Posted: October 01, 2010

Small biz: Cast your vote for the 25 Most Powerful Salespeople

We're taking nominations through Oct. 29

Mike Taylor

Back in late 2008, the economy was at its lowest point in decades, and no profession was suffering more than real estate sales. A story in the Denver Post described one Realtor who a year earlier had earned six figures selling high-end mountain homes. Now she was eking out a living cleaning some of the same houses.

About that time we were taking nominations for a section we were preparing to introduce, dubbed "Colorado's 25 Most Powerful Salespeople." What better time to focus on salespeople - the engines of growth for most companies - than in a downturn when everyone is looking for a catalyst to revive the economy?

One entry we received that first year was for Tim Harrington, a senior vice president for the commercial real estate firm Grubb & Ellis in Denver and ultimately one of our chosen Top 25 Salespeople. If any industry of late has suffered more than residential real estate, it's commercial real estate.

But Harrington, a 24-year industry veteran at the time and perennially one of Grubb & Ellis' top producers nationwide, had this to say about surviving a recession: "It always seems a little bit worse than it really is. That's been my take every time I've been in a downturn. It's when I see the best from the people in my profession."

When the recession does finally end, I suspect we will look back and appreciate the role that salespeople played in leading the way out of it. (Nominate someone who sells for you or to you.)

You've heard the nay-saying talk-radio hosts who wallow in their own gloom. Good salespeople are the opposite. They can't afford to have down days or dwell on the negative. They're the ones a company and employees depend on to grow revenues and break into new markets, and it is their success that will give businesses the wherewithal and confidence to resume hiring.

And yet, the salesperson's role in the economy is often overlooked. That was part of our thinking when we introduced our annual Top 25 Most Powerful Salespeople issue that will mark its third year this January.

The other part of our thinking was that while successful salespeople can make a lot of money in good times - more than their own CEOs in some cases - they don't tend to get a lot of recognition outside their own company. We wanted to recognize 25 sellers who found a way to succeed despite the recession and at the same time get them to share some insights on how they do it.

The need for recognition beyond money-as-its-own-reward was made evident by one of the Top 25 Salespeople from our January 2009 issue. At a dinner honoring the winners, she gathered up a handful of the magazines in which she was profiled, explaining gleefully, "I'm going to make a shrine to myself."

We all laughed, but she had made an important point: For one moment at least, recognition for a job well done meant as much as a commission.

Those named among our annual Top 25 Powerful Salespeople so far have ranged in age from 25-year-old Matthew Dribnak, a director of sales and marketing at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club; to 66-year-old Merv Leaman, an "advanced planning counselor" for Horan & McConaty Funeral Services.

We're taking nominations through Oct. 15 for the third annual 25 Most Powerful Salespeople issue that will run in January. Nomination forms can be found online at www.cobizmag.com under the tab "Lists." We're looking for sales production in terms of dollar volume or units sold, of course. But we also take into account a salesperson's resourcefulness, tenacity and challenges surmounted in a particularly hard-hit industry.

Nominations can come from employers, colleagues or even the salesperson.

That was the case last year when one man filled out an entry for himself, explaining, "What kind of salesperson would I be if I didn't think enough of my performance to nominate myself?"
I'll buy that.
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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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