Colorado’s 10 Most Powerful Salespeople
The outlook on the U.S. economy remains checkered, with retail sales improving six straight months (through November) on one hand, but issues such as Europe's debt crisis tempering optimism and even spawning fears of another U.S. recession on the other.
But the mindset of top sellers is the same as when we introduced our "most powerful salespeople" feature in this magazine in January 2009: Show a prospect how to solve a problem or fill a need, and a sale becomes possible.
Back then we looked at the Great Recession, which officially ran from December 2007 to June 2009, and asked ourselves: Who will be at the forefront of an economic recovery, the engine that prods business owners and other consumers to invest in themselves and others again? The answer: those on the front lines selling products and services, building relationships and cementing reputations.
In explaining their work, this year's 10 sales pros tabbed as "most powerful" rarely talked about a sale in terms of an isolated transaction. Rather, they talked about the teaching, demonstrating and trust-building that culminate in a sale.
This year's cast of top salespeople were selected from nominations solicited online at www.cobimzag.com , our weekday email newsletter and other write-ins. Theyrepresent a diverse line of products and industries: higher-education, IT and business software; protective cases for handheld electronics; house cleaning; auto bodyrepair; office furniture; telecommunications services; sportswear; and yes, medical marijuana. One day, those predicting an economic recovery will finally be right.
These 10 salespeople don't appear to be waiting for that announcement.
- Mike Taylor, ColoradoBiz managing editor
Jessica Kalee Schoeppler, 32
Co-founder/inside sales rep, Kalee's Cleaning, Boulder
What she does: In addition to sales, Schoeppler manages every schedule and client relationship she adds to Kalee's Cleaning, a house-cleaning business that serves primarily Boulder County residences.
Sales production: In 2011, Schoeppler added 66 new recurring accounts and 209 new one-time jobs totaling $275,000 in revenue.
Background: Schoeppler and Matthew Bower, both California transplants, co-founded Kalee's Cleaning in 2007. Bower had earned his master's degree in business organization and administration, and Schoeppler was nearing completion of a degree in psychology. "I was finishing school and happened to pick up a job when I moved out to Denver cleaning houses," Schoeppler says. "So we kind of just put them together and decided we were going to start a cleaning company." With seven employees, the company last year completed more than 1,800 jobs for 163 households.
Sales advice: "Once you've made that initial contact, it's really important to be upfront and have integrity in everything you say and do - professionally and personally," Schoeppler says. "People want to know who they're talking with; they want to know they're going to get a quick response to any questions or concerns they have."
Inside praise: "The myriad ‘interpersonal' challenges Jessica overcomes on a daily basis are enormous," says Kalee's Cleaning co-founder Matthew Bower. "If you have not done sales and scheduling for a residential cleaning company before, this is something that is hard to understand. Finding the balance between meeting the needs of the client and truly serving the company is extremely difficult. Jessica's perseverance in the face of these difficulties has shaped her into to the absolute best inside sales person I have ever seen."
Surviving the economic downturn: "I think it (housecleaning) is something that people just really don't want to do," Schoeppler says. "If they're going to cut something out, it's going to be something else. We've done really well."
Tyler Smith, 31
National account manager,
OtterBox, Fort Collins
What he does: Builds relationships with some of the largest retail accounts in the U.S. for OtterBox, a maker of protective cases for handheld electronics. That includes leading the strategy for sales, planning, marketing and merchandising. He also works with U.S. distributors of OtterBox products to meet the needs of resellers, sub-distributors and top retail accounts.
Sales production: Smith's account revenue increased 192 percent year-over-year for Amazon.com, said Kristin Golliher, OtterBox PR manager who nominated Smith for the Most Powerful Salespeople distinction. "At RadioShack, Tyler grew revenue 349 percent year-over-year," she added.
Background: Smith has worked for OtterBox since 2009, during which time it has grown from 60 employees to about 430 today. "I am extremely thankful to work for a company that provides me the opportunity to express my entrepreneurial spirit and manage my accounts like they are my own ‘business within the business,'" Smith says. "The culture here is conducive to creating unique opportunities and running with them."
Sales insight: "In the current economic conditions, you need a sales approach that allows you to listen very closely to all of the customer's desires and be able to present solutions that are unique, mutually equitable and will ultimately make them money," Smith says. "Making your customer happy is not a short-term objective; it is ongoing and requires constant attention and the dedication of going above and beyond. Examples are working long days, nights and weekends. In the consumer electronics industry (specifically wireless industry) everyone is always connected, so phone calls, emails and text messages are all critical in order to better serve the customer."
Cause marketing: Golliher points out that Smith created an exclusive "cause case" with RadioShack, which will raise funds and awareness for cancer research. The collaboration gives OtterBox an opportunity to appear on a national talk-variety show as part of RadioShack's 12 Days of Giving. The show will feature giveaways of smartphones from RadioShack coupled with OtterBox cases.
Daniel Hurley, 42
Senior account executive, Dean Evans & Associates Inc., Denver
What he does: Hurley sells the company's EMS (event management systems) software platform to higher-education clients in the Northeast U.S., including Ivy League schools. Closing a deal takes time and patience, with a typical sales cycle of six to 18 months.
Sales production: In 2011, Hurley became the first salesperson at Dean Evans & Associates to book more than $1 million in revenue in a single year. That included the largest single sale to a higher-education client in the company's history. Hurley has been with DEA for four years and has increased his sales every year.
Background: Hurley grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and worked in the Silicon Valley out of college. He's been in software sales for the bulk of his professional career.
Sales wisdom: "I think people forget how critical the post-sale relationship is," Hurley says. "Everybody is so focused on getting that sale, but a lot of people don't necessarily stay involved with the customer to see the success as far as implementation is concerned and making sure they're getting everything out of it. If you're not making sure they're being successful, they're not going to be a reference, and you might end up kind of losing traction ... if you don't have those ace-in-the-hole references that can speak to a prospect.
"Often you'll sell the product to somebody, and they'll have to turn around and ‘sell' it internally to get people to use it," Hurley adds. "And I'm part of that. I do a lot of demos for sales I've already made."
Surviving the economic downturn: "Everybody gets so discouraged in these times. You still have to do your work for things that could happen two, three, four years down the line. Salespeople seem to jump around a lot. I don't do that. I like to stay in one place and develop a pipeline."
Key to success: "For me it's establishing a key stakeholder, leveraging that stakeholder, helping them have the ammunition to help you sell internally," Hurley says. "Because as soon as the conference is over, as soon as the demo is over, you're not in the room to see what's going on, to answer questions they might have. So it's important to identify that champion internally and make sure they can be your advocate after the call's over."
Aron Adler, 36
Vice president of
sales operations, Source Office
What he does: Adler manages $5 million in recurring sales in the office supply and technology marketplace in metro Denver. Out of 30 representatives on the team, he is the top salesperson.
Background: Adler, who graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in international affairs, went to work for an environmental products manufacturer after college. He's been with Source Office Products for 13 years.
Secret to success: "Be terrible at saying ‘No.' Be willing to go to the ends of the Earth for your customer, and give them a level of service they couldn't get anywhere else. That's the key to keeping the customer, and repeat customers are so important when the economy is down."
No sales pitch: "I'm grateful for the repeat nature of my work. I've had a lot of wonderful customers who have trusted me. I never want someone to feel like they're buying something they don't need; I want them to feel like I've listened to them and helped them out. My advice to someone starting out in this line of work is simply to do the right thing every time. Treat people fairly and ethically. Ultimately, this is a small town, and word gets around."
Kris Swanson, 38
Business development manager, Marquam Group's Desert Mountain region, Denver
What she does: Technical sales and consulting, focusing on medium-sized businesses to Fortune 100 companies. Swanson was tabbed in February to lead Marquam Group's foray into the Denver market. Headquartered in Portland, Ore., Marquam Group is a managed partner for Microsoft, specializing in SharePoint.
Sales production: Starting from zero in February 2011, Swanson generated more than $700,000 in sales as of early December for Marquam Group's Denver market, where the company previously had no exposure.
Working wisdom: "I'm not a traditional salesperson," says Swanson, who works about 32 hours a week on average. "One of my core beliefs is I can be just as successful as someone who works double the amount of time. That really helps me be focused. You don't have to work 60 or 80 hours a week to be successful. The alternate time that I'm not working I am very active not only in the community but with my family. I have grandparents who are in their 80s. I also have a 15-month-old nephew I watch a couple times a month."
Overcoming objections: "One of the things we hear a lot is ‘you guys aren't the cheapest.' We know we aren't a fit for every company out there. If there are objections, let's talk through them, but sometimes it (the solution) might be walking away. And taking the time to see what the objections really are about: They could be fear-based; they could be budget-based. It could just be this is not the right time for this person or this company to be thinking about this type of project."
Biggest challenge: "Brand recognition. Letting people know we're here and that we're serious about this market."
Blaine Stern, 52
President Blaine Stern & Associates, Aurora
What he does: Since founding his company 25 years ago, Stern has been responsible for what now generates $1.5 million to $2 million in sales of imprinted sportswear for the resort market. Eighty percent of sales is targeted at the ski industry.
Background: Stern was a competitive skier before starting his business.
In tough times: "Building those long-term relationships is all-important these days. It's also important to change along with the changing market. Sometimes that entails tweaking the product, or putting more emphasis on service. Our response to turnaround time is high. We're known for that. It helps give us longevity in this business."
Words of wisdom: "Believe in your product. Build up a great reputation. Sure, sometimes it's difficult to keep the enthusiasm going, but you have to work through it. And even when times are difficult, make something happen every day, even if it's a series of small victories."
Meghan Stinton, 27
Marketing and sales manager, Pearl
Auto Body, six Front Range locations
What she does: Stinton handles the marketing, sales and public relations for Pearl Auto Body. As the majority of sales come from insurance work, Stinton's success is based on building rapport with insurance agents, as well as the community. Since she started, Stinton has made more than 800 contacts in the insurance industry. In the past year, Stinton has brought in more than $84,000 in revenue.
Background: Before she started in October 2010, Stinton worked for a nonprofit, where she was involved in getting sponsorships and raising funds. She started her career at a public relations agency.
Surviving the recession: "When it comes to sales, stay positive and remember there are still people who are willing to buy. If you keep good relationships with the clients you have, you'll be much better off. And take advantage of social media, which is often free. Networking is everything, and social media is another tool."
Building relationships: "Make people feel comfortable. Find something you have in common with them. If you build rapport with your customer, you'll close the deal, and you'll keep that customer. Especially in this economic climate, when there's so much competition, it's important to be honest, upfront and ethical if you want repeat business."
Joshua Holmberg, 39
Vice president of sales, BroadSoft Inc.
What he does: Holmberg represents communications service providers at BroadSoft, which provides voice-over-IP application software and cloud-based communication services. His year-over-year sales growth in 2010 was nearly 200 percent, placing him within the highest percentage achievement in worldwide sales.
Background: Holmberg, who has been with BroadSoft for four years, was a key contributor to product development, marketing and support at industry solution providers, including Hewlett-Packard, Veraz Networks, Agilent Technologies and Empirix.
Career preparation: "I have a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, and a master's degree in business administration. A lot of what we're talking about is very technical, so both my degree and my experience give me credibility. I can translate that technical information to the real world."
Ditch the sales pitch: "In general, I think sales gets a bad reputation. I don't consider myself a salesman. I consider myself an advocate of my customers' needs and my company's ability to meet those needs. A good salesperson needs to spend a lot of time generating relationships that are built on trust. Building trust is critical. It may not lead to immediate sales, but over time it will pay off."
Nathan Hildreth, 35
Former director of sales, Simply Pure
Currently a broker with ACN, headquartered in North Carolina
What he does: Hildreth recently left Simply Pure, a cannabis-infused product manufacturer. In his time there, he increased sales dramatically and took the distribution number from five to more than 100 in less than a year. He's now a telecom and energy broker with ACN, a direct seller of telecommunications and home services.
Background: Hildreth was a real estate broker for 12 years before going to work for Simply Pure.
Leading the way: "A powerful salesperson must be a great leader. A great leader is always positive and persistent. Understand that every failure is a learning experience. Keep your energy level high and avoid all association with negative people. Regardless of the economy, the greatest difference between a successful and an unsuccessful person is that the former is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve a goal. Most times, it's honestly that simple. Never give up."
Starting out: "Always maintain a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, integrity, desire and commitment. Your vision must be powerful."
Mark Copelin, 51
Senior account manager, OfficeScapes, three Front
What he does: Copelin has consistently been the top salesperson at OfficeScapes, selling $2.5 million to $4 million in office furniture every year. He's always focused on a "hot list" of prospects, and has at least five appointments every day.
Background: Before starting his sales job 27 years ago, Copelin, who has a degree in geology, worked in the mining, oil and
Career advice: "The key to not burning out in this business is to stay focused on the people. The relationships I've made have helped me stay here for all these years. I love my customers. I also work with a great team, which is critical to success. One thing I tell younger salespeople is that if I make sure my customer has had the best experience, and my employer is satisfied, then it will all work out well for me."
Weathering the economy: "We've had a few dips, like after 9/11, and in 2008. These challenged me to get back to the basics. That means calling more people and responding with the highest level of service. It also means meeting customers' expectations more quickly. The tough times make or break you, and to persevere and come through it is very exciting."