Tony Carlston is a true pioneer in Cutco history.  He started with the company as a sales rep in 1998, and quickly turned into one of the top reps in the company.  After a short stint in a management position, he decided to pursue full-time sales as a Cutco Sales Professional.  After hearing the legendary John Ruhlin talk about the concept of business gifting with Cutco, Tony hatched his ideas for the Cutco Closing Gifts program, targeted primarily at realtors, and he quickly rose to the top of the charts as the #1 sales rep in all of Cutco in 2006 & 2007.  Today, Tony is teamed up with Adam Sobieski to develop and teach this program to reps all throughout the company, and the program is approaching a quarter billion dollars in revenue.  Tony also runs several other businesses out of his Vancouver WA headquarters, where he employs about 35 people.


Q: Lets start by talking a little bit about how you got started with Cutco back in 1998.

  • I was 17 and working at Taco Bell and 2 of my friends started working at Cutco/ Vector so that’s how I heard about the job.
  • On the 2nd day of training I gave notice to Taco Bell and I just went after it.
  • My senior year in high school I made $43,000 and I was told that the starting pay out of college was about $36,000 so my logic was that I didn’t need to go to school to earn less money so I might as well just sell Cutco for a little while.
  • My daughter was born shortly thereafter so I had a family to start taking care of.
  • I became a manager for a few years but wanted more flexibility around my schedule when my 2nd child was expected so I went back into a full-time sales role.
  • At a national sales conference John Ruhlin spoke on business gifts and suggested starting with realtors as practice and now 13 years later we’ve done over $100 million in business with Realtors and lenders.

Q: What were some of the early experiences you had as a sales rep and the lessons that were born out of them?

  • There were the basic ones like just keeping track of your day to being consistent at making calls. I realized that whoever did the most demos/ appointments usually won.  Doing the work consistently.  Basically, just following the program.
  • I learned to not get carried away in my thoughts rather than the process. If you focus on the process and are focused on doing it properly.

Q: Lets take it forward to when you were at this conference and John Ruhlin was explaining how he sold Cutco to business people and you’re realizing that Realtors are constantly giving clients business gifts.  So how did you start to pursue that program?

  • I started with businesses that were not real estate agents. I started with builders and lumber companies and I had some big orders.
  • But I liked working with Realtors because they give gifts more often and they are their own boss/ decision maker.

Q: What role is Adam Sobieski playing in this?

  • Adam is the #1 CGC (Closing Gift Consultant) rep of all time and he is running all the training and team development side of things.

Q: You’ve worked with some very highly successful sales people here in Cutco and are among one of the best sales people and influencers yourself, what are some of the qualities or attributes that you see in common and what can new people begin to work on  to be as successful as you’ve been?

  • Become a student of whatever it is you’re selling. The more you are convicted, the more confident you’ll come across.
  • Sales is a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another.
  • State management or mindset management is important.
  • Health basics like sleep, eating good food, and exercising.
  • Have fun and laugh with people.

Q: Aside from selling Cutco and running Branding Tools, what else do you have going on?

  • I own Best Day Of My Life, which is an apparel company.

Q: What are some of your biggest challenges in business?

  • Generally it’s people-related. It’s hard to hire effective people.  Legal issues. 

Q: Are there elements of your leadership style in running your business that you feel like you can trace back to observing Isaac Tolpin?

  • Him and John Kane are some of the biggest influences on my business life.
  • Something that Isaac said that will always stick with me came after I was ranting about someone and he said, “you need to remember that it’s not about you. And the more you can own that it’s not about you, the more power you’ll have in fixing the problem.”
  • I’ve found that the quality of questions you ask yourself is maybe the biggest determining factor of success with anybody. Questions direct our focus.

Q: As you look into the future, how do you aspire to change people’s lives through your work of your influence?

  • Helping people to create a more residual business with the Realtor/ CGC program is really exciting to me.



  • I loved hearing how the Cutco Closing Gifts program evolved.
  • Tony gave some great tips on becoming a successful salesperson:
    • Product knowledge- be a student of what you’re doing and developing that depth of certainty and conviction.
    • Rapport skills- get people to talk about themselves. You need to have a genuine interest in them and be sincere.
    • State management is critical for success.
    • Have fun doing what you’re doing; have a child-like playfulness.



  • FSM (Field Sales Manager)- the premier sales rep opportunity in Vector/ Cutco.
  • Silver Cup- The trophy award to the #1 rep/ manager in a year in each competitive category. “So and so won a Silver Cup” = that person was the #1 performer in their category one year.


Show Notes provided by Carlo Cipollina.


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