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Campbell Forlong's journey from retail to distribution

Campbell Forlong's journey from retail to distribution

The Closer

Sales couldn’t have been further from Campbell Forlong’s mind when he started work straight out of school, cleaning shelves in a small refrigeration company. “I was lucky to have a boss that based his sales technique on relationship. I watched him like a hawk. They taught me to sell everything from toasters to commercial cool rooms," he says.

In 2008 he worked as a 2IC at Norman Ross in Botany Downs. “I thought I knew about sales until that point. There were seven competing stores within five minutes, which teaches you very quickly how to close a sale," he says.

"Richard Harri, country manager for Synnex NZ came into the store one day asking for a calibration microphone for a Pioneer stereo. I told him he could borrow my personal one from home. He said this stood out for him and he offered me a job."

Campbell now works as a business development representative for Synnex NZ, currently looking after National Retail.

What would you say to someone who says you must have thick skin to be in sales?

I would say, absolutely. People more often than not come into the salesperson/customer relationship defensively. You cannot afford to take anything personally in sales. If an approach does not work you have to be able to adjust and adapt, then get right back in there.

How long does it take you to assess how you should approach your sales pitch?

Its case by case for me, in a store selling to the end user, you have only a very small window of opportunity - less than 30 seconds. You have to read the customer and adapt your approach to suit what you see. When dealing with distribution customers the process can be a lot more drawn out, you have to be able to build trust, be able to put them at ease by letting them know you are dependable and mean what you say. Also that you are there to stay, that you are available and approachable. It is about the ability to find common ground and build the relationship from there.

Have you ever put your foot in it when talking to a client?

I think that anyone that said no to this question would be delusional! It’s about what you do with that situation, a sense of humour helps and the ability to admit a mistake and carry on.

How did you get past the point of struggling to make a sale to where you are today?

Confidence and a good understanding of the business you are working for and faith in the team. Working for Synnex, and selling more of a company than an individual product, I would say confidence in the company I work for, the team I work with and their ability to deliver and the brands you represent.

Do you consider yourself a persuasive person?

Definitely, and my parents would back that up, was always good at getting what I wanted from a young age.

Describe your best day at the office?

These days the best day is when I am not in the office. I love being on the road, meeting customers and seeking out deals. Synnex is still a relatively new player in the New Zealand IT distribution market (only seven years) we have to be proactive. I’m in my element out of the office.

When did you realise you wanted to be a salesperson?

I would say that it was after I became a finalist in the young retailer of the year. It made me realise how good I was, and that as a small-town sales person I could compete against the big boys, it was a huge boost.

How do you balance time spent between product knowledge training with generating leads or opportunities?

Product knowledge is so important, but now so much easier to obtain with the power of the internet. What is more important is making it applicable and relevant to the customer you are talking to. My job now is more in the generation of leads and opportunities, then feeding those through to the person in the team that specialises in what the customer is after.

What’s the best deal you have ever closed?

It would be when I was in appliance retail - $49 set of salt and pepper grinders with a $50 extended replacement warranty.


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