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Navigating Sales in Changing Times: Insights from Kelly Salvadore

Written by:

Sean McAlindin, a business and arts writer, has a decade-long experience in music and culture journalism and recently ventured into business writing.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

Navigating Sales in Changing Times: Insights from Kelly Salvadore

Navigating Sales in Changing Times: Insights from Kelly Salvadore

This special series focuses on uncovering the secrets of successful salespeople from all walks of life. In a business landscape full of lifestyle gurus and self-declared experts, we want to hear from ordinary folks who have actual boots-on-the-ground sales experience that resonates with our readers. 

In these conversations, there will be no posturing or hyperbole, just real-life talk with veteran sales professionals who are making a difference in the lives of their companies and their customers. 

As you read this installment of Everyday Sales Superheroes, keep in mind that we’re presenting these interviews so that you can learn from the mindsets and action steps of everyday salespeople who are the best of the best at what they do.

The Reward of Getting It Right

Kelly Salvadore of Brant Beach, N.J., studied communications at Villanova University. In 1985, he took his first sales job in Manhattan with Wallace Computer Services, selling business forms door-to-door

While raising his two children outside of Philadelphia, he worked in office supply sales at brand-name big box stores, including Staples and Office Depot, and as an account executive for Harland Clarke, where he handled bank and credit union accounts.

Since 2019, Salvadore has worked as a sales executive for Aramark, providing customized uniforms to restaurants, hotels, and businesses throughout the mid-Atlantic. With an unflappable, humorous, and consultative style, he’s become a master of developing long-term relationships based on matching client needs with appropriate solutions. He currently resides on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, with his wife, Tammy. 

Current Role and Job Title

MTS – What’s your current role and job title?

Kelly – I am currently a direct sales executive for Aramark Uniforms. My responsibilities are to generate new business with regard to uniforms, which can include everything and anything that is embroidered, from a polo shirt to a work shirt to scrubs.

MTS – Are you a traveling salesman?

Kelly – I travel regionally, anywhere from Long Island down to northern Virginia and out to the middle of Pennsylvania.

Job Satisfaction and Challenges

MTS – What’s your favorite part about this job?

Kelly – I can say this not just about this job but about sales in general: I enjoy working with people, trying to understand their needs, and providing for those needs.

MTS – What’s the most challenging part of your work?

Kelly – The most challenging part recently has been people not working in offices. So, there’s less chance to meet with them. A lot of my day-to-day sales, which were person-to-person, have become over-the-phone sales, which has been very difficult.

Adapting to Change

MTS – How have you changed your approach to accommodate a lack of actual face time?

Kelly – I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better with my phone scripts and the way that I enunciate to the customer. I think it’s more important now than ever to listen to what their needs are because it’s so easy for them to shut down. You can’t always see how they’re reacting to your conversation if you’re not on a web call, or Zoom, or whatever you want to call it.

MTS – That makes sense. Do you ever think of yourself as a sales consultant?

Kelly – Absolutely. There are a lot of times when a customer won’t know exactly what they want. They’re looking to me as a specialist to offer suggestions of what they may need. The biggest way that I get that across is to provide samples to the customer for them to feel and touch.

Career Journey and Highlights

MTS – What was your first sales job? 

Kelly – My first sales job right out of college was in Manhattan with computer services, selling business forms. You may not know what business forms are, but they’re pin-fed computer paper forms that you have to fill out by hand. 

MTS – How did you know you wanted to be a salesperson?

Kelly – I knew I wanted to deal with people. I knew I did not want to sit at a desk because I just felt my strengths were being in front of people rather than sitting at a desk and doing work that way.

Now, I will tell you that I had my first student internship at Villanova in communications at a TV station, WTAF, in Philadelphia. I was there twice a week for a semester, and I thought maybe I wanted to get into TV in some capacity. After six months of doing that, I realized I did not. So, it was a good experience to find out what I didn’t want to do.

MTS – What didn’t you like about the internship?

Kelly – It wasn’t a great internship for me. I didn’t get a chance to work with the sales reps as much as I would have liked to. They made it more of an administrative job for me.

MTS – You’ve had a lot of different jobs throughout your career. What are some of your personal highlights?

Kelly – I actually enjoyed every step. Wallace Computer Services was an introductory sales job. It was primarily knocking on doors. The product that we had wasn’t quite a commodity yet, but at that time, there was a conversation about going from a paper society to a paperless one. As we know now, that didn’t quite happen. Those forms are not so much in existence today, but we still use a lot of copy paper and different types of paper to print on. Poster paper, things like that. That industry is still there. It’s just changed.

My career in the office supply industry was good. It was a good job. I worked for the best companies. But then as my job became a commodity and what I was selling became a commodity, it was less interesting.

So, I migrated from that occupation into a banking role, which I enjoyed. To answer your question, that’s the job that I enjoyed the most because I dealt with all different vertical markets, which took me in front of presidents of small banks and credit unions. I got a chance to sell to a lot of people who were different from purchasing or marketing people. It was interesting because I was dealing in the financial industry.

Product and Market Dynamics

MTS – What do you mean when you say that the product became a commodity and that you were less interested in it?

Kelly – Well, you can get it for the same price, whether it’s at a local stationary store, Staples, Office Depot, or Costco. The same product, the same price. The stores and social media really started to set the price rather than the sales rep.

Lessons Learned and Strategies

MTS – What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your sales career?

Kelly – I think that the biggest lesson is you have to understand the product or service that you’re selling. Then, you need to understand how that affects what you do. How does it affect your compensation?

Many people will take a job and say, “Oh, I can do that.” But they never figure out how to really get the most out of their compensation by what they’re doing. So, I think that’s probably the first thing you need to understand about sales.

You also need to be an excellent listener. Usually when a person starts in sales, they’re so excited to have something to sell that they get in front of a customer and just start selling it. They don’t really ask the questions as to what it is that the customer needs. As you’re in sales longer, I think that becomes more and more important that you need to understand what the customer needs. It’s how to make it about the customer.

MTS – How do you get the most compensation out of what you’re selling? Is there any way to approach this to maximize your benefit?

Kelly – With every job, that’s different. You may have a salary. You may be on commission. You may have a salary and commission. So, I think you really need to take a look at the matrix and say, “How do I need to prepare myself to go about my business and generate the activity that is going to lead to me hitting these matrices?” So, quite honestly, there’s really no one way to answer that.

Advice and Philosophy

MTS – What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out in a career in sales?

Kelly – I think it would be to be patient. I think you also really need to know your service. But the biggest thing is to be a good listener from the get-go. That’s the toughest part for a new sales associate.

MTS – Do you subscribe to any universal sales philosophy or mantra?

Kelly – In the back of my mind, I always want to qualify a potential customer and be as persistent as I can while understanding what their needs are.

Reflections on Sales Profession

MTS – What’s your favorite thing about being a salesperson?

Kelly – You get to deal with different people, both internally and externally.

MTS – What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?

Kelly – The most rewarding part of my career is being able to start the sales process from the beginning and then take it right to the end as I implement a new account or customer. I’m rewarded by their enjoyment and meeting their needs.