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Ask the Sales Expert: Interview with Jake Merzigian, president of Zig Zibit

jake-merzigianHow should account executives target prospects in this new economy?
I think the important part of this question is “new economy.” The role of a sales person is always the same no matter what the economy – quickly develop trust, uncover the need, and fill the need.


I think the difference now is that prospects are receiving so many calls from desperate sales people that they are also tuning out the good ones. Professional sales people that can get past that first “no,” and continue to dig into the real situation will find work. You just can’t stop at the first “no.”

What personal attributes, outside of pure sales ability, are important to building a book of business for the long term?
In our industry it’s all about execution. There are so many details on our end. We also tend to assume the responsibility of the entire chain including freight, I&D (installation and dismantle), and the onsite show costs. When circumstances cause these estimates to go up, we have to answer them, and often times go to bat for clients as if our jobs are on the line since they have to answer to their chain of command. Most of these charges are already seen to be too high (which in many cases they are), so they are under additional scrutiny now. If your clients believe you have their best interest in mind, and you manage the process with that mentality, your clients will stay with you. One bad decision or circumstance will allow the next sales call received to get the attention that you don’t want it to have.

The exhibit industry has changed a lot in the last two years. From your perspective, what should veteran account executives be aware of in order to survive and thrive in the industry?
We need to be true consultants and treat clients with their best interest in mind. We can’t expect them to make decisions without helping them to understand all aspects of exhibit design and program execution. As I look around show floors today, I sadly see the design elements fading away as we are forced to design lightweight, easy to assemble, displays that lack real character, meet real goals. “Wow, another aluminum frame with beaded fabric graphics.” We must help clients understand that companies that cut back on exhibit creativity risk loosing their show floor presence, the attention of exhibitors and exhibit attendance.
And that’s not all. In many cases show site charges have priced things to the point where it is just too expensive for the average company to be creative. Therefore, we have to help our clients look at their annual budgets in a realistic way, or they will start eliminating shows from their schedules.

Sales prospecting is a hard job. What keeps you motivated and focused?
Being in an industry that offers creativity, variety, relationship building and travel keeps me inspired and motivated. I tell all my clients that my goal on any project is for them to have the same reaction to their exhibit as the folks on Extreme Makeover:Home Edition have when they see their remodeled home. When we move the bus, I want them to cover their face with their hands, be overcome by emotion and repeat “Oh, my God” over and over as we walk through the finished product. Who wouldn’t love this? Now that’s motivating.

Another way sales professionals can stay motivated is to have the right expectation as to what will happen when they pick up the phone to prospect. This is one of the biggest advantage sales professional can have in today’s environment. When you do call prospects, more often than not, the answer is most likely going to be “we are all set.” When you anticipate the “no,” it’s less painful. When an opportunity does surface, you can’t sound surprised or too excited. “What you have a project? Why?”

Which sales professionals in our industry do you admire and why?
Isn’t that like asking a Red Sox fan who their favorite Yankee player is?   Seriously. We have some great suppliers in the industry that I have great respect for, and try to model myself after. In a deadline driven environment, I look for companies and sales partners that:

  • See results the same way I do.
  • Stand behind their product the way Zig Zibit does
  • Reacts to urgent circumstances the way Zig Zibit does

I don’t want to hear about their policies. I want to hear about their solutions. I don’t want to know why it can’t be done until it has really been decided it can’t be done, and I want them to offer a solution as to how it can be done differently. We’re all in this together, and we can all learn and benefit from our abilities to think outside the box. 

For more in formation on Zig Zibit, go to zigzibit.com or contact Jake Merzigian at jake@zigzibit.com.

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