Travel the world to ski and talk about skiing? Yes please. That’s the life of Erik Anderson, Salomon and Atomic’s sales director. But the 100 days away from home each year isn’t as glamorous.
What are your day-to-day duties?
It varies widely based on the season. I spent about two days in the office in January because I was at product launches, buying shows and sales meetings, and trade shows and demos. While summer often means less travel, it’s definitely not slow. One week I conducted 12 sales rep reviews (I manage 20 reps) that each take about 90 minutes. I’m also staying on top of the supply chain to make sure retailers get their orders on time and receive the right products. All the while I’m in constant contact with our European colleagues to put final touches on the following year's products.
In fall it’s sales meetings, being on the phone with sales reps and ski shops to see how sales are going and if there are any issues that need to be resolved. Then I head to Europe for a final line presentation of the following season's products, and to help figure out how we’ll market them in the U.S. Shortly afterwards, samples arrive, so we have buying group shows and trade shows and demos and pretty soon the winter’s over.
I’m also responsible for setting, tracking and enforcing sales goals. I help with forecasts to determine how many skis to make and project what our pre-season, re-order and in-season sales will be, and then I make sure we’re moving through the inventory.
How did you get your job, and what advice do you have for someone who wants to be a sales director?
I started working at a ski shop when I was 16. At that point my dream was to own my own shop. I ended up working at different shops for 14 years doing everything from salesman to hardgoods manager and hardgoods buyer to general merchandising manager. I’ve coached and been a ski instructor, and all of that helped me land a national sales manager (and eventually the alpine division vice president) position at Fischer, and then I came here to Salomon and Atomic.
My advice to someone that wants to be in a sales director position is to be a jack-of-all-trades and make sure to have solid retail experience. When I look to fill positions, I look for a diverse background in addition to ski shop experience. You need to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. So any chance available, help at a demo, be a local area rep, and do anything else that will get you in with the company. It tends to be internal positions that lead to sales management roles, so make those connections.
How the sales landscape has changed over the years?
In a lot of ways it hasn’t. I’d say it’s gotten more personalized. My generation of sales managers is less about hard-selling and more about establishing long-term relationships with sales reps and ski shops. But it’s always been about relationships and having your ear to the ground to see what’s coming up next and how the response is from the industry.
One shift has been for brands to go away from in-house sales reps. Salomon was one of the last brands to have in-house reps. Having independent reps is cheaper for the company because we don’t have to pay a salary and commission, travel and entertainment expenses and vehicle costs. In that regards, it makes my job easier because I don’t have to manage those budgets.
What are the biggest struggles you face with your job?
Time management is always hard. Everything seems to come at once, so you need to prioritize or the big stuff will fall through the cracks. But being away from family so much is tough too.
How much are you on the road?
I’m on the road about 100 nights per year. I’d say 25 percent of that is to Europe for product meetings, 25 percent is buying group shows and trade shows, there’s about a week of sales meetings, and the rest is dealer visits, travelling with sales reps and doing demos and magazine tests.
There are times when the travel is great because I get some downtime or the work trip involves skiing. Those are the days when I get paid to travel and ski in places that most people pay big money for. But I’d say 75 percent of the time I’m in a meeting from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., then go out to dinner with colleagues before heading back to the hotel to check email and do office-type work.
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