Sales Superstar Linda McGuigan: Selling what you can’t give away

Sales Superstar: Linda McGuigan

Selling what you can’t give away


Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Alliant Technologies

She recalled the long-ago non-client as if she’d met him yesterday. “We flew him to our headquarters. We wined him and dined him,” she remembered. “Then we offered him our service free for six months for his whole division, no strings attached. And he still turned us down.”

How do you sell a product like that? If you’re Linda McGuigan, you do it with relentless hard work, Power Base® relationship building and a dash of humble good humor—and keep doing it until you’ve worked your way up from sales newbie to manager of a thriving sales staff. Which is why we’re proud to honor Linda as a Fox Den Sales Superstar.

It was the late 1980s when young Linda joined the sales force at the upstart Telecom Express. TE was trying to crack its monopoly rival’s telecom stranglehold on Payroll America, a Fortune 500 accountancy provider. (All names of companies and colleagues have been changed.)

It was tough getting clients to consider taking a risk by dumping the established #1. TE and Linda did have two aces in their deck: a considerable price advantage, and a technology edge that delivered a higher-quality signal.

On the negative side, they could win their client over and still fail to sell a dime. Reason: Payroll America’s corporate structure was so decentralized, its far-flung operating divisions had the option to reject what the technology division was pushing at them. For Linda’s team, this turned every division’s telecom business into a separate pitch that Linda’s group and her Payroll America counterpart, Sam Lyongo, had to attack as a team.

“Linda and I came in together,” Sam recalled. “The first thing that struck me was that she was very young, as I was. When I got to know her, what impressed me was that she wouldn’t talk behind anyone’s back – and there were some real characters on our business. She never looked down on anybody. She was reliable, consistent, dependable and honest, and she worked hard.”

Linda took the time to get to know her individual clients and their hot buttons. According to her, the secret was no secret at all, just simple hard work. “There’s a champion golfer who starts every day with a 40-minute routine. If he runs into a hiccup at Minute 30, he starts all over again. The true success stories in life are like that. They’re based in methodologies, monotony, practice practice practice.”

Above all, Linda channeled that tireless effort in an organized way by following Power Base® principles.

“Holden helped us develop the strategy on who to position with. Holden’s value was to get that extended network of supporters out there to help you close business. It was a positioning tool and a methodology. They have a tool where you put in account information and build account plans. We used their database, put account plans in, defined the strategy in terms of how to find the Fox, the lingo of who you were going after and trying to get close to.

“We used that database to develop the briefings we did for the customer, at the tech center for TE, or briefings on-site where you brought out 5 managers and talked about our services, how they’d be rolled out and the value they’d bring to the customer. Those account briefings, those documents, were pulled straight from the Holden strategy.”

Working as a team with Sam and his manager, Linda’s team pushed a $50,000 monthly sales total up to $1 million a month within three years. And since no good deed goes unpunished, Linda was rewarded with more responsibility, rising to management with a sales staff of her own to supervise. “She brought a good team onto the account. A good match of the people and their duties,” says Sam.

“The Holden principles are tried and true. They’re timeless,” Linda explains. “The problem is different now – people don’t want to spend money – but the same strategy is needed today that we needed then. You still need to surround the reluctant customer with peers who’ll ratify that their decision is the right one. You take away the feeling of risk.”

Spoken like a true Sales Superstar. Congratulations, Linda McGuigan, from all of us at The Fox Den.

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