Jeff Holt may not be single-handedly redefining promotional products sales, but his approach embodies the promotional consultant’s mantra: don’t sell products, sell solutions. He left the fast-paced world of advertising to work at Kirkland, Washington, distributor Image Source, Inc. (UPIC: IMAGESCE), a stone’s throw from his hometown of Seattle. He makes his home in nearby Shoreline with his best friend and wife, Caycee, and their three children, ages nine, seven and five.
As a selling principal at Image Source, Holt’s primary job is helping fuel the company’s engine. “This is done by taking a full-service agency approach and forming long-term client partnerships that allow us to generate that all-important recurring revenue,” says Holt. “I am also responsible for establishing, nurturing and evolving the Image Source brand, creating differentiation and maintaining our brand voice. These have been my primary roles at Image Source for 12 years now.”
In his downtime, Holt spends as much time with his children as he can, coaching soccer and baseball, and enjoying the outdoors.
What was your first job, and what lessons did you learn?
My first job was painting houses for my dad’s small painting company. I spent summers scraping siding, priming trim and masking windows in the hot sun. It was some hard work! I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything though, because it taught me the value of a hard day’s work and also helped me pay my share of college tuition. It also taught me how to put things in order and not skip important steps. When you’re painting a house, if you skip steps, the work suffers. It’s the same thing in sales and building relationships.
When did you know you wanted to work in promotional products?
I didn’t. Or at least I didn’t know I wanted to be in promotional merchandise and apparel until it was too late (I mean this facetiously, of course!). It started with a year-long stint working with Brian Haner for the original Adventures in Advertising. After leaving the industry to chase a master’s degree (and eventually a girl who would become my wife), I came full circle to work with Haner and Tom Goos at Image Source. This industry has a knack for getting its hooks into you.
What advice would you share with an industry newcomer?
Nobody likes being sold, right? Salespeople are icky, but show me something of value that solves a need, and I like you. This is a people business—it’s all about creating relationships. In sales, it’s less about selling something than it is about providing a solution for your customer’s needs. When you provide a desirable and motivating solution, our products sell themselves. Do this repeatedly and you form trust, leading to long-term relationships.
Who do you consider to be your mentors?
Brian Haner and Tom Goos are at the top of the list. They convinced me to join the industry and got me into selling, which was quite outside my comfort zone at the time. I learn something new from them every day. My parents have always been and continue to be highly influential mentors. And my wife, Caycee, lights the path and inspires the journey.
What motivates you in business? In life?
My family. Absolutely nothing in this world is more important to me than my family.
What promotional product do you wish you had invented?
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
Helping build a recognized best workplace both within and outside our industry.
If you were to write a book about your life, what would the title be?
“Keep it simple.”