Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ann Ordway: Saleswoman Extraordinaire, Peddler of Wares, and Owner of a New Hot Dog Stand

I think I was traumatized to sales in my teenage years by going to a poorly executed candle party. I felt pressured, trapped, guilty and embarrassed for not purchasing anything.  Overall, it was an awkward experience I did not care to repeat. happens, and I did end up getting the privilege of repeating it a few years later.  Same song, second verse.  Somehow through these experiences and a few others, I think I developed the overall impression that salespeople were obnoxious....especially the home sales kind.

Fast forward a few years, and I graduate from Pepperdine University with a degree in International Business.  I felt accomplished and ready to take the world of international business by storm.  I prepped my resume and the great sales pitch began.  "Take me!...22 years chock full of honor roll, A's, internships, and world travel.  I'm the best candidate for the job!"  (Somehow, this type of selling seemed perfectly reasonable.  After all, I was selling me!)

I did land a pretty sweet job with a top consulting be laid off one year later with a load of other new hires with the great technology bust of 2000.  A few months later, I was hired by another consulting firm in Oregon for which we moved shortly after our wedding.  The self selling continued, but this kind of selling was required for day to day job performance and promotions over time.  Right?

Somewhere in this time, I went to another at home "sales" party.  Except this time, I was sold. I fell in love with the product being "peddled".  I purchased an item or two and reviewed the catalog often planning my next purchase.  The more I used the product, the more I fell in love with it.  Ultimately, I signed up with the company to be a, gasp, "Sales Representative", because I could not only get the starting kit for $100 (which included a much higher value of products than I was paying), but I could also now claim a discount for my own purchases!  Wahoo!!!!!

But don't worry, I didn't sell anything.  I continued to shamelessly promote the product and its many benefits and uses.....touting how it had completely changed the way I cooked and baked.....BUT...when people would ask me if I sold the product, I would say, "No.....Well, I'm actually a rep...but I don't sell the product."  They would look at me oddly and say...."Uh...ok."

Several people suggested that I actually should sell for the company, but my answer remained the same, "No...I'm not a salesperson.  I don't like to sell things."  At one point, I began giving everyone my discount because somehow that made sense to me.  So long as I didn't make any profit off of the product, it was ok to "sell" it, right?  It was more like I was simply sharing it not selling it.  I would give the product for wedding showers, birthday gifts and the like and I would feel inside like I had given them a golden treasure!

Now, I'm no Albert Einstein, (this may now be obvious to you), but I recently did start to put something together....scraping back to my business training on the topics of supply, demand, and general entrepreneurship.  For instance, if someone was presented with the opportunity to run a small hot dog stand on Wall Street that was guaranteed to net a killing in profits, there are few of us who would bow out gracefully and object based on our general dislike of "sales". Rare would be the individual who thought themselves too good to sell a hot dog if virtually guaranteed to make money!

Yet, here in front of me was a product I was passionate about, had been using for nearly 10 years, owned most of what was in the catalog, had a stream of interested individuals asking me about it.....and I continued to decline being a "Sales Rep" due to my general dislike of sales.

Honestly, I'm not sure what exactly was at the root of my resistance.  Did I feel it was somehow beneath me?  Would all of my friends feel pressured to host a "party" or purchase my "products"? Was it simply foolish pride that got in the way of making a profit selling something I love?  Who knows?

But in the end, a few conversations with a good friend pushed me along the path to saying, "Yes. I am a Representative of the Demarle at Home company, and I would be happy to host a Cooking Demonstration, sell you a product, or send you a product catalog.  And if push comes to shove.....I'd be happy to roast a hot dog or two as well."

It's called capitalism folks, and in the won me over too.
After all, my kids want to go to Disneyland just like everyone else's.

PS....And if you're in the market for a Vitamix, I can sell you that as well!  :-)

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