business & rofessional
Billion Dollar Salesman
A son of Russian-Jewish immigrants with sales know-how
goes on to launch Gold Star Mortgage.
aniel Milstein was born in Kiev,
Ukraine. Being a young Jewish
boy in the USSR meant he was
discriminated against on a daily basis.
"I had to work twice as hard to get
the same grades in school as someone
working half as much because I was
Jewish," he said.
His family immigrated to Ann Arbor
in 1991 after Chernobyl. Milstein devel-
oped his work ethic during long hours
at McDonald's as he worked his way
through college, eventually taking a job
at TCF Bank where he honed his sales
skills and became a top producer.
"I became overconfident," he said.
After 11 months, he left for a small
mortgage firm and failed. Next came a
position as manager of a Comerica Bank
branch located in a supermarket.
"Forgetting the lessons learned at that
last mortgage company, I left to become
a loan officer at an even larger mortgage
broker," he said. "As if on cue, I failed
Those failures helped shape Milstein
into a successful business professional.
He learned the banking business inside
out and was promoted consistently
because of his sales acumen.
"It was my dream to start my own
company," he said. Gold Star Mortgage
was launched in 2000. He never looked
Gold Star Mortgage was ranked by
Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-
growing companies in America in 2009
and 2010. It's the third-largest residen-
tial lender in Michigan, the 53rd largest
in the United States and employs more
than 400 people. The company closes
more than a billion dollars in loans
annually and Milstein has been recog-
nized as the No. 1 mortgage originator
in the country. In the past 10 years, he's
achieved more than $3 billion in per-
sonal career mortgage sales.
A motivated, successful and savvy
businessman, the 35-year-old CEO
of the Ann Arbor-based Gold Star
Mortgage Financial Group decided to
pass on the secrets of his success to
others in the sales business with a new
book, The ABC of Sales, Lessons From A
Superstar (available at Amazon.com ).
He talked recently with the JN.
'‘...inspiring...exciting tale of
success and achievement"
Brian Trace—Author, The 14av to IVealth
les zOs; 4 1t.S.1„
How a Russian immigrant with 1 cents
in his pocket became one of the top
mortgage bankers of all time.
DAN I E I
poi FOUNDER AND CEO OF Inc.
GOLD STAR FINANCIAL GROUP 3
JN: When did you first realize that you
had a gift for sales?
Milstein: I was barely 15 years old
when I realized that I was a very good
salesperson. One of the things that I was
taught young is that when you wake up in
the morning, you should have a passion
for what you do. When I wake up in the
morning, I think about sales and assisting
sales. It's about my life — how I got start-
ed and how I failed twice. It was about
immigrating here and starting with noth-
ing. The book is more of an inspirational
book, not just for salespeople, but also for
anyone, really. I went from being almost
homeless to realizing the American Dream
and building a company that employs
over 400 people. After many failures and
banking jobs, I founded Gold Star in 2000
when I was 24. It was a few years before it
JN: What spurred you to write this
Milstein: This book is not just about
JN: What has your family meant to you
on your rise to the top?
Milstein: My parents taught their eth-
ics to my brother and me: Work hard, do
what's right for others, don't put financial
rewards ahead of your clients' needs. They
actually made me become a better person.
I didn't get into any of the financial trou-
bles young people seem to get into with
their first credit cards. My parents taught
me some very valuable lessons.
But you know what? I have a typical Jewish
mother. If you ask her about me, despite my
successes and my company and everything
else, she still wants me to be a doctor. I
tell her, "Mom, I can't afford the pay cut."
JN: Can you explain some of the sales
strategies in your book?
Milstein: One of my chapters is called
"Lunch Is For Losers." It started with this
story. I had just hired my first employee,
who liked to take a one-hour lunch. While
he was out, I took a lot of phone calls and
ended up selling four different transac-
tions. Two of those would have been his
had he been in the office. When he came
back with a bag of McDonald's, I looked
at him and said I hope that Big Mac was
worth the $3,000 that you just lost.
I always sit at my desk. I don't leave for
lunch and neither do most of my people.
Being in sales is about being available
24-7 for your clients. I don't believe in
voicemails. If I'm not at my desk, the call
will be forwarded to my cell phone so I'm
always available. At 2:15 one morning,
an airline pilot called the 1-800 number,
which went to my phone on the fourth
ring. He was surprised when I answered
because he had planned on leaving a mes-
sage. I ended up selling him a loan. Since
then, this pilot has given me seven refer-
rals and has financed a number of trans-
actions with me.
JN: What is the "ABC of Sales?"
Milstein: It means, "always be closing"
and is one of my favorite phrases, a motto
that I live by and one of the prime reasons
I've been successful as a salesman. Never
turn off your selling mindset!
JN: What's next for you?
Milstein: I absolutely love what I do.
Five to 10 years from now I look forward
to growing the company and helping my
people realize their success. I'll still be
originating mortgages. One of the favorite
parts of my job is when I see homeowners
getting the keys to their first house. J