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Perfect Pitch for Sales

As Cydcor CEO for nearly a decade, Gary Polson has seen the company triple its revenues and rank among the best sales outsourcing companies in the world in The Black Book of Outsourcing, an industry benchmark for customer satisfaction. Polson, a graduate of Taft High School in Woodland Hills and a long-time Valley resident, took over as CEO in 2000. He has helped the company successfully position itself in a niche market for outsourced face-to-face sales in the telecommunications industry, and is now helping drive growth into new areas of opportunity created by the down economy. For one, Cydcor is expanding a program to help clients sell their products at big retail locations providing in-store sales forces to help battle the drop in consumer spending. Cydcor, with clients including AT&T, Intuit, Verizon, Quill, T-Mobile, and Rogers in Canada, is also thinking about expanding beyond the telecommunications sector and is looking into the solar field as a possible growth area. Question: What’s Cydcor’s formula for delivering value to its clients? Answer: What we do, and why we exist, basically is to supply a face-to-face sales force to help companies acquire customers. We are experts; all we do is hiring, training, motivating, managing and all the reporting necessary to be effective in the field of sales. Other businesses have a zillion things to focus on: the merchandising, logistics, finance purchasing, marketing, all these different things, and many companies out there need either all our help or need us to complement what they’re already doing. That’s what we’ve been able to supply and what’s so powerful about it and why we’ve been able to grow so well in our niche is that we do it in a pay for performance model. Clients only pay us when we get them a customer contract, so it’s not paying on the hope that we’ll do something for them, there’s no upfront investment. Q: Why did you choose the industry sectors of telecommunications, cable, Internet? A: We originally chose those sectors because our president and co-founder Jim Majeski came from MCI and our top business development person was his boss at MCI who Jim recruited here, so we started with a telecommunications emphasis because our key people were from telecommunications and their vision was at the time: ‘it would be great if there was an outsourced business to business sales force, face-to-face, that we could use to get customers for MCI’, and there wasn’t one so Jim said, ‘let’s create one’. Q: Why is there such a big need for outsourced sales teams in the telecommunications industry? A: Well, I think it’s very difficult to have internal sales forces target all of America, it’s a vast market, they can’t do it. They can cover some of the market themselves but there’s a big gap and when you’re competing with everyone else out there, they needed a way to outcompete and the best way to get a customer is face to face. Q: To be a good salesman don’t you have to know your product really well, how do your reps manage to become experts for all your clients? A: We don’t have that many different clients, we have probably six clients that are 95 percent of our business: AT&T, Intuit, Verizon, Quill, which is a company owned by Staples, T-Mobile, Rogers up in Canada, we represent really well-known brands that trust us to be their partner. We may have 400-500 reps just on one client, so the 2,700 reps in the U.S and Canada are maybe on six clients, so we get really deep. Can we represent 100 different clients? At least not today, not well. We try to do fewer clients but do a really good job for those clients and be with them for a really long time. Q: Tell me about your in-store marketing, is that fairly new? A: It’s relatively new, yes. We really started in I think 2004 with Bell South in the Cingular stores, now we’re expanding beyond the wireless stores to represent a bunch of big box stores and so what happened, why it’s really picked up and the demand has increased, I think has to do with the difficulty in the economy for retail sales. I think for many retailers and companies that sell their merchandise through these big box retailers, their sales have gone down because of the economy. Consumer spending has gone down but they still need to get business, so now they’re looking at marketing alternatives that before they didn’t really need to, so it’s really helped us a lot. Q: What kind of services are you providing in-store? A: We’re in big boxes and we’re representing technology products, consumer electronics, and telecommunication services. We’ll represent a new product at a big box, educate the customer on it, explain the features and benefits, how does it differentiate compared to the other products and so we’ll help that process. Mainly we would be at a kiosk and basically when the customer walks by the kiosk we ask them if they are interested in learning about our clients’ products. They don’t know it’s Cydcor, we are the people that represent other people’s brands. Q: This is something that stores and supermarkets have been doing for awhile. How are you different? A: A lot of places, all the big boxes, have been doing this for a while, we’re not creating something that’s never been done. I think what we do uniquely is actually help them sell whereas people will hand out samples, or stock shelves, or have a booth and give information and hand out pamphlets, where they need us is in educating the customer and selling at that point. The combination of being knowledgeable about a product, being an expert in sales and keeping within the company culture and the kind of experience they want the customer to have at their store, putting those three things together – I think there’s no one really doing that. What we’re putting in is our sales expertise into that environment. Some other people may have the technology, they may know the culture, but to do all three? I don’t think clients are finding that in the ways that they need it. They want to see an uptick in sales and that’s what we do. Q: What big box stores are you in? A: The big boxes like to keep it kind of quiet for a variety of reasons but pretty much most of the big boxes you will go into you will see some of our people. We hit most of the major retailers; we’re in hundreds of stores. Q: What changes is the company going through? A: The biggest thing we have right now is the growth of in-store marketing and the big focus on that. Our president Jim Majeski is leading this initiative; he is devoting most of his time to build the in-store. We brought in some experts from the retail industry to join us so we’re making a big effort in that area. In-store marketing is a big opportunity, I think clients need someone like us to help them and I think there’s going to be a lot of growth there. We’re also investing in technology; we’re developing a virtual sales training platform to complement what we do at the sales offices everyday. Q: Are you looking to expand into other industries? A: We are looking at a few other industries to expand into. One of them is payroll, we’re looking to do payroll with one of our existing clients Intuit, so it’s a new product but with an existing client. We’re also looking into solar energy, we do feel that solar energy over the next decade is going to be a growth area. In Ontario, Canada it’s a very favorable market because of the government subsidies and so we’re looking in Ontario, Canada to create a solar business and also in California. We think California would be later, we think green is going to be big for our company down the road. Q: How much have you grown? A: We’ve held stable the last few years through the downturn and we’re very happy about that given what everybody else has done, our business has held steady and right now I think we’re on the verge to start seeing the type of 10-20 percent annual growth that we’ve had historically. Q: What do you most like about your job? A: The opportunity to train and develop people, not just for this job but just giving them the right foundation for the future. We have a lot of sales people, for most of them it’s their first job out of school, they are very raw and we can give them foundation, the pillars for success. Most of them aren’t going to want to be in sales very long, they’ll find that there are other things they’d rather do, but the foundation we give them, I think that’s the exciting thing. Gary Polson Title: CEO AGE: 52 EDUCATION: Law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Bachelors UC Berkeley – Undergraduate School of Business Most Admired: Abraham Lincoln Career Turning Point: Doesn’t name one specific career turning point – “I always planned to fail until I got it right.” Personal: Married, three children

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