Uncopyable Women in Sales

Coni Lefferts: From Door-to-Door Sales to CEO

September 13, 2023 Kay Season 1 Episode 5
Uncopyable Women in Sales
Coni Lefferts: From Door-to-Door Sales to CEO
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Kay talks with Coni Lefferts, President and CEO of Creative Packaging Solutions. Coni starting her sales career in an unusual way: selling catastrophic insurance door-to-door (in the heat of Houston, TX)! Despite the challenges, she was determined to succeed, and even practiced her sales pitch on her own mother. When her mom became a customer, she knew she could do it. Coni has enjoyed an impressive career with a lot of variety (she has some great stories!) and shares her advice on the importance of understanding customer needs and focusing on problem-solving rather than just talking about the product. She explains how she prioritizes long-term sales relationships, and says she gets the greatest joy from working with startups - where her company can make the biggest impact. Coni believes that women have strengths and advantages in sales, like patience and persistence. Her sales advice: Be proud of what you do, because you'll make a difference in not only your life, but your customer as well. 


Coni Lefferts is a dynamic businesswoman and founder of Creative Packaging Solutions Corporation, where she harnesses her expertise in packaging structures, design, and manufacturing to help brands make a lasting impact. With a keen understanding of the power of first impressions, Coni leverages her experience to help clients create packaging that not only stands out but also fosters brand loyalty.

As a woman-owned, independent wholesale distributor of primary and secondary packaging containers and components, Creative Packaging Solutions sources its products from top manufacturers across the US, North and South America, Europe, China, Taiwan, Korea, and India. The company is certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council which allows it to compete for corporate supplier diversity programs, opening doors for a broader range of customers.





Kay Miller interviews women in sales with proven track records, as they share their experiences, success strategies and tools you can use to crush your sales goals. Kay has a history of sales success, earning the nickname “Muffler Mama” when she sold more automotive mufflers than anyone in the world. Kay and her guests deliver actionable insights and real-world tools that will help you overcome obstacles, adopt a winning mindset, and maximize your sales results.

Kay is the author of the book, Uncopyable Sales Secrets – How to Create an Unfair Advantage and Outsell the Competition. Go to Amazon.com and search “Uncopyable Sales Secrets” to order the book, or click the link below.

Order Uncopyable Sales Secrets: amzn.to/35dGlYZ

Speaker 1 (00:00:00) - Welcome to Uncopyable Women in sales. If you're looking for actionable insights and real world tools to turbocharge your sales starting tomorrow, well, you're in the right place. Your host, Kay Miller, earned the affectionate nickname Muffler Mama when she sold more automotive mufflers than anyone else in the world. In this podcast, Kay will talk to another superstar Woman in Sales as they reveal copyable strategies you can use to rack up more leads, snag dream clients and take your sales numbers through the roof. Stay tuned and get ready to make more sales. And how about this? More money.

Speaker 2 (00:00:44) - Welcome to another episode of Copyable Women in Sales. Today I have an awesome guest, Coni Lefferts. Coni is the president and CEO of Creative Packaging Solutions, a supplier of retail packaging containers. They supply consumer product goods, brands and their contract fillers. Coni has become a client and I always enjoy spending time with her. Coni, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. Well, thank you, Kay. Nice to see you again.

Speaker 2 (00:01:17) - Now, today I want to talk about sales and maybe some marketing, but primarily sales. And you got into sales in a very interesting and unique way. So I would love to hear the story of how that that experience went and what it taught you. So why don't you take it from here? I'd be glad to. Well, there was a time when I lived in Houston, Texas. Now Houston, Texas is hot. Maybe not as hot as some other areas right now, but at the time it was hot and humid and I decided I needed to earn an income somehow. And I started working for an insurance company selling catastrophic insurance, most specifically cancer. And we saw that that policy door by door, regardless of what that door represented, it could be a house. It could be a Firestone tire company with ten employees or more, or it could be an office building. But the theory was you go to every single door, you get in the door, you have a script that had to be followed word by word, and you sold it.

Speaker 2 (00:02:40) - You got the check and you left. And that was the go ahead. You were very successful at that. And, you know, you said it was a crazy thing to be selling well, but you were very successful at it. And it was a service that helped people. It did. Well, I didn't know if I was going to be successful, but I was practicing my script. As I said, it had to be memorized. And I practiced it on my mother, who bought a policy. Love that. Well, that's a good indication it worked. But then, you know, we would meet in for breakfast a crew of about six people. We'd meet for breakfast. We'd read motivational books together, chapters or something like that. And then we'd split out and and each person would be assigned different blocks. And we were and then at the end of the day, we meet back again and everybody would show their their book of sales. And I did this for about three years now.

Speaker 2 (00:03:41) - I had a lot of flat tires in the in that I had to learn how to change a flat tire because we were out in the middle of no, we weren't in the city of Houston. We were out in the in the outlands. And and if I was out, I didn't have any air to come get me. I had to learn how to change a tire. But the worst part, too, was we're dressed in in business clothes. We're not walking the blocks of or the roads of Texas in shorts and tennis shoes. We're in fashion with with hosiery and and suits and jackets. And sometimes it was so brutal that I didn't care if anybody bought a policy. I just wanted to get inside, you know, just let me in so I can explain this to you. And if you don't buy, you know, that's my thinking. If you don't buy, that's okay. But if you if you listen to the whole script, you probably will buy. And they did. Yeah, I became so successful.

Speaker 2 (00:04:38) - I was the lead salesperson for the for the whole company and for you. Annual conventions that give you little pins, gold pins with diamonds in them. And so when you do that for several years, it becomes it almost becomes like a remote memory. You just keep doing it over and over again. But finally I wore out. Just understandable. So, yeah, so I started. I looked for something else to do. And my husband at the time was with Tenneco, which is which at the time was a much bigger oil company and he ran the sales promotion for them. So I thought, Well, I'll start a sales promotion agency. And I said, but I know I can't sell him. So. So I found out who his supplier was or his made who he bought from. So I went in for an interview and I was sitting down with this with this man at a company called Ran, ran something or other. And I was and I was sitting across from and he says, Well, you could go and you could sell for me.

Speaker 2 (00:05:44) - You probably won't sell anything, but you could sell for me. And I was sitting here and watching him and I was saying, you know what? If this if this kind of business works, then I'm going to start my own company and go into competition with you because you're so obnoxious. I love it. That's great. Guess what did I did? I worked for him for about a year, learn the business and then went into competition with him. I didn't sell my husband anything, but I sold a lot of other companies and I hired all women, all the other companies in Houston that had the same business. We're Men. And so I heard all women and they did. They did wonderful. The women was the best thing I ever did because nobody had a woman calling on them. So so that, you know, when we talk about an copyable advantage, Tenneco, by the way, was the parent company of Walker, where I worked for, who I worked for and got my nickname Muffler Mama.

Speaker 2 (00:06:41) - So that's kind of an interesting coincidence. I just want to touch on one other thing about your early career. You said you stopped being afraid of cold calls. You just were so over your fear after doing it again and again that it didn't bother you at all. Right? Not at all. Mean When you do something like that over and over again, you feel like, well, if they have a 5050 chance of them by either they say yes or no and that's it. So once you once you get past the fear of either knocking on a door, nobody does that anymore. I don't think. Or making that phone call. There is no fear in that. Once you get over that, once you've been through that anxiety so much. I would love I love to sit down and make phone calls to people I've never talked to before. I think it's fun. And for you. That's right. And one day we did a test. We had two salespeople in here, and we had a list.

Speaker 2 (00:07:38) - They were having trouble reaching people or getting them to talk with them. I said, give me one. Give me a name. So I took them. So I took a name and they sit down next to me and I said, okay. I called them up, got them on the phone, talk to them, find out what they needed. And from that, you know, they see it's it's easy. You just have to get over the fear that they won't like you because it's not you. They like or not. It's if they have a need or not. And you have to find out what that need is. Right. And I was going to ask you your opinion on using a script, because I think a script probably works well, B to C and in the in the situation you had. But now as you go into business to business, how do you feel about that? Like you said, it's more about finding out their needs. So how do you feel about scripts in what you do now? Well, if you listen.

Speaker 2 (00:08:38) - When I'm making calls to somebody I haven't met yet, I usually I don't follow a script, but I follow a guideline. In other words, I have to know that I'm talking to the right person. I follow a guideline of of letting them know that I'm there to help them, that I've studied their company, that I know what they do, that I'm not a stranger to what they do and what their problems might be, so I can get into being a consultative sale seller rather than one time, get the order and leave one and done right. We want long term relationships. We want customers that will be with us and we with them for years and years to grow with them and us with with each other. And so not really following a script, but following just a pattern, maybe a pattern of what common sense so that they know that we're that we're interested in them and not just ourselves and our products. Because if we go in and say we sell bottles, well, they don't care if we sell bottles, right? They may not need a bottle.

Speaker 2 (00:09:46) - Right? You don't know what they need until you find out. And I think that's something that salespeople do make a mistake with is, you know, we love our product. We're so invested in our product that we talk about me, me, me. And, you know, you really do need to find out about the customer, find out their problems and what's going on with them before you begin to tell them how you can solve that. Absolutely. And the other side is. Note taking, because if you're taking notes, you're listening. I love that. And that's something I talk about in my book, especially, you know, face to face. I think any time that you take notes, it helps me process the information. If you are face to face or even on Zoom, I think it's good because they know you're tuned in to what they're saying. So I really like that about note taking. Exactly. And listening is always been something that I all that I try to improve upon because it's so it's, it's so easy to listen to, to hearing someone say something but and you're already formulating your response before they're finished then you're not really listening.

Speaker 2 (00:10:58) - And I agree and you can if you ask more about what they were talking about, you know, say, okay, tell me more then that that shows that you're listening and you're interested. So do you think that's a good is that something that you do always And matter of fact, I catch people when I say, okay, you talked to someone about this or that. What? What date was that? Mhm. Just a very, you know, easy question. That's non-threatening, right. Yeah. When was that. What was that. Last week. Two weeks ago. When was that. Because the other thing I asked them to do is to not only take notes of what their conversation is, but to make a note of when that was. Because, um, that means that they have a chronological order of what they've done, um, and that, you know. It doesn't matter if it's to a customer or to their to their gatekeeper, whatever it is. When you call somebody what they did, you call them, when are you going to call them again? And you know from your notes what it was.

Speaker 2 (00:12:10) - Um, right. So and that's really building upon that customer relationship. Right. And, you know, I see a lot of sales training and a lot of the things you read about sales are getting in the door, which I teach and, you know, building rapport and relationship and getting to the bottom of their needs. But in your kind of sales, you're right. You want these relationships to go on for years, so you're not trying to get in the door or establish that you're just proving that you are still interested in their success.

Speaker 1 (00:12:44) - Today's podcast is sponsored by the acclaimed book on Copyable Sales Secrets How to Create an Unfair Advantage and Outsell Your Competition by Kay Miller. Put the secrets in this book to work and you'll make more sales, grow your network and become a top earner. See the show notes or go to Amazon.com and search for uncapped sales secrets to order the book right now.

Speaker 2 (00:13:09) - Very much so. If when they succeed, when they sell more product, we sell more packaging. And that's the basics of it.

Speaker 2 (00:13:18) - We sell. We. They grow, We grow. We have we work with companies before you even hear of them. With startup companies, they have a concept in their mind. They you know, their lotion or potion is is in development. They don't know what it is yet and we work with them to to till they launch it. And one company we followed all the way through for years until they were bought by by conglomerate out of France and we still do business with them. But but I'll never forget that first meeting sitting there. And they didn't know they had 1 or 2, you know, they had about six products and developing that first packaging for them and then expansion and more and more. And so we've stayed with them for years and it was really a very gratifying relationship. Right. And I think, you know, talk about a win win, you know, when they benefit and you benefit, I mean, it's really a great feeling of satisfaction. And like you said, it's gratifying to know that you helped a company succeed.

Speaker 2 (00:14:19) - And I know you said you do like dealing with startups. Because of that, you can really make an impact on those types of companies. Yeah, we prefer to work with them. We we've done business with multinationals, but they they're not as needy as the new people are. They have their own departments for package development and package engineering. They need us. They don't need us as much as someone who doesn't have that. People who are new to to their product, their main emphasis should be on their product, the marketing and sales of whatever it is they're going to try to put out in the market. It shouldn't be in all the other issues, like how to fill it, how to, how to package it. So we take that burden off of off of the brand owner. Right. And and I assume you help them narrow down their mousse, which is what we call in in Copyable. That's what we call the target market. So, you know, your moose and, you know, you serve that segment and you said you do have various segments, but you said you treat each of them as a separate moose.

Speaker 2 (00:15:31) - Is that correct? Precisely. And the reason we do that is because before I started the company, I worked for a variety of different manufacturers. So I learned how each type of packaging was manufactured. I work for a company that made plastic bottles, you know, good or bad these days, but that's what they made. And they worked for a company that did the boxes and see how they're made. But I concentrated on the personal care or the cosmetics companies. That was my moose that that industry. And I was working for other companies and that was their moose. So when I decided to start the my own company, I said, we need other people to to follow other markets, ideas, other, other industry. Yeah, and industry. So we have one person who's very, very good at food and beverage that's totally different than, than lotions and potions, food and beverage, someone else and pet and lawn care. Uh, someone else in in industrial and all these people, they stay within that market segment because if you're with.

Speaker 2 (00:16:45) - Um. Let's just say Avon, which everybody knows that name. If you're selling Avon or you're with Avon and you leave Avon, you're not going to go to, um, selling tires. Exactly. Or mufflers, you know, mufflers. You're not going to go from from, from a from a lotion to mufflers. So people stay within their industries and you follow them as they progress. You follow your contacts as they it, and then you are in a better position, each of those to to be in a consultation role and help those companies. Right. So it's it seems to me now one of the things when I've talked to you before, you had a great phrase and I said, what is the key to sales? Do you remember what you told me? Patient resistant persistence. Yeah. Well, yeah. Patient I think you also said friendly, friendly person. Yeah, right. I have to remind you of your secret. Well, yeah, but if you people buy from people they know, like and you know and trust.

Speaker 2 (00:17:55) - Yeah. Third one people know like and trust is what we exactly. So this is it's selling with knowing that you're developing that know like and trust relationship with each person. In company. So right and because some of what there's people who I've seen who are too persistent everybody has that in sales you have the people calling you and they're just so persistent. You don't you don't want to answer the phone or answer their emails. It's just too much. And that's we just had a meeting with a major national food grocery store chain, and there's their diversity. People said, you can be persistent, but don't do it. Overdo it. Right? Don't do it because it wears them out. You have to have that balance. And and yeah, you don't want them to see your name and not pick up the phone. But one you know, of course, one way to do that is if you are providing value along the way and you know you have this knowledge and, you know, perspective that can really help your customers or your prospects even before they become customers.

Speaker 2 (00:19:05) - And I assume that you do some of that. You help them along the way, right? We we do offer that as. As a unit. As a. Guess a identifier. The company is known to be able to find things or help them in areas that most people don't don't think exist. Uh, regardless of if it's made in the United States or China or Europe, we have a way of finding it. And you have a reputation then for being somebody that they can call and find out that information. Right. And that is we don't mind putting through the effort. And that's that's very important because, you know, that's when you talked about calling on a company, a B2B company, that you say, hey, I've found I've learned about you, I've studied you, I know the market. So that really shows that you've, you know, you've worked beforehand on getting to know what they need. And that separates you from the crowd right there. Exactly. Plus, we're not trying to sell just one item.

Speaker 2 (00:20:17) - That was the problem I was in when I was with a specific manufacturer. They you know, we could only I could only like a vacuum for them. Know very few people buy vacuum forms, but that's all I could sell. So, you know, when I branched out and did my own thing, I said, Well, we're going to offer everything. We're going to be complete package for everything that somebody needs to put their product on the shelf. But that is a differentiator. I didn't know it at the time, but it is truly what differentiated us from our competitors sitting in the waiting room of a vendor lounge. That you were the full, full meal deal. Yeah. And I want to go back to what you said about hiring women. So and you said that was very successful. And do you feel like there are certain things that women are better at that help them make sales? What is your perspective on that? Think women are more intuitive. And they're not they're not afraid to show that curiosity and empathy towards their prospects.

Speaker 2 (00:21:25) - And that's and they have more patience. You know, they'll they'll sit and they'll persistent. They'll stay with somebody until they either know that they're going to be able to help them or they can't. And that's something that most men will will we all say, well, you know, Joe Blow, he didn't help me at all, so I'm not going to I'm going to forget about him. I mean, it's and I have one one company that I deal with that they eliminate all their leads after six months if they don't buy. They take you explain that to me, You know, was selling for them. And I said, well, what happened to the lead I gave you six months ago? They said, Well, you know, we didn't ever get anything out of them, so we eliminated them from our system. I said, But it can take months and persistent months to get someone to buy. It's not a it's not a one and done sale. It takes a long time sometimes. And it's worth it to be persistent.

Speaker 2 (00:22:22) - Yeah. And you're buying cycle, I'm sure for some customers, I mean, six months is probably nothing, right? Well, we just finished one that took two years. Right? So yeah. And, and the women are more, are more understanding of that and more patient with it than the than the men are. That's coming from your experience. So that's pretty good advice. So, you know, got to use your strengths. And the goal is to make sales. I think that also women can just be as as goal oriented as the men as dedicated to succeeding and closing deals. And, you know, just because you're a woman doesn't mean that you're a wallflower or whatever. No, it doesn't. Um, there was a once worked for as a customer service rep for one of the Litton Industries companies and, and, um, it was interesting job, but I was watching all the salespeople and they were making a lot more money than I was. So I went to management and I said, I want to be a salesperson.

Speaker 2 (00:23:31) - Instead they said, You can. It's only men that are salespeople. Wow. And that was several years ago. And I think that management is now, you know, they've gotten smart about that. They know that women are just as detail oriented and as just as ambitious as the men are. And even though they are women, they it doesn't curtail them from working hard or giving up their family life sometimes to do that, to follow their career. Right. And, you know, it's amazing that, you know, things have changed. They still need to change more. But I think that being a woman, you know, it can also be an advantage because you stand out from the men. So, you know, you are somebody that if someone tells you you can't do it, that makes you all the more dedicated to showing them, Oh, that's BS. I sure can do it. More determined than ever. Right, Right. So it's always a pleasure to talk with you. And it's been very fun talking sales, especially with all your experience.

Speaker 2 (00:24:42) - Do you have any closing thoughts on what you feel like is most important? You've talked about the consultative skills. You've talked about learning about the company first, um, being having friendly persistence and developing that relationship. So there's a lot of, there are a lot of components, but what would you say to the listener that they should keep in mind as they are, you know, embarking on sales or continuing their sales career? Be proud of what you do. Because you will make a difference in not only your life, but whoever you sell to as well. And that's something that you can put your own plaque up on the wall and say you're a success. That's because sales has gotten a bad rap, you know. You picture the used car salesmen or whatever. And, you know, I like to sometimes say we're in the business of helping, not just selling, but helping. And that is a lot more appealing than what we have the connotation, the negative connotation of sales. So the fact that you say be proud of what you're doing and be proud of the difference that you're making.

Speaker 2 (00:26:00) - And even if it's a muffler like I sold and it's maybe not the most exciting product in the world, but it impacted the businesses that I served. And, you know, I called on everything from large distributors to small, you know, family companies. And that does that's a great point of being proud of what you do, having integrity and really caring about the customer. So. Thank you so much, Coni. Thank you. Good to see you, Kay.

Speaker 1 (00:26:30) - Thanks for listening to this episode of Unpopular Women in Sales, Your source for secrets you can use to make more sales. Check the show notes for links and contact information. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please spread the word by subscribing, sharing and leaving a five star review. You can always learn more by going to UN copyable sales.com/podcast. Until next time, go out and supercharge your sales like a true unpopular rock star. To.