Posted: January 07, 2013
Colorado’s 25 Most Powerful Salespeople
Top producers turn prospects into customers by identifying needs – and fulfilling themBy Mike Taylor
Their importance can’t be overstated, yet outside their profession they can be overlooked. Simply put, the people profiled are responsible for delivering their companies’ products and services from warehouse shelves and computer files into the hands of customers. They are the driving force in their companies’ quest for growth and sustainability, and it’s no stretch to say that collectively they play a critical role in the health of the economy.
This is our fifth year of recognizing Colorado’s Most Powerful Salespeople. We initiated it back in 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, as we discussed what a recovery would entail and who would be at the forefront of leading us out of the doldrums. Clearly, we concluded, salespeople would be among those leaders. And they have been.
These 25 honorees were selected by ColoradoBiz magazine’s editorial board from more than 100 nominations submitted online at www.cobizmag.com. Sales productivity was one factor, obviously. But we also took into account qualities such as tenacity, obstacles surmounted, empathy for the consumer, product knowledge, and demonstrated passion for the product or service.
We hope you will find some inspiration and – if you’re in sales – some useful advice, in the profiles that follow.
-— Mike Taylor, ColoradoBiz editor
Andrea Rost, 50
Senior sports account executive,
850 KOA, Denver
WHAT SHE DOES: Rost designs creative marketing campaigns that air during KOA’s Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos radio broadcasts, including promotional and cause marketing tie-ins related to sports and other integrated marketing campaigns.
SALES PRODUCTION: Rost has consistently been among KOA’s top revenue-generating account executives the past six years despite challenges with clients’ decreased budgets.
MAKING IT HAPPEN: "While staff, budgets, creativity and resources can be in short supply when it comes to a creative marketing campaign, this has never stopped Andrea," says Clear Channel’s Kate Landeis, who nominated Rost for the Most Powerful Salespeople distinction. "She is the first person to figure out how to make something work when logistically it seems impossible."
SALES TIP: "Never forget that it is easier to keep an old client than find a new one," Rost says. "Always treat your clients the way you would want to be treated, and treat their business as if it is your own. Put a deal together that you would want to buy, one that meets their needs, and then don’t be afraid to ask for the buy."
HANDING A NO: "I think there are always clients who want to buy my product," Rost says. "KOA is a very effective medium for advertisers and is very easy to sell, truthfully. If I get a ‘no,’ I ask why and try to uncover the real reason they said no. Maybe I haven’t relayed something well enough or answered their concerns effectively. However, if I get a firm no, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to change their mind. I find that it makes more sense to spend my time with interested buyers. There are a lot of people out there who need what I am selling."
Bashir Bataille, 42
International sales manager, Geotech Environmental Equipment Inc., Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Develops international business for Geotech, a manufacturer of environmental equipment with two international offices and distribution in 72 countries. Bataille has specific business-development expertise in groundwater and soil applications with oil, mining, landfills and environmental consulting firms.
SALES PRODUCTION: In 2011, Bataille’s team increased international sales by 40 percent and was on track for a 39 percent increase in 2012. Fluent in Spanish as well as English, Bataille singlehandedly covers all of South America for Geotech, including Brazil, the fastest-growing economy in the world.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE: Even while traveling internationally, Bataille manages all his own orders including export requirements. A major oil and gas customer in Colombia once called believing it had received incorrect equipment, so despite dangers of guerillas and the remote location between two mountains, Bataille flew to the location to troubleshoot and properly deploy the equipment.
SALES TIP: "Just having the desire to sell is not enough," Bataille says. "We must know our products, understand the markets, laws and regulations, know our customer needs, have discipline and a touch of spontaneity mixed with creativity."
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "Respect ourselves, our family, our country, our job and our customers. Keep our moral values always present and be disciplined."
HANDLING A NO: "Many times a ‘no’ is inevitable, but keep in mind that a ‘no’ now should later become a ‘yes,’" Bataille says. "Many times a ‘no’ represents the necessity of understanding our customer’s real needs."
Bob Belkowski, 33
Senior account manager, J-W Power Co., Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Sells J-W Power Co.’s natural-gas compression equipment and services direct to Denver-based clients with operations throughout the entire Rocky Mountain region. He also is responsible for managing logistics of equipment as well as designing compression equipment. In addition, he provides regulatory guidance for customers.
SALES PRODUCTION: Quarterly revenues for Belkowski’s area of responsibility have increased 59 percent in the past 18 months. His "active unit count" (denoting units of leased packages in operation) for his area of responsibility has increased 257 percent over the past three years.
LEADERSHIP: Belkowski is the youngest-ever president of the Rocky Mountain Gas Processors Association, earning the position for 2013. He earned an MBA from the University of Colorado Denver in 2010 while working full-time.
Sales advice: "Have an ‘objective’ with every client interaction, conversation or meeting. Some objectives are as simple as getting to know someone, while others are more challenging like identifying a decision maker or overcoming rejection. Each objective is a step forward in the selling process toward ultimately closing the deal. I highly recommend using a sales reference book to overcome obstacles in the selling process; my personal favorite is ‘The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness,’ by Jeffery Gitomer."
Sales philosophy: "Focus on creating long-term customer relationships as well as providing technical substance for clients. The oil and gas industry is very technical with highly educated people. Therefore I work extremely hard to provide my clients with information they do not already possess."
Christian Bienvenu, 39
Senior vice president, UMB Commercial Banking, Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Bienvenu is responsible for cultivating prospective commercial client relationships and managing existing client relationships. He also actively participates in the innovation of products and enhancement of service strategies.
SALES PRODUCTION: During 2011 and 2012, Bienvenu generated a half billion dollars in loan commitments and added a record number of new client relationships. "We’ve posted 10 consecutive quarters of loan growth, and Christian is the top producing commercial sales person for our $14 billion financial-services company," says UMB’s Jon Robinson, who nominated Bienvenu for this award.
Sales philosophy: "I spend a lot of time with my clients and prospects in order to understand them on a deeper level than just business," Bienvenu says. "I build strong relationships that go beyond the average banker/client rapport; we become collaborative business partners. As these relationships strengthen, my clients often refer me to prospective customers, and my network exponentially grows."
HANDLING A NO: "I look at every ‘no’ as a ‘no, for now,’" Bienvenu says. "I don’t get discouraged by hearing a ‘no’ from a prospect because I understand that I will have another chance to work with them."
GOING THE EXTRA MILE: "Being available to his customers and prospects all day, every day, is what sets Christian apart from the competition," Robinson says. "At the height of the financial crisis, he worked seven days a week for months, often logging 18 hours a day. I believe that during this time when everything in the financial industry was in an extremely tumultuous state and businesses were facing massive uncertainty, he was there for his customers and prospects."
David Bangs, 47
senior vice president of worldwide sales, NexGen Storage, Louisville
WHAT HE DOES: Oversees all sales functions for NexGen Storage. That includes recruiting, retaining and motivating top salespeople for his organization.
BACKGROUND: Bangs previously built and led the sales team for LeftHand Networks, a Boulder-based storage software company that grew from $10 million in annual sales to more than $100 million in less than four years before it was acquired by HP in 2008. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in business (with honors) from South Bank University in London.
PRAISE FROM THE FIELD: "As a venture capitalist over the last 15 years, I have worked with hundreds of VPs of sales, and David is one of the best and brightest I’ve ever worked with," says Kirk Holland, who nominated Bangs for this award. "He’s excellent at evangelizing and getting new and disruptive products launched to create new markets. He’s also a very clear communicator who tells the team, the board and the investors what reality is. He does not SELL his board members; he’s a straight shooter who gives the good with the bad."
Sales advice: "Stay close to prospects and customers alike," Bangs says. "Never be afraid to deliver bad news when you have to, or ask for the order when you need to. Many of our strongest and longest customer relationships and largest revenue wins have come from accounts where we were totally honest, transparent and proactive in working through challenging issues together and earned the right to ask for more business afterwards."
Sales philosophy: "Any sales leader is only as good as the team he or she hires and develops. Focus on the A players more than you think you should. Deserve Victory."
David Mariea, 39
Senior vice president, commercial lending, Centennial Bank, Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Mariea takes care of the banking needs of businesses and entrepreneurs. "The vast majority of my customers are privately owned businesses, and the individuals who own or run them," Mariea says. "I help the companies I work with achieve their goals by understanding their business and their needs in depth, and then help them utilize the financing tools that will best meet their needs."
SALES PRODUCTION: In his first year at Centennial Bank starting in late 2011, Mariea brought dozens of new business relationships to the bank, closing 39 new commercial loans. For that 12-month period ending in November 2012, he closed more than $22 million in committed loans and nearly $17 million in new fundings/outstanding loans.
BACKGROUND: Mariea’s 17-year banking career has been spent, for the most part, with community banks where he developed a passion for working with and finding solutions for small-business owners. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Northern Colorado and a master’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado Denver.
SALES ADVICE: "Know your customer and believe in what you’re selling (only sell what you believe in.)"
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "If a transaction or a new relationship isn’t good for all parties involved, it shouldn’t be done. True success comes from building meaningful relationships and a strong reputation, so customers stick with you, give you all of their business, and recommend you to their friends. My approach is less about selling, and more about doing my best to really understand and take care of people, at which point the sales piece almost takes care of itself."
David Waugh, 40
National account manager, Confio Software, Boulder
WHAT HE DOES: Waugh is the top performing sales executive for Confio Software, a developer of database and virtualization performance software. In the past 7 ½ years, Waugh has led the company in revenue generation, hitting 25 out of 30 quarters on target and has been responsible for more than 38 percent of all revenue. His revenue production totaled $2.4 million in 2010, $3.1 million in 2011 and a projected $4.7 million in 2012 (330 percent of the target.)
FREQUENT FLIER: In the course of business last year, Waugh logged 75,000 miles on United Airlines and spent nearly 100 hotel nights on the road.
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "Patience, persistence and passion. All great salespeople I know have patience. Patience with their company, management, co-workers and of course, their customers. However, those same salespeople also are persistent. The customer will recognize persistence and appreciate your efforts as long as you are not pushy and your persistence has meaning and brings value to them. Don’t just be persistent by calling and continually asking the customer for the order, but provide value and industry knowledge to your client that will help them with their job. And above all else, passion. Passion for what you do! Passion for what you sell! Passion for the customers’ success! Customers will recognize passion and be drawn to your enthusiasm about the products and services and want to do business with you."
SALES ADVICE: "Don’t be afraid to walk away from a sale. Your time is too valuable as a sales professional. Don’t waste your time or the customer’s time if you know the answer is going to be ‘no’ or not lead to revenue. There are plenty of other opportunities out there!"
Derek Youmans, 25
Sales consultant, AT&T Mobility, Boulder
WHAT HE DOES: Sells all products and services offered by AT&T Mobility and handles all administrative aspects of the sale including: completing customer contracts and warranties, pulling products from inventory, accepting customer payments and filling the completed orders.
SALES PRODUCTION: Has consistently ranked in the top 10 percent nationally, generating $150,000 to $200,000 of revenue per month for AT&T.
BACKGROUND: Youmans started with AT&T 5 ½ years ago in Tennessee at age 19 before relocating with the company to Colorado. He has won multiple Summit awards, the company’s national sales award given to top consultants in all regions.
SALES TIP: "Dress and groom yourself exactly as you want to be perceived," Youmans says. "As a salesperson your image creates an impression that influences all aspects of your customer interaction. If you want to sound smarter, seem more trustworthy, be perceived more credibly, then let your dress and grooming represent those things."
WORDS OF WISDOM: "Talent is a myth. Effort is what makes salespeople successful," Youmans says. "In business, sports, life and the profession of selling, talent matters much less than effort applied to the mastery of the skills that lead to success. Because effort is a choice, we all can be successful in sales."
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "I treat people how I would want to be treated. I use my client’s or customer’s name throughout the interaction to create a very personal experience with the client. Eye contact and being well-spoken helps. Always asking for the sale is a meaningful tool also. It doesn’t have to be rude or pushy but done in the right context can change everything. You always have the right to ask for the sale."
C. Douglas Wulf, 50
Senior vice president, Cassidy Turley Colorado, Denver
WHAT HE DOES: As a commercial real estate broker, Wulf represents both office tenants and owners of office buildings in the leasing, sale or acquisition of office space in Denver.
SALES PRODUCTION: Wulf has been the No. 1 producer seven of the past 10 years at Cassidy Turley Colorado (formerly Fuller Real Estate).
SALES ADVICE: "On the way up in getting to the ultimate decision maker at a firm, I always try to make sure I deal with everyone in an organization with the same level of attention, courtesy and respect," Wulf says. "With so many people competing for a decision maker’s attention these days, your chances of meeting and engaging with that person are far better if others at the front end of that process simply like you and are then willing to internally advocate for whatever you are trying to accomplish at their firm."
MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF WORK: "Working on a team with fellow brokers who all have the same drive and ambition to succeed at a high level while still having fun and plenty of laughs along the way. Being individually successful in sales is fine, but when I and my fellow broker team members win assignments and close transactions together with a concerted effort and defined roles, that is far more satisfying and enjoyable."
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "The most challenging part of being a commercial real estate broker is being compensated on a 100 percent commission basis for your entire career. However, I cannot imagine starting on January 1 in a different sales role that has a defined ceiling and limited earning potential. The attractiveness of commercial real estate brokerage is that the effort, creativity and intellect you put in is generally directly proportional to your compensation level, and many jobs just don’t have that correlation."
Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.