A former New York City paramedic, 24-year-old Aaron Newman started Waxdigital with his entire life's savings of $15,000 in 1999. A New York City e-solutions provider specializing in complete digital business development, Waxdigital had sales of $1.8 million last year. With a client roster that includes Universal Records, Panasonic and AETNA, it's clear that Newman has learned the sales ropes.
As a young entrepreneur with no previous sales experience, how'd he do it? "I gave myself a quick tutorial in sales and marketing, spending hours at the bookstore, selecting books and industry magazines," says Newman. "I also learned from my father, an art dealer who buys and sells 19th and 20th century European sculptures. He taught me that to be a good salesperson, you have to be trustworthy, and you need to learn to be aggressive without being overbearing. I learned that being knowledgeable about a subject, market or industry makes you a more trustworthy and credible salesperson."
Many entrepreneurs reach a point when they have a "sales epiphany" and realize they need to improve their skills quickly. For Newman, he knew he'd need to be a better salesperson to build a broad range of clientele so his business would have staying power. "I also knew I'd have to sharpen my sales skills in order to pitch investors," adds Newman.
Newman's improved sales skills faced a major test when Waxdigital pitched Universal Records. With newfound confidence after a few successful months selling the company's capabilities, his team met with the new-media coordinator at Universal. They passed the test quite well, winning the business over several other design firms, and ended up constructing the Web site for singer Smokey Robinson, among others.
As Newman's company continues to grow, he looks back on the "old days" and the way he used to sell. "To practice pitching and to build a client base, I went through the Yellow Pages, conquering a portion of each letter each day until I finished the book. One out of 150 worked-it was enough to pay the bills."
Cold-calling soon became a distant memory. "We were growing so fast, we didn't have the manpower to accommodate the work," says Newman. "I had no start-up funds to hire a staff to help me, so I wore many hats. Now that we're making incredible headway, the sweat and tears have been worth it."
Kimberly McCall is the president of McCallMedia & Marketing Inc., a marketing, public relations and business communications agency in Portland, Maine. Contact her at (207) 761-7792 or visit www.marketingangel.com.