michael dunne sales

Sales lessons from the humble vacuum cleaner

Michael Dunne sold more than 150,000 vacuum cleaners over a 20 year career. Not because he was a ‘rock star salesman’, but because of his teams and their systems.

Now as the founder of EPIC Sales Group, he helps other businesses do the same with incredible results.

It is a long way from his early life as a Navy officer. While a life at sea was his childhood dream, Michael was drawn to business.

“I ended up seeing an advert in the paper for Godfrey’s as a vacuum cleaner sales person. So, here I was … all my dreams had faded, but I thought you know what, I’m going to do whatever it takes,” Michael told Bushy Martin on the Get Invested podcast.

From his first day at Godfrey’s, Michael’s eyes were immediately opened to the power of sales systems.

“(Godfrey’s had) an incredible model in that they were basically doing direct selling under the roof of a retail store,” he said.

“I learned so much about selling because there was a lot of transactions. Sometimes we were selling 40 or 50 vacuum cleaners a week, but there was this whole system that they used back then, everything from the meet and greet to what questions you asked, how you built the profile of the customer. And then when you went through the recommendations and all these different things.

“But there was a lot of structure there that wasn’t very good either, and it was a bit of icky. And a lot of the sales people didn’t use that sales process, because it was very uncomfortable. You were kind of pinning people in a corner.”

When Michael took on his own Godfrey’s franchise, he decided to change up the sales process.

“It forced me to stop hiring poor sales people, and plug them into a very good sales process,” he said.

“There were three different things. There was changing the sales process. There was hiring ‘A’ players. And then the third thing was actually building a culture of excellence with that sales team. And by doing those three things, we went from nowhere to number one very quickly, within about 18 months I was winning every award, being flown to all these different conferences that they put up for competitions. But it just surprised me how quickly we went from nowhere to number one in that short space of time.

“The franchisees today still use that sales process. And to me it was a necessity, but it also made more sense just to use that sales process because you could always fall back on it all the time, no matter who was working on the floor.

“That’s why you have a system that makes (sales) people do these things. Because it’s not up to them as to whether they want to do it or not, it’s the system. And then you end up managing the system and not your sales people.”

When coaching sales and business leaders, Michael reminds them it is all about people and relationships.

“You’ve got to put the buyer at the centre of the whole journey and I think a lot of businesses ignore that fact,” he said.

“So, you’ve got to create a system that makes the buyer feel very comfortable going from one step to the next step. And if there’s a point where that doesn’t feel comfortable, then you need to re-craft it. And I did that over a period of time where it was just a simple system, I could train my sales people very quickly. They would ramp up within a month usually, and it didn’t feel uncomfortable. I was very disciplined about making sure that they didn’t skip any step in that process as well.

“I think that if you looked at my sales ability, I was probably not the most refined sales person in the way that I could put out dialog, but I was very good at getting rapport and building commonality. Now, I lived in Townsville and a lot of the people there were defence people, and I could just say to them, ‘look, I was in the navy, I spent time, I did active service in the first Gulf War’. And I could relate to them quite well … about our children, or schools, or whatever else. And then all of a sudden they’d say, ‘Oh, okay, well I suppose we’d better buy this vacuum cleaner’.

“I used to really enjoy that connection and taking the product out to the car for them, even if they said, ‘No, no, we’ll take it’. And that would be the last bit, thanking them for their business when I got to the car. Nobody does that. So, it wasn’t that hard to stand out.”

Michael is now using his sales powers for more than just profit, but to change the world.

“(What) we do have is incredible experience and we’re sitting on a mountain of knowledge that we can now transform into what we believe is what we call the Epic Future vision,” he said.

“So, we want to help businesses for good. Businesses that want to give back. And we want to activate businesses to become socially aware and socially responsible so that not only are they making profit, but they’re also helping to solve the world’s problems at the same time, which I feel is our responsibility.”

Listen to the full podcast interview here.

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