Selling things, tangible and intangible is something I am good at. However, I keep it a bit quiet as I do not want to be a sales person, per se. Don’t get me wrong I like working in sales, some of the sales jobs I have done, I have in fact loved! I love helping people get what they want, have a conversation with someone I would never have talked to if it wasn’t for the fact that I had this product/service to discuss with them in the first place.
I have done sales in stores, at hotels and in telemarketing. Out of these three types the hotel was the one I liked the most. There is a thrill in helping people organise their dream holiday, for an example book them on helicopters and enquire about a dogsledding tour.
My all-time favourite sales is not on that list though! When I moved back to Iceland from the Middle East at the end of 2014, I had no flat, no job but two kids I had to shelter, feed etc. I have a great friend that let us stay in her small, one bedroom flat, which she already shared with her 3-year-old son. Quickly I sorted out a flat. As I had sorted that out and of course promised the lovely landlord I would always pay on time etc. I had to find a job to be able to do so.
I applied for a few jobs. Got a few offers and a few turndowns. One of the jobs was the least reliable and I knew very little about what it entailed but it had some pull I couldn’t resist.
It involved selling spaces on a website, an information website. In Iceland we have a big database called ja.is where one can go online or call their number and get addresses and phone numbers of the people and companies in Iceland. One can also enquire about opening hours etc. Ja.is has been on the market for a long time, alone. The company I got hired to work for wanted to challenge that company. Come in as start-up, as a competitor. So that is what I did. I booked meetings with CEO’s, marketing people etc. all over Reykjavík and sold them spaces on our site as well as “search words” and banners.
When I started the girl that was supposed to train me refused to do so. Said she was too shy. She was always the one with the highest sales figures and I believe she wanted to keep it that way. Therefore, my boss told me that I seem to have “balls” and asked whether I was okay with jumping right in and figure it out on the go. My salary was result based so I wanted to get going and said yes.
There I was, selling something I didn’t completely understand and doing a job that didn’t really resemble anything I’d done before.
I booked my own meetings and as I have a knack for sussing people out, I quickly learned how to “hook” which characters to get then to agree on a meeting. With some I had to be ballsy and witty, others needed information, some I had to be very formal with, others I had speak very calmly to and then there were the ones that didn’t want to know I existed.
I used Thursdays and sometimes parts of Fridays to book meetings, people tend to be happier and more open minded towards the end of the week.
I loved going for these meetings! I got to dress up and get in to a certain role. I would get to meet people in very different businesses all over town. I would talk to a guy that ran his own framing shop/service and then go straight to a meeting with a marketing person from a big law firm.
The fact I was always one of the highest sales people made it even more fun!
So….now I’ve told you how much I love sales and have written passionately about it at the same time as I tell you I try not to share this information with other people and I tell you I do not want to have a career in sales.
Well that’s what I thought! Even though, I have done this job and many different versions of it, until recently, I failed to see how broadly it can be applied!
Corporate Snakes and Ladders
First off, we had a game of Corporate Snakes and Ladders at a class in Corporate Communications and Reputation Management. Casilda Malagon and Stephen Welch introduced the game to us and let us have a go. It was very interesting and in a way I found it frightening as I didn’t score as high as I would have wanted. They also took the time to sit down with us when we had our seminar sessions and talks about the comms industry and did their very best to answer any question that was thrown at them.
They also shared a little about leaders with us and how they influence people successfully and it was there I saw how relevant the sales person is. Amongst the influencing styles they mentioned were:
- Connect: When I worked for that Start-up, we would often use this, when it was the right audience. We were taking on the giants and needed support from companies in Iceland. Everybody would win if there was competition.
- Inform: I had to use this one a lot and to be honest I use it on myself (and my family members…what a hoot I must be to live with!). Here you hit them with data and facts, might use three-fold reasoning, price, traffic on site etc.
- Picture: Using imagination and connecting on an emotional level, I believe I mixed this one with the connect method. We hardly had anything to show the people we got meetings with as we were just starting the company, we were asking them to buy space on a website we told them we believed (and we convinced them so did they) would be big.
- Exit: Step aside and have a think. Has to be followed up. Most meetings ended on this note. People had to think and maybe talk to more people at the company. I would always make sure to do follow up calls and even follow up meetings, sometimes with other members of staff. (Just as a fun fact, the company is still running and in a competing position with ja.is)
(You can read all about the Recipe for Success here)
I connected with the other steps as well but on a different note and in different situations. However, this part of their talk taught me how valuable it has been to have done sales, especially when it comes to communications as one really needs to adapt to their audience and make sure to listen and to be able to meet their needs!
Selling the vision of me
When this dawned upon me I started noticing other things where my sales skills came in handy. To be honest I don’t know where I would be today if I couldn’t sell. If I couldn’t sell my case and most importantly, couldn’t sell MYSELF!
Okay, not in a dirty way!
However, I have come to believe that my skills in selling has got me pretty far. For an example I got accepted to do the equivalences of A-level after a phone call with the admission person at the school I went to. The thing was, I was missing quite a few important credits, which were required to get in. I spoke to this person for a while. I told her WHY I wanted to study, HOW I was going to do it and WHY it shouldn’t matter that I hadn’t finished everything. In the middle of the phone call she said: ”Congratulations, you have been excepted to Keilir!” I was over the moon!!
Last year I contacted her and thanked her for the chance she gave me and told her that since then I had finished a BA and that I was planning on going to the UK to do a master’s degree. She was over the moon on my behalf but at the same time she told me that she used to have a system where she would let in one “wild card” and I had been it. I must have done a pretty good work in selling myself as a person to have achieved that! (unless she just wanted to get off the phone!)
As I wrote this blog entry I realised I also sold myself as a person when I got that landlord to bet on me with the flat. He knew I didn’t have a job yet. He had many other applicants (there is a shortage in housing in Reykjavík and just while I had a look so did 3 other applicants). He never had to regret it as I always paid on time and returned the flat spotless, but he didn’t know that beforehand, all he had was my word and my story!
Ice to Eskimos
Last weekend I was reminded I haven’t lost my selling skills as I went to Mothercare to look for a buggy/pram to fit my 20-month-old in and the one we are expecting. I had read a lot online and watched videos and I had my eyes on a certain brand. I just wanted to see it, feel it and drive it around a little. When we got there we were greeted by a lovely sales lady. She has 10 kids of her own! She said she had originally had her eyes on the same one but ended up going for another one. She showed me the other one and told me all the benefits of it. I then took her back to the one I had my eye on and explained what the benefits of it were and why a few things might seem like a downside to it but why they really weren’t. Once we had talked for a little while she told me I had convinced her and she now wanted the same as me and was regretting her decisions! I laughed to myself as I had basically sold the sales person the idea of her own product!
Me as a product
These days I am thinking a lot about what happens ones I finish my studies and my maternity leave. As I have said before this pregnancy wasn’t planned and threw a bit of a spanner in the works. I started telling myself I had made myself so unemployable with all these kids and two of them under the age of three (Very unfair thing to go through, especially as men very rarely have to think this way, but that’s material for a whole other blog on its own!).
Once I realised what kind of a conversation I was having with myself I stopped and though “No Heiða, you must be able to use this to your advantage!”
- First off: You are done! There is no danger in hiring you and you going on 4 maternity leaves, been there done that!
- Secondly: You have a proven track record that shows it takes a little more than children, pregnancies, work, school, miscarriages etc. etc. for you to drop a ball! You can juggle it all and that’s one of your strongest assets!
- Third: You have support from your fiancé who actually realises it’s a 50/50 thing (which I know from past experience is not a given!). You also have a live-in babysitter, so you should be covered!
- Fourth: You are clever, fun and quick and adapt very easily. Not everyone has that.
Yep, that’s me selling myself to myself! I know the time will come when I have to sell myself to a future employer and I will. I will do it well as lately I have gone over my strengths every once in a while, and I have quite a few. I am not perfect, don’t get me wrong! I don’t try to tell myself that or anyone else, but I believe I will be a good asset in the working environment and I am convinced I can make a future employer believe that as well!
So, lets change the beginning of this post! I love sales, I am good at sales and I am willing to share it with the world as selling is an important skill in so many situations in our lives!