Distributor Salesperson of the Year 2017 - Theresa Roberts

Theresa Roberts loves to explore.

Whether it’s traveling around Ireland or traversing hiking trails in Arizona, Roberts thrives on the excitement of seeing what’s around the next corner.

>>Meet all the Salesperson of the Year Finalists here!

She’s taken the same wide-eyed, forward-looking approach to her 30-year career in promotional product sales. Her curiosity has helped her to continually grow with the times and her customers – an evolution that’s fueled her ascent to the pinnacle of her profession as this year’s Distributor Salesperson of the Year.

“I love what I do,” says Roberts, whose annual sales increased about 40% in 2016. “It makes coming to work each day a joy.”

Evidence of Roberts’ ongoing growth is seen in everything from her embrace of new marketing mediums to her keen ability to meet the demands of next-generation buyers. Last year, for example, one of Roberts’ most significant professional achievements was helping develop programs, products and branding initiatives for Carvana, a Phoenix-based technology startup that lets consumers shop, finance and trade in used cars through its website. Roberts’ combination of experience, on-trend branding knowledge, warm personality and consultative service helped her win the devotion of the 20-something buyers at the company.

“Once the relationship was formed, it became very clear that Theresa would bend over backwards for us,” says Carvana’s Kristin Dunmyre. “She takes our crazy ideas and makes them a reality. Above all else, Carvana cares about quality customer experiences. Theresa helps us find quality items that play a big role in that customer experience. We wouldn’t trade Theresa and the Boundless team for anything.”

Podcast: Listen to Theresa's secret to success!

Many of Roberts’ clients – long-term and brand-new ones – feel the same way. To keep a steady flow of these loyal customers in her pipeline, Roberts prospects tirelessly. She and her team routinely put together creative self-promotions, from distributing branded adult coloring books at trade shows, to sending product-packed “brand boxes” as part of direct-mail campaigns, to leveraging social media through Instagram marketing initiatives. “If I cannot promote myself, how can I expect my clients and prospects to trust me to promote their brand?” Roberts says.

While clever prospecting is important, it’s all for naught unless you make yourself a valuable resource to clients, says Roberts. Her advice on how to do that? Never take customers for granted, stay on top of trends, consistently present new ideas, understand clients’ businesses and needs, and build personal relationships – something that is best done face-to-face.

“We hear so much about the buyers today only wanting to work via email and online, but my experience this past year has proven that theory wrong,” says Roberts. “Being involved and collaborating as you work side by side is the best way to build relationships with buyers that last a lifetime. You can’t do that through email.”

“Being involved and collaborating as you work side by side is the best way to build relationships with buyers that last a lifetime. You can’t do that through email.”

While Roberts is a resourceful self-made business woman, she’s fast to spread credit to the people she says have been essential to her success. She mentions Linda Sanborn, who patiently mentored her when she entered the industry. She also gushes about the invaluable help she gets from her support team, insisting their names – Aaron Montavon, Nancy Carrillo and Ann Colleary – be mentioned.

Roberts also heralds her husband. For years now, Fran Ford – himself a legend in the promo products business – has battled cancer. In his courage and uncomplaining resilience, Roberts takes strength and motivation. “His fortitude never wavers,” she says. “He is an inspiration to me, my kids and everyone around him.”

As 2017 gets underway, Roberts is optimistic about her prospects in both the personal and professional spheres. Professionally, she’ll continue executing the strategy that’s elevated her into the upper echelon of industry sales professionals. Personally, she’ll take joy in her three adult children and continue to support her husband in his cancer fight – a battle she believes they can win together.

“I’m looking forward,” she says, “to a good year.”