Simply Sales Talk: My first job

Jes 16 Comments

I wanted to be a teacher when I was in primary school, it was fun play acting when young. I did try relief teaching and it was quite rewarding but saying and teaching the same things every week and every year is just not for me. After which, seeing how pretty SIA air stewardess are, I also wanted to be one. My mum said that if I wanted to be an air stewardess, I do not really have to go to the university. I did went university anyway and found what she said true, being an air stewardess don’t really need the qualifications.

I looked around and found sales job interesting. I tried some part time jobs during university days selling Nike apparels and even slimming pills and they were quite fun. The fun of it is also the challenging side when asking people to part with their money. It’s quite rewarding because you know how well you have done instantly.
Time to burn all the books!
After graduation, I went looking for a sales job that can also put my degree to good use. Luckily,  sales jobs are normally in abundance. My first job was a Sales Engineer in a local distributor and this is the place I learnt the most. Being in a SME is great for a fresh graduate as one is required to 'bao ga liao' (do everything). From requesting samples, collecting samples from warehouse, arranging them in sweaty conditions, distributing them and then doing up my own quotation.. it's a complete hands-on approach.
One of the world's best seller of ideas.... (Source: Wikipedia) 
The company has less than 10 people but I don't mind struggling to be the big fish in a small pond for a start. The period straight after graduation was not a good experience for me. The company just handed me 2 books to read and I skimmed through because it's too theoretical, my customers should know more than me. I was unknown in the market so nobody called me. I had a lot of free time to read my own storybooks, haha. I met some customers but they did not talk to me much as they know I do not know anything and do not want to waste time teaching me.

The shock came when they extended my probation from 3 to 6 months!

It's downright humiliating because I thought I was doing everything they asked me. It's also the first time this happened in the history of this company and none of my friends got them too. I felt indignant, angry and then sad, just sad. It's like I am trying to swim to shore yet unable to advance no matter how hard I tried. A long time it has been since I cried but I did privately, I felt ashamed, I felt that I have no talent in sales.
My world came crumbing down... (Source: Wikipedia)
I was pretty down at that period as I felt that I deserve better. However, thinking back, I did have lots of free time to read my own books so probably I only put in the bare minimum effort. They mentioned that I still had the undergraduate, slack mindset so I needed to buck up and put myself into work. I told myself I don't want to be average, I want to be outstanding and prove that I am worth every dollar of my salary. My action plan was to meet as many customers as possible and to have thicker skin and keep pressing them for more information.
The more customers I meet, the more things I learned, the more information I had of the market. There were a handful of customers who do not like to share information with me and they remain taciturn throughout our meetings. For these customers, I do not talk business at all, I just chat with them about current affairs, their hobbies, and everything except my products. For some, I really did a monologue and it made me self conscious but it was a good learning experience. For the others, I think it worked because I focused on building a relationship with them and they started chatting to me about their personal lives and other topics. Some were also a bit embarrassed by their initial aloof attitude so at the end of the chatting session, they asked me about my products instead!

That was quite a defining moment for me.

There was no actual sales done but to be able to get them to open up feels like a great achievement! I began to learn that people don't like to jump straight into business talk so I treated all of them like friends and always talk about current affairs first. I came to know later on that it's part of the sales technique to build rapport by talking about common topics so I learnt it through the hard way.

As time goes by, I got closer to the customers and they looked for me if they needed help. I was able to get into their 'inner circle' and there were less inhibitions. They speak freely to me and I can consult them if I need more information.

With hard work and frequent customer visits, I got my confirmation by the company after six months at work and got promoted 4 months after which to Senior Sales Engineer.

That reminds me of this story.. (Source: Wikipedia)
I can't believe I got promoted so fast, fastest in the history of the company although I lagged behind initially! It was exhilarating doing what I do and achieving those little victories and learning everyday. This made me realize that I can actually do anything if I want it badly enough. Luckily, I was spurred by the negative feedback instead of being discouraged so I hope everyone will not give up when the going gets tough.

The tough always gets going.


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  1. Well done, Jes. Your turnaround and achievement are worth noting.

    In my current job, I didn't started out well. I was disappointed. I considered a career hop. But in the third year, I decided to give it all I got. That was when I got my turnaround and it got better and better over time.

    I realize it is a cycle - work hard, get results, get appreciated, work even harder, get better results, get more appreciated. Ultimately, the self driven desire takes over and it becomes self imposed to achieve nothing short of top performance.

    1. Hi SRSI,

      It's still a long journey to go before I have any achievements but thanks for the encouragement.

      Lucky you did not give up and could even motivate yourself after 2 years. You are right indeed, we need to first put in our utmost effort before we can see some results and and it will spur us even more! I really like your powerful last sentence that it is up to 'self driven desire', well said.

  2. i used to take those negative remarks seriously and was affected by them
    kinda of accepted them
    now i am more 'bo chap' about them although sometimes still emo abit haha

    believe in yourself and not put down by all those negative remarks

    1. Hi Jimmy,

      Actually these remarks are negative but they are also constructive. In my opinion, I think these remarks did spur me on and made me realize I got to pull up my socks. You know during uni days I kind of floated along classes since results were cumulative and can't change it towards the end. I guessed I sort of had that mindset and needed a good wake up call.

      You are confident in yourself so you are not easily put down. It's not easy for me who is still struggling and finding out what I wish to pursue. It's hard not to get affected (so we become emo, hehe) and I am still aspiring to your 'zen like' behavior!

  3. Hi Jes

    Good sharing.

    I think the general impression I have with sales people is the product and genuinety got to come from the person selling itself. Many times I caught the salesperson either to sleazy or trying too hard to sell that it scares me whether what he or she says is true or not.

    1. Hi B,

      Good of you to drop by!

      I agree that the sales line don't exactly have a good reputation. Which is why I did not go into insurance but instead went into technical sales that requires product testing to substantiate my claims. Can't bullshit even if I want to and can't hard sell if it's not suitable =)

  4. I really enjoyed your sharing of your experience. I have much to learn!

    1. Hi CP,

      Thank you for reading! I hate that you can learn from my mistakes and do better than me hahaha, just kidding. You have your own stories to share with me too and I look forward to that.

  5. Need drive to do well in sales. I guess the extension of the probation gave you the kick up the backside you needed at that time.

    1. Hi RetailTrader,

      Indeed! Sometimes backside itchy and we try something funny so occasionally will need a kick... hehehe. The sales drive is quite difficult to sustain for long which is where the commission will kick in (pun intended).

  6. Hi Jes,

    More more more! I want more of such posts! ;)

    1. Hi LP,

      Hahaha thank you for your support! I hope to update this sales series at the start of every month so keeping my fingers crossed that I don't run out of juice! =P

  7. Hi
    If we are in the same team, I would say well done and perhaps a kopi c on me :-)
    The company that hires you is the buyer and they pay you x amount and wants to get back 3x from you to make it worthwhile.

    You were able to move from unconscious competence to conscious competence and prove to the naysayers (your very own self doubt) that you can do better than that! That probation extension was the tipping point.
    However from a goal perspective, you hit to prove a point which you did and it will be great if it coincides with your visions and values.
    Selling is a role that we all play regardless of the title we hold in society. Like teaching,you need to sell to the students, get them to buy your style of explanation, how certain things work, etc. Same content but in the hand of a passionate salesperson,the results can be staggering large.

    I feel the burning fire in your writing. As the saying goes,know thyself and battles will be your playground of prosperity,wealth and success.

    Congrats,well done !

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      My fellow sales friend! If we are in the same team, there might be some politicking but your kopi c is much appreciated. I am sure we have much to talk about during this kopi session =D

      Well said, I couldn't agree more and glad that you could understand what I was going through. We really need passion in what we are selling, be it ideas, knowledge, insurance or others to convince others of our content. It will transform to an outstanding teacher, sales person, lawyer and even MP. I still have long way to go before I can reach the 'playground of prosperity, wealth and success' but sounds like you are already there.

      I can feel your fire too and would think you have many battle stories of your own. If you like, you can send me a guest post on it. Grateful for your lovely comment and thank you for cheering me on!

  8. Wow! It seems like you’ve been progressing really well with your career now. It's really uplifting and inspiring for me to read stories like yours. Good job, Jes! Just keep on doing what you love and you will definitely succeed in life. :)

    Waylon Grimm @ All Force Labour and Solutions

    1. Hi Waylon,

      Appreciate the encouragement! I am really progressing well now but it had not felt that way at that time. I just hope to share so that people don't give up and focus on working hard.

      You sound like you have been through similar situations and glad that you got through too. Thank you for reading! ;)


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