Exhibit City News recently caught up with Tucker Ramsey, vice president of business development at Access TCA, to speak about the new economy, building business in the long term and changes in the industry. This is the fourth in a series of interviews with sales and/or account executives.
Access TCA is an “outcome communications” company that provides clients with communications planning, event and exhibit production, creative and media products and support services. They have offices in Atlanta, Boston and London.
How should account executives target prospects in this new economy?
The structure, conduct and performance of our industry continue to evolve. Budget cuts, a decline in attendee traffic and increased scrutiny of exhibition effectiveness are all trends sales executives face every day. So what does the successful account executive do in times like these? Roll with it, because opportunity is still out there.
Most of the recent industry statistics demonstrate event and exhibit industry spending by company remains the largest marketing budget item, and it’s growing, albeit modestly. The real changes are occurring at the medium allocation level; i.e. exhibitions, proprietary meetings and events, etc. As the industry and technology continue to evolve, sales professionals also need to evolve.
That’s very obvious to anyone who wants not only to survive current trends, but to thrive today and into the future. Change is upon us so embrace it. Resisting it isn’t going to reap results.
Follow the budgeting, become expert listeners to your clients and prospects, uncover their real pain and recommend solutions that are media-neutral and unbiased. Invest your best efforts in truly helping them accomplish their desired business outcomes versus what serves short-term financial goals. You’ll convert more prospects into clients, retain and grow the clients you have, generate real value and guess what, financial benefits will follow.
What personal attributes, outside of pure sales ability, are important to building a book of business for the long term?
The list of necessary attributes can be lengthy. However, in the interest of being concise, let’s look at three fundamentals: integrity, persistence and work ethic. These three attributes, while reasonably self-explanatory, are interlocked and form the underpinnings for long-term business growth and retention. Integrity is the keystone of the three. A persistent individual with a strong work ethic who lacks integrity may be successful in the short run, but rarely in the long-term. We’ve all met these types over the years; they generate a seemingly endless string of new client relationships while consistently churning through their existing clients. They never seem to maintain their book and eventually wash out of the industry. The fundamental issue that’s lacking is generally integrity. Integrity is the ability to work as a true advocate for your clients and your company while creating value for both. This includes the moral fiber to recommend the most effective business solution when another might generate a higher personal financial reward. This delicate balance isn’t always easy to strike, but it’s a necessity for long-term business success.
The exhibit industry has changed a lot in the last two years. What should the veteran account executives be aware of from your perspective?
Irrelevance. At Access, I have the pleasure of serving with some of the most talented sales professionals in the industry. Many are truly at the top of their exhibit game and what do I do? I challenge them every day to become as media-neutral as possible, to become experts in the entire face-to-face medium because that’s what our current and future clients are demanding. This keeps our sales team relevant, engaged and generating value. Without this approach, I guarantee it’ll be a race to the bottom. I encourage all veteran sales people to move out of their comfort zone, become experts in a broader product and service offering, and go back to the fundamental attributes that made them successful in the first place. This helps create value for our industry as a whole, moves us away from the current hyper-competitive price wars and ultimately staves off predatory bundling initiatives.
Did you have a mentor? If so, what was the one piece of advice he/she shared that you cherish today?
I am truly fortunate, as I’ve had several fine mentors over the years. As it relates to the exhibit industry, my time working with James H. Dock was the most formative. Jim served as president of Heritage Displays, I&D Group, now Nth Degree, and Taylor Malone, International. He was the consummate industry professional: knowledgeable, articulate and probably the best negotiator I’ve ever met. He taught me a number of valuable business lessons, but two of the most memorable were, learn to disagree without being disagreeable and know the difference between perception and reality. These seemingly simple principles are powerful if you really think about them. I apply these skills on a daily basis to everything I do.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
As old-fashioned as it sounds, being a dad and husband are my two greatest accomplishments and, by far, the most important to me. Business success, while important, is transitory by its very nature. I have two beautiful, healthy seven-year old twins: one boy and one girl. It is amazing to watch their development and fully understand the magnitude of the parenting responsibility. My over-achieving wife, if you ever meet her, you’ll agree, of 12 years keeps all of us in line and, frankly, that may be the greater accomplishment.