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Maximizing Potential: Verizon Sales Lessons

Keeping in line with one of last week’s posts, Startup Sales Lessons From The Beer Industry, we headed back to Columbia Business School where Ken Dixon, President of Consumer Sales & Service at Verizon, gave us his Verizon sales lessons. Before we get going, a little more about Ken. He’s been in the wireless industry for twenty-six years and has held several management assignments in sales, operations and marketing. Before becoming President of Consumer Sales & Service, Ken most recently served as the president of Verizon’s Wireless Northeast Market. Here are his proven Verizon sales lessons for maximizing potential:

1. Focus On Your Customers. “The customer is 100% of your revenue and your profit,” which is why Ken believes staying customer-centered is so important. Ken wants his salespeople to be the best, and “the way you’re the best is if your customers say: You know what? I don’t want any other sales rep but this one… no matter what they’re buying from any other company.” Even in high-level meetings, if a customer calls a sales rep, Ken wants that employee to step out and take the call: “people love people that answer their phone.” Follow-up is also crucial. If Ken hears from a customer that one of his sales reps didn’t call that customer back, I give you one warning in your entire career.” If it happens a second time, Ken takes away your highest producing account and [gives] it to the newest person in the office.” While that might seem harsh, Ken firmly believes the best sales teams are the ones that understand “the better you take care of your customers, the more they’ll buy from you over a period of time.”

2. Put In Place A Great Compensation Plan. One of the most important parts of maintaining a great sales force is a great compensation plan. When Ken was a manager in the B2B sales space, the job he affectionately describes as his “favorite of all time,” each of his representatives had specific territories and accounts with well defined quotas. “My belief was always [that] I wanted my best sales people to make more money than I did… A great compensation plan is the greatest motivator in the world.” Just like Josh Halpern’s all-expenses-paid trip to the Olympics for his top salespeople, Ken Dixon offers his reps an award called the President’s Cabinet. “If you’re the best of the best, you win an eagle and get an all-expenses President Cabinet trip to Europe or Hawaii.” But, Ken adds a unique twist to the award. He takes territory away from whomever wins and gives it to the new employees. “My job is to take the people who struggle and make them into good salespeople, and to take great salespeople and make them extraordinary.” And his strategy has paid off. The “proudest [part] of my career” Ken explains, is that of Verizon’s 20 regions, “at one point, 16 of the 20 [regional] presidents… were people that started in my sales organization and built a career.”

3. Fail Fast And Adapt To Changes. “You must embrace change… and if you do fail, always fail fast.” When asked, “What was the most difficult deal you’ve ever done?” Ken spoke about push-to-talk, a peer-to-peer communication platform that he helped release. When his company launched the product for the first and second time, it wasn’t as good as the competition. “A lot of businesses got it and hated it, and it hurt us… We launched it a third time and this time it was exactly where we wanted it to be; it was fantastic. The problem was that nobody wanted to buy it.” What Ken did in this specific situation, was focus on the biggest customer possible. When you get the big, general contractor, you then get all of their sub-contractors to come along, and the more sub-contractors you get, you then go back out to the other big general contractors… It’s like a domino effect, and the growth takes off.”

The key for all sales managers, is to “attract, train, develop, and retain the best salespeople.” Ken’s emphasis on customers, incentives, and adaptability, that has helped make his company one of the most successful in the world, is something that companies of all stages can implement to maximize their sales potential.

If you liked “Maximizing Potential: Verizon Sales Lessons” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog. Special thanks to Robbie Linck for his help with this post.

Michael Brown
Michael Brown
Michael is a Founder & Managing Partner at Bowery Capital based in New York. Prior to Bowery Capital, Brown was a Co-Founder and General Partner at AOL Ventures. Before AOL Ventures, Brown worked for the investment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. He began his career at Morgan Stanley as an equity research analyst. Outside of his professional life, Brown serves on the Board of Directors of the National Forest Foundation and the Columbia College Alumni Association. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University.