionate about sales and marketing.
We hear that phrase — sales and marketing —so much that we might not even pay attention to it any more.
But it’s not just some hazy concept. It’s actually at the core of every person. We are all in sales and marketing in some way. It might be when we are young trying to get our parents to take us to Disneyland, or later in life when we are trying to get a date with the woman or man we’ll be with for the rest of our lives.
We are always, always, packaging and trying to sell our personal message in so many ways.
And of course, sales and marketing is at the core of business. Without it no business can grow. That’s how important it is!
Years ago …
My first big job was to sell nutritional and dietary supplements to the big boys. And by big boys I mean retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Costco. I actually had to co-manage them due to their size.
Every month our team obtained a million-plus in POs. We were always the underdog. We always had to prove ourselves to win the next product placement. We used Nielson data to spin off the story we needed to tell in order to get our product in. It was intimidating to sell to a panel of buyers.
And it was physically challenging. We were constantly flying out to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Minneapolis for Target and Issaquah for Costco. The buyers were constantly changing so we’d have to get up to speed fast. Most often, an assistant buyer would become the main buyer. So we always had to know everyone on their team and treat them the same, because that’s how fast it changed.
Lesson One: Treat everyone as if they could become your ideal client at any time
Unfortunately, this company wasn’t national so when I wanted to make a big life change and move to San Diego, I had to find something else. That something else was called Backdrops Beautiful.
Just one catch — I knew nothing about backdrops.
The owner — who had only started the company about a year and a half before — was cautious and hired me as a consultant on a two-month trial period. My office was a storage room I had to clean out myself. I was given a list of more than 700 names to sell to. Looking at it I had a moment of doubt. I thought … backdrops?
But I didn’t let that little hurdle stop me.
I learned the product inside out. I soon became the Director of Marketing and Sales. We sold in a way that has become my style – by creating, building and fostering relationships, and by finding unique niches. The last one we found was the cruise ship industry. It was a huge boon to sales and all we did was educate them on how they could bring a wow factor on stage with our product.
When I left, I was proud — I had made a significant and positive influence.
Lesson Two: Be open to all possible markets. Business can come from anywhere if you identify that client’s challenge and can show them that you are the solution.
And, overall, I’ve learned to use everything in my arsenal to make that connection.
For instance, I’m Mexican American. I have an accent. I was a “foreigner” in most of these markets. I never let that be an issue. In fact, I used it to my advantage to help tell my story.
Each one of us is an outsider when we first begin any new relationship. Find a way to let those barriers down by telling your story in a unique way.
And as for my story … this brings me to today.
I met Tricia Schmitt, CBO at AFR at The Special Event in 2010. It wasn’t the best start to a relationship I’ve ever had. It was my first Special Event and I was working for Backdrops Beautiful. We were brought together to collaborate on the design of the attendee lounge.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship … yet it wasn’t until a couple years later — and a couple more attendee lounges together — that Tricia and I totally bonded.
During that show, GES lost our skids with all our backdrops. I had to act fast. I called our owner and she flew in a replacement product. I worked all night rigging the 20-foot-high backdrop and finished at 9 that morning before the show doors opened.
During this time I had made a name for myself using social media as a marketing vehicle. I had been on numerous speaking panels and coordinated several tweet ups that helped put me on the map. It had grabbed Tricia’s attention. I became a social media consultant for AFR and did it for almost 3 1/2 years before I received an offer to come work for AFR full time in 2014.
Lesson #3: Do you damn best every single time for everyone. You never know where that relationship might go.
Everything we do is really connected. One thing leads to another. It’s important for us to always pay attention. Knowledge is power in the workplace, and when you are selling a product.
Three Tips from Jose Ramirez
How to Connect with Potential Clients
One. Technology. We have it. Use it.
If you are going into a meeting but have never met this person, make sure to check out their social media pages. Learn something personal about your potential client so that when you sit down at your appointment it’s easier to start a conversation. In the end, they will be impressed that you went in being prepared.
Two. Be personal with them.
Today, it’s not just about pitching your deck to them, but on how well-rounded you are and how much you understand their business and who they are.
Three. Show up as your best self at all times.
You are an extension of your brand. From the very moment you meet someone, they are getting an impression of you, from how you dress to how you act under the influence of a few drinks. I am almost always in a suit. It’s my signature dress code and I’ve become known for it.
Own your style. Make it work for you. It’s part of what makes you memorable. But also know your audience. And educate them if they don’t know about you or your brand. The more they know, the more they will appreciate you and the easier it will be for them to do business with you.
Top: Jose Ramirez at All Seated event, OUE Skyspace. Photo by Visuals by Arpit
Middle: Photos by Jose Ramirez
Bottom: AFR Catalina Sectional Sofas at Trish Peng event, Photo Loreen Sarkis, Sarkis Studios