Distributor Salesperson of the Year Finalist - Kelly Stone

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Kelly Stone literally had to start her ad specialty sales career from scratch. After she left Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601) about three years ago, she figured her future would be in selling protein bars, not promo products. “I was working with the celebrity chef Mr. Food and I really thought what we were selling would take off,” Stone says. “But sales were slow and protein bars don’t have a long shelf life, so momentum dwindled.”

A lesser salesperson might have felt sorry for herself, but not Stone. She couldn’t tap into her old accounts, but she worked her network and quickly was selling promo items again. “I decided to go to work for myself and I partnered with Proforma (asi/300094),” she says. “I started back in September of 2013, and in the last quarter of that year, I did $400,000 in sales. For 2015, I did about $1 million.”

And Stone, who owns Florida-based The Idea Box, powered by Proforma, is just getting started. She recently won a large multimillion-dollar deal with a Fortune 500 transportation client. “We’re doing online incentive platforms for them and we’ll be providing print and promo products,” she says. “They really wanted to go to a single source for their programs, and that’s what we are.”

Stone also considers herself a source for great ideas. One promo product that’s won her considerable business of late is a customized rechargeable video brochure. “You open the flap and there’s a video embedded in it,” she says. “Different buttons can play different videos. One insurance client used the book for training modules – they did 700 pieces. It’s really attention-grabbing.”

Unsurprisingly, Stone expects 2016 to be her best year yet – but she won’t rest on her recent success. “I’m going to get my new large customer up and running first,” she says, “but the second half of the year I want to find another large client.”

Kelly’s best advice: Trust your gut. “Make sure you always have a solution for a client.”