Working in the material handling industry is a non-stop education. The courses in Texas A&M’s industrial distribution program prepared me very well for a career in industrial sales, but there’s still a lot to learn in this industry.
I started calling on customers in the College Station, Texas, area for my dad’s company, Brenham, Texas-based ESS Group, in 2005 while I was still in school. I went on sales calls together with my grandpa, and that was a lot of fun. When I earned my degree in 2008, the company decided to hire me as branch manager of our College Station location, which opened in 2006. We have customers in Dallas, Austin, Houston, Waco and everywhere in between, so a second branch allows us to get to more places easily.
I currently oversee a staff of two technicians/installers and an administrative person. As the only salesperson in this office, I’m on the road quite a bit. I love going to customer sites, dealing with people and seeing all the different applications for material handling equipment. It’s a rare day when I see the same thing twice, and I really like that part of the job.
Being on the road doesn’t allow me to take a hands-on approach with my employees, but that suits my management style just fine. In fact, my being gone forces us to communicate more and be more organized to take care of the customer. My dad has always preached the importance of writing things down; I always carry a pen so I can jot down important things that happen during the day to make sure nothing is forgotten.
I also use an iPad. It is equipped with an app called GoToMeeting that I can use to remotely attend our Monday morning sales meetings at the Brenham headquarters. Other than Monday mornings, the only part of my daily schedule that stays the same is that it always changes.
Family is a big part of my life, and my father, mother, brother and cousin all work at ESS Group. I love that I get to spend every day working with my family.
Beyond communication and organizational skills, a good salesperson also has to be a good listener. Don’t just hear what you want to hear. If you don’t have an answer, they’ll respect you more in the long run if you admit it and then find an answer for them. Accountability—doing what you say you will do—is the best way to earn a customer’s trust.
In the next five years, I see myself taking a larger management role in the company. I still have a lot to learn about products and managing people and my time a little better, but that comes with experience. The learning in this industry never ends.