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SIPA Member Profile: Longenecker Sets Sales for Big Profits

Rick Longenecker, President, Armature Group, Maplewood, N.J.

SIPA: What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this business?
LONGENECKER: I worked at various jobs to pay for my undergrad and graduate degrees, but my first job after graduating was a field sales representative position with Cargill, Incorporated. I was fortunate to find this position through Cargill’s on-campus recruiting efforts.

Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
It’s tough to pin down one defining moment as I’ve been fortunate to have a series of defining experiences that have shaped my leadership style and understanding of sales practices, sales management practices, sales operations practices and sales strategy and structure. My leadership experience was profoundly shaped by leading the restructuring of a 300-employee utility customer service team into a competitive sales and service organization. The emotional impact of leading others through the turbulent time of industry deregulation and restructuring will be etched in my memory and actions for the rest of my life.

In brief, describe your business/company?
Armature Group shows B-to-B business leaders how to double their revenue with no additional cost by bringing precision to their sales execution. We work from the sales call backward towards strategy with an emphasis on visualizing all stages of the sales call. We’ve found that this enables rapid revenue results while simultaneously building the foundation for scaling a sales organization through 50% shorter, new-hire training time, shorter, sales-cycle time, higher average revenue per sale, and higher, sales-close ratios. Thanks to the inspiration of various SIPA members, we’re working on the launch of an online information service to help small-business owners build, manage and scale their sales organizations.

What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
1. Work every day to serve others and help them achieve their dreams;
2. Process is the key to sustainable growth, and people are the key to sustainable process;
3. Networking and connecting people brings great things to life and changes the world.

What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing now?
Educating business leaders and marketing professionals on the science of direct sales and the importance of minimizing the use of persuasion when building relationships for cross-selling and up-selling products and services.

Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto for 2011?
It appears that small and mid-size companies are again focused on top-line revenue growth after two years of cost containment. There seems to be a real hunger to double revenue with no additional cost.

What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
I’m grateful to Bob Brady for introducing me to SIPA. Thanks to Bob, I have had the honor of connecting with and learning from an amazingly talented group of professionals. I’m amazed at how genuine and helpful the members of this organization are. The camaraderie and openness to best-practice sharing is inspiring.

Where did you grow up?
I’m proud to have grown up in Toledo, Ohio, and even prouder to network and do business with business leaders across the world who are from Toledo.

What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
I attended The University of Toledo for my undergrad in business and my MBA. The best moment of my college career was working with five friends my freshman year to launch and grow a fraternity that within one year became the largest on campus and sustained that status for 20 consecutive years. Many lessons were learned on how to lay the foundation for sustainable growth.

Are you married? Do you have children?
I’m fortunate to be married to my high school sweetheart, Debbie. We have two children, Kayla, 15, and Jack, 13.

What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
My favorite hobby is volunteer work which I learned by watching my parents give selflessly in good times and bad. My volunteer work includes serving as volunteer athletic director at my son’s grade school, a grade school basketball coach (88-9-1), a Cub Scout leader, a member of the Board of Trustees for The University of Toledo, President of The Chuck Ealey Foundation, and Chairman of The InductChuck.com campaign for the College Football Hall of Fame. Working with my wife and children to give back to the community is a huge part of our lives.

Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?
Over the past year, I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover and am about halfway through my second read. It’s been an inspiring read and has helped me understand more about the world around us. Professionally, my reading over the past year has focused on appointment setting and gaining access to decision makers. This seems to be a hot issue for organizations selling into the B-to-B market.

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