May 1998

I remember the first time I showed up for work at Triumph. I was an intern. My father, Bill Zuberbuhler, was the CEO. Our offices were at 206 North Washington Street in Alexandria, Virginia. We had a super disjointed but expansive suite that wound around more than half the building. They put me in a small corner office with a desk, a chair, and a phone. I did have a window that looked out on busy North Washington Street. I was handed a multi-paged list of numbers to call and was told to invite high school principals to workshops that we were conducting around the country. I called high schools in all the major cities of Florida.

Little did I know that a month later I would meet almost everyone who I booked for the workshops. I accompanied my father on the trip to Florida. He along with other sales reps presented at the workshops. I was tasked with carrying the bags and setting up the laptop and projector that we used. It was a lot of fun being with my dad and I learned the first lesson in sales. Get to know your customer as much as you can.

Don’t just know their name and what they do, but know why they do it. Know if they like their work. Know why they like or don’t like their work. This was important to us because our product was designed to help them in their work. Depending upon how your company serves your customers, you need to focus on that aspect of their life. Building rapport is also important, but it’s not simply about that. You have to get in their shoes to find out what it is they want or need. Otherwise, how are you going serve them? Sales is a service more than anything else.

Going to all of the workshops and meeting everyone was a true challenge for me, because I’m an introvert. But it helped me immensely. I not only built a bond with the people who we served, but I learned a lot about them and what challenged them. I saw how my father, who was a master at connecting with people, would find out through conversation exactly what our customers wanted and needed the most. We gradually built our software programs to take care of every one of their pain points. We also knew exactly how to market them. Our prospects and customers told us almost word for word what copy to write. And so we did.

This customer focus aided by many more workshops helped us add an additional $2M in revenue over the next 18 months. Get to know your prospects and customers.

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