2006 Sales rep of the year: Jim Willwerth
It wasn’t so long ago when a sales representative’s job typically involved selling a company’s products to a store whose customers had limited alternative methods of buying those goods. Exceptional customer service included returning phone calls and following up on orders when the sales representative returned to the office after spending days on the road.
Sales representatives still spend days on the road, but their jobs are now assisted — and complicated — by technology, according to Jim Willwerth of Jupiter, Fla., a racquet sports territory manager for Wilson Sporting Goods.
Willwerth uses a Blackberry to organize contacts and appointments, as well as instantly respond to e-mail and voice-mail messages. While the internet speeds communication, however, a myriad of technology-highway-bred online and mail-order companies threaten to usurp his accounts’ customers — consequently affecting his business as well.
As a result, Willwerth doesn’t simply send his apologies to an account that needs a particular Wilson product more quickly than it can be shipped from the company. Instead, he gets on the phone and then in his car, tracking that product down whenever possible so he can then pick it up from a different account and deliver it to the store in need.
“Sales representatives still sell products, but now we’re also responsible for promoting them, marketing them, and making sure they get sold to consumers,” says Willwerth, who freely shares his expertise on any topic that may benefit an account. If a store’s racquet sales are lagging, for example, he’ll suggest offering free string or another incentive with any racquet purchase.
“It’s my job to help my accounts [combat] the perception that an internet or mail-order company is cheaper or easier to do business with,” Willwerth says. “You have to be willing to go above and beyond for your account so you can both be successful.”
And it’s this willingness to go above and beyond in servicing his accounts that has prompted RSI to name Willwerth as our 2006 Sales Rep of the Year.
Jeffery Adams, South Central regional sales manager of racquet sports for Wilson, says Willwerth demonstrates sales excellence and unwavering customer service while managing the biggest volume territory in the company.
“The ability to plan, organize and execute is key when you’re dealing with a large, diverse account base, and he does it as well as or better than anyone,” says Adams, noting that Willwerth oversees close to 150 advisory staff members and more than 250 accounts ranging from small pro shops to specialty dealers along Florida’s east coast.
“Jim is easygoing, but shifts gear and becomes very focused when it’s time to achieve our goals,” Adams adds. “He cares about his family, Wilson, and his customers, and maintains strong convictions as to how best manage his territory. He is an exemplary individual.”
“Jim does all the basics well, and also understands his accounts’ business needs,” says Jon Muir, U.S. director of sales and marketing for Wilson. “Territory managers are the front-line ambassadors that drive the industry. A strong territory manager certainly helps strengthen Wilson’s brand, but it ultimately helps grow the industry overall. Jim is one of those people who exceeds expectations at all levels.”
Jim Willwerth’s tips for success
- Embrace technology. Learn new programs, use a PDA or other technology to speed communication and become more organized. Minutes saved throughout the day add up quickly — and profitably.
- Your account’s problems are your problems. A sales rep’s job today extends beyond product knowledge into marketing and other areas. Sharing your accumulated expertise will help your accounts sell more products and develop loyalty.
- Exceptional customer service goes a long way in keeping accounts happy and motivated.
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of Tennis Industry magazine.