From cracking the code for selling dictionaries door-to-door, to selling Stevie Wonder a computer back in 1986, to joining HubSpot as a founding team member, Dan Tyre has spent his whole professional life in sales. In this week’s episode of ZoomInfo’s “Pretty Big Deal” podcast, Dan tells us about a time he lost sight of the customer, and how a single tweet changed his perspective forever.
Sam Balter: What was the first sales job you ever had?
Dan Tyre: All right, way before you were born, 1977. My first sales job was selling books door-to-door in Portland, Oregon. I sold dictionaries for a company called the Southwestern Organization. I wasn’t particularly wealthy, and I asked the recruiter that was recruiting for salespeople, “can I make two grand?”
He goes, “Yeah, you could make more than that.”
I’m like, “OK, I’m in. What do I got to do?”
He’s like, “You got to get in the back of a van, you got to drive down to Nashville, Tennessee, you got to learn how to sell books, and then we send you someplace across the United States.”
I’m like, “Where?”
He’s like, ” We don’t know yet.”
I’m like, “OK, I’m in.”
So, I went to Portland, Oregon, and it was amazing. For the first three weeks, I didn’t sell anything. I was a mess. I didn’t know how to do it. Then I figured it out. It took three weeks of hard work, and then I ran into some lady who was an angel. She just took pity on me, and she bought a set of books. Then I realized how to do it, and it was amazing because it would reinforce your heart. These people were so nice. I could tell you the techniques. I could still do it. After you do it 10,000 times in a summer, this is the way —- I would carry my dictionaries around with me.
People would say, “OK, that’s kind of interesting, but I got to ask my husband.”
I’m like, “That’s what Mrs. Balter said.”
They’re like, “What?”
I’m like, “You know Mrs. Balter right across the street? She said I’m not going to wait for Sam to come home because $40 for my kids’ education, that’s pretty good.”
They were like, “Mrs. Balter bought one?”
I’m like, “Actually, she bought two.” I had my receipts right there. They’d grab them out of my hand and be like, “Oh my God, that lady doesn’t have any money. How’d she do it?” It was all this social pressure. It was amazing.
So, I did it for a year and made five grand over the summer. I thought I was a billionaire. Next summer, I went to Washington state. I worked in Bellingham, Washington as a sophomore, and I recruited nine guys. That was my first sales manager experience. Through the rest of my life, dealing with so many people in rapid fire, and when you knock on somebody’s … they’re like, “Who are you?”
I’m like, “I’m Dan. I’m a salesman. You don’t shoot them around here, do you?” People would actually laugh at that. You laughed at that. Maybe it’s the delivery.
Sam Balter: It’s good. That’s a funny first line.
Dan Tyre: I know, I know.
Sam Balter: That’s a great first line.
Dan Tyre: I had short hair, and I had short pants on, and I was the least threatening person ever. I would go from door to door. People would see me coming, and they would be like, “That’s the book guy.” It was the greatest introduction to sales that you could imagine, because you related to so many different people.
Sam Balter: Dan, when you were starting out though, you mentioned you had three weeks of no sales. You’re sitting there. You have to pay tuition. You don’t have any money, and you’re in a totally new place. Was there ever a point that you were like, “Oh, this isn’t going well. I should probably bail.”
Dan Tyre: Only about 850 times. I didn’t have any money to buy anything. The reason they send you to Bellingham, Washington, is because the other eight guys quit. They were like, “This is too hard. You want me to knock on the door of people I don’t know?”
I’m like, “No, I don’t have enough money to get back to New York. I can’t. Let’s try it.” Then it’s like everything else. It’s an important concept for all your sales listeners, is just engaging with other human beings. And the more you do it, the better you get.
Sam Balter: Okay, so you’re done selling dictionaries. You have all these newfound skills as a salesperson. What did you do next?
Dan Tyre: I walked into this place called the Computer Store, which I guess was pretty good for marketing. They had an advertisement in the window for a salesperson. The guy goes, “Do you have any computer experience?”
I’m like, “Absolutely none. I don’t know COBOL. I don’t know anything. I never took a computer course.”
He goes, “Can you sell?”
I’m like, “Yes.” So, he gave me the job, and in a month I was their top salesperson, because I had all these skills that I immediately applied. I worked there for a year. My boss was Roger Lund. It was an amazing experience. It was great. Then Roger comes in and he’s like, “I quit.”
I’m like, “No way.”
He’s like, “Yeah, I’m going to a startup.”
I’m like, “What’s a startup?”
He goes, “It’s a small company and it’s going to grow very quickly.”
I’m like, “All right, knock yourself out.”
He goes, “No, no, no I want to take you with me.”
I’m like, “I got a job.”
He goes, “I’ll give you $100 more a month.”
I’m like, “Yeah, I’m a startup guy.” So, I went with Roger, and it was dumb luck, and a little bit of extra scratch, and it changed my entire trajectory of my life. I started with this company called Businessland, and I worked as a salesperson to start, and then moved to a sales manager, and then went out to LA, worked in the entertainment industry for Businessland selling to Paramount and Disney. And I sold Stevie Wonder a computer in 1986.
Sam Balter: You sold Stevie Wonder a computer?
Dan Tyre: He walked in and he goes, “I need a computer.”
I’m like, “Hey, you’re Stevie Wonder.”
Businessland was a big deal back then. I met Bill Gates multiple times. Steve Jobs — I sold with Steve Jobs. This is amazing.
It must have been 1986, when Jobs got kicked out of Apple Computer and he started this company called the NeXT computer. We had an exclusive, Businessland, right to resell NeXT computers in North America. So, Steve Jobs’s secretary would call me and said, “Steve is coming to New York. He wants to meet with clients.”
My job was to call people up and say, “Steve Jobs wants to meet with you,” which is the easiest job in the world. Oh my goodness. We’d rent out a room at the Four Seasons restaurant on Park Avenue, and everybody would come. It was a huge thing. I would stand at the door and shake all these hands. I’d see them on the cover of Fortune Magazine, and then I’m shaking their hand.
John Gutfreund from Salomon Brothers, John Reed from Citicorp … Steve would be there, and I’d be sitting right next to him. Then my job was to, when he was speaking, I’d stand up and I’d go, ding, ding, ding, like it’s a wedding, and I would go, “Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Jobs.” Then I’d sit down and he would just talk. He was amazing. Amazing as a salesperson. Amazing. People listened to him because of his background, and because of the experience. Lots of these luminaries in business would come to these sessions.
I probably should have started this podcast. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. Things happen to me that don’t happen to normal people. I do a lot of stuff, and I got the big energy, but things just fall into my lap. I met Bob Marley in 1980. I had dinner with the Grateful Dead. I met Mohammed Ali. All these crazy things.
Sam Balter: So at this point in the story, everything is falling into place for Dan. He’s the top salesperson everywhere he goes. He’s networking with industry icons, and he’s even bumping into celebrities left and right. But there’s a moment in his career that really stops him in his tracks.
Dan Tyre: In 2007, I’m sure your listeners can understand, I was a little pushy. I’m like, “All right, Sam, you got to get moving by the end of the month if you really want to take advantage of this.” And it worked.
In 2014, if I ever said, “Sam, you got to move pretty quickly,” you’d ghost me. Not only that, you’d put on my LinkedIn, “Don’t talk with Tyre.” The whole impact of social media elevates the inbound process. What I realized, when somebody on Twitter said “Don’t talk to Tyre. He didn’t follow through on what he said he was going to do,” that was not my most shining moment. I had to call the person up, and I go, “You’re right. I apologize.” They took the Twitter post down, but it was a stark realization that I had to be exact with my words. Then once here in Arizona, I went …
Sam Balter: What did you do? Were you just too pushy? Did you promise something that you couldn’t have or what?
Dan Tyre: Yeah, I was too pushy. I was too pushy. Another time, I went over a lady’s head. I knew exactly … I thought about this for a week. I will never do that again. This was the nicest lady. It was a stretch, and I’m like, “OK, I’m going to call her boss.” I call her boss, the boss forwards the voicemail to her, and she’s like, “Really? You called my boss?”
I’m like, “Yeah, I apologize.”
She’s like, “Yeah, you’re never going to sell into our company ever.”
I’m like, “OK, can I tell the story?”
She was like, “What are you talking about?”
I’m like, “I do a lot of public speaking, and I want to use myself as an example of being an idiot.”
She’s like, “OK, you are, so go for it.” She was so nice about it, and going over somebody’s head, there’s just much better ways to do it. I could have gotten one of my colleagues to call her boss and say, “Tyre’s working with this lady,” and it would just be easier doing team selling. But I was a little bit myopically focused on rushing towards my goal and I forgot that open-hearted thing that we’ve talked about.
Sam Balter: You got stories for days. You have sales stories for all across the spectrum. But I want you to tell me the one that changed your perception on sales.
Dan Tyre: The one that I remember best is a company by the name of Nivati, because the founder and CEO is a woman by the name of Amelia Wilcox. In 2014, she was in Utah and she had just come from an entrepreneurial program. It didn’t turn out particularly well. Husband’s a fireman, Chris. She’s like, “I think I’m going to start a new company.” She was a massage therapist. Do you like getting your back massaged?
Sam Balter: Love it.
Dan Tyre: OK, most people do.
Sam Balter: Who doesn’t?
Dan Tyre: Some people are like, “Don’t touch me,” but most people are like, “Yeah, I like that.” And it turns out, if your employer will pay for a back rub, you’re like “Screw the 30% commission. I just want my back rubbed all the time.” So, they used to show up in these purple chairs and rub people’s backs. She was a solo entrepreneur, and we explained a little bit about what the inbound process was where you optimize your website.
Sam Balter: Who’s “we”? Who are you at this point in time?
Dan Tyre: OK, I’m a salesperson for HubSpot. In 2014, I’m talking to Amelia Wilcox, who is the CEO of the company. There’s only one person in the company. In certain instances, people wouldn’t talk to solo entrepreneurs, but I always like to talk to everybody.
She’s like, “OK, I want to scale this company.”
I’m like, “You got to do the work. You got to practice inbound. You got to publish blog articles. You got to put this on your website.”
She’s like, “I’m going to do that,” and she did. Two years later, she comes back to me and now she had 12 employees. Now she was on her way to become the number one massage therapy company for corporations in the United States. Up through 2020, she had $6 million worth of revenue. We employed 1,200 part-time massage therapists, not contractors like some of these gig workers, part-time employees. Because we wanted to make sure that we provided them everything that we wanted to, and we wanted a strong relationship with her. It was all because Amelia had this big heart. So, the company grew very, very effectively.
Sam Balter: Take me back a little bit on that deal. Initially when you reached out to her, she’s a solopreneur, probably doesn’t have a ton of money, and this is a large software investment. Was that a big concern for her?
Dan Tyre: It was. She’s like, “I’m not going to buy the pro package. I’m going to buy the basic.”
I’m like, “The best thing for you is the pro because you want to scale quickly.”
She goes, “I can only afford the basic.”
I’m like, “Okay, got it. Let’s write it up. Let’s do it.”
Back then, I had to take digits over the phone. I wrote down peoples’ credit card numbers. It was horrible. We don’t do that anymore, of course. But that’s what I did. 60 days later, she came back and she said, “I should have gone for the larger package,” but I didn’t care. What I wanted to do is meet her where she was. I wanted her to understand the power of it, and I wanted her to utilize the practice.
Amelia and I have been friends ever since. I’m an investor in the company, and on the board of directors, and super excited that it all comes from that foundation of help. Which, if you go to dantyre.com, you’ll see my mantra is, “Doing the most good for the universe.” That’s all I want to do. After four and a half decades of selling, it’s not another commission check. The reason I’m doing this podcast, and I want everybody to understand this is the secret to life, the more people you help, the better it is.
You want to make more money? Help more people. Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder of HubSpot, is like, “Do you want to be a millionaire? Help a million people and ask for a dollar.”
I’m like, “OK, that’s brilliant.” That’s written on the wall someplace at HubSpot. He embodies it. It’s amazing. The whole inbound revolution is lead with your heart. Sam, you’ve been helping people ever since I’ve known you, even if you smile at them, even if you say “All right, what do you need help with?” There are so many ways that ZoomInfo can help a customer.
Sam Balter: No, that’s great. Any last closing words of wisdom that you want to give to people?
Dan Tyre: First of all, sales is a great profession. It’s much different than it was 40 years ago, but it’s positioned as scalable. It’s a lot of hard work. You’ve got to be smart. It’s interesting because you’re dealing with the motivations of people. The motivations of people come and stem from the ability to build trust. The key attribute for any salesperson is to understand who you’re working with, to understand how you move from a casual relationship to a trusting relationship, defining your ideal customer profile, your personas, and then finding the right information to get the person at the right time. If you do it, it lasts forever.
I see people who I’ve known for 25 years and they’re like, “Yeah, that was a great decision. We’re interested in each other’s lives. It’s a great way to scale your career.”
Sam Balter: This episode of Pretty Big Deal featured Dan Tyre, an inbound fellow at HubSpot. It was produced by me, Sam Balter, and edited by Xavier Leong. If you have a pretty big deal to tell us about, let us know by writing in to PrettyBigDeal@ZoomInfo.com. Otherwise, we’ll see you in the next episode.