Tom Rastrelli was one of the most impactful leaders in the the Cutco/Vector Marketing sales organization. A veteran of the Cutco business since 1992, he became the company’s first “Double Hall of Fame” achiever, having reached that milestone in both sales and in management. He was a company pioneer in areas such as the Fair & Show and Service Call programs, and he mentored many of the company current elite sales professionals. Tom’s life and career were marked by many twists and turns, and yet he always retained a refreshing and inspiring perspective on it all. Tom and his wife, Jill, celebrated 50 years of marriage in September of 2020. He passed away on 2/12/2021, and is survived by 4 children and 7 grandchildren.
In this conversation, we talk about:
• The interesting story of how Tom, in his 40s, got started selling Cutco
• Incredible stories and lessons from Tom’s Hall of Fame career
• The impact of leaders like Jerry Otteson and Marty Domitrovich
• Tom’s tips for professional selling
• Tom’s story of dealing with cancer and other life challenges
Q&A with Tom Rastrelli:
Q: I would like to be able to have people know a little bit about you. So, if you want to start out by sharing about you and your background.
- I have a beautiful wife, Jill. We’ve been married for 50 years. She’s my strength and my best friend.
- I’m a 1st generation Italian immigrant.
- I’ve got 4 beautiful children and 7 beautiful grandchildren.
- Life’s been good. I have a great job. I get to consult for people, talk with people and help nurture them through different things.
- I have a great life, can’t complain.
Q: Why don’t we take it back to those early days, and tell us how you got started with Cutco in 1992?
- We had just closed down our family business. I’d been in the restaurant business for 22 years. I really didn’t know what I was going to do.
- My daughter got this job. She came home all excited and said, I got this job. I’m going to be selling knives. I thought it was the biggest joke I’d ever heard.
- She sold something like $2,000 in the 2 first weeks. It wasn’t a bad start. A grand a week was pretty good at the time.
- I said to her let me look at it. After she did the demo, I thought I was totally sold on that product.
- A couple of weeks later, there was a conference, a division conference. We had a Parent’s Night where parents could come with students.
- The guest speaker was Marty Domitrovich. During the whole process I saw these young kids, college students, going on stage getting trophies.
- I thought here are kids selling $4,000 and making $2,000 a week, that’s $50,000 a year! I mentioned to my wife, honey do you think I can sell knives for a living?
- After the meeting I met Marty and asked him do you have any old guys selling knives for you? He laughed.
- I got accepted and started working on the 3rd of July 1992.
Q: Tell us about when you started. What was it like?
- My first 10 days, I got the chance to meet the president of company. I had made 42 sales for over $6000.I came in 2nd in a Region Push to Scott Dennis. He told me he did 10 more appointments than I did. That’s how I knew I was going to be a champion. If he did that and he’d worked harder than I, then I could do it.
- It was fun.It was kind of cool to know the company, as big as it was, still cared for people.
- I went on to finish 1st in the Central Region that year and 4th in the nation.
Q: Let’s talk about some of the lessons that came from your career. Are there any particular stories you can remember? Moments that were transformational?
- After the first 6 months, I went to Year-End Banquet and these managers get big bonus checks. I thought I might want to be a manager.
- Marty had better ideas. He needed a sales leader to drive his organization forward. He told me someday you’ll be a manager if you continue selling. Do you think you can be #1 in the nation? I said yeah!
- He then told me something I have never forgotten and ended up been some of the most impactful words I’ve ever heard. “Someday Tom, you will be a manager. Someday you may decide to leave management. You’ll have so much confidence that you will be able to pick up a sample kit and sell Cutco for a living.” Those words rung true especially when it happened in 2002, when I decided to leave my management position.
- I started developing sales techniques and pretty soon, I was able to get a position with John Kane as a consultant.
- When it comes to impacting people and the lessons I learned, I learned that if you do your job right as a manager and teacher, you can always develop people under you that will soon be better than you. That was my goal.
Q: I know a lot of people helped you in your early days, and in particular, I believe you were significantly influenced by Jerry Otteson.
- Jerry was like my biggest mentor and supporter. He was the motivational director in the Central Region. He taught me everything. He was just amazing.
- He even twice saved me from leaving the business. I loved him like a father and miss him a lot.
- He had a saying “If you make me feel good, I’ll produce.” That’s what I try to do for others to this day.
Q: How about Marty? Any lessons you remember from Marty?
- Marty was a true mentor.
- He was the type of person who lets you learn on your own to the point of, if you make a mistake that’s ok.
- He didn’t expect perfection. He was not a micro-manager.
- He was so in tune with how people were living, what they were doing and what they were thinking.
- I learned to be successful and significant through him
- When he passed away, I really felt like we lost another heart.
Q: Let me shift gears with you a little bit and talk about the concept of professional selling because you’re the consummate pro as a sales person, as a customer service person. I’d love to hear your tips for people in selling.
- I think many things we learn from others.
- I always felt being humble is something we should all be. We all have egos, but you have to be confident and humble in maintaining your confidence.
- I have learned to be respectful. We were always told never walk across a person’s lawn, never park in their driveway, always take your shoes off. Those are simple things people don’t get from many people, but notice them.
- Being patient. I think that’s the hardest thing. You have to be patient with yourself too.
- Be caring and listen to people.
- As for business, I was in a demo for an hour and a half. Jerry would say Tom! Most demos are too long. Why say blah, blah, blah, when blah is enough?
- Those things kind of stuck with me.
Q: if you indulge me to talk about some of your personal life’s challenges you’ve had and are having now. If you are comfortable talking about this, it would be instructive for people to hear your perspective.
- I got cancer in 1971. I was a newlywed and had a baby. I was on top of the world. I had a positive attitude about things. I didn’t really talk much about it to people.
- Now I think I have a different attitude. I jokingly say I think that’s why God gave it to me the 2nd time because he wants to get it right this time.
- My cancer is actually getting better. My lungs are pretty much cooked from all this radiation and chemotherapy. It’s difficult to breathe, I have to be on oxygen.
- What I’ve gone through is nothing considerable to what others have gone through.
Q: Anything else you feel like you want to share with this particular audience?
- I think we all need to be grateful.
- Grateful for the things we have, not those we don’t.
- We have to be grateful and thankful and express it.
- If we continue to do those things, we’ll have a happier life.
- Pretty good to hear how Tom was the personal recruit of his own daughter.
- I loved hearing how Tom was influenced significantly by Marty Domitrovich and Jerry Otteson.
- I love the quote from Jerry, if you make me feel good, I’ll produce. The whole idea of how we make people feel who we’re leading and inspiring. That’s a critical element of success.
- Tom gave some good tips for sales people, starting out with the combination of humility and confidence that is crucial for anyone to be successful, but also to continue to elevate that success.
- I also loved hearing Tom talk about the concept of gratitude.
Show Notes for this episode were provided by Brian Njenga.