Sales Smackdown with Ryan Lewis, Founder of Bonfire Marketing

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Every month we sit down with a local sales leader to learn about his or her sales philosophy, company culture, and the unique challenges they face within their sales organization. This month we sat down with Ryan Lewis, President at Bonfire Marketing.

Ryan, if you could seek advice from any leader in history, who would it be?

Churchill and FDR come to mind. They were fantastic speakers. They were very good at seeing years and even decades down the road, all the while fighting through short term pain for long term gain.

What’s your favorite sales movie? Why?

I love the classics of Glengarry Glen Ross and Boiler Room. Boiler Room is of course dark and evil, but interesting nonetheless. Jerry Maguire as well. Despite being a love story, a sales guy will realize that this also about a guy who will do anything for his client.

Tell me about your sales culture.

Well, we don’t have any sales people. I’m the only person who does sales at Bonfire, but I would have to say that our sales philosophy is about low pressure and merit based. Our work speaks for itself, and our energy attracts people.

Tell me more about your sales philosophy.

An educated buyer is a loyal buyer. A lot of our sales revolve around education and defining possibility so that clients know what they are getting into, the direction in which they are going, and understanding they are a partner in what we are collectively accomplishing.

What’s the perfect size sales team for Bonfire?

Adam, that’s a tough question. We are a small agency, but I would say… “everyone.”  I guess I mean that in a good culture everyone is a sales rep by proudly representing their company. You don’t necessarily need sales people when you’ve got that kind of culture.

The best companies reward their team members well. How do you like to reward your performers?

Career advancement is one way, also financially in the form of profit sharing, and of course opportunity in general. I’m always telling my team “Mastery before Movement.” You’ve got to master what you’re working on before you can advance to other opportunities. Get really good at what you do, then let’s talk about your next challenge.

Describe the ideal rep for your team.

Somebody that is extremely curious about everything, and somebody that is very organized. At Bonfire, if you’re going to be a customer facing team member, you have to be better at managing somebody’s calendar than they are. And you have to be just as curious about their business as they are. If you aren’t organized you’ll be in constant reaction mode, which will diminish your curiosity. Our clients don’t hire us for that.

Every employer has a special set of “secret sauce” interview questions. Tell me about some of the unique questions you like to ask when interviewing.

I always have fun with a couple of questions like that, and I like asking historical questions. In many ways, people are much like their family, and you can learn a lot by asking about their past before they were professionals. “Where did you grow up? What was it like growing up in x town? What clubs were you part of in high school?”

We like to look for people with different types of personalities, backgrounds and leadership experience, too.  “What are your favorite blogs?” Hobby questions are always interesting, but sometimes we like to ask about their “weird” hobbies. Culture is everything.

What are your pet peeves when interviewing candidates?

If they know nothing about our company or the people interviewing them, then: NO. If they have no voice inflection it can be difficult to know what they are passionate about. People who are passionate have highs and lows, and that’s what we look for here.

What’s the best answer you’ve ever heard in an interview?

“I’ll do whatever it takes to make this company great.” Not good. Great.

What’s the most creative way you’ve inspired a team member of yours?

We inspire people a few different ways.  Even physically. We pay for entry fees into running, cycling, or any athletic event. You have to prove to us that you are in it, but we’ll pay for it for you.

How else do you inspire others?

With continued learning. The difference between who you are today and the person you’ll be tomorrow is the books you’ve read and the places you’ve been. So we really encourage paid time off for travel and life experience, and we’ll buy you any book you want to read. As long as you communicate to the team which book you want and the reason you want to read it, Bonfire will buy that book and then add it to our library here.

What are your top 3 sales or leadership books?

“First, Break All the Rules.” That’s a book I first read when I was 25. It had a profound effect on how I communicated with people.  Second, “Delivering Happiness,” and third, “Losing My Virginity,” a book from Richard Branson. “Emotional Intelligence” was really good too.

Does Bonfire Marketing in any way support Gluten or the new carpet at Portland International Airport?

Yes, we support gluten, but that is an individual choice. Anyone who doesn’t eat gluten is missing out on yummy stuff. The new carpet stinks, i like the old stuff.