Surrounded by sales!

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.

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Source here

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.

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Source here

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!

Achievement

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.

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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!

Selling self

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!

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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!

people buy

The Storyteller

“You are a storyteller!” These words came from someone I believe knows what they are talking about, just the other day.

I had never looked at myself in that way. I have always loved words and to play with them. If they are nicely and cleverly put together they can entertain, they can bite and they can educate. They can even change someone’s point of view all together if they are strong enough. I have also always liked writing but thought of myself as an amateur who is just doing it for fun. I have always felt like I need more tutoring in the art of telling stories, get someone more knowledgeable than me to tell me HOW to do it. At the same time, I wonder how much exactly can be taught without people losing their personal touch when writing.

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After he told me I was good at telling stories I started thinking about it and I did come to the conclusion that it is somewhat right and that I have been doing this from a very early age. Stories and words are something I have used as an escape from a very young age. I have also used them to entertain myself and others.

Hiding from the dark

I am from Iceland. It can be extremely dark there and during winters we hardly get any daylight, we get dusk and then darkness again. For someone who is afraid of the dark this is horrid!

As a child and teenager I was very afraid of the dark. When I was a kid we used to have school before or after lunch. As me and my brother had school after lunch, we had to walk ourselves to an activity before school at a very young age. It would be dark and cold, and it was quite a long walk for small feet. I couldn’t stand silence. In the silence my head would go all over the place and I would imagine shadows being something they weren’t, I’d imagine all the worst I had ever heard, and I would imagine any noise I heard being something gruesome. Therefore, I would let my brother choose a story for me to tell him while we held hands and walked to our “before school activity”. Once I had told him the story of Red Riding Hood so often I could do it without thinking (and therefore had space to think about all the horrible things in the dark while spurting it effortlessly out) I came up with a different idea. I had to challenge myself if this walk was supposed to be bearable. I asked him to tell me what kind of a story he wanted to hear and name at least one character he would like me to include in the story. After that I would make up stories about bunnies on great adventures, dragons with toothache and more. This way I had to think, I had to be creative to make sure he was interested, and I had to make sure they were long enough to last all the way to the “before school activity”.

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I used the same approach when walking alone in the dark, going home from a friend’s house or from an afternoon activity. I often had to take a dark path that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and seem to have no end to it, my heart would start racing as soon as I got close to it. I would therefore have conversations with myself, in a way. I would do a roleplay without dolls or toys as I would just imagine them in my head and then do their voices and conversations. I felt ashamed of this as I was old enough to realise this looked very weird to anyone who would walk past me. But it worked. I took myself away from the dark into a magical place where I could be anyone doing anything, and believe me, they were never surrounded by darkness!

I have always had a vivid imagination.

My attempts to be a novelist

Three times I have started or finished my own “books”.

My first attempt was when I was around 8 years old. I had a 4-year-old niece and I had just realised I could draw pretty good pictures and produce good stories. I loved my niece like a little sister and enjoyed making her happy. I got lined A4 paper out and my pencils. I wrote a story about a girl star. An actual starshaped girl. I cannot remember the story anymore but she must have gone on a magnificent adventure. I remember she had gloves on and I coloured all the pictures and the story was quite a few pages long. I remember how excited I was after I finished it and walked across the town where I lived to give it to her.

My second attempt was when I was a teenager. In Iceland most teenagers get confirmed. When they get confirmed they get presents. The year I got confirmed PC’s were the go-to gift for parents to give to their teenagers. Most of my classmates got computers and could connect a lead to their computer to go onto the internet. That was huge at the time! While they were online they would go on chatrooms and talk to strangers. I was not allowed an internet lead, my parents didn’t think teenagers should be connected to the internet. I didn’t care! I was in heaven as there I had my very own typewriter! I had often written short stories and poems but my hand would get very tired after a few pages. Once I got the computer I started writing. I wrote a story about teenagers. It was a spooky story and very much a teenagers story where I would describe the clothing they would wear and there would be a lot of drama and love. The story involved a ghost of another teenager who had been murdered. Once I finished a chapter, I would bring it to my friends to read. They got very excited and encouraged me to keep writing. I never finished it but got close to 100 pages and enjoyed it. I probably then started chasing boys myself and put it aside!

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My third story came about when I was around 20 years old. I worked in a kindergarten and sometimes we needed something to catch the kids attention and get them to have some quiet time. I would get a marker in hand and stand by the whiteboard. I would then tell them the story of Króki the space crocodile. I would make it interactive and they would raise their hands to fill in where I asked them to. They loved seeing the story come alive in front of them. When I was 24, again, I worked at a kindergarten and brushed the dust of my friend Króki. I would adjust the story to each class, whether it was 2-year olds or 5-year olds etc. Once the headmistress walked in and was in awe, she said she had never seen a class of thirty 4 – 5-year olds sit so still, quiet and ready to raise their hand in order to get their part in. She was adamant we had to take this story further. After work I hardly touched the ground as I felt so appreciated and flattered. I told my boyfriend at the time about her words and he said: “No YOU GUYS are not doing anything with the story!

I replied with: “What?”

He said: “YOU should do something with YOUR story. Don’t let anyone else take credit for it!

I didn’t have the drive to do it alone nor the belief in myself therefore, I didn’t do more with the story for the time being. Soon after I thought to myself, I should probably get my head out of the clouds, I wasn’t an author, I was just an amateur that could keep little kids amused for a short period of time.

When I was 27 years old, I did my equivalent of A-levels. I was a single mum with two young kids. I bought old furniture and did them up. I ran the household, raised the kids, was a top student and therefore felt equipped to do anything and felt like nothing could stop me. Therefore, once again, I brushed the dust of Króki. I got a pencil and paper and wrote the story and drew pictures. I sent it to one publisher and held my breath. I got a rejection, but I was damn proud of myself for actually having the courage to send it in. I should have sent it to more places but one rejection at a time!

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This is an actual picture of Króki the space crocodile

Escape and outlet

While I was in school, we had to learn poems. We had to handwrite them and decorate with pictures, then we had to learn them by heart. I loved that. I could cry over a beautiful poem, I could laugh over naughty play on words and I could wrestle with elaborate poems with a unique use of words and phrases.

It wasn’t until I was 13 that I realised I could write my own poems. That one didn’t need to be William Shakespeare to write poems. It helped when I got a teacher that challenged the rules and form of poems. Told us to break them. Said that, in itself was art. I realised I didn’t have to follow all the rules or even make things rhyme. That was a huge breakthrough for me. Poems became my outlet and escape. I expressed the hardship I went through in poems. I also wrote about teenage drama. Poems became something I used when I hit walls or something really difficult happened in my life. That way I could sleep. If I went through any sort of trauma I would go to bed and my mind would be racing. If I reached for a pen and a piece of paper, however, I could take all the emotions and thoughts and put them on the paper in the form of poems and then go to sleep. Some of them are full of self-pity, but they did the job they were intended to do at the time.

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When I did my equivalent of A-levels I had Icelandic teachers that taught us about Icelandic literature. One of the things they covered were poems. I told them I had bunch of poems I had been writing from the age of 13 up till then (I was 27 at the time). I asked it they wanted to read them over. I had always kept them locked for no one to see except my closest friends and family. They were happy to! I had all the poems on one file on my computer and sent it to both of my teachers. Later the same night the horrible realisation dawned upon me! I should have gone through them before I sent them! Two of the poems were very offensive, full of rage poems about my ex, where I listed all his faults and made cruel fun of him and his manhood. When I spoke to them a few days later they told me how much they liked the poems and that it was unique to see a collection spanning such a long time and very interesting to see how I developed from a teenager to a young woman. They never mentioned the outburst poems about my ex.

Blogs, articles and Facebook statuses

For a few years I blogged, in Icelandic and just about my life in general. I also blogged about things that touched me. But it was just a blog that described the mind of a 22 – 24-year-old woman. Unfortunately, I can not access these blogs anymore as I would love to read them, and then probably hide them forever as I am sure they are cringeworthy now!

I also did a few blogs while I lived in the Middle East describing my life and thoughts there. I did it in Icelandic and then translated them into English below. They were mostly an attempt to be funny and sometimes provoking.

I have also written A FEW articles and then long notes (in the form of articles) on Facebook.

We should not take our gifts for granted

So, I guess using written words, expressing myself through stories, poems, blogs etc. has always been a part of me.

Nowadays I feel like it is a bit of a challenge though. Both to find something to write about but also to find the time to write. I should probably do more of it as it liberates me and gives me pleasure.

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My brother keeps encouraging me to write stories, but I feel like I don’t have anything to write about. Like I don’t have the imagination anymore. That it left me as I grew up. He has proposed to do it the way we did it on our long, dark journeys as kids, he comes up with a concept or an idea and I write around it. Maybe one day. I do love losing myself in the world of writing.

I didn’t think it was something special, I didn’t see it as a gift. I thought it was something anyone could do but now I know better. When I reflect, I recognise my friends often come to me and ask me to put things into words for them “because you are such a good writer” they say. They tell me they do not worry about me if I have to deliver a speech or do a written creative assignment as they say: “You with a pen can conquer anything”.

Therefore, after being told I am a storyteller, after thinking back and thinking about kind words from family and friends I realise it is not a given, it is not something everyone can easily do. I should utilise my talents. I WILL find the time. For the time being this blog will be my practice and my muse.

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