The Power of Engagement in Sales

Some people consider employee engagement as a soft strategy that doesn’t really move the needle in sales. Ryan Joswick, VP of sales at Heartland Payment Systems is not one of those people. In this episode, Ryan talks about why employee engagement matters, what it means to coach on strengths, and how hiring the right people can make all the difference between winning and losing.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

– Gallup Q12
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In This Episode You’ll Learn:

– What is employee engagement?
– A real-life example of employee engagement at work
– How to think about hiring the right sales people

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Gabe Larsen: Welcome everybody to our Sales Secrets podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about employee engagement. This is topic I’ve been passionate about, I think some people think it’s somewhat soft, but I think it can make a big difference to your bottom line. To dive into the topic today, we’ve brought on Ryan Joswick. Ryan happens to be the VP of sales at Heartland Payment Systems. Ryan, thanks so much for joining and how the heck are you?
Ryan Joswick: I’m doing great. I’m glad to be here, Gabe. I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and chat.


Gabe Larsen: Yeah, I think this’ll be interesting. Like I said, I think this is great, sometimes people talk about culture, but I think that the root of good culture is employee engagement. So I’m excited to get into that. Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, Ryan? What you do over there at Heartland Payment Systems?


Ryan Joswick: Yeah, you bet. I work at Heartland Payment Systems, as VP of sales. I oversee the West Coast. We’re really a business technology company, so everything from credit card processing to payroll services to business loans. We have partnerships with 401(k) companies and so forth. Before this, I worked for Kleiner Perkins a venture capital company. I got the startup experience, which is totally different than the corporate world. Before that I spent 12 years in a company called Cintas.
Gabe Larsen: Yes, I’ve heard of Cintas.
Ryan Joswick: I’ve went from a rep to a manager to a director. I was on the faculty of training and development. I think that’s really where my passion was ignited around employee engagement. When I left, I was a VP of sales for them doing various different activities.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, that’s interesting. I actually spent some time at Gallup, like the Gallup Poll, and their Q12 Survey, and some of the engagement things they did were amazing. I did also fell in love with the concept of employee engagement. Real quick, outside of work, anything you’re passionate about? Hobbies? Crazy experiences you’ve had?
Ryan Joswick: Yeah. I do endurance activities. It started years ago. I got a phone call from my mom, of all people. She said, “I signed you up for a marathon.” Her friends signed their sons up I guess. Right then I said, “You did what?” I don’t run, I don’t enjoy running. I had a flashback of a kid traveling around watching her run marathons. If you’ve ever done one, you get to mile 13, 15, 20, people start breaking down. They’re throwing up. They don’t feel well. It’s just not a good situation.


She said, “Hey, I know you can do it. Trust me. I’ll give you the training program.” I thought it about that, and I said, “You know what? I’ll give it a try.” I called her the next morning and said, “Okay, I’m in.” She gave me the training plan, and for six months I just trained. I lived where it rained a lot. I was literally running on a treadmill, looking in the mirror, saying, “You’re going to do this. You’re going to do this. You’re going to do this.”


We went to Chicago for the 25th annual marathon, and we ran together. We went all the way through, and we were coming down the final shoot of the marathon. I was holding my mom’s arm, and we run across the finish line, and tears are coming down my face. Not so much because I ran 26.2 miles, but it was the belief that I could do other things in my life I told myself I couldn’t do, right?
I had asthma, so I thought ah I can’t run. That ignited this passion in me…
Gabe Larsen: What else have you done?
Ryan Joswick: “… I can really do anything I put my mind to.” Since then, I’ve done a lot of marathons. I did an Ironman Triathlon. I did an ultra marathon where I ran 50 miles on a mountain with snow and streams. I wouldn’t recommend that because it’s really, really hard, but it’s really pushed the limit. I’ve learned that the physical body can go a lot longer than the mind. Usually the mind gives up before your body does
Gabe Larsen: Yeah. Wow, interesting.
Ryan Joswick: I enjoy that, and then I’m married. I got three little girls, and they teach me about life, and passion, and living in the moment. I’m very, very blessed on many fronts.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, man. Well, congratulations. You have three kids. That is a blessing. I’m sure it’s a curse at times, but it’s also mostly a blessing. Yeah, that’s a lot of running, but it is interesting. I mean, to be able to break that barrier and do something your mind, your body, didn’t think could do. I can only imagine that moment, that, “Wow.” I liked your comment, “Wow, what else can I do that I didn’t think I could do, but I now know I can do if I put my mind to it.”
Well that will probably fit nicely into this concept of employee engagement, and getting people to change their mindset, and obviously get more happy, get more engaged at work. You hit on this briefly as we kicked this off, but I was curious. Why is employee engagement a passion of yours? It sounded like you had a little bit of a background of training and development, so you saw the effects of it. Would that be fair to say? Where did this come from?
Ryan Joswick: I think it’s very fair to say. I’d been in sales for many, many years. I started doing door-to-door sales in a company called Southwestern. 100% commission selling books door-to-door on the East Coast to work my way through school.
Gabe Larsen: Good for you, man. Anybody who has done door-to-door deserves a gold star on their shirt, no doubt about it. My goodness, that’s the real sales.
Ryan Joswick: It’s hardcore. I tell people, because when we first went out there we knocked on doors, and we asked people if we could live in their house. The look on peoples’ faces, like, “Well, why don’t you look in the newspaper?” Well, we needed a host family. We don’t have any money. We’re college students. It was such a weird concept, but I learned so much.
Here’s what kicked it off, is I’d come in these Sunday meetings. We worked six days a week, and on Sundays we’d go into these meetings to learn to become better. We’d do role plays, have stories. Each Sunday, I noticed the group kept getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller. People are going, “Oh, this is crazy. I’m not getting paid. I’m knocking on doors all day.”
Gabe Larsen: Wow…
Ryan Joswick: I was committed. I was like, “Okay, I’m not going to quit,” but I was fascinated with who are the ones that end up persevering and the ones that don’t. That carried on into when I started working in the corporate world. I would see someone come in that was extremely talented, I would say. Blessed with attributes that would … persuasive, aggressive, assertive, tenacious. Then someone else who is rough on the edges and has some grit, ends up sticking, and performing better than this other person.
I was fascinated with why could two people, one do well, and one not do well. I started learning around the human psychology, and then the environment that people are in. I got fascinated around this concept of employee engagement. I love the fact that you used to work at Gallup. I didn’t know that, actually, Gabe. That’s cool. Very familiar with the Gallup organization, specifically Marcus Buckingham.
Gabe Larsen: Oh my-
Ryan Joswick: I’ve read all his books-
Gabe Larsen: I was there just after Marcus left. He didn’t have a great … I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I was such a fan. I went to Gallup for a couple reasons, and Marcus was one of them. Having seen, in my career, thousands … Well, thousands. Let’s not over exaggerate, hundreds of presenters, Marcus Buckingham is one of the best. He is just amazing. The books are great, but in person he takes strengths to a whole other level, man. He’s so good.
Ryan Joswick: He really does.
Gabe Larsen: He’s so good.
Ryan Joswick: So, I’ve enjoyed that concept around how do you apply to someone’s strength? You mentioned Gallup. I think they did the poll one time. They that found something like 87% of people were disengaged or not fully engaged-
Gabe Larsen: That’s right. Yeah.
Ryan Joswick: … in their role. Obviously, you lose productivity. You create a toxic environment. So this concept of how can you create a good working environment where people get excited to work in the morning, and they want to do the activity they have to do, versus have to do.
Gabe Larsen: Interesting. You and I share … I actually did door-to-door a little different. I say I, “Sold religion.” I was a Mormon missionary overseas and knocked doors for a long time. I’ll tell you-
Ryan Joswick: I love it. Did you do the two years?
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, I did the two years, man. That’s why I got to say, anybody whose knocked doors … and look, religion aside, whatever, anybody who’s knocked doors gets a pat from me on their back. It grows you up pretty fast.
Ryan Joswick: Yeah, it’s hardcore. They used to teach us to run between the houses-
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, the run between-
Ryan Joswick: … so you couldn’t consciously think about the rejection that someone just threw at you.
Gabe Larsen: Oh, man. But you know, I had so many good … I had one experience where this guy answered, and he was so mad. This woman tapped him on the back and said, “He just lost his job that day,” or he had a bad day. Just kind of opened my eyes to what people may be not engaged with you, but a lot of times it’s not about you. It’s about them. I learned a lot through the door-to-door, so I got to say I can really appreciate that.
This concept of engagement in that environment. I mean, I can only imagine how the group slowly dwindled from time to time. Did you find, and not just there but in other times … because I think that’s one of the debates. If you create an engaged atmosphere, do you see benefits from it? Is it just this fluffy HR thing that HR pushes on us?
Ryan Joswick: I wholeheartedly believe that there are benefits involved in it. I don’t think it’s just create an environment. There’s multiple variables that play into it. You can have a great environment, but you hire the wrong person and put them into that environment, nothing is going to come out of it, right? You can have the best system, the best contest, but you hire someone who’s not hard-wired to do that job, they’re not in the right seat of the bus, you’re going to get a subpar result.
Gabe Larsen: Let’s double click that just for a minute, because I don’t think when most people think about engagement they probably think of hiring first. Wiring, getting the right person in the bus, maybe just explain a little about what you mean there. Then I want to follow up with it with just how do you maybe start thinking about aligning talents to roles. What do you mean with the hard-wiring, getting the right people on the bus?
Ryan Joswick: Absolutely. Think about even the people that are listening to this podcast. When you wake up in the morning, are you excited about getting out of bed? You jump out of bed, and your mind is thinking about the things you need to do. You have enough anxiety jumping out of bed, but not enough to keep you up at night, but you’re excited to greet the day. Magical results happen, and before you know it, it’s night or weekend.
The time goes by. Or are you on the inverse, the other person that wakes up and goes, “Oh god, another day.” You drag your feet out of bed, right? All day long, you’re looking at your watch. You’re looking at the calendar. You can’t wait until the night of the weekend comes, and you’re doing activities that are emotionally or physically draining, right? You’re playing more your weaknesses versus, like Marcus Buckingham says, playing your strengths.
When you look at how someone is hard-wired, I think people have a certain attributes that may play better to certain roles. For instance, in outside sales, you don’t have to be an extrovert. Typically most folks are in that of sale, unless they have a lead engine that’s getting them leads and so forth. They have the ability to engage in conversations with people.
Well, if you take an introvert, and make them go door-to-door, and sell, they’ll go do it, but they won’t feel comfortable doing it. They’re going to have an uneased feeling. If you fill a team with people that aren’t hard-wired to do that task, it’s not going to be a really good environment. That make sense?
Gabe Larsen: No, it absolutely does. The concept I think makes sense, although I think for a lot of people, it is new to them. What do you feel like, and we don’t have to go too deep into this, but is there some things you’ve found that can actually help a leader do that? How do you align that role with the talent? Is there questions you ask? Is there ways you determine the hard-wiring of somebody as you go through the interview process? How to you hire right?
Ryan Joswick: Hire right? Yeah, so it’s such a big topic. I don’t know if we’ll cover it 20 minutes.
Gabe Larsen: I was kind of like … Just one thought or two thoughts on tips for hiring right.
Ryan Joswick: Yeah. I would start with the end game. So a leader getting really, really clear on, okay, who is their top performer in the role? What attributes do they have? Do they show up on time? Are they meticulous? Do they handle customers a certain way? I might have people that are very, very detail oriented, but they don’t have the people skills.
In my mind I’m thinking, “No, they got to have the people skills. That’s more important than even being detail-oriented.” They have to create, I guess, a list of attributes that are most important. Then look at if they want to hire people, what are companies that they would be employed in that possibly already are doing these roles or tasks? Whether it’s cold calling, outbound marketing, working with customer service, it doesn’t really matter.
Then you’re developing, I call them, behavioral-based questions. Hey, Gabe, tell me about a time in the past when you had to deal with rejection. I’m covering, in the past behavior, have you had to deal with these situations that I’m going to be putting you in the present moment? If you have, great. Let’s continue to talk about it and see if this is a fit. If you haven’t, then I might tell you, say, “Gabe, I don’t think you’ll be happy with this job.”
One of the steps we use is we do a ride-along, where we have reps go in the field, and physically see the job. One of my favorite books around employee engagement or turnover is The 7 Hidden Reasons Why Employees Leave.
Gabe Larsen: I don’t know if I know it.
Ryan Joswick: One of the reasons in there, it says, the job was not what was expected. Someone gets into it, the sales leader spends a month, or two, or longer training someone, and then someone comes in and says, “I’m not happy, I can’t sleep. I’m miserable. It’s not what I thought it was going to be.” Well, how do you overcome that? Make sure that there is a clear alignment or a small gap between what they perceive the job is, and what the job actually is.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah. Interesting. Yeah, those kinds of questions, making sure you align the role to the expectations. I love it. You’re right. That’s probably a whole conversation of itself, but there’s a couple other things I want-
Ryan Joswick: That’s another podcast. 2.0.
Gabe Larsen: I might have to have you back on for that one here in the next couple weeks. I want to ask you a couple other questions on the employee engagement. We’ve touched on the strengths a little bit. We’ve not talked too much about strengths. That’s probably a shame, because I loved the concept in Marcus Buckingham, man. I should go watch some old videos of that because, again, I’m a huge fan. How does this fit into it? We talked a little bit about hiring, but how do you build the strengths-based culture? Thoughts on aligning more strengths than weaknesses. Where do you go on that?
Ryan Joswick: Well, there’s a lot of different ways, right? I mean, there’s a lot of companies out there that do personality tests. I have mixed opinions on personality tests. There are organizations where if someone tests a certain way, they didn’t hire them. In fact, I was in one where it said, I won’t use the name of the test because I don’t want to call anyone out, but it was a very well-known test. It said, “Don’t hire this person.” I said, “I’m going to hire this person,” and they were number three in the country out of 750 people.
Gabe Larsen: Wow.
Ryan Joswick: Yeah. I think tests are good to point out maybe red flags, or things you want to dig deeper into. They shouldn’t be a pass or fail, in my own belief system, my own opinion.
There’s a lot of different ways that companies can get set up for that if they want to invest their resources in personality tests, training people on personnel. I think when you create a good environment, you attract other like-minded people. That’s a whole other topic around, how do you create a culture? That invisible fabric that some companies have done a better job of than others in defining what it is. You think about you running a sales organization, you attract other people that think and act like you do.
They have a buddy, they say, “Oh man, you should come check out, we’re hiring.” They’re like, “Oh, that sounds like fun.” All of a sudden, they attract other people. Now it’s the same thing. You could attract a team of, I hate to say it, but losers, people that just complain that glass half empty, or you could attract a team of winners. People that say, “Let’s get it done. The glass is empty. Let’s create that glass half full.”
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, you-
Ryan Joswick: I got a laugh out of you, so that must [crosstalk]-
Gabe Larsen: I was just thinking no one wants the loser team, right? That’s just the way it works. There is something about getting the strengths focus. Is there something you’ve done in your own culture to help draw out this concept of focusing on what people are better at, rather than always focusing on weaknesses, outside of the hiring model? You know, day-to-day, or in conversations with your teams, or managers, or reps?
Ryan Joswick: Yeah, I absolutely have. I think, it goes back to my own philosophy of you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. The difference between a leader and a manager, often I’ll run trainings. I’ll say, “Hey, when you think about a leader or leadership, what comes to your mind?” We’ll brainstorm. Ultimately, it comes down to one word. It’s influence. It’s someone who is able to influence someone who doesn’t have any authority. I used to work for a company. I would go into a market, and I would get the reps around the table.
I’d say, “Hey, I’m thinking about doubling the size of reps, so your territories are going to get split in half.” I would stop, and I would watch the body language. I would see who do they would look to in the room. If five or six of them would look at one person, I know that person is the leader in that room. They might not even have the title, but I know they are the ones I need to influence. I don’t plan on splicing up territories and all that. I just want to know who is the leader, and who do I need to talk to about what’s really going on in that team.
Gabe Larsen: Interesting.
Ryan Joswick: It’s this concept around how do you influence and lead people, right? I call it influence without authority. I love the idea of having to influence people, and it could be influencing the marketing department to increase the quantity or quality of the leads. Maybe it’s increasing or influencing customer service on how they’re dealing with the customers. Maybe it’s influencing the sales support, or influencing HR, or operations. Your ability to get someone to want to do something versus have to do it goes a long ways.
Tactically, what does that mean? My style is radical enthusiasm, right? I recognize people. Catch them doing something good and reinforce the behavior. Have a big sales week. Recognize them. Make them feel good. Send them a funny emoji, with the eyebrows going funny. Be creative. Make them feel appreciated. I send a lot of handwritten notes, a lot of them, every single month. I recognize them on calls. I call them up. I try to connect with as many people as I can.
I’ll also admit when I make mistakes, when I messed up. I should’ve done this better. Showing some level of authentic humbleness, I think, allows other people to say, “You know what? I can connect with that leader.” So when things aren’t going well, they’re willing to pick up the phone and call you, and say, “I’m thinking about leaving the company,” or, “I’m frustrated.” When you don’t have that environment, you don’t hear anything from them. All you do is hear it, or you see it on Glassdoor, and they’re long gone.
Gabe Larsen: Glassdoor can be a bad tool these days, obviously, if you’re not careful. It definitely sounds like, Ryan, you have … I can feel your excitement coming through the screen here, let alone the audio. I can only imagine being on your team. You’re probably very fun, exciting, and I think that obviously plays to the concept of creating a pretty fun environment. As we wrap here, thinking about the audience, summary statements are kind of leave behinds for people who are thinking of trying to build this kind of culture of engagement.
Ryan Joswick: Say that again? You’re asking for things that they can do?
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, yeah. Thinking about someone in your own shoes, like a leader, a sales leader, who’s like, “Man, I’d like to get more of an engaged culture.” Would you tell them to start here? Do you have a closing or summarizing tip or statement you’d leave them with? How would you sum this up?
Ryan Joswick: Yeah. So, a couple things. I mean, I think there are resources out there, right? Obviously, you’ve got books. You mentioned Marcus Buckingham. First, Break All the Rules; Now, Discover Your Strengths, those are a couple books around it. If it has to do with emotional intelligence, Emotional Intelligence 2.0. It’s just how do you connect with yourself, and how do you connect with other people. The oldie but goodies, right? How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. That flows into it.
Gabe Larsen: That’s a great one, man. Yeah, that’s [crosstalk]-
Ryan Joswick: One of my books I love is The Power of Full Engagement. Tony Schwartz studied athletes and found what brings out the best in them, and then how to apply that in the corporate world.
Gabe Larsen: Interesting.
Ryan Joswick: Yeah, it’s fascinating. It’s one of my top 10 books.
Gabe Larsen: Wow, interesting. So a lot of different resources that people can go to get started, get going, get involved, right?
Ryan Joswick: That’s it. Yeah, that’s it. If anyone wants to reach out to me, I have a website. My name, Ryan Joswick, R-Y-A-N-J-O-S-W-I-C-K at .com, or they can send me LinkedIn invite. I’d love to connect with them and help them on their journey.
Gabe Larsen: Awesome, awesome. Well, Ryan, I appreciate the enthusiasm. I love the talk track on employee engagement. I think it’s something we all need to be taking into consideration. Thank you for your time. For the audience, remember success is just one play away.
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