I always knew that there was this outgoing person inside of me – it just took a while to come out. Until I was in my 20s, I was extremely shy and quiet, almost mute. When doing my MBA, I do not remember raising my hand to participate in class even once.
I started to become the social butterfly that I am today after I moved out of the family home and started working at IBM the first time as a computer operator, the first female at the Hamilton data centre. I was only 19 but already had a 3 year diploma from Ryerson in business computer programming. But commuting 80 miles a day and working three constantly rotating shifts, made me realize that having a degree would be a quicker way to success.
I returned to Ryerson for my Business degree, then went on to do my MBA since it would take only a little over a year and in the 70s, having an MBA was anadvantage and novelty. I had a feeling that it might come in handy, as I felt that I might not have the typical corporate career.
IBM hired me again, and threw me into a six-month Basic Systems Training (BST) program, which was like being back in high school/ In the BST program, we learned everything about IBM Mainframe computers, some basic business skills and were taught how to sell.
Every week we’d have a practice sales call role play, that would be evaluated on a 20 point feedback form, witnessed and critiqued by three of our fellow students and the instructor. It would be videotaped so we could see how bad we were. Reviewing my first ever sales call, I noticed that when my prospect said “no” to me, my smile grew wider, as I just did not know what to do or say after that.
I’ve come a long way. Following a year in the field with IBM as a Systems Engineer, I applied to go to Marketing or Sales School. It was a two week residential course that focused only on sales skills. We had at least one practice sales call role play every day. It was strenuous to say the least. I barely passed as it was just too structured for me – the rebel – to conform to.
Since graduating from sales school, I’ve managed to make sales easy, enjoyable and very rewarding. I have a style unique to me that is conversational and non-threatening. I”ve sold a ton of stuff, about 25 years in technology sales from hardware, software, services, and training, then found out that I could sell plants too and landscaping services.
But the blank book sales – with a promise to deliver the filled-in book a year from now – was my most challenging sale. But even there I managed to sell 50 copies of that blank book at a garden trade show. Then I went and sold the adverting in the book to support the rest of the book being published. That was a project when I aspired to make minimum wage, never mind raising it.
But it all comes down to sales skills and shows that once you know how to sell, you can sell anything. I couldn’t have had a successful garden centre in the middle of nowhere (45 minutes SW of Ottawa, on a dirt road that went nowhere) without all the sales and marketing skills and experience that I had.
My goal now is to translate those sales skills to other entrepreneurs so that they can make their passion profitable. Have fun and make money has got to be included in all missions statements because if you’re not enjoying 80% of what you do, then the money is just not that important.