Confessions of a CEO: Why I Do What I Do

by Susan Walsh, President and CEO, Sales-Link Inc.

After 14 years of working for the Department of the Navy, I was excited to be heading to the other side. Yes, I was venturing off to work with companies such as IBM and Perot Systems. These were excellent companies, and I was lucky, and my timing was good.

I happen to like doing what most people run away from. Yes, I was the ultimate cold caller. I was the door opener, and I loved it. For me, each call was like traveling to a new destiny, mostly because I was going to meet someone new, and learn about this person and the company. Many times, I didn’t realize the hole I was about to step in, and a few times I even hit “UREEKA”! I didn’t care about the hit rate, because I was a persistent rat running on the wheel. The faster I went, the more calls I could make, and the more calls, the better the hit rate. Both my sisters were stockbrokers at the time, and although I was selling services, not stocks, I was doing it at the pace of a wall street broker.

The door's kept opening and I got my chance to enter the sales world. It was scary, and extremely competitive, but I wanted to be really good at it, so I kept moving fast and didn’t give up. I was typically the first in, and last out, each work day. I made calls late into the day, as long as people were potentially still working, I was calling or leaving voicemails. My past experience as a cold caller and door opener, surely set the groundwork for me to be a really good salesperson.

Sales is great, and I’m still selling to this day. I decided to start my own company 20 years ago, because I noticed that there aren’t many people who enjoy the cold call/door opener role. The funny thing is, that no matter how many years pass us by, there is still a requirement, a need for cold calling. I knew that if I started a company that could open doors, I would need to use technology to do the parts that are repetitive. That has actually worked!

Running a company takes guts, but it has given me exciting challenges that keep producing more challenges. And although I still do what a lot of people don’t like to do (cold calling), I’m now training a new generation of cold callers. Still, I’m the first one in, and the last one out. I think that means that I have found my niche in business, and if you haven’t figured it out by now…I happen to love what I do.