Interview: Sales Representative
Name: Deidre Russo
Industry: Advertising Sales and Marketing
Company: Parent Guide
Position: Account manager
Experience: 15 years and 8 months
Undergraduate: Suny Oneonta- Major: Psychology
Graduate: St. John’s- Focus: School Psychology
Length of Job Search: 3 months
- GPA: Not emphasized
- Experience: Not emphasized.
- Networking: Extremely important once hired to make business connections, not necessarily important for getting the job.
- Internships: Not necessary
- Skills: Interpersonal skills are very important.
- Sales Strategy: Being aggressive is not necessarily most effective. Making connections with the client is very important (finding common ground, asking about how their day was, etc). Also honesty and focusing on what the potential client needs rather than trying to get as much money as possible from them can help you earn a client’s trust and make them a long term client.
- Finding Potential Clients: Researching your territory and contacting businesses is the staple of finding clients. Sometimes researching competitor’s targeting their clients can be effective. Asking friend/family if they know someone who could use your product/service can help as well as using social media.
Table of Contents:
Part 1: What does being a Sales Representative Entail?
Part 2: For further Reading: From Psychologist to Sales Representative
What does being a Sales Representative Entail?
1. What is your job?
Deidre: I work at Parent Guide selling advertisement spots in our magazine.
2. What was it like when you first started doing sales?
Deidre: The first year, all I did was make phone calls and go on appointments. Every day I would go on about three or four appointments and sell ads. I worked about forty hours a week for the first four years. After a year, I was making money (my first paycheck was hideous though). I found that it was a fun job for me. I got to meet new people and stay home with my son.
3. Why did you go into sales?
Deidre: I wasn’t thinking about going into sales, but I started looking for a job again, I did not want to go back to psychology because I knew it wouldn’t give me enough time with my son.
4. What is your sales approach?
Deidre: Everyone has their own style, but I do not believe in an aggressive approach. My co-worker is aggressive, but she does a great job and could sell ice to an eskimo. I prefer to try to make a connection with the potential client, asking about a family picture or finding other common ground. When I learn something about the person, such as they got a new dog, I make sure that when I follow up with them that I ask about it.
I also focus on selling the potential client what the potential client needs rather than trying to get as much money as possible from them. I have told potential clients that they are not established enough to make good use of an ad in Parent Guide and that they should consider advertising later. I would rather have a customer not spend much in the beginning, but be happy and then become a long-term customer than be aggressive, convince the customer to spend a lot of money, and then become unhappy and not comeback. Conversely, if a customer is well-established, I will tell them that they only need a basic listing.
Also, sometimes validating people can help. People might ask me, “Can you do any better on the ad price?” and I might say “Listen, I am a sales person. I have to make some money off you so I can pay for my groceries.” When you are honest with them don’t try to trick them into selling, I think they are more likely to purchase from you.
Sometimes clients might not have the same way of thinking as you and would prefer to buy different products than you would recommend. If the clients do not feel comfortable purchasing something, it is your job to create a package that is within their comfort zone. You want them to be with you for the long term.
Last, you have to believe in what you are selling. There were times in the beginning I had to sell a promotion and did not think it would be that effective. It showed when I tried to sell. I came across as desperate or pushy. Now, if I don’t feel comfortable selling something or wouldn’t buy it if I were in their position, I don’t sell it. However, I do have 15 years of clients behind me that give me that luxury.
5. How do you find potential customers?
Deidre: In certain industries, such as TV, it can be common to get a lot of inquiries. However, in my case, the competition is particularly tough and I gain the majority of my customers by approaching them. First, you have to research your territory and know your product well. Then, you research all the businesses in your area and call them one by one. You can ask your friends and other contacts if they know of any businesses that might be a good fit or use Facebook and other social media to ask and reach out.
You can also look up competitors and target their clients as well. It is possible to convert a competitor’s client or even have the competitor’s client remain loyal and also buy your ad.
For Further Reading: From Psychologist to Sales Representative
6. You started out wanting to go into psychology, not sales?
Deidre: Yes, my father was a school psychologist. I either wanted to be a teacher or a psychologist, so I knew I wanted to major in either education or psychology. I liked the classes in psychology better than in education and choose to pursue psychology. I then went to St.John’s for my master’s degree because they have a very good program and I wanted to be close to home.
7. What was your first job?
Deidre: While I was at St.John’s, My father said I should that it was very important that I get experience with children with special needs to become a psychologist, so I should get job as a teacher’s assistance in special education. That way I would learn about it in school and get hands-on experience at the same time. So I got a job as a special-ed teacher’s assistance during the day and went to graduate school at night.
8.How important was networking to get a job?
Deidre It was extremely important. Since my father was a school psychologist, it was much easier for me to find opportunities. However, I did not want to rely on my father’s connections, because other people applying for the position might have known them as well and may even have a better relationship with my connection than I did. To further standout, I practiced my interpersonal skills. I did a lot of role playing with my father and I asked the teacher’s I was assisting and the principles I worked with millions of questions about what kind of responses they would be looking for. I also asked my professors at graduate school many questions because they worked in the school system.
9. Asking people you work under for advice and feedback sounds like a powerful tool to improve your interpersonal skills. What types of questions should one ask to get the most out of asking questions?
Deidre: I think it is important to not only ask colleagues what qualities they like in a fellow colleague, but also what qualities they do not and to pay attention when they voice complaints about other colleagues and try not act like them.
It also gave me the opportunity to ask people the pros and cons of the job. The cons really surprised me.
10. What did they say were cons?
Deidre: I had this vision of grandeur, like it was going to be perfect and I was going to help one child to make the world a better place. The psychologists I spoke with said it is not like that. It is very political, there are difficult parents (some might not have wanted their children classified as needing extra help or special needs with they need the help), and there is a lot of paperwork. However, I only had a year and a half left of school so I decided to stick with it.
11. How did you get a job after graduation?
Deidre: At that time, I looked through the New York Times for job listings. There were no big job search sites to help you, so every Sunday I would look through the New York Times and look at the section for educational jobs.
12. What about your connections, didn’t your father know people who could get you a job?
Deidre: Yes, my father knew some people and it got me some interviews, but it didn’t necessarily mean that I got hired. Also, there were certain things I wanted to do that he couldn’t help me with because he had no connections with, such as get a job helping children that were hearing impaired.
13. How did you make the transition to sales?
After three years of being a school psychologist, I was very unhappy because it was very political and wanted to go back to being a teacher’s assistant. I got married, had a child, and my father got sick, so I decided to stay home, and slowly go back to school and then work.
My friend at Parent Guide said that her boss would love me and that he is looking for someone. I said that I had no sales experience, but I did the interview anyway and got hired. It was commission only, but I didn’t care because I just wanted to be with my newborn child.