We cast a wide net for nominations of distributor and supplier reps and ranked our 20 top-selling nominees by sales volume. While their individual numbers are confidential, combined, they account for about $87 million in ad specialty sales.
As always, we named our number-one Sales Reps of the Year on both sides; but really, each person spotlighted here gets rave reviews and bragging rights. Use their insights and advice as inspiration and motivation.
#1 DISTRIBUTOR SALES REP OF THE YEAR
Harry Ein, Owner,
of iPROMOTEu (asi/232119)
Harry Ein was always destined for a blockbuster sales career. A tale from his senior year of high school illustrates the truth of that statement.
During the holiday season, his parents went on vacation, but Ein stayed home because he had a swim meet to compete in. His folks left him with food and money to hold him over while they were gone. With money in hand, however, Ein sensed opportunity – opportunity in the form of Tickle Me Elmo. That Christmas, the Elmo toy was the most sought-after item. Retailers everywhere couldn’t keep Elmo on their shelves. But looking through newspaper classifieds, Ein found three people willing to sell their Elmos. He used the money his parents had left him to buy each Elmo for $50 to $70 each. Then, just before Christmas Eve, he walked around malls and shopping centers holding the toys, looking to sell them. With stores depleted of Elmos, people desperate to buy stopped Ein and offered him fast cash for the Sesame Street character. The sales were a cinch. “I profited $250, which was some solid money as an 18-year-old kid,” says Ein. “It was the start of my sales career.”
And what a lucrative career it has been. Forward-thinking and full of hustle, Ein has earned success in ad specialty sales by working with an array of clients, from San Francisco area technology companies to buyers in the sports industry. In recent years, he’s adapted to changing marketplace dynamics and built a strong online presence that’s helped him attract younger-generation clients. Still, he’s a sales traditionalist, too, forging firm relationships with clients through consultative in-person meetings that generate awesome solutions and massive ROI. Such results frequently lead to referrals, which lead to more sales and more referrals – and so on. Nonetheless, he doesn’t solely rely on word-of-mouth and online business to keep the revenue rising; he’s a savvy networker who knows how to capitalize on opportunity, like when he recently won a new client during a chat at a wedding.
“I love having the chance to share ideas,” says Ein, who notes that patience, persistence and partnering with excellent suppliers and decorators are essential for success. So is the willingness to work hard and having a sincere passion for the promotional products business. “I honestly love what I do,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever woken up and thought ‘I’m not enjoying this.’ People I know who are successful in this industry all feel that way.”
Going forward, Ein forecasts continued success for Perfection Promo – and for ad specialties as a whole. “More people are learning about promotional products and how well they work,” he says. “I don’t see why we can’t have 3% to 5% growth as an industry each year.”
#2 Jennifer Sander,
Executive, Capital Ideas Inc. (asi/157004)
There’s big money in the pharmaceutical industry, and competition for clients in this sector is fierce. But that’s fine by Jennifer Sander. Tenacious, intelligent and unfailingly reliable, this proud University of Georgia Bulldog has carved a lucrative niche serving large companies in the pharmaceutical space. “I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on the industry, and they come to me because they know I’m an expert they can trust,” says Sander.
Such expertise is critical in turning prospect courtships into firm client relationships, she says. So are two other traits: reliability and responsiveness. “When people know they can rely on you, they’ll continue coming back and they’ll refer you,” says Sander. “I know that promotional products are one of a hundred things my clients are probably working on, so it’s my goal to make their lives as easy as possible. They know they can make one phone call to me and get everything they need fast. If you make them shine, they’ll remain loyal.”
The drive to deliver big for clients and score personal success is naturally a powerful motivator for Sander. But equally paramount among her priorities is the desire to help her colleagues at Capital Ideas reach their maximum potential. “With a positive attitude, Jennifer regularly goes the extra mile for our company, extending her time and professionalism to mentor other sales reps here,” says Capital Ideas VP Gina Sealey.
When she’s not working, chances are you’ll find Sander engaged in a boot camp-style workout or spending time with her daughter. That or obsessively monitoring meteorology reports. Sander admits that she’s a “weather nut. I can tell you what the weather will be all over the country.” While she jokes that she should have been a meteorologist, her clients – and Capital Ideas – are sure glad she’s sticking to ad specialties.
Boundless Network (asi/143717)
Graham Robbins is a man of faith. That faith led him to work with Young Life, an evangelical Christian ministry, when he initially graduated from college. The core of the job centered on building positive relationships with youth – something that would come in handy years later when Robbins started in promotional product sales. “The training I received with Young Life placed the utmost importance on relationships,” says Robbins. “That really set me up for success with ad specialties, which is a very relationship-based type of selling.”
Robbins, a former college soccer player, builds those lucrative relationships by providing business-building creative ideas and top-notch service backed by cutting-edge technology. “Products are how we make money,” he says, “but solutions are how we obtain – and maintain – business. A great product attached to a great experience is what earns loyalty.”
Any strong relationship is solidified by honesty and accountability. Robbins never loses sight of that, especially when mistakes occur. “We own our mistakes,” he says. “When things go wrong, we make it right. Our clients know we will take care of them. Success comes from how you treat people.”
His clients come from a range of industries, but fit a similar profile. Robbins seeks to work with growing organizations that need a strategic partner who will help them manage their brand, marketing message, employee engagement and more. When he’s not working, you’ll find him spending time with his family, which includes a daughter and two boys. Their interests – horses, soccer, baseball and more – are his interests. “My hobbies,” Robbins says, “are whatever gets me involved with them.”
#4 Jane Beth McCarty,
EVP & Director of Fulfillment Programs,
Grapevine Designs (asi/212829)
Jane Beth McCarty wears a lot of hats – and she’s comfortable in them all. When she’s not immersed in client work as a highly successful sales account executive, she’s overseeing Grapevine’s program business and enterprise-level client relationships. “My dad would say you have to keep your nose to the grindstone,” she says. “I try to follow that work ethic.”
And she has. An economics major in college, McCarty worked as a banker for 15 years. But there came a point when she desired a change – something less rigid. She found ad specialty sales. “I thought my background in financial services would be helpful in a sales role,” McCarty says.
She was correct. Not surprisingly, given her professional experience, McCarty serves many businesses in the banking and financial services industry. She naturally relates to these clients because she has been in their shoes, but she also consistently engages in research to stay abreast of trends and concerns in the sector. “Whatever market you are working with, you have to get to know what keeps those clients up at night,” she says. “What are their hot-button issues? What makes them tick? Where are their opportunities?”
Just being informed, however, is not enough, says McCarty. Reps that want to reach the next level in their sales must focus on nurturing relationships with buyers. “Have a caring personality and take a consultative approach that helps customers achieve their objectives,” she says.
Furthermore, never miss the chance to discover new business. One exciting aspect of promotional products, says McCarty, is that virtually every company or organization can benefit from them in some way. “Think of your friends, family and contacts as potential buyers or referrers,” she says. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there.”
#5 Gay-Louise Waye,
Senior Promotional Marketing Consultant,
Brand Alliance (asi/170480)
Sometimes, fate opens a door to your future. So it was with Gay-Louise Waye and her immensely successful sales career.
The medical librarian gig – well, it was a job, but it left her feeling unsatisfied. So taking a leap of faith, Waye quit the position and was prepared to “knock about” for a few months as she considered her next move.
Then the next move found her. A friend asked her to help out in a small souvenir shop. Waye sold a few orders, and something clicked. Before long, she was a full-time sales pro.
That was 41 years ago. In the ensuing years, Waye’s sales stayed on an upward trajectory, rising along with the shop that blossomed into a full-service promotional products firm. After two decades, Waye joined BrandAlliance, where she has spent the last 21 years building a book of business that would be the envy of nearly any rep.
Still, Waye is quick to eschew full credit, opting to share the spotlight with her three-person supporting team. “We contribute to each other’s success,” she says. That achievement is considerable, powered in part by the firm grip Waye has on selling to public institutions (government departments, universities) in Alberta. “You do a good job for one, and they refer you,” she says.
To Waye, tenacity and integrity are the essential traits reps need to spur sales. “See things from the customer’s point of view,” she advises before adding another tip: “Sell programs; they tie up the business.”
Within the next decade, Waye aims to retire. Once she takes the plunge into her post-career period she’ll have more time to write memories of a life that has gone from a childhood with no electricity or running water in rural Canada to one of multimillion-dollar sales in the social media age. “I’ve experienced a lot of evolution.”
#6 Brian Waligora,
Senior Account Director,
Pure Marketing Group (asi/302553)
There was a time when Brian Waligora aspired to be the White House press secretary. But after the reality of a public relations career set in, Waligora soon realized that path wasn’t right for him. Still, he knew he wanted to sink his teeth into a particular industry; he just needed to find the right one.
Then he discovered ad specialties.
“After a few months, I was hooked,” says Waligora, who has been on the job at Pure Marketing Group for 6 ½ years. “Every day is something new. Every project is unique. You never know what you’re going to work on. This industry just felt like home.”
Clearly, loving what he does has helped fuel Waligora’s success. So has being a good person. This married father of two says the secret to his seven-figure sales tally has been treating clients even better than he’d personally expect to be treated, whether those customers are huge accounts or just placing a low-volume order. “There are no small sales,” he says. “When you take care of everybody, it comes back to you ten-fold.”
What other advice can Waligora offer reps? “Do what you say you are going to do,” he says, adding that empathizing with clients and taking the time to understand their needs is especially important. “You need to be honest and a have a positive attitude.”
Those are traits Waligora has in spades, says Pure Marketing Group Partner Dane Van Breene. “Brian’s knowledge and his desire to help people have enabled him to reach top sales,” Van Breene says.
Waligora’s stellar on-the-job performance has empowered him to fund his true passion: Traveling with his wife and sons. “We go on all kinds of adventures,” says this family man. “Traveling with them is what I live for.”
#7 Greg Greemon,
Activate! Promotions + Marketing (asi/141964)
Every Monday evening for the better part of a year, Greg Greemon secretly took tap dance lessons. It was an uncharacteristic venture for the sports guy who loves kickboxing, deep-sea fishing, golf and tossing around the pigskin. Still, Greemon forayed into tap for his daughters. The girls are passionate about dance, and he wanted to show them that he shared and supported their passion – that he was “all in.” Somehow, he managed to keep the lessons secret from his girls. But on the eve of their big recital, he surprised them with a performance. “They loved it,” he says.
Greemon’s willingness to go the extra mile for his daughters is emblematic of why he is a success not only as a dad, but also as a sales pro. Simply put, he gives his all to produce maximum ROI for clients. “For his entire 15-year career, he’s gone above and beyond to earn the trust and respect of every relationship that has crossed his path,” says Bryan McCormick, corporate communications coordinator at Activate!
Greemon’s efforts have paid off handsomely, winning him a wealth of loyal clients. Indeed, he still works with customers he gained when he began at Activate! – a career he started after working in fields as different as high-profile event management and commercial fishing in Alaska. The loyalty from clients is, in part, a result of Greemon following advice his mother once gave him: Shut up and listen. “People will tell you their pain points,” he says. “Then it’s up to you to offer a solution.”
Beyond being self-motivated good listeners, reps aspiring to reach higher revenue levels should continually network and prospect, says Greemon. As importantly, he advises, have fun on the job. “Promotional product sales are supposed to be creative and fun,” he says. “When you’re excited about what you do, other people will be too.”
#8 Sam Minster,
VP/Partner Jack Nadel International (asi/279600)
It doesn’t take long to figure out that Sam Minster enjoys a laugh.
What song best describes you, Sam? “’Insane in the Brain’ by Cypress Hill.” What was your college major and what did you plan to do with it? “Psychology; finally figure out what’s wrong with me.”
The humor that comes naturally to Minster makes him instantly likeable – something that has helped him build strong client relationships. It also helped sustain him through the darkest period in his 25-year promotional products career. During the economic downturn six years ago, Minster lost most of his business. But keeping his chin up, he started cold-calling and leveraging referrals. Before long, his sales were well into seven figures again.
Hustle, hard work and delivering ROI-generating solutions powered the sales resuscitation. But there were other drivers, too. “Attention to detail is so important,” Minster says. “That, and following up with your clients as soon as possible. A client will email me about something and I’ll respond just to say I got it and that I’m working on it. When you’re responsive, it shows you care.”
A huge hockey fan (he plays too), Minster says some lessons he learned on the ice translate to the workplace. “You may not always get along the greatest with everyone, but it’s pivotal to find common ground so you can be successful as a team.”
When he’s not working, slapping the puck around or strumming his guitar, this Renaissance man enjoys impersonating character voices. “I do a good Elmo,” he says. “It came in handy when reading to my kids.”
Whether or not such talents will lead to a second career on the stage remains to be seen. But one thing we know for sure is that Minster is deservedly in the spotlight when it comes to ad specialties.
Senior Account Manager,
Goldner Associates, (asi/209800)
Holli May has promotional products in her blood. Her mother sold ad specialties as she was growing up, and the expertise was passed on. “My mom is my hero and I was so fortunate to have her as a role model in the industry,” May says.
For all that, however, her path to sales success wasn’t clear-cut. After graduating college with a public relations degree, May wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. As it happened, she took a job as a flight attendant. In retrospect, she says, it was a highly fortuitous move – dealing with grumpy passengers proved to be a master’s course in customer service. “You’re forced to learn how to work with customers in stressful situations,” she says. “It was fantastic training.”
Eventually, she left the flight attendant gig and worked for a short while in sales jobs outside ad specialties before deciding to try the branded-merchandise industry. Her mom taught her the basics and gave her the confidence to get started. “My mom sat me down with catalogs and went over the codes,” she says. “Then she told me to start cold calling.”
Over a 15-year career, May has found a sales sweet spot, specializing in business with clients in the health-care market. She recently led a group at Goldner on how to sell within the complex world of today’s hospitals. Of course, many insights she has gained through her career are applicable regardless of what market you’re targeting. “Be willing to do what the competition won’t do,” she says. “When your clients want something, make it happen.” Persistence and a strong work ethic are especially important. “If you’re willing to work the long hours,” she says, “the rewards are incredible.”
Imperial Marketing (asi/230430)
Julie Russell always strives for more. That perpetual hunger for improvement has combined with a sharp mind and client-first attitude to put her annual sales tallies consistently among the industry’s elite.
An ad specialty veteran of 18 years (12 with Imperial), Russell primarily works with clients in the automotive industry, running a successful eStore program, servicing daily “spot buy” sales and working with international accounts on large programs. Through outstanding performance that leads to referrals, she has continually bolstered sales volumes. Her success is a factor of the personal attentiveness she gives customers and the proficiency with which she orchestrates orders. “You have to understand your clients, be organized and follow up in a timely manner,” she says.
A true consultant, Russell makes it her business to be well-versed in regulatory and consumer safety laws so she can best guide clients. Her insight is also especially keen when it comes to advising buyers about apparel – a result of her having worked in retail, sales for apparel suppliers and her thorough understanding of decoration techniques. “It’s so important,” says Russell, “to listen to your customers’ needs and do the necessary homework on any new opportunities with regards to audience, demographics, lifestyle and budget.”
Committed to professional development, Russell is active in the broader promotional products community, serving as part of the board of directors for the Michigan Promotional Professionals Association.
Still, it’s not all work for Russell. The self-described “chocoholic” is a whiz when it comes to baking. Impressively, this avid sports fan who loves to golf is also blessed with a wonderful singing voice. “I always wanted to be a singer – or a sideline sports reporter.”
Regardless of the venture, we’re sure Russell would be successful.
#1 supplier SALES REP OF THE YEARYEAR
Southern CA Territory Manager,
Joe Pellegrini certainly has strong advocates in his distributor client base.
Lindsay Dyer, of Jack Nadel Inc. (asi/279600), put it this way: “Joe has helped me increase my business tremendously. His knowledge of his own product and his competitors make him a great source for apparel. He is quick to schedule end-user calls with me, and our track record is 100%. He understands trends and helps choose items for different areas of business.”
Pellegrini majored in business administration in college, hoping to start a sales career. “I thought my first sales job was going to be with Bartles and James wines,” he says, “and I ended up selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners door to door, because the sales manager at Bartles and James suggested this would be the best way to gain experience dealing with people. So I did it for nine months.”
He has continued to clean up in the sales arena. Having just completed his 13th year as an outside territory manager with SanMar, Pellegrini has won Regional Territory Manager of the Year three times. “I think the most significant year was in July 2013,” he says. The Little League baseball and youth football coach is also one of four mentors to new sales hires, which he says is “an honor and tremendous responsibility.”
His advice is this: Have a plan of action; know your product line better than your customers know it, be that trusted adviser; find out what your customers’ hot buttons are; and be the “Easy Button” for your customers.
“I am constantly asked by customers to join them on very important end-user calls,” Pellegrini says. “I believe this is the ultimate sign of trust.”
The trust goes both ways. Local customers will call him on short notice in need of a sample to show clients and help close deals. “Most likely, I will have a sample at home and I will leave it on my porch and when they are done with the sample, they will drop it back off,” he says.
Now that’s really making clients feel at home.
National Account Manager,
BIC Graphic (asi/40480)
Having been with BIC Graphic for seven years, Dustin Wicks has been named supplier Sales Rep of the Year by three of his largest accounts: Vernon, Newton and HALO Branded Solutions. “His customers love him,” says Margit Fawbush, communications manager at BIC.
He partially credits this success to really listening to his clients. His advice to other reps: “If you think you are a good listener, learn to listen more; sales are in the details, and details will pass by quickly. It’s also important to be relevant, stay on top of trends both inside our industry and out – trends in business dictate trends in sales technique.”
Wicks’ personality and passions were a natural fit for a career in sales at a young age. As a marketing major in college, “I always enjoyed public speaking and found that convincing people of a message was something that was very exciting and fulfilling,” he says. “I toyed with the idea of going into law, but didn’t enjoy my business law class, so that endeavor ended quickly. I then met a professor of a sales management class and discovered that sales and business would be a good fit.”
Wicks takes this advice (the best he’s ever received, he says) to heart in order to maintain a healthy balance: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit, and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back but the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same.”
Major Accounts Manager,
Selling is fun and you should have fun with what you do. So says Tracie Capello, and she’s been doing just that for the past 10 ½ years with Logomark.
“Tracie has always been a leading inside sales rep for us, and five years ago, she accepted a promotion onto our national accounts team,” says Brian Padian, VP of sales. “She is directly responsible for the double-digit annual growth of our largest customers. Most important, Tracie loves her customers, and has a laugh that is contagious.”
Padian credits Capello’s “can-do attitude” for keeping clients coming back for more. Capello credits her dad for guiding her towards a career in sales.
Coming from an equestrian family, Capello had her own horse. “Though not too many people can imagine me doing this, I jumped and showed her,” she says. These days, she’s jumping through hoops for her clients by offering product knowledge, industry knowledge and great customer service.
Midwest Sales Manager,
American Ad Bag (asi/35290)
Carrie Sabo is in her third year with American Ad Bag and was nominated this year by VP of sales Blaine Wiltey for her growth of Midwest sales for the past two years.
Coincidentally, Sabo nominated Wiltey, not knowing he did the reverse and crediting him for his guidance and mentorship. “Not only is he an amazing salesman, he is an amazing person,” she wrote. “I have learned so much from him, as do his distributor clients.”
Other life lessons she’s learned along the way include, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you handle it.” It seems she is handling it well. As a merchandising, apparel and textiles major with an emphasis in merchandising from the University of Kentucky, she planned on becoming a buyer for a retail chain.
But her hairdresser changed her direction. “One of his clients told him she was looking to hire someone, I interviewed for the position and the rest is history,” she says. “The ad specialty industry does run in my family, though. My great-grandfather worked for Newton Manufacturing and my grandfather worked for Brown & Bigelow.
Sabo’s best advice for other sales reps is summed up in one word: Understanding. “The product line, the customer and the end-user,” she says.
SnugZ USA (asi/88060)
Katy Burum began working at SnugZ as a youngster and loved being part of the SnugZ family and growing with them so much that college never happened for her. “I wouldn’t change my path in any way,” she says. “I cannot imagine gaining the knowledge and confidence with a college education that I got working with some truly amazing and inspirational mentors I have had the opportunity to learn from.”
Those mentors have been inspired by Burum as well. “To say Katy cares about the welfare of her customers is an understatement,” says Sydra Newell, business development manager.” If it comes to it, Katy will go into production to assemble components on one of her lanyard orders to ensure it ships out the door on time. She has even driven 40 minutes to SnugZ on a Saturday to ship out a sample request for a customer’s Monday morning meeting. Katy always wins the award for the person who can keep people in the ASI trade show booth to talk about products the longest. Her passion is electrifying and people just love to be around her.”
Newell notes that Burum has created several custom products at SnugZ, just by thinking of different ways to utilize materials, components and raw personal care ingredients. “She is always pushing us to be better at what we do,” Newell says.
Burum has been at SnugZ for 13 years, and in every position from receptionist, order entry, order scheduling to customer service, where, as in sales, the best advice she’s ever received is spot on: “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
These days, the majority of her free time is spent “hanging out with my kiddos. When I can fit it in, I love to run. Anything outdoors is typically right up my alley.” As is selling: “Be passionate in all you do,” she advises. “Embrace change with a good attitude and determination to make the very best of it. Never pass up an opportunity to learn. Do what you love and love what you do.”
Assistant Sales Manager,
Staton Corporate & Casual (asi/89380)
Stephanie Sanchez loves karaoke and the people she works with love her and are singing her praises.
“I’m delighted to announce that Stephanie is once again our top salesperson,” says Lea Robinson, VP of sales and marketing. “She continues to be a go-getter. She has an amazing positive attitude and just recently was promoted to assistant sales manager. We want her to help oversee our sales reps and train them to be mini Stephanies.”
That’s quite the testimonial. Having been with Staton for 11 years, Sanchez holds a degree in business administration and hopes to obtain a Master’s degree. She got her foot in the door when another Staton employee told her about an open position. “I set up the interview, was hired shortly after and it’s been the best decision I made,” she says.
Sanchez says top sellers are self-motivated, self-confident, ambitious and passionate. “Surround yourself with people that know your worth,” she advises. “Take time to focus on yourself, your happiness and your goals. By doing so, that’s how you can help others.”
This self-proclaimed “open book” (what you see is what you get) prides herself on staying on point and always setting the bar a little higher for herself. “The more goals you set for yourself, the more you can accomplish,” she says. “There are no excuses for failure, only if you allow yourself to do so.”
Regional Sales Manager,
Dri Duck (asi/50835)
Tiffany Anderson’s 7 ½ years at Dri Duck have proven to be a fruitful use of her Bachelor of Science in Apparel & Textiles with specialization in Apparel Marketing from Kansas State University. Her sales number in the millions and she’s experienced 18% growth this year vs. last.
“Like everyone else in my major, we all aspired to move to NYC and work for a big fashion house,” Anderson says. “The reality is, most of us ended up at retail after graduation, including myself. My first job out of college was at Saks Fifth Avenue.” That’s quite the journey for the small-town girl from “middle-of-nowhere Kansas,” where she grew up literally blocks away from the World’s Largest Ball of Twine and whose graduating class totaled 70, which was considered large.
Nine months after starting the Saks gig, though, the store closed unexpectedly. “What I didn’t know was that Kansas City was ripe with apparel sourcing companies, and within just a few weeks, I was working for a local apparel supplier,” she says. “That job is what got me into ad specialty sales and helped me graduate on to my career at Dri Duck.”
Anderson says top reps have a strong sense of situational awareness, authenticity and a degree of humbleness. “Be real and cut the BS,” she says. “People appreciate when they have an honest, real person that makes them feel comfortable. Sales should be fun, and when you have fun, your customers do too. And they’ll remember you first when the next project comes along.”
And if that wasn’t enough of a tip for you, Anderson shares a favorite quote from Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Key Account Manager,
Brian Stidham has been with EMT for a mere 10 months. But in nominating him, Marketing Manager Kristy Tantillo noted that he’s contributed in helping break company sales records for six of those months in a row.
That’s not all. “He once ate 105 chicken wings in one single setting. He wears fluorescent clothing that creates conversation – and not only because people sitting around him can’t look away. He pays people’s car payments when they are able to prove him wrong, which is never,” Tantillo wrote.
Suffice it to say, Stidham goes at it with gusto. He says to be a success in sales, you must be passionately engaged: “That is it. To be engaged with your client’s pain-points, obstacles and likes. To be engaged in your company’s growth. To be engaged in the success of each project, from start to finish.”
While studying architectural design in college, his goal was designing residential and commercial spaces. “I was drawn by the ‘anything is possible’ aspect and bringing creative visions to life,” he says. Though he’s not designing houses, he’s designing new products and marketing campaigns and is thrilled to see them come to life.
Though Stidham says he’s terrified of heights, there seems to be no end to how far he can soar in his career.
Hub Pen (asi/61966)
With a degree in geography, Marc Sabin got his start in surveying for the highway department in Wisconsin and cartographic work (mapmaking). He had no idea that the road ahead would take him in the direction of ad specialty sales.
The owner of Marc Sabin Marketing, serving as a manufacturer’s rep for the supplier in the Utah, Colorado and Arizona territories, happened into the industry by accident. “I was selling jackets to the sporting goods industry when my factory asked if I would like to call on the ad specialty market,” he says. “‘Sure’ was my answer. When I hung up, I went to the Yellow Pages to see what it was. I really had no idea. It was one of the best phone calls I ever had.”
Sabin believes that flexibility is a key to his success. “Being a field rep is full of ups and downs,” he says. “Over the years they will even out, so you must keep your eye on the big picture.”
Andy Arruda, national sales manager at Hub, credits Sabin’s honesty and straightforward approach as the traits resulting in the stellar relationships he’s built over the past five years representing the company.
Sabin’s persistence and resilience have resulted in a 36% increase in his sales over last year.
#10Katie Swinburn, Senior Account
As a student at West Chester University in PA, Katie Swinburn played defense on the women’s ice hockey team. Today, she’s playing offense for Pop! Promos as their top-selling sales rep and always keeping her eye on the goal.
Although Swinburn initially wanted to be a teacher, after a change of heart, she decided to pursue a career in marketing. “I was asked to interview for a job I had applied to, and was offered the position that day,” she says. “The rest is history.” After 1 ½ years with the company, she finds Pop! Promos and the promotional products industry to be a perfect fit.
Persistence and patience play a role in her sales acumen. “A great seller learns to leave their fear of rejection at the door,” she says. “Even the best seller still hears ‘no’ from time to time.”
Swinburn recommends that other young reps take the time to learn their craft and figure out their own selling style. And when the going gets tough, stick with it and make a strong effort to learn from those who have “been there and done that.”
Kathy Huston is Editor and Christopher Ruvo is Senior Writer for Advantages.