How can one best understand just what makes Kate Kingston tick? For the answer to the motivation and the success behind the founder of Kingston Training Group (KTG), we offer a microcosm of the experience from the viewpoint of one of her students, a female sales executive from a former Global Imaging Company satellite in Seattle.
This rep, “Sarah,” was in her early 20s and was consistently late for the training sessions. Kingston pondered that perhaps Sarah had been out late socializing, as evidenced by her lethargy and lack of energy during the early morning sessions. Anyone who has witnessed Kingston in action is quite familiar with her boundless enthusiasm and improbable adrenalin supply, thus Sarah’s flaccid demeanor stood in stark contrast.
Despite the outward appearance, Sarah flourished throughout the four-month engagement, and during the final meeting, she shared her story with Kingston. Sarah was a foster mother to two young boys, and as a single parent, she struggled to make ends meet. But the training sessions proved to be a blessing; Sarah was able to make more meetings, close more deals, and could now afford to send her boys to karate lessons.
The training fees Kingston reaps may pay the bills, but the satisfaction of success stories such as Sarah’s provides both validation of KTG’s program and the satisfaction of being a difference maker in someone else’s life.
“Knowing that my training directly affects the income of my reps, and enables them to provide for their families, is a huge motivating factor for me,” said Kingston, a 2022
Difference Maker as well. “Bettering people’s lives is a gratifying part of my life.”
Kingston is a walking, talking happy pill who has a salutary effect on those she engages with on any level. The poster child for infectious enthusiasm, Kingston follows a mantra, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything,” and follows through by emptying her full supply of effort into training calls, the content she creates and the interactions with her students.
She utilizes a unique approach to prospecting by customizing the conversations to the customer, their company, the business vertical and the executive’s responsibility at that company. All told, that knowledge provides a clear understanding of how technology infrastructure proprietarily impacts the client’s business model.
Star is born
Kingston’s background is essentially a case study in discovering one’s true strengths. An aspiring actress, Kingston was working to complete her master’s degree in theater and was moonlighting as a waitress, but the second-hand restaurant smoke in the era before ‘no smoking’ became ubiquitous was not conducive to her voice. So she took a part-time job as a receptionist for an on-demand printing company in New York.
One day, the owner told her how customers were raving about her voice, and offered Kingston a full-time gig as the receptionist. Instead, she sold the owner on the idea of becoming an appointment setter, which at that point was not an established role. Kingston closed the deal by offering to get paid on only those appointments set. She was essentially handed a Crain’s listing book of businesses and left to her own talents.
The first call, to makeup/perfume giant Avon, illustrated Kingston’s critical thinking skills and foreshadowed her vertical prospecting prowess. She knew the key to success was connecting the dots between Avon’s desire to move more cosmetics product and the printer’s ability to craft marketing pieces. Kingston knew that talk track would be most effective in setting an appointment and opening a broader conversation.
A star was born; Kingston knew she wanted to be on a stage, but little did she know the theater would be corporate instead of mainstream.
“I immediately had great success at appointment setting, and eventually they asked me to teach their sales executives how I was making so many focused C-level executive meetings,” Kingston recalled. “It was then that I realized I could transfer my success with other sales executives, which started my career as a sales trainer.”
In fact, the Global Imaging office was her first session after moving on from the on-demand printer. She guaranteed GIC at least a 50% sustainable increase in net-new meetings or the training would be free. That guarantee has since been applied to every one of her engagements and not once has she had to cut the client a refund check.
“I think I’m the only training company in our industry that guarantees results, which has definitely helped,” she added.
Kingston has flourished with the benefit of Mike Stramaglio’s Consortium, having tapped the insights of industry luminaries including Ed McLaughlin, Dan Cooper and Rick Taylor. Stramaglio has been generous with his ideas, she said, and has created opportunities for her to succeed and grow within the industry.
“Mike has imparted to me some of his work ethic, which includes hard work, commitment, enthusiasm and generosity, which are all qualities that will get you ahead in life and business,” Kingston added.
It was Cooper, then a major cog in the GIC engine, who provided Kingston the opportunity to share her methods with a dozen member companies. She also added to her impressive resume when Doug Pitassi tapped her to work with the Pacific Office Automation team.
KTG is coming off a campaign in which its Customer Service Excellence program has gained traction on a national level. According to Kingston, business technology dealerships understand that a focus on creating excellence with every interaction with the customer is an important component to keeping their business moving forward.
“We earn and keep the business of our customers every day—not just when we’re renewing contracts—by leveling the professionalism, standardizing the query answers, and communicating customer appreciation with every interaction with the customer,” she said.
Moving forward, Kingston believes training that incorporates marketing, video and social media into prospecting efforts will continue to produce results. Prospecting to the top 40 accounts in a dealer’s territory, she says, will yield clients that are profitable and thus take advantage of all solutions a dealer has to offer. Additional enhancements are being made to KTG’s program that focus on sales recruitment quotas.
So, how does a training guru raise her own game? Books, podcasts, blogs, TED Talks and other information channels from the world’s highest-performing executives help to increase her knowledge and understanding of how business works. In turn, she repurposes the wisdom to disseminate through her training sessions.
“I schedule at least 10 hours of reading a week and I know continuing that will help me in my pursuit of accomplishing better results with my sales teams, increase profits for my company and keep me in front of my competition,” she added.
Kingston and her husband, Rob Fields, have been married for more than 30 years. Fields also joined forces with KTG as its CEO. The couple has two children: son Will, 22, works in the Big Apple music scene as an engineer and member of the group The Sheer Currents. Daughter Zoe, 20, is entering her junior year at The Ohio State University.
When she’s not logging 50 hours a week with her business, Kingston donates her time to various organizations. She works with a Jewish charity where she trains Orthodox women to fundraise, as they don’t have a real opportunity to make money outside the home.
“Creating some independence for them means a lot to me,” Kingston noted.
She also dedicates one month a year to enjoy the best the Caribbean has to offer, even while sneaking in a little work. “I’m able to swim in the ocean and enjoy the sun daily while I am there, so that’s not a bad gig,” Kingston noted.