Episode 6 - A Space for Leadership, Purpose, and Never Being Willing to Be Denied with Jeff Giagnocavo

Episode 6 - A Space for Leadership, Purpose, and Never Being Willing to Be Denied with Jeff Giagnocavo

What’s up everybody, it’s your boy Drewbie and today I get to sit down with the phenomenal Jeff Giagnocavo, an entrepreneurial force and small business champion, to unearth his wild sales adventures and his take on empathetic leadership drawn from his book, "The Space for Leadership." This conversation is a gold mine for sales professionals, as Jeff narrates how his ironclad determination secured him a major account in the highly competitive mattress industry. We dissect his distinctive approach to sales, customer service, and the invaluable lessons from his entrepreneurial odyssey. Jeff's inspiring tale is a testament to the incredible influence of perseverance in the realm of business triumphs.

Amazon.com: The Space for Leadership: Lessons for who you can be,  regardless of who you were: 9798859893546: Giagnocavo, Jeff: Books

During our chat, we uncover the strategy of affirmation in sales, stressing the necessity of ensuring a product aligns with a customer's needs rather than resorting to aggressive selling tactics. The episode casts a spotlight on the power of forging personal connections and responding to the emotional needs of customers to build trust. We share insights on leadership within sales teams, focusing on the crucial placement of talent and nurturing team members to enhance sales efficacy. 

Key Moments

  • -A story of persistence and doing whatever it takes - never be willing to be denied.
  • -The importance of a “what do I have to lose?” mindset.
  • -Affirming vs. Selling.
  • -The power of vulnerability and maintaining relatability.
  • -Have confidence and know that you’ve been provided an opportunity - you are the expert here.

Hey, hey everybody, welcome back to Call the Damn Leads, the show by sales professionals for sales professionals. I'm your host, Drewy Wilson, with over two decades of experience in the sales industry. I've heard, seen, lived, and been through almost everything there is to say - the good, the bad, and the ugly - regarding sales. This show is created to share fun stories, provide a community for sharing, and facilitate learning. Over my two decades in this industry, I've realized that continual growth and development genuinely allow us to make more money, and that's why we all got into sales in the first place. We want to make more money to live the life we want.

And today's guest is someone I'm very excited to have on. He hosts The Big Ticket Life podcast, and Jeff Janako, a lifelong advocate for small businesses, joins us. From selling his first business at 16 to now being a sought-after consultant, Jeff's entrepreneurial journey is inspiring. We will dive into his latest book, "The Space for Leadership," which offers unique insights into empathetic leadership and its profound impact. Jeff's expertise, with 14 years of five-star customer experience at Gardner's Mattress and Mo and accolades in Forbes, promises an engaging conversation on achieving business success in the Big Ticket Life.

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Empathetic Leadership Style: Jeff's Unconventional Sales Tactics

"What's up, Jeff? What's up, sir? I'm happy to be here, man, and happy to be on your show. Not that there's anything wrong with other shows, but this is your show called The Damn Leads, man. I'm happy to be here," Jeff expresses.

"I really appreciate it, and I really, really appreciate that wonderful bio that you sent over. I freestyle these, and it's never quite as well put together as that, so kudos to you. Again, we've done some shows together in the past. We've talked about the importance of being a great podcast guest, and dagit, sir, you are one heck of an example of that. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I am excited to discuss your book, but I always like to start the show with a bang before we get into that. Tell me a crazy sales story."

"Sure, so, me trying to carve out a path in the Furniture and Mattress game back in the mid-2000s, early 10s, demanding life from the factories I represent, and the tagline that we were our marching orders were pretty much you tell your customers you're going to sell this, or you're going to sell against it because you got to sell everybody in your market. And not everybody greeted that the right way. Some people were upset by that; some people liked it, some would listen, others wouldn't. But I always manage my territory to please our customers and to please my factory because that's how I make my money, right? Keeping that two-way street open as a manufacturer's sales rep," Jeff begins.

"There was one account in Delaware but not in Maryland. This was right on the Strip, with a whole bunch of independent stores and some chain stores, and there was one big fish I really wanted. He would ignore me, and at the time, I drove around in a Sprinter van with mattress samples in it to showcase. I brought the show to you. I brought the show to your door. I wouldn't be denied, right? I wasn't going to wait till a market. I just invested in this truck and drove it around, which meant I had to have a second vehicle at home to take my kids around 'cause the van was always full of salesman samples. So, I just set up these samples in this guy's parking lot. I'm doing this show; you're going to take a look at these things. I may as well, just like Judo, hip-toss you onto a sample to make you try it. Like, I would be allowed.

And I just literally set up. I arrived at 8:30 in the morning; most stores open at 10. Got there at 8:30, figuring either I'm going to beat the owner in, or he'll see some commotion on security cameras, whatever. Somebody will come in for the day and see me. Like, 'What's this guy doing in the parking lot?' I beat him in, andI had to move the sample from his parking spot, so I got cussed out. And I just said, 'Hey, I don't know any other way to tell you that I'm so committed to seeing a good relationship here. I'm willing to do this. I'm willing to go this far. Like, I will not be denied.' And you're the kind of guy that strikes me that you are someone who says, 'I will not be denied.' Long story short, he decided to become a dealer and became one of my most significant accounts, doing about, come on, 400 grand a year in the wholesale business," Jeff recounts.

Unlock the Power of Empathetic Leadership: Listen to Episode 18 on Driving Sales with Authenticity and Passion, featuring Paul Childers

Empathetic Leadership and Sales Strategies: Affirmation Over Selling

"First of all, can tell you that the idea of going at 8:30 and knowing you're going to beat the people at 10 is 100% accurate. I worked in the furniture industry for some time, we've talked about that in the past if you want to know that story, read my book. It's funny because I can remember the first time I started going in, I'm a very punctual guy, so like in sales, that was one of the lessons I always learned was be early, be, you know, be early or be gone.

And so I know that I could roll in at 9:30 and sit in the parking lot and there still wouldn't be anybody there until 9:55 and they'd come rolling in like right at 10 on the button, flipping the lights on with customers like looking in the windows going, 'Hey, can I get in there? I'm trying to buy some.' And I always was going, 'I don't understand that.' But I love the story that it's like, 'Hey man, I'm going to do whatever it takes,' and I've met multiple, multiple professionals in sales that have had similar stories. That's why we created this show. One thing I'd love to know about that though, in making that decision, you know, that's a gutsy move. What was your ultimate, like, if he tells me to off and throws me out of here, what was your next move?" Drewy inquires.

"Well, it was already out the door 'cause I wasn't even in, right? So it was like just pick up my stuff and go home. I really had nothing to lose. I'd been chasing this account for probably two years. You know, the other accounts were good, but this guy was the player in that strip. And I just had to convince him of how committed I was to seeing our partnership begin, you know? And then I nurtured it and nurtured it and grew it, and we had some stumbles. But yeah, for me, if he would have said get the F out of here, you know, pointing fingers, calling me ever name in the book.

It would have been like, "What did I really lose here? I was going to be in this territory today, you know. If anything, I'd have made a real big stink about where I'm going next, so he can watch me take some of the stuff he just saw to his competitors, right?" So I guess that would have been the worst thing, other than being called some names. But so what? We hear names all the time. That none of that stuff's ever bothered me, so I guess that would have been it. Like, "Yeah, okay. I guess I really tried, and no one can fault me. No one can say I didn't leave a stone on that's what I was looking for, man. That's the beauty of the progression of amazing salesman and true leaders."

And we're going to get to the leadership side of things in a minute because I know that in sales one of the things you're literally trying to do unless you just want to have a job for your whole life is build up a system and a process that you can train to the next person. And some of that is the development of a mindset and a willingness to be told no, to be screamed at, to be called names, to put out there and try things that are kind of crazy and you know wild knowing that it's really just trying to move the needle in one direction or another. Either they're going to say yes or they're going to say no and if they say no cool we got competition to go and talk to cuz they going to say yes when I give them a hell of a sweet deal or they're going these guys are going to say yes and as you said you're going to get to build a relationship and nurture something that can be very very fruitful.

So I love that and your line of I will not be denied very very powerful. I always like to ask on this show like if you had one secret sales strategy or like tactic that you would say is your secret weapon what would it be? I mean that's a mentality I think that leaders need to have. I don't think we can ask our teams to have it right away cuz if you're hiring people that have that instilled and like downloaded installed and they on the proper operating version I don't know that they're going to be around you that much longer because they're going to go do their own thing. So we got to nurture, we got to bring that forward and we got to give them systems and processes to work within the structures that are in their head at first and then expand them.

So to answer your question what's that secret sales strategy it's almost odd that I have to say this but to me what's really working and has been working for the last number of years for us has been getting to that point of affirmation affirming that we're the right fit for the person's needs not selling affirming. There's so much information out there about any topic you know whether you're selling coaching whether you're selling HVAC or roofing or selling a durable thing like mattresses or a car. Man there's so much information out there and because it's this personal it's delivered on this personal relationship device that's become an extension of our bodies which isn't hyperbolic. I mean these things like check your heart rate so it is an extension of our body they look at the information there with a lot of trust so that secret sales strategy is putting our team in that point of affirmation all the time.

Master the Art of Sales Follow-Up with Empathetic Leadership Style

Cultivating Empathetic Leadership in Retail: A Conversation on Sales and Service

Like we open up, tell me why you're shopping for a mattress; we want to know. We want to know what and and and it elicits an emotional response, not an I want to go from queen to king. Okay, that's good information, but ultimately, that's something we aspire to get to anyway because a bigger sleeping surface is a good thing for your sleep, not just for our sales dollars, but that's a point we bring out. We look to educate, but that point of affirmation is that we want to know if what we've got is the right fit for your sleep needs so you can wake up happy. Let's have that conversation giving them the game, Jeff giving them the game, brother, and that's beautiful.

Yeah, thank you when you commit to that. Honestly, you can't be the person. It's Black Friday weekend, which means we're 80% off. None of my advertising has a price unless it's like, well, I shouldn't say none. You're just leaders, sure. Yeah, we don't do that lost leader stuff. That's what I meant to say. We've got a clearance event with some discounts advertised, but that's a real thing, and we're happy to sell it to you. We're so glad somebody will get an excellent mattress at a discount and be excited about getting them because they will return to us the next time they need something. They got a fantastic deal on this floor model; they know it, they know what they're sacrificing. Still, they're going to love keeping some money in their wallet the next time they come right back to us because of how we treated them.

But that point of affirmation allows you so many things, so our significant KPI is missed opportunities. I want that number at zero every week, so we watch what we sell and what we quote because about half of our quotes turn into sales, and then that zero missed opportunity number is we didn't get your quote, we didn't write you an invoice. I want that number, ideally. We expect to ask for the sale every time and ask to give you a quote every time. We want that number at zero, so we're really driving that number, riding it like Sea Biscuit, and it's paying off. Like my one guy Phil, I'm a hunter. Phil Hunter was away deer hunting the weekend of November. Well, he's. Away, he wrote like $117,000 in quotes that came back. The dude came back from hunting and had his week before he even started his week. That's awesome.

And the only way that could be possible is through leadership, right as you said, if someone comes in and they're already dialed in and they're a hunter. They're ready to go out and slay the marketplace. They're between opportunities because they rift with management in another location. It's not because they're like the most intelligent person. They just don't fit well in that system or that ecosphere, which happens sometimes. Sometimes, you have to get the right person in the right seat. I read The Energy Bus recently, a fantastic book on leadership that helps you understand that certain people might be in the wrong place or chair. And one thing I'd like to know is, from the leadership standpoint, you're someone that I've really watched, admired, and appreciated. How do you focus on those little details? Are those the KPIs? It's not about how many missed sales we have. It's about how many missed opportunities we had to help someone.

So, in the book, I mean The Space for Leadership. It's a fantastic read; I recommend that anyone listening to it grab it. It's on Amazon, right, Jeff? That's right, yep. Okay, I've read a lot of leadership a lot of leadership books. You know, there's some great stuff out there. This one is fantastic; what separates this book from other leadership books? Well, I mean, it's the vulnerability story. So it's about my past, my childhood, dealing with the childhood sexual abuse that I had uh as a kid that was, you know, put upon me. It was very rough, which translates to hard for some people to hear. I get what I don't; I always preface this point when I talk about the book and my story: I don't want people to weigh their past issues against mine. I'm not trying to be out in front and say, "Well, I'm the leader because it was like if you were a kid who worked hard in school. You got C's and B's, occasionally B's, and you finally got that A, and then your parents are like, well, it's about time, and that just wrecked you. That's your thing. I call it like it doesn't have to be. We're not here to weigh it out. We're here to accept it.

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Empathetic Leadership Style: Nurturing Vulnerability in Challenging Times

What I want people to take away is to think about why those struggles were really given to you, you know, and so for me, this person that committed this violence upon me and others it's it was a pretty wide net for a little tiny town in Canada. Two other kids committed suicide. I feel that the best I can tell from what I've been able to pick up over the years is that I was that last kid. I was the kid that God put in place to stop it because he knew I'd have the shoulders to strengthen it or to handle it and have that strength and then someday be in this place, putting light on that rough topic.

And so, as Leaders, we have to lead with that vulnerability because there's a clash that people have that you lead that they're bringing to you daily. Here's a genuine example in the community where I live: so at our high school, we had two young men get in a fight the day before Thanksgiving. One of them brings out a knife; that kid's expelled. So if you're somebody who employs those parents and I wonder if they have businesses or what, I don't really know them, but if you use those parents, they're coming into your work that Friday after Thanksgiving or the Monday after the holiday. What's their frame of mind? Are they are have you created a place where they could come to you privately and say hey, I want to let you know my kid really acted out?

We're shocked, disappointed, sad, and hurt that he chose to act this way, so I'm likely to need some time. I may be requesting half a vacation day here and an hour to get on a phone call privately in my car to an appointment. Are you creating that kind of place to help those people succeed because that's a clash at work between work and home, right? And that's the kind of vulnerability that I'm talking about that leaders need to bring to the table like it's cool like I don't I don't want I'm sorry I took your show like in left that's okay like it's it's it's great because there's something to that. I'm going to let you finish because I want to share something that is very important.

And so my challenge, the whole reason I wrote the book, was for people to first and foremost understand that maybe there's a purpose because faith belief can help you heal. Then it can help you lead because so many people cannot ask that question and stand with that Faith conviction that there was a purpose for that awfulness. You can now talk about it today and help other people, and every time one of these shows gets out, I get some message back from out of the blue from somebody who had a similar story and thought they were very much alone.

And so that's my challenge, leaders like maybe you don't, and that's why I say let's not trauma way because it doesn't have to always be that you can kind of set that expectation maybe that parent isn't going to come to you whose son got in a knife fight because they think you're way up here right you're way above them you need to be you need to create that environment to be relatable and show people you're a human. After all, then they can show you the same thing: that they're human.

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Empathetic Leadership Style in Sales and Personal Growth

Jeff, it's a compelling story, and I appreciate you sharing it. Even that little side tangent is essential. You're right; most of us who got into sales, not all, but most, came from some messed-up background. A lot of us were selling drugs as kids or getting into things we weren't supposed to. It was because we had that entrepreneurial spirit, that "I'm going to mess around and find out" mentality. Sometimes, it led us into situations that weren't great, and we have those traumas to work through as we get older.

You're not alone in this. I had Dr. Cheers the other day, and we discussed individuals dealing with these life experiences. There's some deeper-rooted trauma that we have to work through. The NLP training has helped me see that our conscious thinking and unconscious actions contribute to our successes and failures. There's value in that trauma and the drive it gives us to succeed. Yet, as a leader, you must understand how to step back and be empathetic to someone else's traumas and what they're going through.

This discussion is directly relevant to sales and leadership. It's what sets apart a great salesperson. The ability to empathize and say, "I understand what you're going through. I'm here for you." But it doesn't stop there. It's about ensuring that the person feels comfortable making a decision about the next step. This is the essence of sales, persuasion, and leadership. Jeff, your willingness to share your story is invaluable. It may be considered taboo by some, but for others, it's a beacon of understanding and empathy.

Those messages we receive out of the blue from someone we haven't heard from or have never met remind us we're not alone. They say, "I heard your show, which deeply impacted me. It opened me up and made me realize that I'm not alone in dealing with this."

And yes, every situation is unique. Everyone's story is their own. People write excellent books like Jeff's because it's the telling of that story and that struggle that allows you to take that next step into leadership. So Jeff, man, I want you to know how grateful I am for you sharing and being willing to be vulnerable. Because I know that's what's setting up the next generation of sales professionals to go out and absolutely dominate and be successful in their lives. Because money's great like we all know how to make money, we can do that, and I'm going to support making more money.

But it's the impact we get to make on our community and the people we get to help that truly sets apart, you know, the leaders. And man, you have been just an absolutely fantastic example of that. So, thank you so much for sharing. No, it's just one of those things for me. A calling to do, you know, we all might feel called to step into greatness through selling. Selling is the most honorable profession because you're transferring somebody's hard-earned money into something they need, want, or aspire to.

You know, for me, I'm approaching it differently. And it dawned on me as we talked, you know, that example of a student kid who didn't get a good grade and their parents came down on them. I wonder if a lot of people shared that example of that story in our sales language and the way we work with people. They tried hard as a kid, didn't quite get there, and maybe Mom and Dad were having a hard time, a hard day, and it just came out the wrong way because of that Venn diagram; a lot of people fit in that center.

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Empathetic Leadership Style: Navigating Customer Interactions with Care and Confidence


A lot of people do. So, I would challenge you as we move on to your last question: whatever you take away from what I shared about my past and how I view leadership, take away how you engage with people and what you say. And remember, you're not your customer. They don't know what you do. You're the expert. You see, they're usually swimming out into some deep, deep water without a life jacket, and you have to be the one to get them back to the shore.

And maybe you say something that to them doesn't feel like a life jacket, feels like an anchor around their neck, you know. And you didn't intend it that way. But think about that; think about the words you say because they are powerful. And you know, just maybe the other three people said things to them that reminded them deep down, that's just like my childhood. They didn't say that out loud, but that gave them the uneasy feeling of looking at their wife, "Yeah, let's go." Think about it, and then in the car, the wife's like, "I thought we were ready to buy a car today. I just got this weird feeling; something didn't sit right in my gut."

That mind immediately talked to the gut, and the gut flared up, "We're out." So think about that. You might think it's crazy, but it is rooted in much science, data, and results. Think about it; you're absolutely right, man. I've been doing a lot of NLP and and neurolinguistic program training, and it's really that human mind and the decision-making process that we go through as individuals based on our past, present, and future experiences, right? Our mind has already created this future that we expect to go through, and sometimes, what people say to us disrupts that vision.

And it's that split second between, "Hey, I was ready to hand you my credit card," and, you know what, "Nah, not today." And I appreciate you're sharing that in the recognition of it in real time because it's such a powerful awareness. And anyone who's listening and watching the clips on this, man, they're going to go, "Damn, this is worth every bit of the 26 minutes I've been here so far today." Again, Jeff, I am incredibly grateful that you took the time to be here and write this book, the Space for Leadership. Anyone who's listening, please go to Amazon and and order your copy, Jeff Janako. You will need help to spell it, so I will put everything in the show notes. I will have your link to your website, your hard um, all of your social media, and all that stuff.

And the one thing I always like to ask, other than expressing my gratitude, is, again, thank you, but there will be some new sales professionals listening to this show, right? They may need to be more seasoned and have all the skills you and I have developed in the decades of doing this. If you could give that new person one piece of advice on how to be successful in this industry, what would it be? So if you've been put front and center with your clients, customers, patients, whatever, this I'll preface this that statement means your company's got some excellent process, procedure to put you out front with your customers, right?

So, know you've been put in front of those customers for a reason. You've graduated to that point, have that confidence, and remember, you're not the customer. So you know, you've been trained, you've been given the knowledge, you have the knowledge, you've acquired it, have that confidence, even if it's a new scary place because that person is coming to you to bring them back from those deep waters, have them reach the mountaintop in their journey of this buying decision. You could be that guide, whatever analogy you want to think of, have that confidence.

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Empathetic Leadership Style: Fostering Confidence and Learning

You know, I learned that analogy. I started one of my side hustles when I was a kid, a mobile DJ, and then I had a mobile deejaying business, grew it nicely, and sold it. And what I would train the new hires is look, you're behind the desk with the gear rack, the CDs, the whole binders of CDs, cross-reference manuals, the microphone, you're in charge, you're the expert at the moment, no one knows this equipment. They don't know how to look up music; they don't know how to move from one deck to the next. You have that confidence, you've been trained, I've graduated you to this point. I'm not going to put you out there on somebody's best day of their life, their wedding, and have that come back on me. So know that you've got the confidence to do this because, again, this is why I say a preface, if you haven't had the training, go find the way to get the training to be confident, but have that confidence, like know.
You can do this and go right back to the top.

What's the worst that's going to happen? What do I mean if that guy would have thrown me out of the parking lot with a whole bunch of curse words, kicked the mattress across the street, all of that when distilled down in the bottom of the pot? What is that? It's just another no, that's all that is. And even the best closers, seven out of 10, eight out of 10, nine out of 10, still need that one no. It's all right; move on to the next. Sometimes it's that no that really is the no that you needed 'cause I've taken on a lot of business that I wish would have said no, like, "Oh my God, what am I doing? I should have said no." They should have said no, like, "What are we doing here? This is not a good fit."

And you know what it is? It's when you skip the processes. It's when you forget the training, leave out that question, or leave out that one piece of the step, and go, "Well, shucks, here we are. I frigged up. I did it. Now, gotta learn that lesson." You know what, though? But it comes back to confidence. I absolutely love that, and one of my favorite things to go with that is what I learned very early on from my mentor. The wisest man does not have the answer to every question; he knows where to go looking for them. So when I started in sales, if I didn't have the answer, I'd go, "You know what? That's a fantastic question. Let me make sure I run that up the flagpole to get you some clarity while I'm here. Let's run through the rest of this and get any other questions.

And you can get the answer to this one when we finish, um, and then we can go and finish from there. Does that sound fair?" And they're like, "Well, okay, yeah," 'cause 99% of the people know that they don't know everything either, so they're okay when you're willing to admit, "I know what I know. What I don't know, I will go and learn for you. My service to you is to ensure you have what you need. Are you good with that?" And they're like, "Yeah, like cool. Let's rock and roll together." So, that is a fantastic advice. The confidence is there if you have the proper training. So leaders, go grab a copy of Jeff's book, make sure you're getting yourself plugged in and having those trainings and those processes. Jeff, man, what an honor it's been to hang out with you today. Thank you for pouring into us, pouring into your book. I know there will be some life changes from this one, man. Any last words before we get out of here?

You know, I appreciate you creating this space and having this show. Appreciate the journey you're on. I've been watching; I'm happy. This is your show, your thing, and you know, you get to pass it on. What you shared with me before we began is so cool. So, take Drew's inspiration and think about that in your way. So, thank you, man. Thanks for having me here. Hell yeah, thank you for being here. If you guys are listening, make sure you tune in, hit subscribe, share this show with your friends, and tag us on social media at the damn leads.

Our whole mission is to bring this community together and help you see that you're not alone on the journey and that many amazing people out here share their stories just like you. If you have an excellent sales story you'd like to come on and share, head over to call the damn leads.com SLP podcast, check out the requirements, send over your information, and tell me about your story. Let's bring you on the show. I would love to share it because that's what it's all about. Get out there, call the damn leads, and we'll see you guys on the next one.

Unlock Your Confidence: Master Client Calls with an Empathetic Leadership Style! 

Connect with Jeff

Jeff Giagnocavo, a lifelong champion of small businesses, has unveiled his latest endeavor in "The Space for Leadership." From selling his first business at 16 to

embarking on a successful entrepreneurial journey, Jeff is now a sought-after consultant for business owners seeking to regain control of their lives and business destinies.

In "The Space for Leadership," Jeff explores empathetic leadership and its transformative power. He emphasizes creating space for employees to heal personal struggles, offering readers a fresh perspective on leadership's true essence.

Jeff co-owns Gardner’s Mattress & More, renowned for delivering 14 consecutive years of 5-star customer experiences. His previous book, "Sleep Better," has positively impacted countless lives, promoting well-rested mornings.

Beyond mattresses, Jeff's innovative marketing concepts have left their mark on over 500 retail businesses, earning recognition in Forbes, Target Marketing, and more.

Jeff's ultimate passion is empowering business owners to become true investors in their enterprises, leading them on the path to a fulfilling "Big Ticket Life." "The Space for Leadership" equips readers with the tools and wisdom to embrace this journey fully.

Contact Information:

Jeff Giagnocavo in action - a sampling of work and profile


Connect with Drewbie

Your Host, Drewbie Wilson:

With over $15 million in online sales, Drewbie's vast experience spans multiple industries. His journey from a 300-pound weight loss to becoming a sales powerhouse has shaped his perspective on life and success.

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