The Sales Success Stories Book – 60 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals was published October 16, 2018. Learn more: http://top1.fm/book
In between the regular interview episodes, we’ll continue to release sample stories from the book like this one. You can either listen to the episode and hear Kevin read his story, or read the full text below.
Your Network is Everything
By: Kevin Walkup
A smart business person will never burn a bridge. Leaving my last company was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Having landed some of the best accounts in the world, companies in which I’m still invested, which is another story altogether, I had no reason to look elsewhere. My boss and I shared a special bond. He knew he could count on me to produce and build relationships with the right people within the right accounts. He taught me to write down my goals, to keep them top of mine and to strive towards exceeding them every day. Physically checking off a goal as complete as incredibly rewarding and I highly recommend experiencing that type of satisfaction. At the time, I was 25 years old and I was incredibly driven by money. In fact, I still am. I once told my boss that one of my goals is to make $100,000 in one year.
That sounded like more money than I could ever spend. It felt like he took this as a personal challenge and he held me to it. He made sure that I didn’t lose sight and had me draft a plan for how I could accomplish my goal. I will never forget the day that he walked up to my desk, handed me a box and said “congratulations!” and the box was a watch. He had been tracking my progress and knew I had hit my goal. This is over six years ago and I’m wearing that watch as I write this. I think about him every day when I put it on. He was like a father figure to me. When it was time for me to leave the company to pursue a career in software sales. It was a tough conversation. I could’ve quit like that guy in the movie half baked, one’s personal network is too important to do that. I know better than to burn a bridge. Steve understood my decision and told me that the lights will always be on if I ever wanted to come back. Fast forward four years and I’m introduced to an SVP at a multibillion-dollar organization where we have had a great conversation. He tells me he is the ultimate decision maker. However, I need to win over his counterpart, John. In order to proceed, the SVP makes an intro and John replies almost immediately and I quote, “please send me an invitation for 12 noon central next Wednesday. I have 30 minutes. Show me, tell me, wow me”. John gets straight to the point and doesn’t mess around. I thought this guy is not going to be easy. I need to do some homework on John, so I look him up on LinkedIn. Much to my surprise, I see John is connected to my old boss. Steve is in a completely different industry, so it’s not like they’re just randomly connected. Then shoot a quick text over to Steve asking about how he knows John. Seconds later, my phone rings. It’s Steve. He couldn’t believe I just dropped the name of one of his best friends. I tell them about the situation and about the half-ass email I just received from John. He laughs and isn’t surprised. He tells me he will call him. The following Monday morning, I received this email from John: “Okay, you just earned an hour. Smiley face. Steve Hurst called me Friday night. I understand he hired you as a young sales rep in Atlanta. I have an almost 25-year history with that man. Not only is he one of my closest friends on this planet, but he was my business partner. Together as very young guys, we built a world-class business in Columbus, Ohio. My SVP Barry met him at my wedding. He tells me, you are a younger version of me. That was absolutely quite something to hear. He told me the story about the watch he gave you and what you’re made of. I’m looking forward to meeting with you and hearing what you have and how it might help us”. The relationship I kept with Steve over the years changed the entire shape and speed of my conversation with John. I was now walking into a warm room as a trusted adviser carrying some clout rather than meeting with someone that was taking a call because his boss told them to do so.
Two years later, John and I continue to stay in touch and he has become a mentor to me. Had I departed from my last company like Scarface did from half baked, my relationship with Steve would’ve been tarnished and I, therefore, wouldn’t have been walked into an incredible opportunity with an incredible organization. Another mentor of mine, Ralph Barsi once told me, “if you treat people as if they have a 10 on their head, good things will come of it. It may not be today, tomorrow, or even next month, but you will be remembered and it will pay off. Your personal brand works for you 24/7. What is gone today may come back tomorrow and a different shape or form. Allow your network to walk you into accounts with a warm handshake and a smile. Your personal brand and your network will help accelerate your sales process, win more deals and earn more referrals”.
Want more from Kevin Walkup? He was the star of episode 31: SalesLoft‘s Top AE – Kevin Walkup – Leverage Your Network