Every top salesperson has a credo, something that rules their every move and dictates their approach on every call and with every call. For Ken Wittenberg, a group president for Top 40 distributor firm Summit Group (asi/339116), that mantra is rather simple.
Focus on the solution, not the problem. It’s something he tries to remember when he’s talking to each and every one of his clients – and the approach has certainly served him well.
Wittenberg’s sales grew by 19% between 2012 and 2013. Yet, despite his success, the self-described introvert isn’t one to seek the spotlight. “The people who work around me are really the ones who deserve the credit,” he says. “Everyone is internally motivated and passionate about making a difference.”
Besides his team, he relies on strong business ethics and gives a nod to an adage that Michael Jordan made popular: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
Wittenberg says he, too, learns more from losing than winning. “Every time I lose, I try to find out why,” he says. Again, focus on the solution rather than the problem. Wittenberg doesn’t get weighed down by missteps. Instead, he takes notes about them, remembers how things could have been done better, and makes sure to apply that better approach the next time.
Although he has marked an impressive 25 years with Summit Group, his early aspirations included working in the financial market. However, a friend in the incentive industry helped him take a detour. He started as a sales apprentice at one company, a far cry from his current role as group president at Summit.
Married and a proud dad to three children, when Wittenberg isn’t finding solutions for customers, he enjoys playing golf, fishing and basketball. That’s on those rare occasions when he has downtime. “On average, I work about 15 hours a day,” he says. “But each day is so different. I never feel stagnant. It’s fun to see the industry evolve so quickly.”
Wittenberg encourages other reps to learn something new every day, and then use the knowledge to become a solutions provider to clients and prospects. That partnership mentality helped save a valuable relationship with a major client recently.
“The very first order we did was an absolute disaster,” he says. “The supplier produced it incorrectly, the branding on it was poor quality, the product didn’t meet the standards and they were late on delivery. Yet what’s memorable is the way we resolved it. The customer never forgot that. It’s turned into a long-term partnership that was built on trust and making good on any problems or issues that come up.”