Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Corporate Rain Makers


Description: Executive sales outsourcing boutique

Start-Up: $10,000 in 1996

Estimated annual sales of $1.9 million

A failed Broadway producer, Timothy Askew began looking for other options, and his CEO acquaintances offered jobs. Although he was reluctant to take on anything full time, several projects involving CEO-to-CEO dealings exposed Askew to an untapped niche in the sales process. Corporate Rain is the result.

CRI arranges high-level "new business" meetings, or pre-sells, with senior executives of companies targeted by his clients. Why do companies turn to CRI? Says Askew, "Basically, people hate doing this. There's a ton of rejection involved." Coupled with the slow and systematic process, CRI can be regarded as a godsend. "Rejection is our middle name-it's what we do," says Askew. "Our success rate is 8 to 15 percent. Believe it or not, that's phenomenally high."

Reaching out to corporate decision-makers, CRI's sales force is comprised of entrepreneurs and former executives who have Ph.D.s, MBAs or other high-level credentials and thus can have what Askew describes as a "peer-to-peer approach" to sales, representing clients like AT&T, Con Edison Communications and Deloitte & Touche. "It's basically phone work," says a modest Askew. "Mostly our success is just plain persistence. It's not like we're a genius company-we just use very high-level people. We also emphasize courtesy above success."

Askew's master's degrees in education, philosophy and religion shape his take on business. "It's more from an ethics and service point of view rather than pure profit. I just assume the profits will follow if you tell the truth and do right by people."

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