Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the beginning...

First, let us introduce you to Etien D'Hollander; Founder, President and Visionary of Front Row CRM. Front Row CRM was realized in March 2009 however the idea starts in 1979 with a new sales rep and a Cutlas Supreme. This is his story.


Etien gets a job but finds a career
January 1979.
Well reality had set in, I needed to get a job. I had finished university and done the 6 months mandatory travel with my room mates. (including 4 months on the beaches of Waikiki). My school debt was overwhelming and my travel mates had gone back for another year of education (shades of St. Elmo's Fire). A friend told me that if I got a pharmaceutical sales job, I would get a company car. Since I had never owned a car, never sold anything in my life and knowing nothing about legal pharmaceuticals I thought that was the job for me. (How I got my pharmaceutical job with a degree in physical education is a tale for another time).

My new company sent me on two weeks of training in Montreal and then flew me to Edmonton where I picked up my brand new Cutlass Supreme and checked into the Four Seasons Hotel (nice change from my buddy's couch). My territory was Alberta and Saskatchewan (2 of the bigger provinces in Canada) and my job was to call on doctors, drug stores and hospitals detailing 3 pharmaceuticals - sythroid, travase and coloxin. I knew this job was for me right from the start. I loved it: the freedom of the road, the professionalism of the job and the satisfaction of making a call successfully resulting in a sale. I particularly liked the challenge and satisfaction of CLOSING the deal. Since I didn't have enough money for the first months rent of an apartment, I spent all my time on the road - including weekends. While on the job I worked hard making my calls: 3 to 5 doctor visits per day, visiting every pharmacy in Alberta and Saskatchewan while constantly practicing and perfecting my sales skills. Most importantly, I learned to listen. In the 11 months I did this job, my boss never worked with me nor did any other company employee visit me. I sent in my expenses (often late) and did my reports which were individual signature cards with forms to fill out (which I hated). This was the only contact that I had with my company other than sending me samples and literature.

After 11 months I went to Bermuda with my company for our national sales meeting. I was excited as was my first opportunity to meet my peers and the company executives. For those who haven't attended a company meeting with a large corporation (this event had more than 300 sales reps) in an exotic location, let me tell you that all the rumors you have heard are true. The meeting was led by a big Texan who was the VP of sales. In his opening motivational address he told us "the firings will continue until morale picks up" and further that "the last stage coach has not left town and you might be on it".

At the awards banquet, I was shocked to be awarded 'salesman of the year' for our division. Reflecting back on that year I thought I had put in a fair days work for fair pay. I realized that since I had been selling for less than one year, my success could not be due to phenomenal sales skills but rather simply that I worked harder than my peers. My fellow sales reps did not appear to be as committed to the job. It also confirmed that sales was the profession for me.

The big Texans words rang true the next day as another stage coach left town with some medical sales reps on it and I was given a promotion into the medical division.

Hard work and activity had paid off. What I realized is that my employer had no real visibility into what the front line sales team was doing. There had to be a better way.

Next blog - Matinee Tuesdays!