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.
GE Distribution Services (asi/200158)
In 2013, Sharon Mann’s future was uncertain – not just her professional career, but her life. That year, the CEO of GE Distribution Services was diagnosed with kidney disease and subsequent liver failure, and the only solution was to have a double organ transplant.
Almost instantly after a year-long approval process to be added to the transplant waiting list, Mann got a call that her surgery would be in just three days. “I wasn’t ready!” she says. “I was prepared to wait for two or three years. But then they said, ‘Well, be here in three days or we’re giving the kidney and liver to someone else,’ and I said, ‘I’m on my way!’”
After a successful surgery and two months recuperating in the hospital, Mann was back full-time at her job and hitting her sales numbers again. “Because of her determination,” says Diona Adzika, the distributor’s CFO, “2017 was our best year yet.”
It was a test of her faith and resolve, says Mann, who went through several years of treatment before her surgery. “The people around me, particularly my clients, had never dealt with me sick. I was in the hospital for a week every month. My team set up a home office for me, so I was able to do web meetings. I have great relationships with my customers. They hung in because the service was still there,” says Mann, crediting her team for helping to maintain that level of service.
In fact, Mann has known her two major clients, Comcast and Blue Cross Blue Shield, since she sold them paper at her first job in the 1980s. In 2006, when she established GE Distribution Services just outside Detroit, they forged ahead with her. “I grew up with them,” she says. “People ask how I get customers and I say, ‘I don’t know! I’ve had mine forever!’”
But she keeps them satisfied by offering second-to-none consultative service, including bringing more creative ideas than they originally expected. And as a rule, she won’t work with prospects looking for the cheapest items. “If they’re buying just on price, I’m not the one for them, because then I can’t offer quality items and quality control,” she says. “I want to build a relationship. And if they’re shopping on price, they’re going to be jumping all over.”
It was the strong relationships Mann has nurtured over the years that weathered her health scare, which has given her new perspective. “This business is not life or death,” she says.
“Sometimes, we just have to let it go because it’s out of our control. If we made a mistake, we go back to them and apologize. But as long as we’ve done the best we can, that’s all that matters.”