Excellence in Sales: Jeff Corson
Edition: November 2012 - Vol 20 Number 11
It wasn’t quite the “call of the wild,” but when Jeff Corson saw the medical sales reps calling on the hospital’s purchasing department, where he worked as a respiratory therapist, he was drawn to the profession. “I could see they had the flexibility of coming in and going out, not being in one place all the time. That really appealed to me.” That was back in the early 1980s. Today, he is a sales rep for Henry Schein Medical, calling on physicians and surgery centers in the Florida Panhandle and South Georgia. Corson was selected as a runner-up in the Repertoire/HIDA Excellence in Sales Award for a distributor.
Okinawa to Ozark
Corson, whose father was in the service, was born on the island of Okinawa, but was raised in Ozark, Ala. Right out of high school, he went to work in the respiratory therapy department of a local hospital. “I didn’t have any formal training; it was all on-the-job,” he says. Nevertheless, he was right in the middle of patient care delivery, putting patients on ventilators, drawing blood for arterial blood gas analysis, and more. “I enjoyed patient care, and I learned a lot.” But those sales reps kept calling, and they proved to be a bigger draw.
Understanding that his odds of getting a medical sales job would increase if he had a college degree, he went to Troy State (now Troy University) in Troy, Ala., graduating in 1988 with a marketing/sales degree. He got a job with Bedsole Medical (now Henry Schein) in Mobile.
For close to a year he worked on the inside. He spent three or four months in the warehouse, doing everything from receiving to putting stock away. “They’d let me come into the vendor sales meeting, so I learned a lot about product.”
He got a territory in Niceville, Fla., near Destin, in northwest Florida, and built a territory in Tallahassee from scratch.
Even in those early days of selling, he learned lessons he still applies on the job today. “It’s always hard to call on customers time and time again, when you’re trying to develop some trust,” he recalls. “But after about five years, I started gaining some traction, and things started happening.
Fair price, fair value
“I always prided myself on giving the customer if not the best price, then a fair price, for what I delivered,” he says. “And I do that today. I try to give customers a fair, reasonable price for all the products they buy. I’m as competitive as anybody, but customers just want fair value.”
When customers come to him with questions or looking for direction, he tries to respond by keeping in mind their best interests. “If I tell them something, it will be the best solution for them,” he says. And he makes a point of getting them the information as quickly as he can – and with accuracy. “If you send an e-mail to someone and you get an answer three days later, that’s a sign of how interested they are to help you.” In other words, not very.
Corson strives to treat manufacturers reps just as he does his customers. “I try to understand what they do and why they do it,” he says. “I think the thing [manufacturer reps] find the most frustrating is when [distributor] reps expect them to give them the advantage,” he says. “If you’re first, that’s one thing…but if I’m second in the deal, I’ll take what I get. I want [manufacturer reps] to know that I understand how the business is done; when they know that, they’ll put their guard down and help you out.”
“Jeff Corson is one of the hardest working reps in the industry,” says Faith McKinney, diagnostic sales rep, Midmark. “He is always, always prepared for any demonstration you are working together. He does his homework and knows what his customers’ needs are, and strategizes each opportunity – big or small.
“He is a relationship-builder and is one of the best at listening to both the customer and his manufacturer. He knows much about many products and is always willing to learn more. He sells what is appropriate for the customer and does not base it on any kind of spiff.
“He is a champion and a winner.”