Closing Pitch: Smooth and Steady Drumbeat

A son of the city of Brotherly Love, and proud of it, music aficionado and sales and marketing maven Bill Berry beats to his own — albeit steady — drum. When not cheering on the Philadelphia Flyers,hitting the greens, enjoying quality music, or taking in the latest James Bond adventure, you can find Berry leading the sales and marketing team in the offices of Preventech. Berry, who initially began his career in accounting at Johnson & Johnson (J&J), explains to Mentor his transition into sales and marketing. We also ask this well-respected industry veteran to share a few secrets to his impressive career success.

What initially drew you to sales and marketing? And what has kept you engaged in this line of work all these years?

I was drawn to sales and marketing early in my career at J&J. It was there I was given the advice to broaden my capabilities to include sales and marketing, and I became responsible for J&J’s sales and marketing budgets. As an accountant, however, I felt isolated from the action and wanted to be part of a team. Fortunately, a senior executive took a liking to me and offered me the opportunity to move into brand management. I jumped at the chance, and my career went from numbers to influencing and supporting effective marketing and strategic initiatives/plans. Two years later, I acquired an MBA in pharmaceutical studies. Because I didn’t start out in field sales, I was naturally open to soliciting sales rep feedback in developing my marketing plans, which helped gain buy-in and improved sales execution. Asking questions and listening to internal stakeholders and external customers allowed me to change the market dynamics, which positively affect the program mix and results.

What makes the dental industry unlike any other?

This industry is unique because we deal with and account for thousands of small businesses that have individual preferences, regional biases and local relationships. Historically, face-to-face, hands-on detailing and relationship selling are the most effective ways to capture business. And while today there is more online buying and new companies entering our space, I still believe that most initial business is acquired via the personal sales call. The slower than expected market penetration of companies that initially enter dental validates that decision makers in this industry still value the personal relationship.

Now, being in dental for 35 years, the lines between professional and personal have merged. I am fortunate to have long-term friendships with customers, dealer partners, and even competitors. By attending dental conventions and industry events, such as the Dental Trade Alliance Annual Meeting, I can literally feel the camaraderie in our industry. It’s a great experience to witness the key players in our industry continuously networking and discussing ways to improve and grow the dental market. Perhaps that’s why so many who enter this industry make it a career home.

What advice would you give a room full of college students who wish to go into sales and marketing?

It’s much like playing a sport — losing hurts yet it’s often part of the process to improve and gain the big wins. My first tip is to say yes to opportunities. Looking back, I realize working for a Fortune 500 company with a wellstocked marketing war chest and large dedicated sales team taught me a certain set of skills that contributed to my early successes. When I worked for “start-ups,” I acquired other abilities such learning to change on a dime, get results with limited budgets, deal with venture capitalists, and the continuous pressure of validating marketing resources. Next, there is nothing like a day of selling. It is both exhilarating and frustrating. It helps to have a competitive nature in sales and marketing, yet learning as much as you can about the customer’s needs is critical. My recommendation is to remember you are selling a solution, not necessarily a product. Being a good listener and problem solver are key factors to gaining and keeping business.

How do you keep a healthy balance between your personal and professional life, and at what age do you feel like you finally figured this out?

You will be the first to know at what age I figure all this out, as it hasn’t happened yet. But what I can tell you is that I’ve always subscribed to the three-legged stool theory: family time, work time, and personal time.

What keeps you up at night?

Well, I sleep at night, yet with my cell phone on my nightstand. My wife, Kristine, and I have a blended family of five children — four in college and one in high school, so their texts and Snapchats arrive at all hours. Please excuse me; I need to run because I have to Venmo my daughter money.

From MENTOR. November 2017;8(11):42.

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