Article by Wendy McCance
Years ago, at the tender age of 18, I took a job waitressing at a Coney Island. I had never waitressed before. I remember being in a class at the local college and one of the kids I had become friendly with mentioned that she was making good money by waitressing. She ticked off the perks. Money in hand each day, flexible schedule and an opportunity to learn a skill that could lead to better jobs where you could make serious cash. I was sold!
The first day that I was put out onto the floor to take orders I froze. Privately I had decided taking this job would be good because of my shy nature. I was that person who would panic if I had to call to order a pizza because I was so shy and uncomfortable. I figured that waitressing was sure to help me become more comfortable and confident in my own skin (which it did).
So, there I was terrified to go up to the first table and take an order. I turned to the girl training me and asked what I should say. She had an incredulous look on her face, but calmly stated that I should say, “Hi, can I take your order?” It was that easy, but I had built it up to be something truly frightening. Needless to say, by the time I had taken a few orders I was feeling like wonder woman. I could do this and do it well!
Several years later, I left the restaurants where I worked as a waitress and bartender to sell wine and spirits. I would still be going into the restaurants which had become like a second home. I was at ease working with them in any capacity. This time around, I would be going to restaurants that were on a route, already established places that were buying from our company, and I would also be cold-calling. I would be going into businesses that I had no or very little contact information about and attempt to gain a new customer.
Here I was back where I began with the cold-calling duties. I was essentially going up to that first table at Coney Island and would have to figure out what to say and who to say it to. Luckily, it turned out the same. I went into a few new businesses, talked with the contact person and got over my fright of doing something new.
Although I had success selling, and did well in the areas I had chosen, I did come across some jobs that taught me that all selling is not alike. I also learned that just because you know how to sell, doesn’t mean you will be good at every type of selling situation.
Personally, I am not good at phone sales. If I can’t see a person’s facial expressions, I have more difficulty navigating the conversation. Once I know someone, I have no problem selling a service by phone, but if I’ve never met you, it’s just not something I excel at. It’s funny, you’d think with my shy background I would thrive in an environment where I am not face to face with a potential customer, but even back in the day, I wasn’t even comfortable ordering a pizza.
I have also found that I do best when I am able to talk about why a person/company could use a good/service I am offering. When I can take the lead and talk about what I am feeling passionate about, I do a great job and have no problem gaining additional clients. On the other hand, if I am offered an opportunity to freelance for a company and am brought in where I am given standard interview questions, I freeze up and blow it.
Why would I not have the same luck?
When I am not discussing what I can do for that company specifically. In my business, no solutions are a perfect fit for each and every company I work with (at least, that’s how I view it). So when I am in an interview and am asked how I handle content or what do I base success on, it just depends on the person/company I am working with. It’s uncomfortable to begin each answer with, “It depends.” Ask me (on the other hand) how I can handle the content or what would I base success on to the person I am in front of and I would be ticking off a list of information that interviewer would find valuable.
When you work in a field where selling a product or service is part of your job, it’s important to know what areas you excel at and what areas you struggle in. You can avoid a lot of disappointment when you can work with the areas that feature your talent.
I might reach out by email when prospecting, but I never reach out by phone. I might target companies where I can have a meeting and discuss what areas I can improve for them, but I try to avoid companies where I will be talked to and interviewed as though I am going to be joining a company on site. If I can’t go in and show a breakdown of the research I have done for that company and why working with me would be valuable for them, forget about it. I won’t get the job.
What about you? Do you know what areas you do your best work? Have you seen how working solely with your strengths and sales style has improved your game?
Share your thoughts in the comment section. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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