The consummate “nice guy,” Ed Monte has a reputation in the automotive aftermarket as one of the friendliest, most outgoing and positive people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. Having worked his way up from taking customer service calls to director of sales at MSD Ignition, Monte firmly believes in the value of hard work, maintaining a positive attitude and building relationships.
Monte grew up in the Southwest and began riding Honda XR dirt bikes as a kid, exploring the desert and learning the terrain—a good primer for a budding desert racer. It also taught him to respect machinery. From there, he became interested in off-road racing, but focused on business in school knowing he’d need a real “day job” to support his passion for racing. After earning his business degree and working for a speed shop that specialized in desert racing, the Texas native got his first job out of college with MSD Ignition.
Monte was hired as a jack-of-all-trades sales and marketing clerk, when he realized he was able to make a living talking about his passion—cars and trucks. Monte began making friends and building relationships, which grew into sales accounts and long-term partnerships. He worked his way up to director of sales—a position he still holds at MSD. We spent some time with Monte to learn more about his business philosophy—one we believe would benefit SEMA members of all ages.
When did you first become interested in cars/trucks?
When I was in school, I worked for a fellow who ran a paint and body shop by day, but went desert racing on the weekends. I’d spend my afternoons at the shop tearing down off-road cars and prepping them for the next trip. I had a limited amount of knowledge, but a great mentor in the shop owner who showed me how to set the welder up and pull a motor out of a VW Bug in 30 minutes. He also instructed me that a $500 Mac 4-ft. torque wrench wasn’t to be used as a breaker bar! I enjoyed the nitty-gritty work because at the end of the day, getting behind the wheel and shaking down our Class 1 car was a treat after doing all the work on it—and I looked forward to doing it the next weekend.
What was your first project vehicle? What project vehicles do you own now?
My first “real” project vehicle (not just a driver I fixed to go to class) was an early ’90s version of a Sand Cars Unlimited four-seat buggy. Before long-travel A-arm suspension cars came onto the scene, this was your traditional 112-in. beam axle car with a whopping 1835cc Type 1 VW motor. A small car by today’s standards, it was my next evolution in keeping the dust and dirt flying in my face, and I loved it. I currently drive a ’99 BFG Project Suburban, plus I have a four-seater play buggy, two XR 600s, a CRF450X and a ’72 El Camino loaded with MSD gear I use for car shows and cruises. I also have an F-150 Raptor that’s been to Barstow for the M.O.R.E. Powder Puff.
You’ve been with MSD for a long time. Why stay with one company so long rather than jumping around?
At MSD, it’s a pleasure to work with a team of people who enjoy doing what we all do. A majority of our staff has been with the company for a number of years. We represent a company that is well known in the industry for providing quality parts. That makes it easy for me to take the time to travel on the weekends for shows and races. When you work with neat people, it’s a good thing! You spend more hours at work than you do at home in most cases, so you should really find a job that makes you happy and co-workers whom you like to spend time with. It makes it that much easier to do a good job if you love your work.
You worked your way up from a sales/marketing administrator to sales director. How did you get there?
When I was first hired, my initial tasks were to fax (yup, remember faxing everyday?) and call our reps with the information we wanted to get out. We were shorthanded in sales and marketing, so basically I helped coordinate everything from inbound purchase orders to grabbing that one last part from shipping to get it out on a Red Label for a race team. Throughout the years, knowing how to get things handled internally helped when I started working more with the reps building account relationships. When things needed to be handled, I was the go-to guy. We pride ourselves on not letting things sit. I always try to help move things along. After a couple years, I started traveling on the show circuit in addition to working some of the off-road events. Once that started, I had the privilege of becoming the person who our accounts and reps could call on, and I try to always deliver. All you have in business is your word.
What has been your biggest on-the-job challenge, and how did you deal with it?
Certainly there are several, but I’d say the very first challenge was when I started doing the jobber shows. While I was excited to travel, I was a little apprehensive about how to interact with the accounts. Not so much the public in general; I knew I could answer the consumer questions and also learn. I had freaked myself out by listening to the guys who had been on the road a lot, especially at NHRA events where the customers are only comfortable talking with their “one guy.” I thought the same when I started to do visits with our customers. Luckily, I figured out that all you can do is put your best foot forward and find out “what can I do for you?” You end up proving yourself, as yourself.
What is your proudest on-the-job moment?
I’d hate to sound too simplistic, but I’m pretty happy when I’m flying home from the SEMA Show, PRI, or any show or race where I’ve been able to be productive. It’s satisfying knowing you’ve given 100% and a great feeling when that last customer of the day thanks you for a job well done or appreciates the help.
Monte’s Top 10 Rules for Success in Sales:
10. Maintaining relationships is priority #1—try to be friendly with everyone you meet.
9. Always be honest and straightforward with customers, co-workers and yourself.
8. Know what you’re talking about.
7. Keep things in perspective—take every problem one step at a time.
6. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes—“How can I help you?”
5. Go into every situation with an open mind. Avoid preconceived notions.
4. Don’t be negative; always look forward.
3. Listen to people and be genuine. Don’t just wait for a turn to talk.
2. In our market, people don’t “need” our parts; they want them. Explain what you can do for them.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Customers can tell when someone knows their stuff and when they don’t. Whether setting up a booth or talking to a customer, don’t “b.s.” people if you don’t know what to do. Ask. Learn.