Posted: January 07, 2013
Colorado’s 25 Most Powerful Salespeople
Top producers turn prospects into customers by identifying needs – and fulfilling themBy Mike Taylor
Jennifer Chang, 32
Strategic account manager, Scientific Civilian Region, Cisco Systems, Centennial
SALES PRODUCTION: Chang finished the fiscal year 2011 at 195 percent of plan and brought in $14.9 million in revenue for fiscal year 2012. She was recognized as the Cisco FY12 Achiever Winner.
WHAT SHE DOES: Manages accounts for the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and NASA.
HIGH PRAISE: "She works hard to understand her customers’ environments and needs, and she patiently listens to her Cisco partners that work with her around the nation," said Ryan Clore, who works for a Cisco partner and nominated Chang for this award. "Even though she is on the road 70 percent of the time, she is one of the most responsive and thoughtful Cisco account managers I have ever encountered."
IMPORTANCE OF PATIENCE: "In the federal arena, deals can take months, and sometimes years, to move from request for information status to purchase-order status," Chang says. "If you’ve covered all your bases throughout the sales process, and architected a solution that meets your customer’s needs, then you have to trust in the work that you’ve done, and in the customer relationship that you have cultivated."
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "I ultimately strive to become a trusted adviser to every one of my customers. This doesn’t happen overnight. But it certainly is a culmination of multiple interactions and conversations, where honesty is of paramount value. If a customer has a requirement in an area that Cisco doesn’t specialize in, we articulate that, and refer our customers to the appropriate vendor(s)."
ON DEDICATION: "Because my accounts are all over the nation, I’m never truly ‘off the clock.’ If getting the job done means staying up late and getting up early, I do it."
Joe Thurman, 28
Senior director of business development, Innovar Group, Greenwood Village
WHAT HE DOES: Specializes in developing and cultivating business relationships that ultimately produce sales for Innovar’s technology staffing services. Efforts are focused on supporting C-level, director and management-level IT professionals with a responsibility for hiring IT staff to support their respective organizations.
SALES PRODUCTION: Revenue for 2011 was $4.5 million and a projected $6 million in 2012.
BACKGROUND: Raised in Colorado Springs, Thurman was a star running back in high school where he earned the nickname, "Mighty Joe." Innovar co-owner Darryl Hoogstrate says that moniker remains apt. "Joe is focused, tenacious, diligent and a leader," Hoogstrate says.
SALES ADVICE: "I don’t put much stock in sales tips or tricks," Thurman says. "Rather, I feel personal and professional development is of utmost importance. While there are key skill sets such as negotiating and strategic planning one must develop as they advance in their sales career, I believe operating with best practices in life is the key to allowing a person to be the best at whatever they decide to do. I also believe that it is imperative to surround yourself with successful and driven people at work and in your personal life."
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "Sales is much more than just closing a deal," Thurman says. "In every aspect of business or personal interaction we are selling our thoughts, strategies and capabilities. In some cases, the solution to a client’s problem may not be a service that I offer. However, I can help them connect the dots and continue to move their organization forward. The biggest deals come from trusted relationships that you have built and invested in over the years."
John Genell, 52
Business development executive, Grant Thornton, Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Finds new deals and grows accounts for his firm while helping everyone else become better salespeople.
SALES PRODUCTION: Genell’s sales have increased every year since he joined Grant Thornton more than four years ago, including a 138 percent increase in 2012 from 2011. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, he was a top-five performer among Grant Thornton business development executives, contributing to 33 percent of total office revenue. In 2011 he was the third-highest performer for Grant Thornton nationally out of the firm’s 57 U.S. offices.
SALES ADVICE: "Most people are afraid of the word ‘sales,’" Genell says. "They think it means cold calling potential customers, and they’re afraid of getting rejected or not knowing what to say. The truth is, everyone in an organization plays a role in the sales process whether they realize it or not. Everyone from the administrative staff to the client service team must execute their jobs to the best of their ability. When everyone does that, sales happen much more easily and each person understands their contribution to the process."
ON CLOSING: "If you want a deal bad enough, never stop going after it until the client tells you that the deal is lost," Genell says. "Even then, keep trying until the winner actually has a contract signed with the client. We were just awarded a substantial global contract with a client in the Denver office that took more than five months to close. At two different times during the sales process we were told that we were eliminated from the field of potential accounting firms. Our team never gave up wanting the deal because we believed we were the best firm for this client."
John Roelke, 44
Vice president of sales and marketing, Continental Sausage, Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Primarily responsible for all sales generation. Sales activities include food events, demos at retail partner locations, tours, tastings, sales calls, follow ups, and anything else customer related.
SALES PRODUCTION: Prior to Roelke’s arrival 2 ½ years ago, sales at Continental Sausage were growing at a steady 9 percent annually. Under his sales leadership, the growth rate has more than doubled to more than 19 percent annually at a time when sales at most meat companies are declining or flat. Year-end sales for 2012 were $3.6 million, representing an increase of 41 percent since Roelke’s arrival.
HIGH PRAISE: "John conducts factory tours several times per week with potential customers, chefs, chef’s associations, school groups, etc. And after almost every tour, our visitors mention how incredibly passionate he is about everything we do," says Eric Gutknecht, co-owner of the second-generation family business. "They always ask if he is one of the owners or what stake he has in the business, because they are blown away by his exuberance and knowledge."
SALES TIP: "Do your homework on your business," Roelke says. "Not only know your product, but know your company, your services and have confidence in all. When introducing prospective customers to Continental, I try to give them not only samples of our wonderful products and tell them about the high-end aspect of them, but I try to give them a connection to our history, and the passion we have for our business. To me, our story is an extremely important part of what we do and how we do it. I want the customer to feel involved in that story and knowledgeable with what we are doing."
Karl Heidgen, 46
Vice president, custom sales, Pactimo LLC, Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Oversees and manages the entire sales teams in the U.S., United Kingdom and Europe and manages day-to-day operations of the custom division of Pactimo.
SALES PRODUCTION: Beginning with a sales base of $1.9 million in 2007, Heidgen’s annual percentage sales growth year-over-year since then has been 38 percent in 2008; 17 percent in 2009; 14 percent in 2010; and 22 percent in 2011. His sales for 2011 were $4.2 million, up 123 percent in the four-year period from 2007 to 2011.
KEY POINTS: Heidgen has led the sales team for the past seven years, during which Pactimo has experienced double-digit growth year-over-year and named to the INC 5000 fastest-growing companies list for three of those years.
THE PACTIMO STORY: Pactimo started in a basement about 10 years ago and today is known for some of the most innovative custom technical cycling, triathlon and running apparel in the industry.
SALES TIP: "Listen before you talk … which can be difficult for many salespeople," Heidgen says. "Find out your potential customers’ needs and make sure you and your products can offer them a solution BEFORE you try to sell them. Sales is relationships, so the conversation must go both ways."
HANDLING A ‘NO’: "No is only acceptable when dealing with your CFO, and even then you should look for a solution," Heidgen says. "Always be humble and maintain a good rapport no matter what the customer’s response may be. Things may change quickly, and your professional reply to a ‘no’ may earn you the same business you have been chasing."
Kira McManus, 47
Director of channel sales and business development, FORTRUST, Denver
WHAT SHE DOES: Responsible for building relationships with organizations influencing premium data center requirements/colocation nationally and internationally.
SALES PRODUCTION: McManus was named employee of the year in 1995 for Nextel Communications and was the top sales performer nationally for four straight years with OneComm/Cencall Nextel. She has been responsible for more than $20 million in revenues for FORTRUST Data Center during her six years there.
LEADERSHIP: McManus currently serves as vice president of the Board of Directors for the Communications Technology Professionals of Colorado.
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "I set my intent to enter every sales opportunity focused on building the relationship with the potential customer in an altruistic fashion," McManus says. "I see so many salespeople entering the sale or a partner relationship, asking ‘What can my customer do for me?’ rather than what can I GIVE to them. When you enter any relationship in life with friends, partners, etc., with an attitude of ‘What can I do to help this person?’ I believe the energy that comes back is three-fold."
SUCCESS SECRET: "I am a connector. I connect people with others so that they may create new relationships that grow our ever-connected business/social web. I continue to foster those new connections with great care. In fact, people call me for jobs and although I am not a recruiter, I know I am helping people find great careers leveraging wonderful relationships I have fostered through the years. As a result of that effort, I have built friendships for life. Being there when someone is at the top of their game is easy. Being a friend to them when they really need help is real."
Leo Salvaggio, 35
Vice president of sales, Dynamic Solutions International, Englewood
WHAT HE DOES: Salvaggio is responsible for the optimal deployment of sales personnel including assigning sales-team quotas, making recommendations for changing sales roles, coverage models or team configurations to maximize sales productivity.
SALES PRODUCTION: Salvaggio closed roughly $4 million in sales of DSI’s suite of traditional tape and Virtual Tape Library systems in 2012, representing a 25 percent increase over 2011. His clients include Rolls Royce, Ford Motor Co., the State of Michigan, Comerica Bank and Fiserv.
BACKGROUND: Salvaggio’s grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s and settled in Detroit where he raised three sons (including Leo’s father) and started his own construction firm despite limited ability to read and write. Leo was the first in the family to go to college.
SAILING THE EXTRA MILE: Salvaggio once booked a Caribbean cruise to secure a "chance encounter" with a CIO he’d been trying to track down for months. During an informal meet-and-greet at a midnight buffet on the ship, Salvaggio was able to set a formal meeting and finalized the sale a few weeks later.
SALES ADVICE: "Always operate with absolute integrity with everything that you do. It’s easier to do the right thing the first time around rather than after the fact."
SALES PHILOSOPOHY: "Sales is all about listening and solving your customers’ problems," Salvaggio says. "It doesn’t matter how great your slides are or how amazing your product is; it’s about solving your customers’ problems and filling a need. It’s that simple."
Mark Steller, 46
Business development, Catamount Constructors Inc., Denver
WHAT HE DOES: Develops new business by opening doors and creating a comfort level and affinity for Catamount Constructors. Project types include apartments, retail development, senior living and restaurants.
SALES PRODUCTION: Steller’s efforts translated to roughly $70 million of Catamount’s volume in 2012, and roughly $80 million in contracted or committed future work.
BACKGROUND: In addition to his bachelor’s degree in construction management, Steller has a master’s degree in counseling. He spent most of his career on the operations side – preconstruction and project management – allowing him to engage in in-depth conversations with prospective clients.
SALES ADVICE: "Seek the prospective client’s candid unpacking of their vision, their perceived challenges, their concerns," Steller advises. "This leads to a larger sense of what is needed and facilitates a sense of how what they’re looking for intersects with your capacity to assist."
ON CLOSING: "After discovering as much as possible, including listening extensively to the prospective client if given an opportunity, focus your proposal (preparation, development of materials, selection of a team) on what is uniquely needed. Prepare to a point that the interview could transition in terms of content to the next step."
SALES PHILOSOPHY: "The best precursor to a potential business opportunity is a relationship facilitated naturally, without the 'pinch' of an agenda," Steller says. "This isn’t always possible, but it enables a conversational dynamic – which, when an opportunity does present, enables a more authentic discussion."
HANDLING A ‘NO’: "If interest is not reciprocated, keep the tone noble at your end. Don’t allow a single conversation to define the potential future course of the relationship."
Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.