Excellence In Sales Award 2008

Edition: November 2008 - Vol 16 Number 11
Article#: 3059
Author: Repertoire

Excellence In Sales Award: Distributor

Tom Jacob: Personal Touch

Ask Tom Jacob what his job title is with McKesson Medical-Surgical and he'll tell you without hesitation: "sales representative/territory manager/consultant/psychiatrist."

With an approach like that, is it any wonder that Jacob - winner of this year's Excellence in Sales Award for a distributor rep - has increased sales in his territory in the San Francisco Bay area for the past 28 years, despite the many changes that have occurred in the industry over that period of time?

"The physician market isn't the cottage industry it used to be," he says. "But I'm still screwing blood pressure units on walls for customers, helping them move tables. I enjoy doing it. They still appreciate it. I think the little things go a long way. People still buy from people." And that suits Jacob just fine. "This isn't a job for people who don't like people," he says.

Started as a driver

A native of Walnut Creek, Calif., Jacob is the older brother of Brad Jacob, winner of the 2000 Excellence in Sales Award. His dad, Tom Sr., was a salesman in the hardware industry. "He was a good communicator," says Jacob. "Friendly. He was always good with a joke. He could talk to anybody. He was good at engaging people."

"I always knew I would be in sales," he continues. "It was a matter of finding an industry that interested me, and products I liked as well as the opportunity."

He stumbled on that opportunity as a student at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., when he took a job as a driver for Sierra Medical, a Sacramento, Calif.-based physician distributor. "I loved the customer contact," he says. "I formed a lot of personal relationships just as a driver." He moved into customer service for the company, then joined a competitor, Bischoff's Surgical Supply in Oakland. After four months in customer service, he got his first territory. It's essentially the same one he has today.

"I was always pretty good with people in terms of making conversation," he says. "But my selling skills needed to be sharpened a bit." He credits two people and a corporation with helping him do just that.

The first person was Don Martin, a sales manager at Bischoff's. "He had the ability to keep things very simple," says Jacob. For example, Martin taught him the difference between two customer questions: "What's your price?" and "How much is it?" "When someone asks, 'What's your price?' that means they want to work out a deal; they want you to help them out," he says. But when someone asks, "How much is it?" they're usually ready to buy, and with little to no haggling.

The second person was Buddy Weeks, an executive with Intermedco when Jacob was at Bischoff's. (Intermedco had acquired Bischoff's.) "I had always heard about the Buddy Weeks sales school," recalls Jacob. He had heard, for example, that during the one-week program, Weeks dressed up as a General George Patton-type and put the fear of God into young reps. "I was shaking like a leaf going to this thing" when his turn to go to the school came up, he says.

Turns out everything he had heard about Weeks and the school was pretty right-on. "He'd come in with his helmet and riding crop. We were young, apple-cheeked kids, and he'd be in your face yelling, 'What's your name, kid?'" After a week of instruction, videotaping and role-playing, Jacob returned to his territory fired up. "[In addition to] liking and enjoying people and being able to engage them in conversation, now I had the selling skills added in," he says. "I came back sharp and ready."

The third influence was Midmark Corp., from whom he learned the acronym "LAPAR." That means listen, acknowledge, probe and respond. "It's really listening to what the customer is saying; acknowledging that and letting them know you understand them; then probing; and responding again. It's really what the selling process is."

Selling by listening

"Selling is really listening," he says. "It's letting the customer do the talking." He cites a story related by Dale Carnegie in his book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." The story goes that while at a VIP dinner one night, Carnegie allowed the person next to him do virtually all of the talking. At the end of the night, the person reportedly told the host that Carnegie was the most interesting guy he had ever met. "People love to talk about themselves," says Jacob.

On his sales calls, Jacob does more than his share of listening. But he also makes sure he acts on the information he is given. "I don't want to let a customer down," he says. "From the time they place their order to the time they open it up and put it on the shelf, I don't want anything to go wrong. If something isn't right, I always ask, 'What can I do to make it right?'" Doesn't matter if it was a problem caused by Jacob, the customer or some third party.

"It's important not to just hear what your customers tell you, but to really listen, and then to act upon it. That's not to say there aren't a lot of problems. It's just to make sure everything is corrected and right."

On the streets

It is that approach that has served Jacob well in the field for 28 years, and one that he practiced on the street for 20 years as a cop for the Walnut Creek police force. He just retired from the force two years ago.

"I was always interested in law enforcement, and I had considered a career in it," he says. Working for Sierra Medical and Bischoff's changed all that. But then a buddy on the Walnut Creek force told him he could serve on the force part-time. So Jacob attended the police academy, spending nights and weekends learning how to be a cop.

Being a cop offered an interesting contrast to his life as a medical products salesperson. "During the day I'm out selling in a professional working environment. At night, I'm wrestling in the bushes, handcuffing somebody."

Jacob liked most of the people he met as a cop, just as he likes his physician-office customers. "I was pretty easygoing on the street," he says. "If I stopped a kid for speeding, the parents would generally get a call from me, because I had kids the same age. And calling the parents was probably a better experience [for everyone] than sending the kid home with a ticket."

Of course, some people were hard to like. "I dealt with a lot of family disputes, auto accidents, homeless people, intoxicated people, dead people, emergency situations. It gave me a whole different perspective on how truly lucky I was."

Then there was the guy with a gun hidden in his waistband. "One night I was out with Brad, who would ride with me occasionally." He spotted a guy in a commuter parking lot, who looked suspicious. An hour later, as they passed the lot, the guy was still there. "We're taught in training that if it's late, [a person isn't acting right], is wearing bulky clothing, it's reasonable to do a pat search, meaning you quickly pat him down to make sure they don't have any weapons. That's legal; it's considered officer safety."

After instructing his brother to stay in the car, Jacob asked the man some questions. "Things weren't quite right in his answers," he says. Jacob found out the guy had a warrant for unpaid traffic tickets. "Things started to go downhill from there," he recalls. As he patted the man down, he could tell the guy's heart was racing and muscles were tensing. "As I went around his waistband, I could feel a gun. The fight was on."

Overall, working as a cop was a great experience. "I had a lot of fun, and I also saw some very sad things. But we did a lot of fun things together, played jokes on each other. It broke my heart to go. But when you turn 50, you notice some of the priorities of your life change." And he had had enough of the risks that policemen face.

Today, Jacob stays in shape, and has found a new passion - golf. "I don't see the gym as much as I used to," he says, though he stays in shape. He started playing golf as a way of connecting with his son, Michael, who now is a senior in high school. But he found many friends through golf, and plays with customers as well. In addition to Michael, he has two daughters: Amy, 24, a hair stylist in Southern California; and Lindsey, a recent grad from San Diego State University, who at press time was looking for a job as a medical salesperson. His wife, Betsy, enjoys tennis in her spare time.

"Tommy possesses incredible interpersonal skills," says McKesson Medical-Surgical Vice President of Sales Ron Simpson. "Whether you are a nurse, a physician or a CEO, he demonstrates the ability to lead and respond in the sales call accordingly. He understands the underlying motivations of the deal. He presents the personal win and the corporate win to his customers as appropriate.

"The most exciting thing for us and Tom is that his performance has not peaked yet!" says Simpson. "He is currently growing his business at approximately 10 percent this year."

Excellence In Sales Award: Distributor Runner-up

Steve Garger: As Expected

If it's Tuesday morning, it must be Saratoga. And from there, it's Glens Falls. And so on and so forth.

Steve Garger is there, at his customers' doorstep, as advertised. "They know that every Tuesday morning, I'm in Saratoga. And if I'm not in Saratoga by noon, they're calling me and saying, 'Where are you?'" Garger, an account manager for McKesson Medical-Surgical in Upstate New York, is the runner-up for this year's Excellence in Sales Award for a distributor sales rep.

It's not sexy, it's not crazy. But it works.

"In this business, it's the consistency of a call schedule," says Garger, a six-time McKesson President's Club member. Not only does the customer get superior service, but Garger gets sales. "It makes it difficult for a customer to dump me," he says of his rigid adherence to schedule. "They know me. It's 15 years walking through their door every other Tuesday."

Time management is key

Garger was raised in Newington, Conn., just south of Hartford. His father, John, was a salesman for Huntington Labs (now Ecolab). "I learned a lot from him," says Garger. "The No. 1 thing is that time management is absolutely the biggest key to this business. You can get swallowed up running around in circles if you don't have a good handle on time management. He was very good at it.

"And he always taught me to treat people the way you would want to be treated, period. He even taught me that whatever the deal, the customer is always right. Even if you have to eat something and it costs you money, you're going to have this customer for life."

Young Garger got a firsthand feel for savings while attending Northeastern University in Boston. He got a real estate license and began leasing apartments. "It was a beautiful thing," he recalls. "On a Saturday, you could lease four or five apartments, and get a month or so commission."

He spent his first three years of college at Northeastern. Then, after visiting at friend at the University of Arizona, he transferred there. "I decided I could handle that for a couple of years," he says. And so he did, graduating in 1992 with a degree in marketing.

Company car was cool

Upon his return to New York, he took another sales job - selling waste removal services to restaurants and hotels. "I thought it was cool at the time, with the company car," he recalls. He learned that he liked dealing with people, and he liked sales, but he did not necessarily like that particular job. It was primarily salaried, with some incentives. "My father, who was a 100-percent-commissioned sales rep, said, 'You gotta get out of that. You won't make any money. You have to have a 100-percent-commissioned job." So after six or eight months, he started looking at other things.

He found General Medical (now McKesson). "I didn't know the difference between a band-aid and a suture," he says. "But there were a couple of guys who took me under their wing." Soon after he started, General Medical acquired Foster Medical, a big Northeast distributor. Garger moved to Albany, where he and his family still live today.

Repeat business

Medical sales differed from the waste-removal business in that it is a repeat business, says Garger. "Once you made a sale in waste management, you were pretty much done," he recalls. But medical sales forced him to exercise some of the skills his father had taught him.

"In this business, I am 100 percent responsible for what goes on in my accounts. A hundred percent accountable. I tell my customers, 'Everything comes down to me. If we ship something wrong, it's my fault. I'll fix it.'" He also quickly learned the importance of getting down the call schedule. "I'm one of the few guys who still sees their people in person on a regular call schedule," he says. Other reps may make infrequent or irregular visits. "But I make it a habit to see my customers in person, big or small."

If for some reason he can't make it in person, he has a strong backup - customer service rep Mariana Chaves, with whom he has worked for 12 years. "I'm fortunate to have what I believe - and I believe my customers would testify to this - the best customer service rep in the business," he says. "If I'm not available, my customers are 100 percent comfortable dealing with her. I can go away and not worry one lick."

He has another backup too. "The manufacturer partners I choose are the people who will be there after the sale," he says. "That just goes such a long way. If one of my customers has a problem with something they purchased from me, that's now my problem. I can potentially gain a customer's trust by doing the right thing. But if I don't have a manufacturer's rep who will back me up, I'm in a jam."

Given the size of his territory, Garger often has to rely on manufacturers to do demos solo. "But my customers know that whoever I'm sending in, they can trust."

Showing value

When he is face to face with his customers, Garger makes sure they know the value he brings them day after day, notes Luke Christensen, sales manager, North Region, McKesson Medical-Surgical. "Whether in the form of a new in-house test, a Web-based ordering system, or the help and advice he gives on new office set-ups, his accounts always know what he does for them. And he diplomatically and assuredly makes sure they do not forget."

"Yeah, I'm pretty straightforward," says Garger. "I have to differentiate myself from the competition that comes from everywhere," he adds. "What makes me different? I'm the guy who brought that disinfectant to your house one Sunday night at 10 o'clock. The Internet doesn't do that. I'm the guy you call when your sterilizer is jammed. 'Steve, do you have a loaner?' 'Yeah, doc. I'll bring one over.'

"I make a point to let them know what separates me from others. I have to point these things out. I don't just point it out; I spell it out."

Some customers don't appreciate his value-added offerings. In such cases, Garger might have to fire them. For example, there was the doctor whose EKG machine broke down. "I have a loaner EKG in my garage, so I picked it up and brought it to him," recalls Garger. Three days later, he and a manufacturer did a demo on a new machine. Later, when Garger was visiting the office, he noticed a new EKG machine there. "He got it off the Internet," says Garger.

"It irks me, but it's the nature of the business. I tell rookies, you have to have thick skin. But you can't let anybody walk all over you.

"I treat my customers the way I want to be treated. But if they don't treat me the way I want to be treated, eventually, we part ways. Quite frankly, I fired that customer."

Big picture

"What makes Steve's business great is the makeup of his base business," says Christensen. "He has the 22-doc, eight-location practices; the surgery centers and the urgent care clinics. He also has a lion's share of the one-to-three-doctor practices in and around Albany. Steve is superb at balancing his business portfolio. Having an innate ability to see 'big picture,' he is always working on the next account, the next big setup, and the managing of his margin overall.

"Steve treats all of his customers with the same amount of urgency," continues Christensen. "The one-doctor practice feels just as important as his largest account. Steve treats his accounts as business partners, knowing what is good for the account, but never discounting the value-adds that he brings to the table.

"Steve is above all a team player. He is always available for questions, and almost always knows the answers. He has been a mentor for new hires both within his region, and for new hires companywide. He supports company initiatives and helps shape new corporate programs. Steve is a thought leader for McKesson. He is consistent in his greatness and growth. Always willing to lend a hand or thought for the greater picture."

Garger lives with his wife, Kelli, and four kids: 10-year-old triplets Katlyn, Kyle and Christopher; and 8-year-old Matthew.

"Ninety-nine percent of the people I deal with are female nurses," he says. "When we had the triplets, I swear business poured in." With the triplets now 10 years old, he can't play that card anymore. Now it's basic blocking and tackling - owning problems, demonstrating value, and, perhaps most important, being there.

Excellence In Sales Award: Manufacturer

Denny Monnin: Denny Hustle

Even after 34 years as a Midmark sales rep, Denny Monnin refuses to allow his job to become a milk run. Oddly enough, however, it was on a milk run that Monnin got started in business, and which ultimately lead him to receiving this year's Excellence in Sales Award for a manufacturer sales rep.

Milk: The unifying principle

Monnin was born in Russia, Ohio (which, he says, is pronounced "Russah.") It could be said he was destined to become a salesman. "I come from a very small town of 600 people. I remember when I was in grade school, and this guy in town would drop his kids off at school. I thought to myself, 'That looks like he is having a good time and perhaps I'd like to do that kind of work.' I asked his son what his father's job was, and I remember him saying, 'He doesn't have a job. He's a salesman.'"

Out of high school, he took a job as a home delivery milk truck driver for Meyer's Dairy in Minster, Ohio (now Dannon Yogurt). The connections to his future job at Midmark were strong. For example, the person he replaced was Don Kitzmiller, who was leaving for the service during the Vietnam conflict. Kitzmiller would later become vice president of sales for Midmark. He delivered milk to the house of current Midmark chairman Jim Eiting, and he remembers seeing Anne Eiting Klamar, Midmark's current president, when she was just a little girl. "I think that milk is one of the reasons she is doing such a great job," he says.

And he had a helper on his route - 7th-grader Dick Moorman, who would later become Midmark's vice president of sales, and Monnin's current boss. "Gosh, I'm glad I treated him so good!" says Monnin today.

Delivering milk (and cottage cheese, eggs, potato chips, butter, etc.) for Meyer's was a good fit. "I'd start my delivery at 4:30 [a.m.]," says Monnin, who is still an early riser. And it taught him some valuable lessons about sales. "A milkman and a salesman are both in sales, as both are dealing with people. And when [one of my customers] wanted a quart of milk, I would always ask, 'Chocolate or white or both?'"

Jewelry sales

As most young men of his generation, Monnin served in the nation's military. During the fifth week of basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., the company commander called out three names - his being one - and told them that they would report to Fort Richardson in Alaska for the duration of their military service. The rest of the company went on to infantry training and Vietnam. "To this day, I don't know why I was so lucky."

After his discharge from the service, Monnin tried college, but after a couple of quarters, he realized it wasn't for him. "I needed to get out and move around." So he took a job as a sales rep selling fine jewelry and cosmetic jewelry for now-defunct Gaytone Products, based in Dayton, Ohio. For four years, he covered five southern states as well as Ohio and Michigan.

Four years on the road taught Monnin how to adapt to heavy traveling. He also learned the value of having new things to show his customers. "I liked telling them, 'I'm coming and I have something to show you I think you'll really like.'" He still enjoys doing that.

In 1975, Monnin got a call from Don Kitzmiller asking if he'd be interested in an opening Midmark had in Philadelphia. But Monnin and his wife, Joannie, had just built a house, and he wasn't interested in relocating. "I remember telling Don if anything local opened up, I would definitely be interested," he says. Later that year, such a territory opened. "Thank God it did, because I never would have had a better experience than I have had with Midmark."

The job tested Monnin's time management skills. "My biggest problem was covering 5 states. Seems like I would be in Kentucky, and somebody needed me in Michigan." Today, he covers Ohio, and that suits him just fine. "I love being involved in every sale I can," he says.

Distributor relationships

In April, Monnin celebrated 33 years with Midmark. During that time, many things have changed. But his approach to the job has not.

Randy Reichenbach, co-owner (with his wife) of Columbus, Ohio-based Medical Resources, recalls first crossing paths with Monnin about 15 years ago. At the time, Reichenbach's company was selling a competitive product. "He was a fearless competitor, very tough," says Reichenbach. "We were just a little player, and he did everything he could to compete against us. He has a passion that very few people have. Pure passion. But it's positive passion."

Today, Medical Resources carries the Midmark line, and Monnin is the best manufacturer's rep the company has, says Reichenbach. "Denny has complete knowledge of his products. He believes in those products. And he passionately fights for every sale he can get. He hates to lose. At the same time, he's ethical."

Monnin has been known to take Medical Resources' warehouse crew to Cincinnati Reds games, which is no small feat. "He picks them up, drives them down to Cincinnati, then drives them back to Columbus," says Reichenbach. "Then he drives back to Versailles [where Midmark is located] that night. And that's about a two-hour drive."

Monnin and his wife have hosted the entire Medical Resources team at their house for a cookout. And he's been known to show up at Medical Resources' warehouse at 4 p.m. with a big wagon behind him. That's for roasting a pig. He stays all night, camping out with a buddy. The next day, he treats the staff to lunch. "And I'm sure we're not the only ones he does this for," says Reichenbach.

More important, Monnin is on the scene anytime a Medical Resources customer needs a demo. "You don't know where all this energy comes from," says Reichenbach. "He looks like a laid-back country boy. But when it comes to sales, he closes that sale. He gives that doctor no option but to buy from him."

In fact, if Monnin were a baseball player, he would be Pete Rose, former second-baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, Monnin's favorite baseball team. (He's attended every home opener since 1969.)

"Why do I like Pete Rose?" he asks. "Because if he would have been a salesman, think how great he would have been. His nickname was Charlie Hustle. He didn't walk to first base; he ran to first base. He was never satisfied if he went 3 for 4; he was upset he didn't go 4 for 4."

Closing the deal

Monnin thrives on working with his distributor partners to close deals. "Years ago, we sold off literature more," he says. "But today, the biggest thing is getting in front of the end user with the rep and showing the product. You get it in the office and set it alongside of what they're currently using. You're selling by the senses. When you can get that doctor to sit on that table, lie on it, run it up and down, he can see how he'll benefit from it."

Much as he enjoys joint calls with distributor reps, he occasionally calls on end users on his own. "It might be 3 [p.m.] and I see a large hospital or something. I'll pull in there, go into purchasing, take them a catalog, make sure they know who we are and what we do. I want to make sure they're aware that if they need something, they can call me."

Says Matt Bourne, Midwest regional manager for Midmark's medical division, "If you have ever spent time with Denny, you quickly realize that he has a magnificent character trait that allows people to feel comfortable in their own skin when they are around him. This is one reason why he is so successful training new distributor sales reps in his territory. You would think that someone who has been rolling along for over three decades could get used to working with select dealer partners. While Denny values the long-term relationships he has developed, he also welcomes the opportunity to work with fresh faces to the industry."

According to Monnin, "I do like training new reps about my products. I feel no one will talk about something they don't know, and if they know your products or know how to look for opportunities, they will get you leads. Together, you can help them close a sale and hopefully put some money in their pocket."

But Monnin's interest in people - his customers, colleagues and distributors - extends beyond working hours. "I feel more can be done and learned about a customer before 8 [a.m.] and after 5 [p.m.]. Take a person to a ballgame or go hunting or fishing with them, and you will really get to know that person and perhaps their family, and it becomes more of a relationship than just a business.

"I've been fortunate to have great products and backup support, which really does help to build relationships. I feel it starts in your company, then with your distributors, and even with the end users."

Says Dick Moorman, "Even back in the 1960s, I learned from Denny that the relationship you hold with your customer and with your company is the single most important thing you can have. Denny had something about him that people just naturally wanted to be around him. He knew every customer on a personal level and everyone always wanted to see Denny. Always quick with a joke or a story, Denny has a way to make you feel good when you are with him."

Moorman shares this story about Monnin. "When I first traveled with Denny he tested my mettle for sure. He would do things like tell me to be ready at 3 a.m. to be picked up and drive to Michigan. That morning at 3 a.m. as a new 21-year-old college kid, who hadn't seen a 3 a.m. wakeup call ever, riding four hours in the passenger seat, it was hard to stay awake. As I would nod off, Denny would pop me in the chest and say, 'Wake up rookie! You don't sleep on the job for any company!' And then he would laugh that laugh. He would teach you a lesson and at the same time make you feel good about it."

Monnin and his wife, Joannie, have been married 38 years. "She has never met a stranger, and makes everyone feel like our house is theirs while they are visiting," he says. His daughter, Heather Wenrick, has been a customer service rep at Midmark for 12 years. His son, Aaron, works at Clopay Corp. in Russia, a manufacturer of garage doors. "He has helped me over the years with Midmark, whether it was a cookout or hog roast or even delivering exam tables," says Monnin of his son.

Excellence In Sales Award: Manufacturer Runner-up

Derek Thompson: Fast on His Feet

Not to get too philosophical, but life is a series of experiences. If we're smart, we learn from each one of them. By the time we're ready to pack it in, we have what some would call "wisdom." Though still young, Derek Thompson has accumulated a variety of life experiences, and he's learned from them all. For example, he was a point guard and shooting guard on his college basketball team, and he spent three years selling car rental services to everyone from body-shop owners to insurance companies. His father is a medical products salesman, and he has taught his son some valuable lessons as well. So, Thompson has a pretty good head start on the wisdom thing.

It was in recognition of his heads-up approach to sales that Thompson, who is an ambulatory care sales rep for Welch Allyn in New England, was named runner-up for the Excellence in Sales Award for manufacturer reps.

Basketball lessons

Born in Richmond, Va., Thompson's family moved back to Rhode Island, where his parents are from, when he was 2 years old. His father, Brian, worked for Welch Allyn for a couple of years back in the 1970s. He held several sales and sales management positions after that, then started his own rep firm.

Young Thompson received a half scholarship to play basketball for the Assumption College Greyhounds in Worcester, Mass. He played all four years, as a point guard and shooting guard, and was the captain of his team in his senior year. Playing basketball taught him several lessons, which he carries into his professional and personal life today.

"Being a point guard helped me communicate with people," he says. "Even at a young age, I knew that communicating - being the floor general, keeping everyone together - was big." He uses those communication and motivational skills today in his relationships with distributor reps, whom he views as teammates.

The second lesson he took away from basketball was how to harness competitiveness to his advantage. "Obviously, the competitiveness of college basketball has worked well in sales, in helping me with that competitive drive, which wants me to be at the top of my game."

Third lesson? How to deal with adversity. "That was the biggest thing I learned from my coach," he says. A basketball player - any athlete, for that matter - will experience adversity throughout a season. "You go through it five or six times in a single game," he adds. "But keeping a positive attitude helps people get through adversity. Products don't work perfectly all the time, situations occur. But you never put your head down."

After graduating from Assumption, Thompson and three of his teammates moved to Boston and rented a triple-decker house. It was a time of quiet contemplation and reflection. Not.

The car rental business

In fact, Thompson took a job with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. It was a challenging, multifaceted job, which taught him a lot about the professional world, and dealing with and selling to many kinds of people. Enterprise was driven primarily by the insurance rental business, explains Thompson. In other words, rather than pursuing customers renting cars for pleasure or business, the company targeted insurance companies, whose clients were in auto accidents and needed a rental car until their own was repaired or replaced. "One day, you're calling on body shops, because you want them to refer their customers to Enterprise; and the next, you're calling on the insurance companies themselves, trying to get them to refer their customers to Enterprise too," he says. And every so often, he'd find himself washing cars in the lot in his suit.

Thompson learned much at Enterprise, and he speaks highly of its sales and management training programs. But he saw the job as a stepping-stone. After three years, he found himself looking for something else. "I didn't know much about medical sales, but I had had conversations with my dad," he says. It was his dad who told him about an opening with Welch Allyn in New England. He pursued the position, and in 2000, "they gave me a shot."

Family culture attractive

Thompson was attracted to the family culture of his new company. "It was very different from Enterprise. I just felt it was more of a career." He got the territory of New Hampshire, Maine and eastern Massachusetts, which he maintains today.

At Welch Allyn, he put to good use the lessons he had learned in college and at Enterprise. "I found out that no matter what you're selling - a medical product or an insurance product - the communication and team-building were pretty much the same," he says. "I used a 'be myself' kind of approach, and I worked to build the respect and trust of the distributors and physician end-users." He had learned that once you have built up respect and trust, you can do things together that you couldn't do alone.

At Welch Allyn, he also put to use two things his father had showed him about sales - the importance of listening and follow-up. "He always taught me to listen more during a sales call than talk. And that's what I try to do." He applies the principle not only to end-user calls, but those with distributors as well. "I try to sell based on the information they give me," he says of his customers. If you fail to do so, you can end up spending a lot of time talking about things that your customer doesn't really care about.

The second piece of advice his father gave him was to follow up "a hundred percent of the time, not 75 percent," he says. "You make sure you're in the loop with that distributor each and every time you touch one of their accounts. It's not rocket science, but it's something you have to do every day."

In the loop

Judging from what distributor reps say about Thompson, it's clear he is in the loop. Some examples:

"Derek understands the dynamics involved and will do whatever it takes when it comes down to getting a deal done." - Rick Gardella, regional sales manager for Henry Schein.

"Derek has the presentation and selling skills to close the deal. He is someone you can easily take into any account and have the confidence that he will represent you, himself and Welch Allyn in the utmost professional way each and every time." - Sue Mercier, marketing manager, McKesson Medical-Surgical.

"Derek is a wealth of knowledge with his products and the industry as a whole." - John Schmertzler, Cardinal Health.

"You never have to worry about his follow up, whether it is with me or a customer. He's always on top of his game." - Dick Daley, Affiliated Healthcare Systems.

Thompson and his wife, Tricia, live in Kennebunk, Me., with their two kids - 3-year-old Jacob and 1-year-old Brielle. Ironically, the couple got the idea for Brielle's name from one of Thompson's distributor reps at Affiliated Healthcare Systems, who has a daughter by the same name.

He still plays basketball regularly. "He's not selfish with the ball, he makes good decisions, and he's fast on his feet," says Bill Sweeney, Northeast regional manager, Welch Allyn. "He approaches sales leadership in much the same way. He elevates the whole team just by being in the game."