Recognizing Our Best: Kevin Byer
When you’re in the sales business, rejection is routine. You’ll hear the word ‘no’ many times before you finally get that magical ‘yes’ from a customer. But on those days when you’re feeling knocked down, it’s good to have someone like Kevin Byer in your corner.
As director of inside sales for Dealer.com in Burlington, Vermont, he keeps his sales team motivated, despite the often-daunting headwinds created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kevin’s ability to empower people and bring out the best in others has earned him one of Cox Enterprises’ highest honors, the Governor James M. Cox Award.
Byers’ job involves strategizing with the seven inside regional sales managers on his team about how they are going to sell digital marketing services to automotive dealerships. But he also seizes every opportunity to “Make a Little Music,” — that is, inject a little fun and energy into an otherwise ordinary day at work. How? He has a unique superpower that helps — Kevin has spent years raising peoples’ spirits as a stand-up comedian.
Leading with Humor
Building resiliency is key to long-term success. That’s a lesson that Kevin learned the hard way as a stand-up comedian.
Although his early career was spent in commercial real estate, he decided to pursue stand-up comedy full-time, moving first to Los Angeles and then New York City. The plan lost its luster after a few years of scraping by with very little income and seeing more experienced comedians still struggling to break through. Kevin ultimately decided to return to the business world. However, the experience he gained in handling tough crowds continues to serve him well.
“Your sales pitch isn’t going to land the way you want it to every time. It’s the same with stand-up,” Kevin explained. “Every stand-up comedian has to learn how to bomb (not get laughs) and win the audience back. That is one of the best skills ever. You have to just be resilient.”
Resiliency has been especially helpful these past few years as COVID-19 shook the automotive industry. At the start of the pandemic, many dealerships temporarily closed their doors and auto manufacturing powered down. In the latter half of last year, auto sales went through the roof due to pent-up demand when businesses reopened, and manufacturing resumed. Business was good for Dealer.com then, too, since more dealers than ever were interested in digital retailing.
But then in 2021, a severe shortage in computer chips needed to manufacture new cars led to a new crisis: low inventory. Salespeople on Kevin’s team had an uphill climb, trying to market car-buying tools to dealers that don’t have very many cars to sell. Sales took a dive and morale slumped, said Darren McNeil, an inside regional sales manager on Kevin’s team.
Kevin rallied his team by planning a helpful training event where subject matter experts shared advice on how to overcome some of the new objections they were hearing from customers. He also ensured his team stayed connected regularly by using Microsoft Teams’ “Together” mode to meet virtually. That, along with his trademark humor, provided the spark the team needed to begin moving the needle again on sales, according to Darren.
“A lot of the issues we’re dealing with haven’t been joking matters, but some humor along the way makes that a lot easier to digest and makes working a lot more fun,” Darren said.
If there’s one quality that Kevin’s friends and team members envy, it’s his energy, said Laura Charbonneau, another inside regional sales manager on Kevin’s team.
The same energy he brings to the job translates to his everyday life. He plays golf or hits balls on the driving range almost every day, and he’s also a very busy family man. Kevin and his wife have five children, ranging from 5 to 21. He also has been writing some new material and making plans to perform again at one of his favorite Vermont comedy clubs. Kevin has already had some success on stage in his home state, winning Vermont Comedy Club's Funniest Comic in VT contest in 2012.
Somehow, he keeps his work and home life in balance, and he often encourages his team to do the same.
“He was really accommodating for each of us as we navigated our own challenges of the pandemic and working remotely,” said Darren. “Throughout the whole thing, he really was a champion for a balanced routine and for staying focused on our mental and physical health.”
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