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The $1 Billion Global Sales Guru – Zach Selch

Want to grow global sales? Talk to this world traveler

Podcast Summary

If you’re trying to grow sales internationally, Zach Selch is your go-to guy. Over 3 decades, he has created over $1 billion in sales across 135 countries – from India to Japan to Ghana and beyond – helping his clients build successful operations and significantly expand their reach. A podcaster, vloger, and author, Zach specializes in global sales mentoring, providing hourly coaching services, assistance with distribution network growth, and fractional sales management for his clients. 

In this episode, Zach talks about his career in international sales, the many cultures and communities he’s encountered in his travels, and what it takes to live life on the road:

  • For Zach, landing a deal abroad is all about establishing trust and respect. He explains that different cultures build trust in very different ways. For example, in the U.S., we trust someone simply knowing that they are in a position of authority. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it may take a bit more – going out for dinner, meeting the family, getting to know your clients in a social setting – before even getting started on the business side of things. 
  • Meshing personal life with travel can be tough, according to Zach. For him, establishing a good routine, avoiding unhealthy habits, and having a supportive family unit is essential. 
  • After his father passed away, Zach decided to honor his memory by bringing his dad on the road with him. Zach had his father cremated and carried the ashes along as his traveled the world – from cruising down the Nile River to searching for the Big 5 on an African safari. 

Zach Selch podcast

[00:00:00] Peter Perri: And we’re live on Energy Superheroes today. We’re lucky to have Zach Selch, and Zach mentors people tasked with global sales growth. As a result, he’s been all over the world. And we’re gonna talk a lot about that today. If you’re looking to grow sales internationally, Zach is your guy and we’re excited to have him. Welcome to the podcast, Zach.

[00:00:22] Zach Selch: Thanks a lot, Peter. I’m excited to be here.

[00:00:24] Peter Perri: And I’ll throw out a quick plug that our Energy Superheroes podcast is now officially available on Spotify. So we’re excited about that. That’s cool. So Zach, tell me about your, the craziest place you’ve ever been around the world. I’m sure you get that question a lot, but I’d love to hear it from you.

[00:00:40] Zach Selch: You know what, I’ll tell you probably the craziest point in time and place. I’ve been to Bangladesh maybe 20 times. But back about 20 years ago, there was a very low intensity civil war going on. And I went there five or six times during that period. And and I remember one day I’m going from India.

And I’m in the airport in Calcutta. And at the time the airport, wasn’t very nice. There wasn’t really good places to sit. So I’m sitting in a plastic chair, outside waiting for my flight and they keep pushing my flight off by half an hour at a time all day long. And then finally eight o’clock at night, I go to board and and I said, was there a technical problem with the plane?

Why was this delayed? So the guy taking my ticket goes no, the fighting was too close to the airport and the pilot refused to fly. So I said, has the fighting stopped? And he goes no, but it’s far enough away from the airport that the pilot isn’t worried anymore. So I said, you know what? My, my eldest child adjustment board, I was like, you know what?

I think I’m not going to Bangladesh this week. I think I’m gonna wait a couple of weeks and see how things. So that was probably the wildest the wildest thing. And I’ve been to, I’ve been to about 135 countries. I’ve spent a lot of time in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve spent a lot of time in south Asia and not necessarily in the luxury hotels.

So I’ve seen a lot of really interesting stuff. Again, like the stereotype or what do they the same where they say they’re nice people everywhere. I’ll tell it. A lot of people in a lot of these places, the place might seem a little rough, but you can always find nice people who are interested in having a cold beer and, enjoying themselves.

[00:02:31] Peter Perri: Yes. So when you said cold beer, it reminds me of a show called three sheets. I don’t know if you ever saw that show. I have not. No. So it’s a great show. I could see you doing a show like that, where basically the guy traveled around the world and he explored the drinking culture. Guy’s name was Z lamp and he would have, we would go and have beers with people.

And it was a number of years ago. It’s not on the air anymore, but it was really awesome.

[00:02:56] Zach Selch: So I could I tell you what. You go to Sub-Saharan Africa, in Nigeria and Ghana and places like that. And one thing that I find is, middle class adults are affluent adults, right? And by, people who are in their forties and fifties, they go out in the evening on a weekday to listen to music and drink beer in, in places with plastic chairs.

And they’ll, get a dish of grilled meters, something and a couple of cold beers and have. and and sometimes where we are, we’ve forgotten how to have that kind of fun. It’s like very often if you live in a suburb in America and you’re middle class, you’re not gonna go, on a Thursday night at 11 o’clock to sit on a plastic chair and listen to a guy, play a guitar and drink a, a bottle of of regular, mass produced beer.

You want to go to a fancy Italian restaurant and have a glass of wine. I like that. I find a lot of people like to have a lot of fun in a, in Africa, 

[00:03:50] Peter Perri: no, for sure. And it reminds you that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun. 

[00:03:55] Zach Selch: That’s exactly it that’s exactly it.

[00:03:59] Peter Perri: Yeah. Fun is really a mindset. I feel like that if you’re able to get a, in your mind, if you’re able to put in your mind that you’re gonna have a good time, you’re gonna have a good time. And spontaneity is a huge element of having a good. Yeah. 

[00:04:13] Zach Selch: And I find, I like music and I like good music, but I also if three college kids are gonna play instruments, I’m probably gonna enjoy that as much.

I also, I live very close to Northwestern university and having gone downtown and spent $500 on football tickets for to see the bears. I can tell you, I enjoy watching the Northwestern games for $25, just as much, sometimes that’s type of thing. And when I’m traveling around, I’ll listen to music as much as I can.

And very often it’s just a couple of amateur musicians in a pub playing and it’s still fun. You throw in a couple of cold beers and it’s an evening.

[00:04:54] Peter Perri: Absolutely true. You can have a great time in any situation, listening to whatever kind of music as long. It doesn’t even have to be great.

As long as everyone around you is having a good time and the musician is authentic. 

[00:05:08] Zach Selch: Yeah. That’s exactly true. That’s exactly true. And I’ll throw out something while we’re talking about this. I have two books on Amazon and one of them is called a hundred what to do with a layover in 105 cities.

And I just wrote six things to do in each city. So if you ever find yourself with a couple of free hours in Abuja or DACA or someplace like that it’s in the book, right? And it, I, cuz I found I was doing all this research and people would come to me and they’d say. I’m gonna be in in Baku in Aja next week.

What do I do? And I’d throw them out the names of a couple of restaurants and a gym and what souvenirs to buy and stuff. So I decided I’d put it all in a book.

[00:05:55] Peter Perri: So that’s, that sounds great. So you definitely check out Zach on Amazon and get that book. And one thing that’s interesting about the energy industry is people travel globally and that’s one of the things that really attracted me to it.

I got to visit. Bangkok. I got to go to Dubai, Mexico, Argentina, many different places when I joined.

[00:06:16] Zach Selch:  A lot of interesting places cuz they don’t have oil in France. So you’re going to Africa, you’re going to south Asia. You’re going to, Latin America. 

[00:06:24] Peter Perri: Yeah. Yep. Yeah. We did a project over in Saudi Arabia and it got so hot that we had to transition and start working at night because it was too hot to work during the day. 

[00:06:34] Zach Selch: You work at night, you pull out, you pull out your phone and it says it’s too hot to operate. And you’re thinking, it’s killing my it’s killing my iPhone, but it’s not killing me. How’s this happening? Yeah. 

[00:06:45] Peter Perri: Yeah. So energy industry people out there that are traveling.

Where my heart goes out to you because I know that it’s fun, but also hard to sit on the airplane that long and be away from your family. Yeah. So definitely check out Zach’s book for some fun. Ideas in different layovers in all these crazy places. 

[00:07:03] Zach Selch: Great. Yeah. 

[00:07:04] Peter Perri: So let’s talk sales, Zach.

I know that you’re an expert in international sales and this is an area that’s very important in the energy industry generally and also in. Pretty much every let’s call it major industrial B2B industry. It’s important to be able to grow internationally. And what you really see is companies can either go organic or they can grow through acquisition, essentially selling themselves to a bigger company.

I see a lot of small companies stumble both around scaling sales, generally in the United States and also around scaling internationally. What would you say is the biggest difference? Between selling in the us and selling globally. 

[00:07:47] Zach Selch: Ooh. So there that’s a great question. Let me break that up into a little bit or let me answer it a slightly different way.

So there’s what I would call mechanics of sales issues right now. Let’s say. You have a shop in Indiana and I buy something from you, right? I go in there. I pay you in dollars. Maybe I give you a credit card. Maybe I give you a check. Maybe I give you a cash. I take the product. I put it in the back of my car.

I drive away. That’s for sale right now. Let’s say I’m buying that same thing in Saudi Arabia right now. What happens here is you have to figure out how do I get my money? so now I have to figure out a way to get you that money in a safe way. So you’re comfortable. But I also know you’re not gonna take my money without giving me the good, so we have to figure out how do I actually pay you?

And then we have to ship that product to me. And that’s a little complicated because also if you think about. When I buy it at your store in Indiana and we put it on my truck, it is very clear where the ownership ends. I drive two miles away. I get into an accident. I destroy that product.

It’s mine my fault. You’re taking it out of your factory and you crash the forklift into something and it breaks. It’s yours. We know exactly there. Now what happens if that product is on a ship in the middle of the ocean? And, a wave goes over the side and gets it wet and it gets ruined who owns it, then who’s responsible for the insurance.

How does that all happen? So there are all these mechanics of sale issues, right? How, what about the paperwork? Getting it into the country, all of that. So all those things are complicated, but then there’s also the selling now in a, selling is about essentially two things, right? It’s. Helping somebody understand they can trust you.

And it’s about helping them understand that you solve their problem. Now, if you are selling to an American very often here you are. You’re an American, you are bored in the sixties. You have a certain technical background. You understand him. He understands you, establishing rapport is really easy.

So he trusts. and you process data probably the same way he does. So if you explain to him in a way that’s comfortable for you, he’s gonna understand that boom really simple. Now let’s say you’re working with somebody who processes data in a different order than you do right now. You start telling him things and he’s gonna feel uncomfortable.

He’s gonna go. No. I’m gonna ask you questions. I’m gonna ask you this. I want this information. I want this information now makes you uncomfortable, or you go in and for instance, think about the countries that you work with in the en energy industry Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Brazil, the level of trust re required to do business in all of those places.

Is extremely high compared to the United States. United States has what we call situational trust in a very high level. What do I mean by that? You go into best buy. Somebody comes up to you in a blue shirt. You hand them your credit card, right? You trust them. If you introduce yourself to somebody and say, I’m Peter, I’m the VP of sales.

Boom. He trusts you, if you go to Nigeria, Until you’ve had three or four dinners with this guy. He doesn’t care about your title. He doesn’t care about anything he needs to get to know you and Americans are very uncomfortable with that. Americans are like, I’m gonna land. I’m gonna go. I’m gonna see this guy.

I’ll give him my business card. I’ll tell him what I do. He’ll give me a purchase order and it doesn’t work that way. So you have to deal with establishing trust. You have to, you think about, I can’t tell you how many times. I’ve, sat around on the floor of somebody’s house, eating with them or drinking with them or talking with them, establishing rapport, meeting their children, meeting their family, going out late at night.

And you do all of this stuff before you even start to talk about business and Americans. Don’t like doing that. Honestly, there’s a lot of different stuff in how you do business. It’s different than every country. I was at a conference a while back and this guy came up with, spent 30 years in Columbia and he starts talking about foreigners and he says foreigners are like, this.

And foreigners are like this and foreigners like this. And I said to myself, he’s talking about Colombians and his mind, everybody who isn’t American is Colombian. But that’s also not accurate because you. Different cultures all over the world, doing business in different ways. That was a long answer.

Peter. I don’t know if you expected such a long answer sorry. Yeah. 

[00:12:40] Peter Perri: What I would say, what I’ll take away from that is trust. And so my dad taught me that trust is the most important thing in any relationship. And once that trust is broken, oh, then you can never, you’re done right.

[00:12:51] Zach Selch:  You can never, You can never fix it.

And that’s also, you have to keep in mind. that if very often, and again, this is unfortunate, but very often I’ve had, I’ve heard people say, look, I’ve done business with Germans. It’s gonna be really easy to do business in Nigeria because they’re not as sophisticated. And if you go into this thinking, I’m going to visit these people.

They’re not terribly sophisticated. I’ll give some, give them some pretty pens with my logo on it and they’ll be happy. You can’t, people will feel immediately that you’re not giving them the correct level of respect. And then you break that trust and you can never fix it. 

[00:13:31] Peter Perri: No, for sure.

And I would argue that I’ve been to a lot of the emerging markets and the people there are sophisticated in different ways. But they are right. Because the challenges that they have to deal with on a day to day basis are very different from the challenges we have to deal with. Everything comes from your frame of reference and what you’re doing on a day to day basis. And that really drives. Your level of sophistication in one area versus another. So I found that I was how much people can do physically just in their day to day lives to make things work in terms of building things in terms of driving things forward in terms of having to fix things around the house, fix things.

Of their car, things like that. 

[00:14:17] Zach Selch: Oh yeah. And I’ll tell you what so in a place I like to use Nigeria as an example, cuz first of all, I love Nigeria, but it’s also very different from America. There are 40 or 50 official languages. There are essentially three main religions. There are hundreds of tribes.

So when you’re dealing with somebody, when you talk about like the sophistication of a person, you’re like, when you go and you deal with a minister, the minister of en of energy or the minister of health, this is a guy who is constantly day to day balancing political relationships with people from a hundred different tribes who speak.

You have dozens of different languages who, who are from different religions and he’s balancing all of this. Now you go talk to. The secretary of energy in the United States and not to take anything away from him, but everybody he deals with is probably a middle aged white guy. And so he’s used to dealing with people who are just like him, who went to a school like his right.

Who probably, play golf like him. And so there’s a different level of sophistication involved with in, in some of these countries, the people are. balancing and juggling so many different balls and keeping so much going so you can’t underestimate there’s sophistication. 

[00:15:40] Peter Perri: No, for sure. So what I’d love to do is dive a little bit into a case study and it doesn’t have to be energy related, but if you could mentally just pick out and talk us through one time that you went into a country and how you built a successful sales operation for your 

[00:15:59] Zach Selch: oh.

Yeah. So a while back I was working with this company and we had a really nice technology that was used for, it was for a very specific thing. It was used in a very specific part of mass vaccination campaigns. And it had a very good business. But it wasn’t the type of thing that anybody bought except for governments.

And typically governments, I, did this study in the beginning. The first thing I did was try and really identify the target. And it was really poor government governments of poor countries. So countries where the per capita GDP was under about $3,000 and where they have specific health issues and so on.

But that brought us to about 50 or 60 countries. And then it was I had to spend some time trying to figure out who in the government was responsible for this because governments are big things, there are lots of people. So we basically, I went through and I figured out who in the government the exact title of the person, it was.

And then what I wanted to do was say, okay what else is this guy buying? And try and figure out what other things this guy was involved in, the purchasing process of. And then I went to those companies and I mind lists of their distributors. And, basically it’s not like that anybody wants to give you their list of distributor, but if you know what you’re doing, you can figure it out and reverse engineer.

So then I was able to come up with three or four potential distributors in each of the 30 or 40 target markets and basically reach out to them and say, here’s the deal. This is my product. I need to sell this product to Bob. You’re already selling something else to Bob. You know him, can we do this together?

This is the, this is why it would be worth your. And then I went around to these countries, talked to these people, I interviewed them, identified the best of the three or four candidate distributors and then set up meetings. So we could go in to see this guy with the government and by having a distributor on the ground, again, we talk about trust.

I was essentially borrowing this guy’s trust, right? So if John is selling to Bob and I need to sell to Bob, instead of me, Zach. Building trust over months with Bob. I’m basically saying to John, Hey, if you can get this deal for me, then there’s, a percentage in it for you, and you’re on the ground.

You can do this. So we were really able to throw this up together in a matter of months and cover 30 or 40 countries around the world, in the, with the exact right person selling to the exact right client customer. So that’s the type of thing that I do for people basically. And it was, this was actually a lot of fun because I got to a lot of interesting countries and I got to I spent a lot of time in ministry of health buildings, all over the world with really interesting people.

And and these were people, this product was something that people were using to help vaccinate children. So everybody was very earn. really wanted to do good things. So that was a really fun project. 

[00:19:24] Peter Perri: No, that sounds amazing. So you were able to execute for the client. The client was super happy from your perspective.

I always like to ask what was the hardest part about that job? 

[00:19:36] Zach Selch: Oh that’s a great question. Very often these people have. For this type of thing right now, again, let’s go back to your, you’re selling a machinery to companies in, in, from a shop in Indiana and you’re selling to a small company and that guy says I really need this.

I’ll write you a check, right? You work with a government and the government says, great, I really need this. Now we have this process. This process is gonna take six months because we need. This person to sign off on it. We need this person to sign off on it. We need this paperwork and all that. And figuring that out is never easy.

Once you figure it out, like this is the type of thing. If you’ve been doing it for a few years, you know exactly what to do, mapping it out because nobody ever has a map of this. No, you, when you go into the Rwandan ministry of health, they don’t say, Hey, by the way, take this booklet. It’ll explain to you our purchasing process.

There’s nothing like that. Now, if you’re doing that in 40 countries in a matter of six months, trying to figure out everybody’s process is very difficult and it’s not something I necessarily enjoy. So I’d say, that’s probably the least favorite part of that kind of a project. 

[00:20:59] Peter Perri: yeah.

Sort of the bureaucratic BS kind of stuff. Oh yeah. 

[00:21:03] Zach Selch: And it’s, you can’t get past it and it’s just like just a huge part of the job, right? 

[00:21:11] Peter Perri: Yeah, absolutely. My fiance is from Ecuador and we went down there and she was working on getting a passport and a citizenship for her son and she was able to do it in one day.

And I’m. How did you do that? How did you get through all that bureaucratic process? And she said the secret was staying there in person and not going away because what they try to do is get you to come back tomorrow or another day. And if you’re like, Nope, I’m staying here until it’s done. I have 

[00:21:38] Zach Selch: nothing else to do.

I’m just gonna be here until you’re done. 

[00:21:41] Peter Perri: I’m gonna just physically stay there. , I always found that interest. So I gotta ask you personally with all the travel, what’s that been like in terms of your personal life and your family? How do you cope with all that? cause I know for me it was always a challenge.

[00:21:56] Zach Selch: Yeah. So it’s a challenge. I’ll tell you what. So first of all, I did about 160 days a year for 35 years. So what I find is either you give it up right away. And I know a lot of people who burn out after two. And that’s fine. Cuz very often you, if you do international sales for two years, you can then leverage it into a senior VP of sales job or something.

So people do that. If you can get past it and you can handle it then you end up doing it for longer. I had a lot of, honestly, I had a lot of trouble dating in my twenties because I’d go I’d, go out with a girl twice and I’d be like, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. And by the time I came back, she’d be like, yeah, I found somebody else plug her off.

So that was my life a lot in my twenties. But here, what I find is, if you can get into good habits on the road, I’ll go to the, I’ll go to the gym. I’ll jog, I’ll walk, I’ll swim. I’ll do other. I go out and I enjoy myself. So if you set up those things, if you’re organized in terms of how you work when you’re on the road, because you have to basically, you can’t say, okay, I’m gonna do all of my paperwork when I get home.

Because you’re always on the road. So you have to be able to do stuff while you’re traveling. And you really need, support. So I, yeah, I’ve been with my wife now for 23 years. She’s very supportive. We work really well together. We’ve been on some fantastic vacations, both her and I and them with our kids, which is helpful because, you basically say to your kids, okay, I’m not gonna make it to this baseball game.

I’m sorry. But remember, we’re all going to Italy this summer for a vacation, and that’s, what pays for the vacation in Italy is the fact that I’m on the road and I can’t make it to your baseball. And if you do that the right way, your kids typically understand and you can balance it out.

So I’d say those are the things, but probably the first thing to remember is to take care of your health because we talked earlier it’s fun to talk about, going out and having a few beers, but there are also people who go out, they’re traveling on the road and they’re having 12 beers every night after night.

And that’ll kill you. Or, you so you can get into very unhealthy habits when you’re on the road.

[00:24:06] Peter Perri: And now no, for sure that I I’m guilty as charged on that one. I, and I remember one time we were selling some stuff over in Korea and. What we didn’t realize was that the Koreans would send new people to go out with us every night.

So we’d be going out one night. It’s one group of guys and it’s you said, 12 drinks, whatever. And then the next night they expect you to go out again, but they send different guys. 

[00:24:31] Zach Selch: Right. Yeah. Because they have the whole system down. Yeah. 

[00:24:35] Peter Perri: Yeah, it becomes a negotiating tech technique because after a while they wear you down and you’re tired and then you’re not fit to negotiate anymore.

[00:24:45] Zach Selch: That’s right. I also found, I work with a group of people from Japan and I literally think that some place, they had a file on me where they had written everything. They knew about me because they knew a lot about me and they remembered stuff about me. And at one point I also felt that they were trying to see when they could get me to say no to food, so they kept adding weirder and weirder food to our dinner. The things they ordered and don’t necessarily enjoy that stuff. I’ll be really honest. I’ll eat it. But I’ll eat it because I figure I have to, and I want, I wanna establish trust. I wanna be part of the group, but I’m not happy about it.

So they’re like bringing out different organs and they’re bringing out live octopus and they’re bringing out live fish and they’re bringing out stuff. That’s still moving and they’re bringing out, a horse meat and and I’m just thinking, God, they are trying to kill me here. They’re trying to push me to the point where I’ll say no.

And the question is do I just give it and say no? Or do I try harder? 

[00:25:55] Peter Perri: It’s funny. Speaking of saying no, I’ll say that one thing I learned in international sales. Is negotiate. So international people from all over the world, I think negotiate better than we do here in the states, because it’s part of the culture and we’re always trying to do win-win.

And what I learned is that they’ll keep asking for stuff until you say no. You’ve gotta, you’ve got to say no and draw the line or else they’ll just keep asking for some and they’ll, I’ll also retrade the deal. So you’re in the right. Ready to will last minute. And 

[00:26:28] Zach Selch: retrain it will work, so I remember I lived in India for three years and I was the head of sales for a multinational there.

And literally the first week I got there, I went to see an existing customer of the company. It was a big corporation in a different city. I flew in and the first thing they asked me, when I came to the office, they said, when’s your flight. I was flying from Delhi to HBO. And they said, when’s your flight back?

And I said, three o’clock, this was like, we were eight o’clock in the morning. I thought we have plenty of time. And they’re like, great. And they take me into a room and they bring out tea and cookies and everybody’s sitting down and we start talking and the phone rings and they go, oh my God, it’s an emergency.

We’re really sorry, Zach, we’ll be right back. And everybody files out. And a few minutes later, somebody comes in and said, we’re really sorry. An emergency came. We’ll be back in a few minutes and they kept me waiting there until about one o’clock and they sent me in new tea and new cookies and lunch, but they kept me waiting there.

And then at one o’clock they said, Zach, do you want to come back a different day? Or do you want try and close this business up today? And I thought I really want to close this business up today. So I closed it, but I was under pressure cuz I wanted to get my. Because I wasn’t sure this was 20 years ago, 25 years ago.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to change my flight. So I was under pressure. And then afterwards I thought, huh. They could have done that as a trick. I don’t know. I don’t know that they did that as a trick, but boy, it worked. If it was a trick, it really worked.

[00:28:02] Peter Perri: I could tell you I experienced the same thing.

[00:28:04] Zach Selch: And then I was gonna say the next week it was 

[00:28:06] Peter Perri: in Dubai and we were dealing with an Indian group over there in Dubai. And they did the back, same 

[00:28:11] Zach Selch: thing. The next week I go to a different city, different company, different city. The first thing they say is, when’s your flight back?

And I said, I bought a one way ticket I’m here until I close the. There you go. And, but what I have, what I found was every week I was learning a different trick and they were using tricks. Like I and what’s really funny. So I, I sold to this company, actually, you probably heard of them, them or worked with them reliance, the big Indian oil company. So they pride themselves on being the toughest negotiators in the world. and they hit us with trick after trick. And then, but when we closed the business, literally I have this three day negotiating thing where I’m sling and I’m dying and I’m thinking I’m gonna get fired because it was this 30, it was a $30 million purchase order.

And I’ll tell you what they actually, this is a great story. over a period of time. They kept asking us for more and more bills of material and more and more bills of material and more information and whatever. So I come in and they say, and I’m, I have a, I’m offering them, let’s say it’s a hundred million project.

And I say, okay, this is the price. And they say, thank you, Zach, we’re going to pay you $2 million for this. And I was like, wait, that isn’t even like that’s like that’s insane. That isn’t even, how can you say that? And they say we did the math and we believe your, the cost of your goods is 1.3, $8 million.

And so we think it’s very fair to pay you $2 million for this. And I’m like that, that, that can’t possibly be true. so I leave the, I leave and I call my office and I have a listing of the how you get a list from your company. And it’s this is the price, and this is the cost of goods.

So I call and I’m talking to the project product manager, and I said, you won’t believe this. He said, the cost of goods is only 1.3, 8 million and there’s silence on the other side. And he goes, how did he figure that out? and I’m like, what do you mean? He goes, yeah, that’s pretty accurate. I said, on my paper here, it says the cost of goods is like $20 million.

And he goes every department pads it a little bit, he goes, but if you actually did the cost analysis of all of our components, he’s pretty accurate there. So we didn’t end up lowering it down but they did this right. They Dr. They drew out exactly what it was now, when we closed the deal in the end.

I get back to my hotel and I’m dead tired. I’m like, I’m really dead. I don’t feel good. I feel actually a little queasy over all the negotiating and all the struggles and all this. And I get back with my team. It’s midnight, their whole team, like 30 or 40 people from our lions are waiting for us in the lobby.

they’ve asked the hotel to open up one of the restaurants and they’ve set up like a little banquet with drinks and cakes and food, and they say, now you’re not a vendor anymore. Now you’re a partner. We have a signed contract. Now we celebrate and it was really interesting. It was just an interesting way of doing business.

And then years later for a different company. I sold to a different department of reliance and I had their playbook. I knew exactly what they were gonna do step by step. So we were able to really come into it in a much stronger position because we knew exactly what they were gonna do every step of the way.

And they thought it was hilarious at the end because I wasn’t on the ground. I was managing the team from headquarters. And at the end, I came in to meet with them and they said, I said I’ve sold to you before. And they said, yeah we couldn’t figure out how come you always seemed to know what we were doing before we did it.

[00:32:19] Peter Perri: You, you got their playbook. That’s important. No matter who you’re working with is to get oh yeah. Get the accurate playbook. So that was a $30 million sale. Was that the biggest sale you’ve ever done?

[00:32:29] Zach Selch: That was a single biggest purchase order I’ve ever had. Yeah, that was pretty cool.

I’ve done a lot of million. Like my average PO is a bit more than 250 K over the course of my life. And I’ve done a lot of million dollars and a few three, $4 million. , but that was the biggest one I’ve ever done. And I still have it framed, I have it framed on the wall, I’m still very proud of that one.

[00:32:54] Peter Perri: That’s the beauty of the energy industry is that you get big sales. 

[00:32:59] Zach Selch: You know what, when I was a kid, I was thinking about that and I thought, it’s it really is probably just as hard to sell stereo a thousand dollars stereo as it is to sell a $30 million telecommunication system. Why not go for the fun, big money, right?

[00:33:17] Peter Perri: Go for the big stuff. And another thing I love about the energy industry is how it can really change people’s lives because you see this now down in South Africa, where they’ve actually had blackouts there’s significant corruption. In terms of some of the distributors taking money out of the country and not putting it in the way it’s supposed to be.

And so the country is really hurt by having the wrong people in the energy sector. And it hurts the average people in a big way. 

[00:33:48] Zach Selch: Like even Sri Lanka now it’s a different part of the energy, but cooking gas, people were going without cooking gas for a. and everybody has to cook their food, they don’t go to seven 11 and buy tacos like we do, they need to cook their food. So these type of things do impact people’s lives in a great way. You give, you see it. It’s interesting. A lot of these countries like, Korea and India, you go back far enough and you see a whole family holding on to a 200 CC VES.

And that’s their way of getting around. And then slowly they get themselves a 500 CC motorcycle, and then finally they get themselves a car. And it really does improve their lives.

[00:34:32] Peter Perri: No, for sure. So I gotta ask you in today’s world, there’s a lot of turmoil in emerging markets. You’ve as you mentioned, Sri Lanka, there’s been some challenges.

With the global inflation, which emerging market do you see as the best opportunity today for American companies to, to go approach that maybe they haven’t thought of? 

[00:34:55] Zach Selch: That, that’s a great question, Peter. So I’m gonna answer two ways again, cuz I’m I don’t make sure answers, unfortunately. So first of all, I think what’s really important for companies to be thinking about in a recession is to spread your risk because.

What happens is right. We’re taking a look at it. We’re saying, oh boy, there’s a recession here. What do we do? The recession isn’t everywhere. And so for as a good example, back in 2014, you probably remember the oil prices dropped, right? So Saudi Arabia, Brazil, the Emirates QAR, all those countries stopped buying because their economies were.

who was buying well, who benefits when oil is dirt cheap, the industrial countries, right? Japan, Korea, United States, Germany. So if you shift your resources to those countries where the economy is growing, you’re gonna do well. So what I’d say is the first answer to that is spread your risk.

Go into multiple markets with multiple markets, with different types of. Now to be more specific Sub-Saharan Africa. I think we’re all overlooking countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, places like that. As funny as this sounds, all these places that 20 years ago were doing, internet scams and email scams and fishing and all this.

All those places developed good software skills. And two generations later, they’re using those software skills to make software, right? There are high tech companies, high tech startups across central Africa. Right now that nobody’s looking at the quality of life is growing. The economies are growing, right?

They’re not, they’re their per cap of the GDP. Isn’t where the United States and Germany and Japan are right now. But they’re growing and we’re pretty much stagnant, right? So that’s, I love Sub-Saharan Africa, right? The great lakes area of Africa, the central part of Africa. Those are some nice growing economies.

[00:37:11] Peter Perri: And what do they need to buy? What do those, what are those growing economies? What kind of products do they most need where you see big opportunity? 

[00:37:18] Zach Selch: No, that’s a great question. So a lot of this is you think about. What built the American middle class in the fifties, right? What did people want? Small appliances, right?

They wanted, small consumer appliances. They wanted, a small family vehicles. They wanted stuff for the electronic grid. They want stuff to build rows. They want stuff to. Infrastructure for telephone systems. And so on. Now they’re not a lot of these places are just skipping over landlines and they’re going right into cell phone stuff.

But the sophistication of what your typical person has on their phone in Rwanda, I can guarantee you beats what you and I have on our phone, because they’re doing a lot of their payments on their phone. They’re doing all of their banking on their phone. They’re doing all sorts of communications that we’re not typically doing, you, we, we are using WhatsApp and we think we’re very sophisticated and they’re using all these other types of communication tools.

So those type of apps and things that, that support communication, and that are all really big, but anything that, you know, if you think about anything that your, your grandmother would’ve wanted in 1955, Those are the type of things that people are buying now in central Africa, cuz they’re building up their middle class.

[00:38:41] Peter Perri: Absolutely. And I think you touched briefly on infrastructure. That’s a huge topic for people that listen to the podcast, energy and infrastructure. Let’s say that I have, let’s say that I’m GE and I want to sell power plant in Sub-Saharan Africa. How do I go about it? 

[00:38:58] Zach Selch: Good question. And here’s the thing on the one hand I hate we have this idea very often in America that there that I always call it like the genie people say all I need is this guy.

And this guy knows the president and he’s gonna get me the, he’ll get me the. And I can’t tell you how many times somebody has introduced me to somebody and they say, this is the guy, this is the guy who’s gonna, he knows everybody. And I was talking to this woman a while back and she goes, I met this guy and he knows everybody in east Africa, we should work with him, blah, blah, blah.

He can get us deals, in Somalia he can get us deal. I said where did you meet him? And she goes, he’s driving an Uber in Denver. And I’m like, okay, so he’s driving an Uber. He knows everybody. He can get the president of Somalia to buy from us. And he’s driving an Uber in Denver. He’s yeah.

He had some hard times I’m like, okay, does that really make sense to you? But because very often people just have this idea of how exotic it is and they just you know that it doesn’t work the way it works here. So I guess the first thing is there is a process. If the government of Rwanda is going to buy a, an electrical plant, they have a process and that process has to be followed.

So you, can’t just, you meet some guy in a coffee shop and you hand him an envelope of money and he, isn’t going to give you a purchase order. Doesn’t work that. And even if it did work that way, you’re going to jail. If you do that. So don’t do that. But the thing is, yes, you need somebody on the ground, right?

So you need somebody to help you navigate that purchase pro that purchasing process. So you do need somebody and typically that somebody is not, your founders, college roommates, cousins, husband, those things never work. What you want is to find the guy who’s already, if you’re GE and you wanna sell to the energy, the minister of energy of Rwanda, you wanna find the guy who already sold, cables to the minister of energy in Rwanda.

You wanna find the guy who already sold, to the ministry of energy. He knows the system. He knows the process. He knows the people, and you’re not looking at somebody who’s gonna do anything illegal. You’re not looking at somebody who’s gonna do, bypass the system. You want somebody who can guide you through the system correctly, right?

You’re not, you’re not flying over the system in a magic carpet. You’re getting guided through the system. 

[00:41:31] Peter Perri: Absolutely. And does it typically take one person in each country or multiple people? 

[00:41:36] Zach Selch: Typically I would, I typically am trying to find the one person, if you find the right person now, there’s also something that I call like value chain creep right now.

Value chain in sales is typically when you basically say, okay, so the customer is gonna buy this for a dollar. I need 30 cents. Where does the other 70 cents go? And how does that divide up now? Again, very often in America, you’re in your office in, in, Cleveland and you’re talking to somebody and somebody says, I know this guy, and all he wants is 2% and you think 2%, that’s not bad.

I’ll give him 2%. And then a week later, somebody else wants two. And by the time you get to the customer, you’re going, holy crap. I’ve already committed to giving away 50 cents on a dollar here what’s left. And that happens a lot because, 2% doesn’t seem like you go, he’s the guy he’s gonna help me 2%.

I’ll sign the papers, gimme the papers, I’ll sign the papers. And it creeps up on. So typically I’m looking for the right person on the ground and I’m gonna give him what he needs to get the job done. And if he needs to pull other people into that chain. Sure. But I don’t wanna be throwing out, 2% here, 2% there to all sorts of different people to get introduced to me at parties.

It’s you’re smiling. It sounds funny. Believe me. It happens all the time, right? 

[00:43:06] Peter Perri: No, for sure. I’ve seen it. We see it in our industry in investment banking where people sign up contracts all day long to get a finder to do this or that for them because they don’t think they’re paying a retainer.

They’re just paying a commission. So if it it works out. But what they don’t realize is they’re wasting their time. Time is the most precious commodity.

[00:43:26] Zach Selch: They’re wasting their time. And very often, if these people are smart, they’re gonna contract that basically says they’re gonna get 2% on anything that happens in Saudi Arabia.

Yeah. And go argue with a court in Saudi Arabia that you don’t wanna pay this guy, his 2%, because he didn’t really do anything for. 

[00:43:47] Peter Perri: Yeah. It’s gonna come back one day. It might come back five days after you’ve gone through three or four distributors till you found the right one. And then the right one makes the sale.

And the other guy who you didn’t hear from for the last five years is definitely coming outta the woodwork. Oh, 

[00:44:01] Zach Selch: Def definitely. And he has the protection of the Saudi government and you don’t. 

[00:44:07] Peter Perri: Absolutely so well, Zach, this has been awesome, but before we go, I wanted to ask you about the cool story that you told me about your dad.

I, I, could you share that with the audience? Cause I just think it’s so warm.

[00:44:18] Zach Selch: Sure. I traveled around a lot and I and really like we were talking about how I got into this, I got into international sales. Cause when I was a little kid, I wanted to travel. and like a lot of us who were born in the sixties generation X, it wasn’t like I had this really warm and fuzzy relationship with my dad.

We never really did very much together in all this. And then five years ago, five, six years ago. I have actually, when he was older, we spent a little bit more time together. But by that time we were both older and stuff and then he passed away. And I had him cremated and I was literally on my way to I was gonna pour his ashes out in this swimming hole, near where he lived.

And I talked on the phone to my half sister and she said, he always wanted to travel and you travel. Why don’t you take him someplace? Interesting. And I thought about, and I said, why don’t I take him to a bunch of interesting places? So I divided his ashes up into 40 little containers. and for about two years, I carried around a little bit of him wherever I went and I had this, ceremony, I’d go out to a bar and I’d put him down on the bar and I’d have a drink and maybe I’d do something touristy.

And then I’d take him someplace. So yeah, I went to the Nile and I went to a African safari and I went basically all over the world and, the Rio Degenero and all sorts of fun places. And spent a little bit of time thinking about my dad and it was actually pretty.

But it also got, I don’t know I don’t know what happens after you die in terms of consciousness, but it was from my perspective, it was a little bit of a cool experience to spend with my dad’s memory, but it also got his ashes all over the world. 

[00:46:00] Peter Perri: No, that’s amazing. And a lot of people, to, to use the double Tundra of energy, a lot of people think we become energy and that we’re just.

In this sort of, and so I think that’s a pretty amazing picture that you described in taking your dad all over the world. I lost my dad in 2019 amazing guy, and we had a celebration of life experience for him. And I still haven’t figured out what we’re gonna do with the ashes. So we’re you gave me, you’ve given me some ideas and it’s been amazing.

Zach, it’s been awesome having you on super hero. And before I let you go, I’d love for you to just tell people how to get in touch with you, because if you’re a company in the energy industry or otherwise that needs to drive international sales, Zach, I think knows more than anybody I’ve talked to and has more experience in terms of doing this for, I guess it’s over 30 years now.

[00:46:56] Zach Selch: Yeah, exactly. So you can finally. thank you. You can find me on LinkedIn, Zach Selch. I’m the only Zach Selch on LinkedIn. I also have a website which is And basically I do a range of things, from coaching people on an hourly basis where you come to me and you say, I have a problem. I have a specific thing that we discuss.

I do ongoing, where I help you build up your distribution network. I’m available for you, every week. And then I also do actually fractional sales management. So if you come and you say we don’t, we really need an international sales manager. We can’t afford somebody like you.

Then I do that on a part-time basis and I help build it up. And either hand you the keys once the organization is built. Or I keep it going ongoing indefinitely. So those are the type of things I do. And looking forward to hearing from people. 

[00:47:52] Peter Perri: No, that’s awesome, Zach, so it sounds like you’ve got different services for different needs of clients, which I think is amazing.

We’ve had Zach Selch are excited that he was willing to come on Energy Superheroes and share his experience in international sales. And we’re happy to tell everyone, check us out on Spotify. We’ve now gotten the podcast distributed there. And of course visit the website Thanks Zach, for being on.

[00:48:17] Zach Selch: Thanks a lot, Peter.

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