Distributor Woman of Distinction – Cindy Jorgenson, Brown & Bigelow
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You would think – considering that she’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, swam with whales, cage-dived with great white sharks and repelled through cavernous waterfalls – Cindy Jorgenson, what with her penchant for putting herself in precarious positions, is a charter member of the Justice League. In fact, as a 25-year industry vet and the current vice president of sales for Counselor Top 40 distributor Brown & Bigelow (asi/148500), she’s intent on tackling a Herculean challenge closer to home – upending any notion of the industry as an old boy’s club.
“If you look at the management teams and boards of directors across the industry, they’re still very male dominated,” Jorgenson says. “But on the sales side it’s very female dominated. My goal is to continue to motivate women into this industry and, once here, help them move beyond support positions into sales and management.”
And it’s this kind of commitment to mentorship that Jorgenson, who’s a past president of UMAPP, is quite familiar. “I worked for a small distributor prior to joining B&B,” she recalls. “I started at age 21 as an assistant to the owner who was also the largest producing salesperson. I held this position before moving into sales, and I now know – without question – it’s why I’m in management today. Not only could I see the sales process, but I had the opportunity to view and come to respect the management side of the business as well. The owner/salesperson I worked for in the beginning told me that when I become successful, I must reach back and take someone’s hand, just as he took mine. Serving on the UMAPP board allowed me to do that; my position at Brown & Bigelow now allows me to do that every day by coaching sales partners on prospecting, time management, generating leads and proving a return on investment.”
She advises that the best course of action for younger sales professionals is to start on the inside. “The learning curve is enormous in this industry,” Jorgenson cautions. “My advice would be to learn on the company’s dime. Collect a salary, learn the business and get some product knowledge under your belt. When you have that, then transition into sales. You’ll go with more confidence and less costly mistakes.”
Speaking of those, Jorgenson points to a doozy of a faux pas she made early on in her career: “I took too long to realize the importance of the supplier-distributor relationship,” she admits. “That first distributor I worked for had the mentality of ‘we are the suppliers’ customer and they must do what we say.’ That couldn’t be more wrong. Our suppliers are just as important, if not more so, than our clients. Without them, we have nothing to sell, and without their processes, procedures and quality control measures, nothing would ever get delivered. If you’re still beating up your suppliers, stop and start partnering with them – I promise your business will grow.”
For Jorgenson, the woman who never met a challenge she didn’t like – all while wearing heels as high as carjacks – her love of the industry remains constant. “It’s the products, the people, the independence, the creativity, the chaotic deadlines, the pull-your-hair-out, must-have-a-freaking-cocktail-right-now pressure,” she says. “I love it all.” – MB