Excellence in Sales: Louis Cupo
Edition: November 2012 - Vol 20 Number 11
Louis Cupo is a team player. In high school and college, that meant working alongside fellow football players. Out of college, it was working with colleagues in a direct-selling, acute-care-oriented medical equipment company. And now, it means working with distributor reps to sell what he refers to as “trusted brand names” to physicians. Cupo, who is district sales manager, New York Region, for Cardiac Science, is this year’s recipient of the Repertoire/HIDA Excellence in Sales Award for a manufacturer.
“Part of what makes me tick is camaraderie and building relationships – working in a team environment, creating opportunities, managing long sales cycles, bringing in specialists to support us,” he says.
Cupo graduated from SUNY Brockport (The College at Brockport, State University of New York) with a degree in marketing communications and a minor in psychology. “Initially, my main interest was becoming a sports broadcaster/announcer,” he says. But after taking part in a marketing and advertising mentorship program, he switched to advertising. The courses he took, particularly those involving public speaking, struck a chord with him. “I felt very comfortable, due to the excitement and passion, [which] everyone says I exude,” he says. “‘It’s not caffeine,’ I often have to mention.
“My mother’s famous quote [as I was] growing up was, ‘He is either going to be a lawyer or a very
Out of college, he chose the latter route. “I was banging on doors in New York City, selling, in the telecommunications industry,” he recalls. The experience – good and bad – was invaluable. “Dealing with rejection, getting orders on a daily basis” were what the job involved. “It was strictly cold calling.”
He took that experience to his next job – selling express-shipping services. “Developing customer relationships along with residual business was the driving force in really caring about my customers and taking care of their needs. I also enjoyed the ‘thrill of the hunt’ and cold-calling opportunities, to drive business, plus supporting many Fortune 500 companies.”
Selling a Montblanc
Thanks to the services of an executive search firm, Cupo got a couple of interviews with medical products companies. He recalls the interview at Abbott Diagnostics. “The gentleman who interviewed me had a Montblanc pen and said to me, ‘Sell me this pen; tell me why I should spend more on it than another.’” Cupo proceeded to talk about the importance of professionalism in the products one sells as well as how one comes across to customers. Hence, the Montblanc pen. It must have been that passion and enthusiasm – Cupo got the job, despite having no medical sales experience.
The training he received at Abbott was first-class, he says, and he carries it with him today. And the experience at the direct-selling company was invaluable as well. Though he wasn’t working with distributors, he was working with Abbott teammates, such as hematology and clinical chemistry specialists. Later, he joined Roche Diagnostics as an instrument specialist.
While the Abbott and Roche experiences were valuable, Cupo was eager for “the thrill of selling things more frequently.” The sales cycle for hospital lab equipment can be long, sometimes a couple of years. In 2005, he found an opportunity to sell into the physician market with Abaxis. The job offered another opportunity too – to develop relationships with distributors to sell the company’s chemistry analyzer to physicians.
“It was really exciting,” he explains. “Meeting 30 or 40 distributor reps, eager to look at new products to grow their business.” In six months, through training and working with distributors, the company exceeded its goals. “It was rewarding to take a company and prove that working through distributors works.”
Two years later, Cupo joined Axis-Shield (now Alere). It was his way of getting into the point-of-care market. “My thought was, ‘Why not getting into waived point-of-care products?’” he says. “It allowed me an opportunity, on a day-to-day basis, to travel with distributor reps – which is important to me – and cold-call new-business customers, and help them grow existing business.” At Axis-Shield, Cupo was a President’s Club winner two years, and a PSS Eagle Award nominee in 2009. “It was a humbling experience, to be nominated as one of PSS’s top four manufacturer reps,” he says.
But when Alere acquired Axis-Shield, Cupo was forced to look for a new position. And earlier this year, he found it with Cardiac Science. “I look at it as one door closed, and another opened,” he says. The manufacturer offers an expansive product line and, just as important, it relies on distribution to sell its products. He works with reps in the New York metro area, doing what he likes to do best.
Dealers and customers first
“Lou is one of the most detail-oriented representatives I have ever worked with,” says Brian Siegel, Northeast regional manager, Cardiac Science. “In addition, his preparation for meetings and demonstrations is second to none. Above all, Lou puts his dealers and customers first. I’m proud and honored to have Lou part of the Cardiac Science team.”
Says PSS sales rep Cindy Hoar, “[Louis] is thorough. If he goes in to an account without me, he will do his presentation, and if he sees other items that the account may need (other than Burdick) he will always follow through and inform me to ‘check in’ with the account regarding the other piece of equipment.”
The joy of teaching and training
“When someone sees me, besides [valuing] our company’s products, they need to trust and respect me,” says Cupo. “If an account is going to buy from me or through my distributor, I need to make sure I do everything the distributor representative requested, and more, so he doesn’t have to worry about that account.”
The post-sales component of the transaction is just as important as the pre-sale, he says. “I’m a people-pleaser. You want to make sure you do everything – training, consulting – that you say you’re going to do. I feel very rewarded when I walk out of that office and they have a smile on their face,” because they understand everything they need to know to maximize the value of the products they just bought. “I tell them, ‘I don’t want to leave until you’re 100 percent comfortable [with the product],’” he says.
It’s probably the coach in him. For the past five years, Cupo has been actively involved in the Hazlet (N.J.) Youth Athletic League, through which he coaches football, baseball and basketball. “It’s my second life,” he says.
“Why do I love it? It’s just something I need on an emotional side. My wife says I get more out of it than the kids do.” Cupo and his wife, Gracemarie, have three children: Louis Jr., age 9; Nicholas, 7; and Jenna Rose, 5.
“[The joy of coaching] comes back to teaching and training,” he says. “I’m passionate about it. I like to see their eyes and their excitement when they do something well. At their young age, they’re extremely impressionable; you can support them, and they’ll remember that. For my own emotions, there’s nothing better than to do my day job, then flip the switch and coach these children.”
His work with the Youth Athletic League has given him something else – a megaphone. Last year, Cupo was given the opportunity to serve as announcer at township football games. In a way, it has brought him full circle, to the days when he aspired to be a sports announcer. And, as he points out, when you give a salesman a megaphone, you can build a fan base of your own.