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How Can Entrepreneurs Drive For Success?

In this interview, Jeff Fortin shares his experience and wisdom with us from his time in a corporate career, playing in bands, working for THE Tony Robbins, and now founding and running Sweetheart Deals, an online retailer of musical equipment, consumer audio, and car audio which NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) recently named one of the top 100 dealers worldwide.

Gregg: Welcome to Success at Scale, Triple G Venture's podcast, where we explore business stories from entrepreneurs, leaders, and founders, sharing insights on how to translate business ideas into business results. Today, I'm joined by my friend Jeff Forton. Hello, Jeff! Please introduce yourself.

Jeff: Thank you, Gregg. I'm the CEO of Sweetheart Deals. I started this venture in 2014. I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but I found myself getting caught up in the corporate world for a significant portion of my life. However, in 2014, I decided to follow my true passion and founded Sweetheart Deals.

Gregg: That's fascinating, Jeff. So, what exactly is Sweetheart Deals and what does it specialize in?

Jeff: Sweetheart Deals is an online retailer that operates across multiple platforms. We launched our website on Valentine's Day last year, and our focus has been on selling consumer audio, pro audio, and car audio equipment. The car audio segment has been particularly interesting as it bridges the gap between music enthusiasts who may not be musicians themselves but still have a deep appreciation for high-quality audio. By providing components specifically designed for car audio systems, we are catering to this passionate audience that often gets overlooked by traditional music retailers.

Gregg: That's a unique niche you've tapped into, Jeff. Can you share a bit about your journey and the experiences that led you to Sweetheart Deals? Was there a particular job or experience that stood out for you?

Jeff: Absolutely, Gregg. I've had several jobs throughout my career, and what made each one special was the opportunity to work with people. If I were to trace it back, my sales career began in the 1980s when I worked as a finance manager at a car dealership. One day, a colleague introduced me to Tony Robbins, who was just starting out as a motivational speaker and had recently published his book, "Unlimited Power." I attended one of Tony's seminars and was completely captivated. I approached my colleague, Benny, and expressed my desire to work with him and Tony. Benny graciously mentored me, and I spent about a month learning from Tony, who was living in California at the time.

Gregg: You mentioned that you spent a month with Tony at his castle in Delmark, California. Can you tell us more about that experience and how it influenced you?

Jeff: Absolutely. It was an incredible experience. Tony's castle was actually Jimmy Duran's old castle, which added a touch of history and grandeur to the whole setting. During that month, I had the opportunity to train with Tony's top gurus as part of the Associate Distributor Lecture Program. My role was to train sales professionals using Tony's program called the Power to Influence Sales Mastery Course.

What made this program truly life-changing was that it went beyond the standard sales pitch. It delved into the realm of psychological selling on a deeply personal level. I learned from Tony himself and his gurus, and I even participated in the Date with Destiny event alongside Tony and about 30 other people. This experience completely altered the trajectory of my sales career.

After the program ended, my task was to go out and sell and train others using Tony's Power to Influence Sales Mastery Course. I engaged with corporate-level GMs of companies like Xerox and IBM, honing my skills with their sales teams. This period formed the foundation of my sales career, and I would like to share some techniques that I learned from Tony, such as mirroring, matching pacing, and leading.

Gregg: That's absolutely fascinating. Jeff, I'd love to delve deeper into the topic of sales. Could you please provide further insights on how Mirroring, Matching Pacing, and Leading Techniques can transform the approach to sales?

Jeff: Certainly. Mirroring, matching pacing, and leading are techniques I learned from Tony that had a profound impact on my sales career. The key concept is to meet potential buyers at their level of enthusiasm and engagement. If a buyer is at level three, for example, I couldn't approach them at level 12; it would overwhelm them and potentially push them away.

Instead, I learned to enter sales meetings at the level that the buyers were at, whether it was level three or four. Then, using my enthusiasm, excitement, and product knowledge, I would gradually bring them up to a higher level of engagement. This approach, known as call pacing leading, became a fundamental aspect of my selling strategy.

Gregg: It's interesting how you tailored your approach to match the energy and engagement of your buyers. Did you apply these techniques beyond your own sales career?

Jeff: Absolutely. I not only used these strategies and techniques in my own sales endeavors but also translated them to my sales teams. After the Tony Robbins program, I pursued my passion for music and started selling music-related products at Rhythm City in Atlanta. I quickly rose through the ranks, applying the knowledge and power of sales that I had acquired.

When Guitar Center acquired Rhythm City, I aspired to run a Guitar Center store. Using the strategies and techniques I learned from Tony, I focused on enhancing the lives of my team members and inspiring musicians who visited the store. The goal was to develop powerful salespeople who could meet targets and deliver excellent customer experiences. These techniques helped my store in Marietta become the Store of the Year in 1999.

Gregg: Impressive achievements indeed. It's clear that Tony Robbins' teachings played a significant role in your success. Could you tell us about your transition to the wholesale side of the music industry?

Jeff: Certainly. As I continued to expand my knowledge and expertise, I became interested in exploring the wholesale side of the music industry. I began exploring opportunities in that area, and eventually, Gibson Guitars was looking for a Southeast regional sales manager, that is how it all started.

Gregg: That is just awesome! Let's shift our focus to NAMM. NAMM has been a significant part of both of our lives, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on the future of the music products industry, including music technology and even car audio and consumer products. What music trends do you see emerging, and where do you think the music industry is headed?

Jeff: The music industry is a fascinating space because it's constantly evolving with technology. We see advancements in synthesizers, electronic drums, and guitar pedals, and everything is becoming more digital. For example, we now have devices that combine loopers, vocal effects, and guitar effects into one unit. On the other hand, there's also a retro trend in the industry. When it comes to guitars, for instance, Roland introduced a guitar synthesizer, so there's always a question of where else can we take it? I believe we'll see a resurgence of retro products in this space, particularly in guitar amps and pedals. Even though there are new players entering the market, including boutique pedal manufacturers, the mass market potential might not be as significant due to the higher price point. However, there will always be a dedicated group of passionate guitarists who are willing to invest in boutique pedals for their unique sound. Additionally, we can't forget the beginners and aspiring guitarists who are just excited to have a guitar in their hands. As for the acoustic world, I anticipate a vintage-inspired trend taking hold. In terms of technology, it's challenging to predict the next big game-changer, but history has shown that innovations like the A changed everything. So, it's an open question for what's next, but the industry will undoubtedly keep moving forward.

Gregg: Incredible insights! I must say, Jeff, it has been a real pleasure reconnecting with you. There is so much wisdom to be gained from your vast experience. As a musician, entrepreneur, and esteemed retailer, you embody the spirit of a Renaissance man and a true leader. Congratulations on your well-deserved success and accolades. It's evident that your journey is only beginning. Now, before we wrap up, I'd like to ask where our readers can find you online. How can they connect with you?

Jeff: Thank you for having me, Gregg. It's been a pleasure. To find us online, you can visit our retail store,

Gregg: Until next time, loyal followers of Triple G Ventures! Stay tuned for more exciting content coming your way!


Read more about Success at Scale podcast with Triple G Ventures here and watch the original podcast episode up on the Youtube link!

This podcast covers business stories from experienced entrepreneurs, business leaders, and startup founders on how to translate business ideas into business results.

In each episode, Gregg shows how companies grow from seed to scale, testing his theories with successful business leaders.

Success at Scale is hosted by Gregg Stein, Founding Partner and CEO of Triple G Ventures. Dynamic, forward-thinking visionary, dedicated to unlocking the potential of great people, great ideas, and emerging technologies. 20+ years of experience building, leading, and scaling connected IoT consumer electronics, ed-tech, audio/music tech, and content businesses to $500m+ with several exits. Specifically recognized for scaling ION Audio, ROLI, and Kano Computing, Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies of 2018 and 2019, just behind Apple.


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