Wendy and I have traditionally been competitive. When we both sold books, we were always vying for the top spot in the European rankings. I remember Wendy once calling me up early in the morning, waking me up (when truth be told, I should already have been awake) and telling me she had already hit the goal for that week. It turns out she was lying, but boy did I work hard that day!
Wendy has since moved out of the sales arena, but her wit, wisdom, and direct communication style are all on display below.
Jamie: Excellent. During your long and varied sales career, what’s been the most fulfilling thing about your career thus far?
Wendy: I think what’s been most fulfilling for me is the opportunity of meeting people from all walks of life, interacting with families, and hearing life stories about each and every individual. I think that has given me a perspective of what life is about and understanding myself a bit better, and the type of person that I want to be. So, that’s on a personal level.
Professionally, I felt that it has been a building experience. My sales career has primarily been door-to-door, direct sales and meeting clients at their own homes and overcoming some challenges that come with it, such as long hours, door to door objections, and, people saying “no,” to meeting some really nice people who actually invite you and maybe in a day you get one “yes.” It has helped me build a very strong mentality and resilience.
Jamie: What is the best thing about being in sales?
Wendy: The best thing about being in sales is being around result-oriented driven people, and those kinds of people are usually very high achievers and very successful in their own way. Just being around them, keeps me on my toes, it humbles me, and they always remind me of trying to better myself or trying to be a little bit like them.
Jamie: Would you say that you’ve chosen the organizations that you work with based on those mentor figures or those results-driven salespeople?
Wendy: Well, not really. Well, the first organization that I worked for was a publishing company in America called Southwestern. I stumbled across them during a university presentation. It was a summer internship, and they were in my university recruiting students, and it wasn’t based on any previous knowledge about them at all or people I knew who were working with that company. So no, I normally base my decision on working for a company on what the culture is, and not only the types of leaders that are there.
Jamie: What do you looking for in a culture or company you work for?
Wendy: One that is supportive, motivating, and encouraging, with a great personal development system and training. One that really recognizes people; a people-centric organization.
Jamie: How good have your companies been at recognizing you?
Wendy: Really good actually. There have been two I worked for, one was as mentioned previously, the door to door sales in America with Southwestern and the other was an audio company called Orbitsound.
They were really good at recognizing their people in terms of daily morning motivation and pump up-talks. When people who would fail or miss their targets, they were still recognized not on their results but on their efforts.
Jamie: Recognition based on efforts, why is that important?
Wendy: I think it’s important because you can’t control your result, and often you can’t control your output, but you can control what you put in. therefore, by encouraging those efforts, those input efforts which they have full control over, they can try to be better at achieving those results that they want later.
That’s encouraging on the right thing, rather than encouraging something that they cannot predict or cannot really manage themselves, such as the number of sales or revenue, which could be demotivating.
Jamie: What skills do you believe that someone should exhibit naturally to want to go into sales?
Wendy: Naturally, I think confidence, people, and communication skills. Having that likeability and confidence in meeting somebody in the first instance, I think that the first impression is really important. It’s what’s going to get the people to like you and then open to hear what you have to propose.
Jamie: Do you then believe as a personality type that is the strongest personality type for sales?
Wendy: Yeah, I think so. Typically, you do tend to find people who are a bit more extroverted. People who are good with people have a bit of swag and humour, can make jokes, and are generally good with people – and make people laugh. I think that’s a trait that would help them to get one foot in the door.
Jamie: Would you recommend that anyone goes into B2C door to door sales specifically?
Wendy: Yeah, sure. Why not? Definitely.
It’s given me a lot of transferable skills. I can use them not only within sales or marketing but also in other aspects of my professional life and personal life.
Jamie: Is there any advantage in sales, in terms of gender, physical appearance, or age that you’re aware of?
Wendy: I personally haven’t really noticed that myself in my experience. I’ve also witnessed people of all shapes and forms succeeding in sales and to not succeeding. It’s very hard to categorize a type or a profile, in my opinion.
Jamie: Which skills do you think those people need that separates those people who succeed versus those who don’t?
Wendy: Well, resilience, perseverance, and a very strong positive mindset.
I think maybe those three; and having a thick skin, being able to take a no and bounce back, and then persevere. Ultimately, maintaining a good attitude.
Jamie: Is that the same or is that different in what you need to succeed in door-to-door sales specifically?
Wendy: Door to door sales, I think all of those mentioned including being a hard worker cause it’s hard.
You need to be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and the ability to have fun, by looking in front of tough situations cause you’re going to encounter a lot of those, it’s a hard job.
Jamie: Okay. What are the challenges, for winning business and making sales in B2C direct sales?
Wendy: Specifically in B2C, what I like about it is that you are often speaking directly to the decision-maker. That makes it a lot easier, and the sales cycle is shorter, so you’re making sales faster.
Jamie: How do you deal with things like family dynamics and other complexity in making those sales?
Wendy: Oh, very interesting, actually. Sometimes, you could just be in the middle of a family reunion where there are so many members of the family chiming in, and it makes it so much fun, and you’re involving everyone in the room. Sometimes, you have people who are pulling in a different direction to what you’re trying to propose and discouraging the potential buyer.
I guess I would try and read the situation; try and read the person to see where they are going with it. Try and go along rather than give resistance because the more you push back, I think that’s going cause a lot more resistance anyway.
If they decide to go a completely opposite direction then you, let it be. Maybe, they are not ready to buy at that moment in time.
Jamie: What percentage of the revenue goes to the salesperson?
Wendy: At Southwestern, it was 40 percent.
An Orbitsound, I think it was calculated by percentage but I remember one unit that was costing around maybe 150 pounds and the salesperson would get like 20 pounds, so that’s 13%.
Jamie: How does the B2C industry generally treat it’s salespeople?
Wendy: Pretty well, I think.
I would say in retail, there’s a lot of business salespeople who are the ones selling the goods in the retail industry, so there’s lots of demand for them. I guess, yeah, from my impression, they treat them very well.
Jamie: What did they do specifically to help people do well?
Wendy: Training, compensation, and rewards, including holidays, incentives, and some of them pay very high commissions, especially Southwestern. The culture is fun, and as I said, you get to win trips abroad at quite a young age, at least the ones that I’ve been to. It’s always a very cheerful environment.
Jamie: You talked about that you have the majority of the payment in commission – how do you feel about commission versus base salary in terms of earnings?
I think it’s a great motivator. I think that it encourages people to do more, in terms of fulfilling their full potential, because it’s uncapped, there’s always room to do a bit more, go the extra mile and pay what you’re worth, and put in the effort to determine your own income.
Jamie: How was the sales training in the companies you worked for?
Wendy: One I had training with, the other I didn’t. The other one I didn’t because they knew I had previous intensive training by the other company, which is Southwestern. Southwestern training was intensive. It was a one-week boot-camp-type intensive, which is literally 12 hours a day and you’re just practicing your sales pitch and learning about the products you’re selling.
It is training before the job and training on the job where they provided opportunities to shadow another experienced salesperson, and that is ongoing, as well as group meetings where every week they would have teaching sessions to allow for a review of previous learning or new material to learn. Then also there were a few trainings where a coach or an experienced salesperson watched how you were selling, and offered you feedback. It’s very practical, theoretical, and hands-on.
Jamie: How did you get into the door to door industry?
Wendy: From University. It was a summer internship that they approached my university for, and I just went to a lecture, saw a presentation, and found myself hired.
Jamie: In other ways to get involved and that you’re aware of?
Wendy: There’s a high demand for B2C salespeople, and with all disciplines too, you don’t need a degree to sell, and it’s very easy to get into the industry.
Jamie: What advice would you give to aspiring salespeople?
Wendy: Basically, expect it to be very challenging. It’s not a very glamorous job and has sort of a stigma to it like a negative association. It’s possible to not earn anything, there’s no guarantee, and there’s a lot of uncertainties. However, try and stick with it because the hard times will pass.
Once you have grasped those challenges and obstacles, you will learn to overcome them in time. I would definitely say, give it a few months and don’t quit when times are hard. See it through and talk to people who have gone through it and learn from their experiences.
Jamie: Okay. What training would you suggest an inspiring person should look for?
Wendy: Aside from the general learning – having good product knowledge and training,- I recommend internal training from your company on the product or service you are selling, and training that help with selling skills. Read books, because you get practical training by your company and they’ll probably give you a script but books on communication, books on how to deal with people, and how to overcome the feeling of being rejected, and I more books on attitude management are helpful.
Jamie: Do you have any books on attitude management that you would like to recommend?
Wendy: My favourite is How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
Jamie: Okay. If you were starting your sales career again, what would you do differently?
Wendy: I would probably spend more time learning about the community that I’m working in; from the people who I sell to and general background knowledge prior to entering sales territories. Then I’d reuse that insight to help me get into more doors and gain more trust from the customers who I engage with.
You can connect with Wendy on LINKEDIN