Distributor Salesperson of the Year Finalist: Jacques Marais, Creative Marketing Concepts

The Advantages Distributor Salesperson of the Year and award finalists were determined by a panel of ASI staff using the following criteria: annual sales, year-over-year increase in sales, colleague testimonials, prestige of clients and creativity in recent promotional campaigns.

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Jacques Marais
Creative Marketing Concepts (asi/170631)

Jacques Marais is enthusiastic about his career: “Sometimes I think, ‘I’ve reached a ceiling. It can’t possibly get better than this,’” he says. “And then we see a huge amount of growth, and I realize the sky’s the limit!”

It’s exactly the opportunity Marais (pronounced Mah-RAY) was seeking several years ago as a young professional in his native South Africa, working in media production but feeling that his creative skills were being inhibited. So he decided to relocate to the U.S. with a friend who had space for a roommate, and also knew someone who had worked at Creative Marketing Concepts (CMC). In 2013, Marais was living in the Bay Area, splitting his time between a video production internship and temping in the distributor’s fulfillment department. “Honestly, I just needed the cash,” he says, about taking the temp job with CMC. “I didn’t want to go back to South Africa and be a big fish in a small pond.” But soon, it became more than just a temporary position, and Marais quickly rose through the ranks to the position he’s in today, leading CMC’s San Jose branch and his three direct reports.

Now having known Marais for four years, CEO Zachary Tyler isn’t surprised. “Jacques has a real commitment to coming through for his clients and an eye for great product, and he’s fortunate to have a work ethic commensurate with his grand ambitions and intellectual capacity,” says Tyler. “He consistently pushes himself past former comfort zones, and overcomes the anxiety we all face when confronting a new challenge. He’s a man of tremendous fortitude, and he and his all-star staff work seamlessly together.”

It’s that commitment to doing right by clients that’s landed Marais some big accounts, including discerning clients in the New York financial industry. When he first started the San Jose office, he proved his mettle by reviving a dying account located in the Big Apple. “I thought, ‘Why not work at it?’” he says. “We went from $18,000 to $220,000 in 18 months. It took perseverance and understanding what they want. And then people there have referred us to other companies as they move around, so I’m talking to so many more people than if I was just cold-calling.”

And it’s working; the San Jose office’s sales increased 61% between 2016 and 2017, from $3.6 million to $5.8 million. Marais credits referrals with bringing in 60% of his team’s business. “I just ask for them,” he says. “I say, ‘Do you have any friends in the area?’ People are afraid to ask because they don’t want to sound too sales-y, but they shouldn’t be afraid. They expect you to ask!”