Kay Barney -- Sales Rep of the Year
With a mix of more than 100 specialty retailers and seasonal accounts across Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, HEAD Penn Racquet Sports district sales manager Kay Barney says compulsive responsiveness is the key to staying organized.
Barney, of Littleton, Colo., returns phone calls promptly. He arrives at appointments on time with thoughtfully prepared presentations. He takes elaborate notes before, during, and after meetings in his day planner, which he carries with him everywhere. And he follows through on promises. A self-described “nothing fancy guy,” 45-year-old Barney takes pride in sticking to the basics.
That is precisely why clients like Steve Vorhaus, owner of Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists in Boulder, Colo., enjoy doing business with him. Barney’s reputation for fairness and industry excellence has also been acknowledged in the form of awards: 1993 Sales Rep of the Year for Prince; 2001 Sales Rep of the Year for HEAD Penn Racquet Sports; and 2003 inductee into the HEAD Penn Sports Sales Hall of Fame.
And now he can add another accolade: Barney is RSI’s 2005 Sales Rep of the Year.
“Kay is the paragon of what a professional sales rep should be,” says Vorhaus, who has worked with Barney for more than 15 years. “One of the reasons I do as much business with HEAD Penn as I do is because of him. Kay understands the tenuous relationship between working for a manufacturer while keeping the customer happy, and he represents both parties honestly. He’s really interested in the success of the industry.”
Greg Mason, director of sales and marketing for HEAD Penn, agrees that Barney’s attention to detail sets him apart. “Without question, he is the best independent sales rep I’ve ever worked with,” Mason says. “He never drops the ball on anything he says he can do.”
A sales rep with Prince for about 11 years prior to joining HEAD Penn in 1999, Barney has been calling on some accounts for his entire tenure in the tennis business. Over that time, he says, he has developed solid relationships — many of which have evolved into friendships that have endured long after the sale has closed — with buyers by treating them as business partners rather than sources of commission, especially during the years when the industry has dipped. He also reacts quickly to problems and concerns, copying clients on e-mails to keep them constantly updated and repeatedly posting a multi-step item on his revolving list of tasks until it is fully resolved.
“It’s not only my job to take an order, but also to make my buyers’ businesses more profitable so they can grow,” Barney says. There is a social aspect to his sales calls, but Barney is more concerned with maximizing his clients’ time with a clear meeting objective, customized new product presentation, and as much time for listening as his buyers desire.
“People don’t naturally tend to be good listeners, but that’s how you gain tons of information,” he says. “It’s important to key in to what their needs are, instead of deciding for yourself without knowing the full story.”
Since time is a premium for all involved, Barney carefully evaluates a client’s needs and individual business circumstances before arriving at a meeting armed with a pre-printed order form. Barney says he gladly takes on this extra step to speed and simplify the ordering process. His clients also appreciate the option of either immediately signing or being able to adjust the form on the spot, he says.
Having earned the confidence of buyers like Vorhaus, who says he would “trust him with my life,” Barney is committed to shouldering the resulting responsibility. After all, he says, that’s one way in which so many business associates have become good friends over the years.
“It’s not about one quick hit, loading up a client with products to make a quick commission, because I have to walk in that door in a few weeks and a few weeks after that,” Barney adds. “It’s important to really understand your buyers’ needs and make a plan for years to come. Fill that need, and you’ll be successful.”
Kay Barney’s tips for success
- Return phone calls the same day.
- Do everything you say you’re going to do.
- Be honest, ethical, and sincere.
- Keep a day planner, continually highlighting an item until it is resolved to prevent it from falling through the cracks.
- Approach sales meetings as a two-way dialogue rather than a sales pitch. You just may learn something that shapes your sales strategy — and success — for years to come.
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of RSI magazine.