My Ability To Sell Defines My Value
I studied mechanical engineering in college – until I discovered what salespeople earned. It was at that moment that I understood that I had the ability to fundamentally change the course of my life by becoming a messenger for products and services that added value to other people’s lives. I learned that in sales it’s what you produce that counts – you are only as good as your last sale. Through self-study, hard work, lucky breaks, and the mentoring of a few wonderful people, I was able to routinely close opportunities that continuously improved my standard of living and the security of my family.
The old adage “Nothing happens until somebody sells something” underpins every business success and many business failures. At my core I understand that no matter how great the product or service, if it doesn’t add value to someone’s business, it isn’t going to sell. Selling is about listening, not talking. It’s about discovering unmet needs that the products and services that you sell can address. It’s about presenting your ideas and convincing other people to consider and embrace them. Great selling skills are fundamental to every successful executive. In the following paragraphs I tell you how I achieved my executive selling skills.
Selling Skills Boot Camp
I entered the workforce selling Campbell Soup institutional food products to hospitals, restaurants, hotels, federal, state and local governments, the U.S. military, and institutional food wholesalers. Looking back, it was the easiest (and lowest paying) sales job I ever had. But I learned how to cold-call, and how to convince perfect strangers on our very first meeting to buy Campbell’s Soup products. From Campbell’s I jumped feet-first into the world of 100% commission selling. Yellow Pages advertising is a tough business, especially when you travel 10 months a year in 13 Western states and pay all of your expenses from a 100% commission pay plan. Needing a break from near-constant travel, I joined an industrial laundry company as their Sales Manager and found out what it was like to be responsible for creating the revenue that fed my co-workers families. Recruited by Tel-Ad Advisors to consult with small businesses about how to save money on their Yellow Pages advertising, I was promoted to National Sales Manager in six months, wrote the business plan and opened the Dallas, TX office in 18 months, and operated Tel-Ad Advisors Southwest for five years. I learned first-hand what it meant to be an “owner.”
High Technology Refinement
In 1988 I cold-called and talked my way into the computer industry. Working for Micro One in Dallas I learned how to value-sell PC networks to law firms throughout the U.S. Leveraging my legal networking knowledge I became a Sales Engineer for Mark Cuban’s MicroSolutions specializing in writing technical proposals for $250K-$1M+ law firm networking deals. Recruited by Software Spectrum I acted as a Program Manager responsible for the creation of networking and software development solution proposals that were sold by our sales force to the Fortune 2,000. Recruited by Vanstar Corporation in 1995 as an Area Director managing 100+ systems engineers in an eight-state geography I grew my computer professional services line of business revenue from $3.3M to $8M, a 242% increase, in my first year on the job. Transitioning into a Business Solution Architect position I was responsible for designing and selling high-end computer consulting services that “pulled through” hundreds of millions of dollars of hardware and software revenue.
Seeing the emergence of the Internet in the late ’90s I joined Cincinnati Bell Telephone’s Zoomtown.com business incubator to help found its Broadwing Managed Hosting business unit. Responsible for marketing and business development I created its channel partner program through which 90% of its revenue was generated. I also created and managed all marketing activities, including trade shows, print media, sales support, and ISV marketing relationships. Recruited by Telefonica in 2001, I was tapped to build their primary U.S. Tier 1 data center located in Miami, FL. As VP – Data Center Facilities I designed, built, and operated this state-of-the-art Internet data center around which its sales team sold $110M of Total Contract Value managed and collocated hosting services in the first year of operation. In 2003, in the aftermath of the dot-com bust, I opened my own consulting business providing technology consulting services to Fortune 2,000 clients via referral from my former executive colleagues.
Recruited by the CEO of MediServe with whom I had worked for 11 years, I first sold medical software in the Pacific Northwest then became VP – Program Management in the Product Management team. Working with a team of salespeople, clinical consultants, HL7 interface specialists, and executives I guided the most successful sales campaign in MediServe’s 25-year history. Using our software solutions, we increased the average per-patient Medicare payment to inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs) by $1,487, a 9.9% increase in their revenue. The program accelerated the rate of contract closure, from 18 contracts in the ten years prior to the program to 25 new contracts in the space of two years, a 690% increase. The program also transformed MediServe’s operating model from the selling of large software license deals to stable, predictable monthly subscription revenue as a result of selling Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. As a direct result of this program MediServe has become the thought leader and “go-to” vendor for the U.S. IRF industry.
Why This Matters
I understand customers of all types – external, internal, prospects, stakeholders, colleagues, executives, and any other type of “customer” you can think of. I’ve gained this understanding out of necessity, because I can’t achieve my personal goals unless my customers can achieve theirs. What’s in my best interest must align with my customers’ best interests so that we both win simultaneously, but for different reasons. This matters because without this understanding, it’s impossible to grow a business in any meaningful way. I grow successful companies using my executive selling skills.