This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mr. Keith Gilpin, Virtanza’s sales coach and trainer. An ambitious, intellectual man with extensive background in the marketing and advertising industry, Keith’s time and insight in answering some questions regarding his career and experiences is certainly appreciated.
Keith, who was interested in newspapers ads from a young age, first became involved in marketing as an undergraduate at Northern Arizona University. He worked for the college town’s newspaper, beginning as a sales representative and later as the classified ads manager. He graduated with a BS degree in marketing. Following some major life changes, Keith worked for the Arizona Republic for 15 years, followed by stints with Detroit Weekend Direct, Los Angeles Newspaper Group and The Orange County Register.
One of the aspects of the advertising industry that Keith highly values is its constant characteristic of change. Keith, who has now been immersed in this industry for over 30 years, has seen immense evolution. In the past, newspapers and magazines were only delivered to subscribers, but now there exist programs that expand delivery beyond just subscribers. Furthermore, there is interactive growth, a multi-level offering to advertisers, to which Keith notes, “That’s where I find the power in Debbie’s program.”
As a Virtanza sales coach and trainer, Keith strives to help his clients become well-rounded professional salespeople through the tools of the program. It is crucial, he says, to thoroughly investigate and learn background information—what the business does in print and online, what its competitors are doing, and what typical businesses do. He encourages sales leaders and salespeople to find out more about their customers and meet with clients, asking fairly deep questions about their business and sales goals. Through the Virtanza training program, Keith engages much more deeply with his clients than other businesses tend to do and is therefore able to recommend viable solutions. Virtanza strives to provide a much higher close ratio than most sales organizations; in fact, the goal of Virtanza is to close 50% or more of the sales, and the program generally delivers on that objective.
Clearly, Keith is a successful man who has worked hard and pursued his dreams. I asked him what advice he might have for an amateur entrepreneur starting his or her own business. Keith explained, “The only way I’ve been able to succeed is to be adaptable. The industry has changed immensely.” After so many years in the business, Keith has seen many changes and has had to adjust. “Position yourself to learn every step of the way,” he adds. He has learned that purposely reflecting on and taking away the positive from each experience allows for strong personal growth.
As a bookworm myself, I asked Keith if he has read any books recently. He reads a lot about business but also enjoys military books. Though this may seem random and unrelated to sales and marketing, Keith explained to me that these books actually have a lot to do with the business world. These stories teach us about endurance and about planning an effective strategy. “You learn from things done in the past…usually ‘new’ ideas really aren’t that new!” he says.
When asked if there was anything he’d like to add, Keith commented on Virtanza’s founder, Debbie. He has known Debbie for nine years now and remarked that she’s one of those people who is an inspiration with her energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge, and is “truly invested in the success of everyone she works with.” She naturally forms solid relationships and fulfills her promise to follow up and make sure things are working correctly. She will become an integral and vital part of your organization if you allow her to, and both Keith and Debbie are secrets of Virtanza’s success.