Never in my 21 years have I ever thought about going into sales. I always picture some miserable guy shoved into his cubicle making endless phone calls that end in abrupt hangups and the occasional insult. Not exactly inspiring.
Understandably, I was quite shocked when I found myself at the Mid-Atlantic Sales Competition this past Saturday, kitted out in my suit and official-looking pad folio. I had somehow convinced myself that this would be a riveting new challenge. Let’s try and get someone to buy what I’m selling! The closest I had ever come to that was convincing my parents to let me stay out past curfew in high school.
Before I get ahead of myself, I should probably explain how a sales competition works. I only just learned two weeks ago, ha. Essentially, I was representing a selected company (Dodge Data) who is selling a specific product to another company (Acme Plumbing, which is fictitious). All of the information about both companies and the product was given to the competitors about two weeks in advance, and it was up to us to study the information and prepare to present our case to the potential buyer. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, there’s also a panel of judges sitting ten feet away from you as you compete. Not to mention that one of the judges actually works for the company that I was representing…
Not going to lie, my brain and stomach were in tatters when it was finally my turn to enter the judges’ room. This is what the first half of the day looked like: sign in, opening introductions, time to look over the case, and an hour paired with a professional from the field. I had a fantastic mentor who is actually an alumni from my school, TCNJ, but boy did he have some great advice. Why do I say that like it’s a bad thing? It’s actually not at all, but I realized that this guy knew so much about sales and I knew practically nothing. I started to wonder if I was out of my league here, competing against schools from all over the region like Bryant, Pace, and Temple. Don’t mind me, just the washed-up senior who’s late to the game and has no idea what she’s doing.
So by the time it was my turn, I was just ready for it to be over with. I entered the room, and from there it was a bit of a blur. I was terrified and tried to maintain my nerve as I rambled on for the longest twelve minutes of my life. After the role play was over, I received some really helpful feedback from the judges, who were all recruiters from big companies like UPS, AT&T, and the Mets. I really had nothing to lose, and the judges all wanted to provide positive feedback to help the contestants.
After a long day of training, competing, and networking, I felt that no matter what the results were, I would leave victorious. I had tried something new, worked with professionals in the field, and made new friends along the way. I’m not sure if I like sales yet, but I definitely enjoyed the challenge.
The biggest surprise was still to come. The top two people from each room were announced, and there was my name! I was so happy that the night could’ve ended right then and there, but it kept going. The top five were called, and I was still somehow in it! They called third and second place and at this point, I accepted that top five was it for me and I was totally stoked. Low and behold, when first place was called, there was my name up on the screen! My jaw literally dropped to the floor as I walked forward to shake hands and thank everyone who had organized this competition. I still couldn’t exactly tell you how this happened.
My biggest take away of the day: try something that is new and challenging! Get out of your comfort zone and do something that intimidates you. It may be the best thing you ever do. I never thought I’d go into sales, but hey, this could be a game changer…