Posted: January 12, 2010
The top 25 most powerful salespeopleBy Mike Taylor and Mike Cote
Senior vice president and commercial real estate broker, CB Richard Ellis, Denver
Track record: The 28-year veteran of the commercial real estate industry received the "Investment Broker of the Year" award from the NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, in 1994, 1998 and 2002.
Background: Sullivan completed more than $228 million in sales in 2008 and closed nearly $181 million in 2009 as of mid-November. Her final year-end sales for 2009 were projected to top $200 million in 2009. Sullivan along with her partner, Tim Swan, handled the largest transaction to occur in Denver and Colorado this year - the sale of the 33-story Seventeenth Street Plaza, a class AA office tower located in downtown Denver.
Recession challenges: Sullivan's team had back-to-back years of more than $1 billion in sales in 2006 and 2007. But the kind of deals she brokers, which involve sophisticated capital market clients, plummeted with the recession. "It was like you were going at warp speed and then you hit the wall, and that's a tough adjustment," she said. "You have to continue to invest in your business. That's traveling to see clients, taking clients out to lunch or dinner, staying in front of them and providing information so when the assets start to sell again you're on their minds."
JACOB SANCHEZ, 27
Sales associate, T-Mobile, Denver
What he does: Sells mobile phones and service at a T-Mobile retail store.
Background: Sanchez is T-Mobile's top retail sales associate in Colorado and the United States - bringing in three times what the average T-Mobile salesperson produces.
Phone sense: "I make sure that I follow up with my customers and that they understand everything," Sanchez says. "Phones are not something that you can just pick up to make a call as you did back in the day when it was hit ‘green' to make a call and hit ‘red' to stop. Now you have e-mail, GPS, Internet and applications."
Recession-busting business: "Everybody nowadays wants a cell phone. And everybody wants to upgrade to the new technology. Everybody wants to be the cool guy who has the latest, greatest device. And it's benefited us in a lot of different ways."
Closing the deal: "The tough sales are always going to be the deals I try to close that involve more than 10 activations. I work at a retail store so for the most part everything is coming in to me. My marketing and promotion team is doing a good enough job where I just have to come in and smile, offer the product and sell it. ... Getting those big accounts that we don't focus on daily, that's one of my biggest struggles. That's something I always work on."
CINDY HUGHES, 35
Outside account manager, Colorado region, Systems Technology Associates Inc., Centennial
What she does: Tustin, Calif.-based Systems Technology Associates provides technical and business solutions and works with such manufacturing partners as HP, EMC, Microsoft and Oracle. Hughes was a key player in the opening of STA's Colorado office in Centennial in 2007.
Background: Hughes joined STA five years ago after a career that included a stint with Hewlett-Packard. She consistently ranks among the company's top performers for consulting services, software and hardware sales, posting double-digit growth increases and seven-figure annual revenue growth.
Sales tips: "The best salesperson is the best listener," Hughes says. "It's all about understanding customers' needs, understanding in our business what the business needs are, connecting those with the needs of the IT organization, and making sure our company is delivering on the solutions that can best meet their needs. In order to do that, you have to listen very well."
Recession challenges: "You have to be out there more. But it's also a good time to be working with customers. They don't necessarily have the budget, but that gives you time to step back and architect the right solution for when they do have the budget."
SKYLAR HASKELL, 29
Broker Associate, The Group Inc. Real Estate, Fort Collins
What he does: Sells real estate, specializing in new construction representing Fort Collins-area home builders.
Sales stats: In 2008, Skylar and his brother, Matt, were the No. 1 team for new construction sales in Northern Colorado, closing 104 transaction sides for sales of almost $26 million.
Recession-survival plan: Business slowed a bit last year for the Haskells, but they are preparing for an upturn in the market with their launch of an online "MLS Store" that allows prospects to browse a map area and view 10 new neighborhoods in Northern Colorado with one visit to www.theMLSstore.com.
Of interest: Realtor magazine named Haskell one of its 2009 "30 under 30" Realtors as one of the country's top 30 real estate salespeople under 30 years old. Born and raised in Fort Collins, Skylar played baseball at the University of Northern Colorado and after college joined brother Matt in the real estate business. They've been a team for four years.
Sales Tip: "It's a lot easier to stay on top when you're there, so put in the time and energy early to get there as quickly as possible, and then let your business work for you."
TIM SISNEROS, 40
Territory manager, Polycom, Westminster
What he does: Sells voice-over-Internet protocol technology to a 10-state region.
Background: Sisneros has been working in the telecommunications and Internet industry for more than two decades, including stints with Qwest, Level 3 and MCI. He serves on the Colorado board of Communications Technology Professionals. In 2005, his year-over-year sales growth was 350 percent; he'll end 2009 with 30 percent growth.
Sales acumen: "I really try to make myself an extension of the sales force that they (customers) have, really integrate myself into their business and in turn make all of us successful in what we do," he says. "Our product is very well known in the market, and because of experiences that people have had in the past, we have a very good track record, and that's why we gain a lot of business in the market."
Recession challenges: "I'm lucky enough to be in a technology that actually reduces some of the stress on operational expenses and has a low capital expenditure around it. In the tough times in the market that we've seen, we've actually been able to get a lot of traction and do very well."
PHILLIP LAY, 30
Area manager, Enterprise Fleet Management, Denver
What he does: Works with businesses that use cars, trucks and vans for business use. The company provides guidance and products for businesses to manage their fleets. (Enterprise Fleet Management is a division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.)
Background: This year, the Denver office has seen more than 15 percent growth.
Sales tips: "The biggest difference between a very successful salesperson and the middle of the pack is their ability to get to know their clients, get to know their business, understand their needs and customize solutions based on where they provide value," Lay says. "I like to get to know my customers and have a personal relationship with virtually every one of them. I know a lot about them; I know a lot about their industry. And I'm very hands-on with my customers."
Recession success: "It's kind of been a blessing in disguise. ...When you have a downturn, business owners, especially executives, are very open to finding different ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies. Most companies are trying to find a way to do more with less. And we play into that."
KATRINA ROTH, 28
Account executive, general business team, Sprint Nextel, Denver
What she does: Roth works primarily with small- and medium-sized businesses in the Denver area, selling wireless services and applications.
On track: As of early December, Roth was at 146 percent of her quota for 2009.
Sales tips: "My sales philosophy is just to never give up. When people say ‘no' you have to keep in touch. The sale is always going to come back around at some point."
Recession challenges: "I think people are definitely focused on price more than even before. But I don't do things a whole lot differently than I did before - being persistent and making sure you don't take ‘no' for an answer."
Making a tough sale: "When I started about a year and a half ago I was trying to get in with a customer of mine for a larger piece of their business. They had a small portion of business with us. It went out for bid last February, and we lost to another provider. But I was able to just keep in touch. When there was a new IT director that came in, I got to meet with the CFO in September, and we won their business."
STEPHEN SANDERS, 46,
National account manager, First American Title Insurance Co.
What he does: Sanders sells title insurance for shopping centers, office buildings and commercial park projects
Background: Sanders joined the sales part of the business eight years ago after stints as an underwriter and manager.
Sales tips: "Over the last five years, I've made more than a fair income. What I found out was the money is nice, but the real satisfaction is when you can help somebody out on something they're doing and you hear the sigh of relief from stress in their voice."
Recession challenges: Sanders expected to bring in about $500,000 in gross revenue for 2009 - significantly lower than his average $1.5 million to $1.8 million before the recession hit. But he achieved this in a year when business volume was down 95 percent. And he had to search for new ways to find business, such as in oil and gas, and wind farms. "I equate it to when you lose your keys in the house and you end up literally tearing your house apart looking for the keys. ‘OK, so my keys aren't on the counter where I normally leave them so I'm going to do whatever it takes to find them.' You look under every rock. You talk to everybody you can."
CHRIS PORTER, 42
Specialist/consultant, CAD-1, Thornton
What he does: CAD-1 resells Autodesk computer-assisted design software and operates an Autodesk Training Center for use by general contractors, engineering firms and others in the building trade.
Background: Porter, whose background was primarily in construction and engineering, joined the company five years ago. "I did some copier sales for three years because I couldn't find a job in the engineering field," said Porter, who hit $2.5 million in 2008 and was on track in December to hit at least 95 percent of his 2009 quota. "You thicken up your skin a lot because you're at a 99 percent failure rate with copiers."
Sales tips: "I try to investigate the clients a little bit more before visiting or while I'm talking to a client because quite a bit of our business is phone-in business. If they tell me whatever product they want, I always make sure that's the correct product for them."
Recession challenges: "I've taken a 10 percent hit on my income, but I make a great living and I think I'm overpaid," said Porter, who has adjusted his approach during the downturn. "We're going a little bit more into training because companies are doing the same amount of work with fewer people so they are having to be way more resourceful."
ROB MONTEITH, 41
National account manager, Verizon Wireless, Greenwood Village
What he does: Monteith sells wireless services to Fortune 1000 companies based in Colorado and manages the contracts across the country.
Background: The 10-year veteran of the wireless industry has worked for Verizon for 10 years. He was on track in December to make 150 percent of his 2009 quota.
Sales tips: I've always been of the belief that you make your own luck. If you're being more active and you're showing up and have a good attitude, you're going to have more luck."
Busting the recession: "It used to be that you talked about return on investment with customers. With the economy the way it is, now it's more total cost of ownership. By focusing on that, you're leveraging the buying power across their organization to get the best pricing in the market."
Calculating the "TCO": We're such a good value at Verizon Wireless because we have the best coverage. We have the best support team to manage their account. That all comes to play under TCO (total cost of ownership) so it's not just a number like an ROI (return on investment) number. My job is to sell that and make sure they understand this whole value packaging they're getting."
JAKE MEULI, 30
Field sales representative, CCH, Denver
What he does: Meuli sells online subscriptions for tax and accounting research to CPAs and corporations for CCH, an international tax and accounting publisher based in Chicago.
Background: For 2009, Meuli sold $323,000 in tax research subscriptions against a quota of $255,000 - 126 percent of his quota. He ranked seventh out of 95 sales reps nationwide. Meuli joined CCH three years ago after selling copiers for Lewan
Sales tips: "More than anything I try to humanize the process as much as possible, make it two people talking, rather than me selling and them being the customer."
Selling in a recession: "What are some creative ways to reach prospects who aren't going to pick up a phone or answer an e-mail now because they are focused on just trying to get their business going and keep their bottom line?"
Meuli's methods: Sending prospects a gift card to a restaurant and inviting them to use it - as long as they're willing to spend a half hour with him in return. (He includes a self-addressed stamped envelope to return the gift card if they choose to decline.) He also has e-mailed videos of himself making a pitch.
FARAJ ELMAGBARI, 37
Business sales officer, Wells Fargo, Denver
What he does: Develops relationships with commercial clients for the business bank, including manufacturing, distributing, wholesale and retail.
Background: Elmagbari joined Wells Fargo in 2001 and has been handling business sales for Wells Fargo for four years. He brought in $1.4 million in new revenue for the first nine months of 2009, beating a goal of $1 million for that period and already surpassing the $1.2 million he logged in 2008. He has topped $1 million annually for the past four years and consistently ranks No. 1 or No. 2 nationwide in Wells Fargo's business sales team.
Sales tips: "Consistency in my mind is the biggest fundamental trait that I try to remind myself of daily, making sure I have a pretty firm understanding of the capabilities and capacity of this great organization."
Busting the recession: "We've had a nice contrarian effect at Wells Fargo. There's been a severe flight to quality. As the market started to compress on itself, we became more of the beacon. We're very fortunate that we represent the largest share here in the state of Colorado. We're the 1,000-pound gorilla. It's nice to have that in your back pocket when you're talking to companies."
DAN BURNS, 43
Co-Founder and vice president of sales, Accuvant
What he does: "My role is to recruit and bring on the most talented salespeople in the industry. I'm brought in to the sales process when there's a need to introduce a C-level executive to one of our clients - situations when the client wants to understand more about Accuvant, where we're headed and our vision."
Background: In Accuvant's first year, Burns forced himself to make 75 calls a day and schedule eight meetings per week with end users. A year later, he had landed high-profile clients including JD Edwards, Qwest and Level 3, and was the top sales representative in the company.
Stats: "It's not about my success," says the longtime salesman-turned-executive. "It's about the success of the company." Since Accuvant's founding in 2002, Burns has expanded the sales organization from fewer than five people wearing multiple hats to more than 150 full-time, sales-focused employees. Accuvant's annual revenues have gone from $112 million in 2007 to $142 million in 2008 to a projected $170 million in 2009.
Recession-survival tip: "Now is not the time for cookie-cutter proposals. Proposals must be tailored, polished and without mistakes. Clients are looking to hire folks who can truly add value in helping them execute on their business objectives. Another mindset that works: Always ask yourself, "How do I make my client look like a ‘rock-star' in the eyes of his peers and bosses?' If you can do that, you'll have a client for life."
ERIC SCHMIDT, 31
National sales rep, Four Winds Interactive, Denver
What he does: Sells interactive kiosks and digital signage solutions nationwide.
Sales stats: In the flailing economy Schmidt managed to increase his sales almost 50 percent in 2009 over the previous year and triple his largest deal size from $60,000 to more than $180,000. His sales last year accounted for 11 percent of the company total.
Background: Schmidt moved from an engineer position to a sales role in April 2009 and emerged as one of the top three sales reps in the company. As an engineer, he played a major role in the sales process and easily made the transition to sales due to his history of taking the lead in the sales cycle.
Sales approach: "Wherever possible I try to show prospects what is important to them through custom demonstrations, and allow them to be very hands-on during the entire presentation and sales process by highlighting topics that I know are relevant and encouraging follow-up questions from prospects."
GREG BOUSHELLE, 45
Senior vice president, commercial banker, Citywide Banks, Aurora
What he does: Finances small- to medium-sized businesses in the Colorado region.
Sales stats: In a little more than a year with Citywide Banks, Boushelle, a 20-year veteran of the banking industry, has generated about $13 million in new portfolio business, which equates to about $750,000 in revenues.
Perspective: "If you look at all the banking headlines, it sounds like gloom and doom, but I think for banks that are out in the market talking to those middle-market clients that have been around a while ... it's been one of the best years of my life. The advisory capacity a bank can bring to the table is so important in today's environment."
Recession-survival tip: "Even more than usual, it's really about getting in front of people, not just picking up the phone. Showing up at their business, taking them to lunch, getting out on the golf course ... face-to-face interaction is more important than ever."
Sales advice: "Bring solutions to the table even if they're not your own company's. If a client walks in looking for something, and you can't give it to them, you've got to find a solution so they come back, rather than just say no. I've been in banking 20 years, and it's those guys I was working with four, five six, seven years ago that I found an outside solution for, that are now coming back and driving my business."
JAMES R. WALLEN, 38
Vice president of sales - Americas, Galleria-RTS
What he does: Sells enterprise software to the world's largest retailers to help them manage labor costs, increase compliance, reduce inventory, increase sales and merchandise their stores to support customer centricity.
Sales stats: In 12 years of selling software solutions to the retail segment, Wallen has averaged annual sales of $5 million to $10 million. Clients have included Best Buy, JC Penney, Lowes Home Improvement, Ross Stores, Borders Inc. and West Marine.
Advice: "Don't sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Sell them hot chocolate."
Aside: A Colorado native who has been married for 14 years and has two young children, Wallen travels extensively to cover a global territory. He is the author of "A Salesperson's Guide to a Successful Life ... and Career," a book about career-life balance available at amazon.com.
JONATHAN SMITH, 43
Branch manager, Sprint Nextel
What he does: Manages Sprint Nextel's business sales for Colorado, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
Sales stat: As of mid-December, Smith was on target to exceed his 2009 sales quota by 111 percent.
Unique sale: Smith developed a solution for a llama rancher that allowed the rancher to use Sprint Nextel data technology to identify when female llamas were at their peak body temperature for breeding and send an electronic notice to the rancher so he could introduce the male llama for mating.
What a colleague said: "Jonathan does not merely sell wireless and IP data and voice products to his customers, rather, he sells complete solutions. When he approaches a customer or prospect, he does not quickly present a sales proposal, rather, he first gets to know the business and understand its needs."
Sales tip: "Companies don't sell to companies; people sell to people. I believe that. We live that. That's what makes you successful is the people aspect."
Sales philosophy: "I always say, ‘You're either a strategic business partner, a vendor or a commodity.' If you're a commodity, you're selling on price. If you're a vendor, you're providing a service. The objective is to be a strategic business partner so that customers are not only talking to you about their product, but products that may not involve you but they want your opinion on it."
LAURIE ESSERMAN NOWAK, 52
Salesperson for Media Networks Inc., a division of Time Warner Inc.
What she does: Sells local ad placements in 42 national magazines. She also handles digital sales representing more than 8,000 Internet sites.
Sales stats: In 14 years with Media Networks Inc. Esserman Nowak has consistently billed more than $1.3 million annually with a high of $2.2 million.
Sales approach: "I make things very memorable for people. Relationship sales are so important for me. People get a gazillion phone calls every single day, let's face it. I try to differentiate myself a little bit. People remember me, I remember them. When I'm selling, I never start with what I have. I think that suggests you're not really paying attention. I learn about what their needs are and who they are and about their family. I think it just comes really naturally. I don't really think about it; it just works."
How she handles a ‘no': "If I get a ‘no,' it just means for that time. I go back again. Either I have a new product to show them, an idea, or an article I've seen. I'll say, ‘I thought about you today - check this out.' I don't feel bad about calling back."
OSEA NELSON, 29
Salesperson, Astralux Power Systems
What he does: Sells solar energy systems for homes and commercial buildings.
Sales stats: Despite a tough economy, violent shakeout in the solar-energy industry and vastly increased competition, Nelson generated sales of $1.1 million in 2009, an improvement over 2008 when conditions were more favorable. Access to cheaper solar materials in 2009 led to vicious cost competition between solar integrators in Colorado. At the same time, rebates for solar-energy systems dropped 35 percent from 2008.
Biggest challenge: "Building trust. Sadly, the public has become very skeptical of contractors and builders. Especially in a young industry with a rapidly changing product, trust is the key building block for me. It takes a combination of all the hardest aspects of sales to start from being a total stranger one day and getting a contract signed later in the week. If I can't build trust, I don't have a job."
Recession survival tip: "Love your job, and be passionate in it. With so many friends and family out of work in these tough times, I have found renewed gratitude in my life and in my job. People feed off enthusiasm and positivity. Times are tough for all of us right now, but if you can get up in the morning, be grateful for the things you have and take that ‘yes' attitude with you throughout the day, the sky is the limit, even in this economy."
Advice for other salespeople: "Every potential client has something in common with you. If you find that and can have a true conversation about it, the walls to your potential sale come falling down."
How to handle a ‘no': "Call them back in a few days. If you believe in your product and your job, then you have let that person down by giving them a path to a ‘no.'"
SARAH LOCKWOOD, 35
Vice President of Sales, Booyah Online Advertising
What she does: Helps companies and brands utilize the Internet to drive direct-response goals, acquire customers and sell products online.
Sales stats: Booyah, one of the largest digital, direct-response ad agencies in Colorado, manages about $20 million in online advertising media a year, and Lockwood is the company's "sales engine."
Background: Lockwood's sales career began in 2001 when she helped take an interactive agency called Creation Chamber from a home-based operation to a firm with clients that included Tokyo Joe's, Einstein Bros., Red Robin, Echostar and the Denver Broncos. She launched her own agency, Distill, sold it in 2009 and became VP of sales for Booyah Online Advertisng. In her first several months at Booyah, she closed a year-long deal with Qdoba Mexican Grill and followed that with a deal with Vail Resorts.
Sales advice: "Be honest. Clients expect you to say ‘yes' to everything. They will be surprised and appreciate it if you say ‘no' when the answer really is ‘no.' Tell the truth even when it isn't popular, and don't discount your prices to win business."
BEN FARMER, 34
Wholesale sales manager, AltE (a renewable-energy products distributor), Evergreen
What he does: Sells renewable-energy products. Farmer helped launch AltE's wholesale business three years ago. He continues to manage and help grow the wholesale part of the company while still taking on large dealer accounts.
Sales stats: Projected sales of $3.5 Million for 2009. Farmer has been AltE's top salesperson in terms of revenue for the past six years.
Recession-survival tip: "Be diversified in your business model and make sure your company values providing exceptional services versus being the cheapest slinger of whatever products or services you sell."
Biggest sales challenge: "Since we are a renewable-energy products distributor, we frequently get price-shopped on our equipment from competitors. This is where our quality of service comes into play to show why we are worth the extra dollar amount."
Selling is believing: "I'm proud of AltE's success knowing that the company has grown in leaps and bounds directly with my hard work. And I'm also proud I'm contributing to the health of our planet with every solar or wind energy system I help design and sell."
MIKE RIBELIN, 60
Client adviser, Schomp BMW, Highlands Ranch
What he does: Ribelin sold 18 cars in November and racked up more sales in 2009 than in 2008.
Background: Ribelin joined Schomp BMW three years ago after a 35-year career in public education in Littleton Public Schools, including 11 years as director of career and technical education. Despite no prior sales experience, he has been Schomp BMW's top performer for each of the three years he's been with the company.
Sales tips: "I really try hard to listen to my clients from the beginning and not steer them in any way that is not to their advantage. Selling for Schomp - it's a one-price store - we're not based at all on profit. The sales people are paid on a bonus points system. Our job is really to find them the right car, whether it costs $5,000 or $105,000, because we get paid the same. My approach is to figure out what the best is for them."
Recession buster: "I wouldn't say BMW is recession proof. ... However, I've heard this several times from people who said, ‘I haven't done too well in the stock market ... I decided to treat myself to something instead of losing money the other way.'"
DEBORA LANGER, 41
Director of sales and marketing, Magpie Telecom Insiders
What she does: Langer describes her job as "80 percent sales, 20 percent marketing." Her launch of the company's new website increased leads 600 percent over the past year.
About the company: Magpie is an outsourced software development firm.
Sales stats: In the fourth quarter of 2009, Langer closed three deals in two weeks for revenues of $1.7 million. That included one deal exceeding $1 million, the company's second largest ever. Langer projected that her sales for all of 2009 would be $2.3 million to $2.5 million.
Background: Langer has a bachelor's degree in mass communications, and after earning a master's in interdisciplinary telecommunications from the University of Colorado, she leaped into a telecom sales role. Before that, she held sales roles in a variety of fields.
Sales tip: "Ask the tough questions early, and fail fast, because you don't want to spend any cycle (effort) on people who are not serious or who really don't need your services. We call it ‘getting to second base' here. So I have written on my white board, ‘Get to second base!' because it's all about qualifying really early to make sure you're working with people who really do need you."
JASON MINOR, 32
Strategic sales representative, ServiceSource International
What he does: Sells and renews support and maintenance contracts on behalf of Fortune 500 IT firms. "It's basically like selling a warranty program so that if their switches crash or their routers crash they have a support contract in place when a technician comes on site and fixes it. It's a value-based sell that I'm attaching to the main products."
About the company: ServiceSource International is the global leader in service performance management that partners with some of the largest names in technology and health care to grow their services business and deliver incremental revenue. The company has offices in San Francisco, Denver, Nashville, Tenn., Singapore and Dublin, Ireland. Minor was one of 15 who moved from San Francisco three years ago to start the Denver office that now has 225 employees.
Sales stat: As of mid-December, Minor was on track to amass sales of $100 million for 2009. Said inside sales manager Nicole Trezza going into the fourth quarter of 2009: "Despite the many hurdles this quarter with customers going to bid or choosing to downsize their inventory, Jason is tracking to achieve 200 percent (of the total opportunity in his pipeline number) and possibly go beyond that."
Minor's sales tip: "Get in front of your customer early and often, know their budget restrictions and work within those guidelines."
Most challenging sale: "A three-year $18.7 million sale that took more than seven months to bring to closure."
SCOTT GOODYEAR, 47
Senior account executive, EMC Corp., a provider of
information infrastructure systems, software and services
What he does: Manages two large accounts - DISH Network in Englewood and T-Mobile in Seattle. "I'm responsible for all revenue-generating activity in those two accounts."
Sales stat: When Goodyear came aboard EMC Corp. in 2007, his sales territory had an average annual "run rate" (revenue expectation) of approximately $25 million. The next year he grew the territory to a run rate of about $53 million and is projected to finish 2009 at about $58 million.
Recession insight: "In the past you could get by with a strong partnership and good products. In the last 12 months, there's been a real emphasis on the internal rate of return, the return on investment, the reduction in operating expense. We're bringing proposals that they're looking at in much more detail than I've ever seen clients look at in the past. It requires a lot more in-depth analysis."
Background: Goodyear has a mechanical engineering degree from Colorado State University that has helped enhance his technical grasp of his clients' issues and needs.