"Then one must efficiently use the resources available (sales engineers, systems, marketing promotions, and project management, etc.) to provide a fact-based, no-nonsense case for going with Verizon rather than the competition," he continued. "The sales range from very modest to large, but, if I may use a baseball analogy, there are many more singles and doubles than the occasional base-clearing home run. Both of my modules are within Eastern Massachusetts; however, the companies I assist represent a wide range of industries, with the exception of government. I started at a predecessor company of Verizon in 1989 and [stayed] through the end of 2000. I left the company for a few years and returned in the spring of 2004 for this position."
In college, Pilkons was a political science major, and he joined New England Telephone as a service representative in the residential market. According to Pilkons, that particular job involved orders, billing, sales with customers, and interfacing with many departments within the company.
"I quickly learned that I had the most fun with the sales part of the job and was able to produce good results consistently. The solid results provided good exposure, and I was promoted to a staff manager position. From there, I transferred to outside sales and have been there for most of my career at Verizon," he said.
Verizon's strategy at present for the small and medium market relies on personal contact with clients to offer a product set that contains voice, data, Internet, and hardware, explained Pilkons.
"Equipped with sales tools and systems, the goal is to demonstrate to the customer that Verizon should be the first choice of vendor partners to discuss all communications matters since we can assist with so many products and fulfill so many needs. That's the logic and economics side of the equation, but I also try very hard to establish a good relationship with the customer as early as possible so, in turn, the customer will be more likely to think of Verizon first."
Verizon has excellent name recognition, and that makes it easier for sales representatives like Pilkons to get by gatekeepers or have calls returned. However, since Verizon services so many facets of a customer's network, the job can be challenging at times.
"All in all, the Verizon name holds up well as a company that invests in its network and personnel and provides good service. The public sees Verizon as in it for the long haul, which can be a great foundation on which to start a relationship with new customers," said Pilkons.
Verizon came into being as the result of several mergers beginning with old-time Bell companies like New England Telephone, but the Verizon brand was born in 2000. In 2005, Verizon merged with MCI to form Verizon Business, a leading provider of communications products and services to large institutions and governments across the globe.
The product set has changed considerably over the years and not that long ago was essentially based on dial-tone (e.g., Centrex) and point-to-point data circuits. At this point, the product set includes all business telecommunications services, with the exception of cellular services, which are handled by another division of Verizon. Verizon has remained competitive by introducing new products and services over the years.
Pilkons said that Verizon is facing a new challenge these days, with competition in some cases shifting from traditional competitors (other telecommunications companies) to cable companies. "With services like FiOS—Verizon's fiber-optic network that delivers voice, data, Internet, and video—we are rolling out best-in-class products, but we must displace a mature product that is not our 'traditional core' service," said Pilkons.
"The product set for business services is definitely migrating from the traditional dial-tone and copper services to IP-based and managed services. Verizon Business is a testament to the migration. I would predict more value and stress upon IP services during the next several years, and that will dovetail with our current ability to provide hardware to support the services," he added.
When asked about significant mentors in his career, Pilkons spoke of his first sales manager, Tom Friel. "Tom was just about to retire when I began working with him; however, I learned a lot about how to sell and how to work effectively. In a short time, he was able to share much about the sales process and customer interaction, and those items hold up no matter the product set," said Pilkons.
"While still in college, I met another gentleman while working at a country club. He was the top salesman in the country for Seagram's. (He was making about 250K a year in 1986.) Granted, there is a vast difference in how one sells liquor over telecom, but he spoke to me over and over about how a good salesman can make a good living and have fun doing it."
Pilkons' advice to anyone eyeing a large-scale sales position is to understand the company and the product set you are providing. "There are many good salespeople that do not succeed because they don't learn the internal systems or processes," he said. "Keys to success are aptitude for learning, desire to succeed, the thrill of the chase, and adaptability."