Deborah Gavello has her own consulting business and teaches adults sales and customer service skills. She is accustomed to being the subject matter expert, the one who gets asked the tough questions, and controls the group environment. She was the top salesperson in California for Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and number two out of 1,000 salespeople nationwide. Her best references come not only from the presidents who hire her but also from their top salespeople, some with 30 years of sales experience, who tell her, “I wish I had had your training years ago; I think about how much more successful I would have been then.”  She never imagined being hired by over 100 companies. Her website, has pages of references, including video testimonials of happy clients.

Now, imagine this expert, sitting in “Math Boot Camp” two years ago, at Columbia University’s Graduate Executive MPA program, questioning why she ever wanted to go back to school. Reviewing algebra and geometry, which she hadn’t seen in a long time. The worse part was, she haven’t done calculus since she was 17 years old and in her first semester of undergraduate school. She was feeling overwhelmed. She thought to herself, “Wait, now I have to learn calculus again for economics? Where is the exit?” She studied math every day for a month straight. Failing wasn’t an option!

One of the most utilized subjects her former students say they learned from her is: the Change Cycle – how to successfully manage a change. Therefore, why not go through this challenging change herself? She graduated this past year, and strives to inspire others that it is important to keep the brain challenged, at every age.

Lastly, No one can operate and be successful long-term with fears of failing. The ones that take the calculated risk and adapt to new changes will succeed in the next decade! Remember if starting a business were easy everyone would do it.

How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

While I was working in sales management at ADP I was conducting sales training for free at Regional Banks. The Banks really liked it, but didn’t appreciate it, because it was for free. I thought, “If I charge for this, they will show up on time.”

How do you make money?

I charge clients for my time to provide ideas, create materials, programs, and to instruct courses for senior management and all employees.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

First year.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

I was young, and if it didn’t work, I could get another full time job in sales or sales management.

How did you get your first customer?

Cold called one of my former competitors. He knew I was the top salesperson at ADP, and wanted my help to improve his firm. (Payfone) My goal was to be hired by 25 clients; I reached that very quickly. I think my first year I had 6 clients. Moreover, working for myself allowed me to focus on the quality of my work product.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

Telemarketing directly to the Presidents of companies. Excel was my best friend; that and a telephone.

I was so good at cold calling and getting appointments that my over zealous behaviors got me an appointment with Sanwa Bank, but I didn’t have business cards nor any materials to show them.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Who to call on? What markets should I go after with my new degree? Changing my prospects to a broader field is not easy, but important.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

Not being afraid to pick up the phone and cold call. Also, I am very focused on marketing consistently, good listening skills and knowing how to sell “Value”.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Selling one very large bank. (Downey Savings and Loan). Two of us trained over 500 people over 3 months time.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

I don’t know; but I am not afraid. Most often it’s the fear of failure that stops people in their tracks from doing what they know might be necessary to achieve their personal goals.

Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how would you like to be contacted?

Not at this time, maybe in a year or two.

What is the most important quality you look for in hiring people?

Their ability to handle change and their intelligence level. I can’t make people want to get out of bed and go to work. I can only make it fun and rewarding once they arrive. I enjoy inspiring people to be the best they can be.

Have you ever turned down work?

Yes, one client of mine had negotiated a contract with me for a good amount of money. I had a signed agreement and had done work for them the prior year; furthermore, they were happy with my work. The HR director later, decided to try and re-negotiate and save $5,000 dollars. I told her “NO”, she thought I should take it. I thought to myself, “I will re-place this with a better client. This is a lose/lose situation. I want to do work for clients who appreciate my work.” And I did. Do not re-negotiate your prices down ever; you give up your value. Your price is your price and should be respected by your clients.

What is motivation to you?

“Motivation is having people perform their required task in a timely manner and having them feel good about it.” DG

How do you find good people?

Learn how to interview properly. Have someone watch you interview, without asking any questions and give you constructive feedback. Prepare for your interviews ahead of time, and don’t ask leading questions.

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