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Sales Executive Interview – Kurt Gairing Jr.
By James Rothaar
If you are looking for advice on salesmanship, it is always best to seek that type of information from people who know their profession. There are many ways to define success. However, when you are quantifying sales professionals, it is a little easier to cut the chase. It is all in their numbers. So, we thought that it might be a learning experience to chat with a salesperson with a successful track record in B2B, commission-only sales.
Only the best of the best survive in this environment. Kurt Gairing Jr., an Account Executive for Fontis Solutions, a Corona, California-based marketing solutions company, has been at it for more than 11 years. Mr. Gairing talks about his career path, prospecting and why selling yourself is probably more important than selling products or services.
How did you get into sales, Kurt?
I somewhat followed in my father’s footsteps. He recommended it to me. I liked what [my father] did. I used to go on sales calls with him. I enjoy talking with people. It was like a natural progression for me.
Describe briefly for me what you are selling, please.
I sell all things that are collateral. That ranges from sales tools to promotional items to corporate communications. I sell solutions to my clients.
How did you find your job?
Once again, my father comes into it. He works at the same place I do. I had had two sales jobs previously. My father asked me to consider teaming up with him. It was like a dream coming true, the natural progression of it all.
To you, what are some of the rewards of selling?
Being a salesman can be very lucrative. It is like having your own business. You earn what you are worth. I manage my time all of the time. If I want to make more, I work harder. I love having the control it gives me.
What about drawbacks?
Being your own boss requires a lot of self-discipline. There is more rejection than wins in sales. It is easy to get complacent and slack off. Another drawback is personal; I am never going to be a CEO or a president of a company. I am salesman today and will be one forever. Sometimes, I dream of being a big boss instead of a “hunter.”
What do you think makes a great salesperson?
Character is the key and driving force. Everything else can be added on or improved upon. Reputation is at least half the product you are selling in all circumstances. There are no exceptions. A good salesman has a “whatever it takes” attitude. He builds relationships and sells solutions. He is also a good hunter of business. He is persistent. He doesn’t speak just to say something. Everything has a purpose behind it.
How are sales territories established at your company?
Our sales manager established the territories. However, we have the autonomy to go out of our territories if we are referred.
How are you compensated for your sales?
Commission only; that is why it is so much like being in business for myself. I went from salary plus commission to straight commission only. I have worked that way for more than 11 years now. It is the best!
What type of sales training have you had, and how has it helped?
My original training, unofficial as it may be, it came from my father. My first job out of school was with Xerox. Their sales training was an excellent experience. I still remember what I was taught and revert back to it almost daily.
Does your job involve finding and selling new prospects or handling existing accounts?
I do both prospecting and handling existing accounts.
What percentage of each, ballpark?
Now, that’s a tricky question. I am going to say 50-50; but I really should lean more toward the prospecting side.
What do you look for in a prospect?
I prospect a lot, actually; I am hunter. I look for companies similar to clients I have previously helped. I read trade journals from the businesses [industries] that I service now. I also prospect by going back to clients and asking for referrals. I am always trying to figure out new ways to uncover business. If you ask me the same question next week, I am sure I would say something I am not saying now.
What types of research do you perform prior to meeting with a client or a prospect?
I find out as much as humanly possible about a client or a prospect. I go online and read about the company. I go to LinkedIn and read about the person I am going to meet. I asked around the office if anyone has done business with the company or the individual. Hell, I even go on Facebook to see what else I can uncover to get to know someone better.
Describe the typical selling process in front of the customer.
Once I am in the door, I try to set the agenda from the get-go to the close. I am as meticulous as a lawyer with my pre-selling process. In my mind, I do a lot of mental rehearsing.
Do you ever team sell?
Occasionally, yes. However, the only time I team-sell is when I bring someone with me who is an expert at what they do to make my presentation more complete and thorough. I am not an expert in all the possible solutions I can sell. If I feel someone else can explain or clarify something better than I could to client or a prospect, I will then team-sell.
What are some of the more common concerns you encounter?
Getting the appointment is my main concern. Selling to new client is hard when all you have to sell is your price for the service. I am always looking for a relationship instead of a one-shot deal. I always try to add value, something special you get from dealing with me that you cannot get anywhere else.
How do you handle them?
I probe to solve something that is currently wrong or that could be made better. I am selling solutions to problems.
Describe your most satisfying selling experience, please. Was it also the most difficult?
It was not my most difficult experience, but it was the biggest commission I ever made. It also was a learning experience that tested my resolve as a solution-oriented professional. I had a client with $1.2 million order that involved making die-cast models for my client. The product I sold them was going to be part of their presentation.
What made this job so satisfying is that my client knew that I would not let them down—even after I admitted not knowing how to deliver the job after our first meeting. I was told, “I believe in you … I am confident that you will not let me down. There is no one else I would assign this job to.”
My client placed a $1.2-million order with me based on our relationship. I have never worked so hard to prove that my client’s faith was well-placed trust. Looking back, my client did the “sales job on me,” not vice-versa. I learned a lesson for life. People believing in you, in your character, and in your reputation is a boost like no other.
Has the selling environment changed for you, and how?
Things move at a faster pace than ever. Finding answers is only part of the solution; finding those answers at the speed of reality is an imperative. It is a difference-maker.
How has the role of technology changed your job?
There is no “I will get back to you tomorrow or next week on that” anymore. We have the technology—use it! Like I said, it all moves faster. The “get back to me time” is the same day. The pace is definitely quicker; clients are more demanding and have higher expectations than ever.
How do you keep yourself updated on the changes in your industry and product line?
It is the same way I learn about clients, businesses, and industries. I read as much as possible from everywhere I can source. Internet, trade papers, people, and of course, my boss. My boss is always trying to make us better at what we do.
More importantly, how do you keep yourself motivated?
Debt does it for me. My ego is large and I love being “the man, ” the one that provides for my family. It gives me immense satisfaction knowing that my boys see me as their role model and their dictator all in one. Have you ever had your son call you a successful person? Maybe my boys are already masterful salesmen. Sales guys really are the easiest marks out there. Push all the right buttons; boom, there it is!
Do you have any advice or a last-add to close on?
Never undervalue the power in building relationships with people. Your reputation is everything in sales, maybe in life itself, in the big picture. You can make a shitload of money as salesman, but a salesman that is full of shit is worthless. You can edit out that out, right?
Actually, I would say that you saved the best for last, Kurt! We tell it like it is at SalesFish. And … apparently … so do you!
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