Jordan Roberts – Auburn University
My experience selling with Southwestern Advantage started off quite differently from most in that both my mom, my dad, my brother, and my cousin had sold books. I knew it was not a scam, and that it was an experience in which a person supposedly worked their butt off, but received both monetary and character gains from it. I was recruited by a friend from my hometown who went to my rival school—Alabama—so it is honestly surprising I agreed to work with her! (Just kidding). I was one of two students from Auburn at the time, so I did not have the same pre-summer, team-building experience as is the typical set-up. I actually headed out to sell books four days after re-entering the States from studying abroad in Spain for the semester. I was a little concerned about readjusting to American life, but selling books actually proved to be ideal because I did not have time to think about missing delicious Spanish tapas or traveling while I was talking with 30+ people a day!
I arrived at sales school nervous and unsure what I was getting myself into. My first night I was staying with a girl who I did not know and was not even in my sales group. She was very energetic about this job, and in my opinion, maybe a little obsessive about it. I had joked with my dad about how the mornings would be difficult for me because it usually took me a good half hour after waking up before I was ready to talk to anyone. Well, the next morning my roommate’s alarm went off at 6:01 am. Before I had a chance to think about hitting snooze she had jumped out of bed, raced to the bathroom, changed, and was out the door. WHAT?!? I did not know such energy was even possible at that hour.
I will admit that I was put off and unsure that I would do well because my personality was not as intense as this girl’s was. As the day unfolded I started to pick up on the energy that everyone had about selling. While I was still completely unsure how the heck I was going to pull this off, I actually found sales school invigorating, as I was among so many students who were motivated and excited to not only sell books door-to-door, but to be successful in life. I could tell this was not simply a job or internship, but it was a building block for whichever path life was to lead us. Don’t tell me that isn’t exciting! And as an added bonus, you get to be friends with these people for life!
Luckily, I had the best student manager ever—Anna-Cristen McCloud. She had had a solid first summer and was returning for her second. She told me all she had done was mirror her own student manager and it led her to success. Well, I decided that I was going to do the SAME thing—she clearly knew something about this job due to her $14,000+ earnings from her first summer in the Southwestern Internship.
That first day was definitely scary, but I was following through after so much talk and preparation. I started knocking, stuttering over my words at each door. I think the third or fourth door I knocked on, the mom bought from me! WOAH! I realized that these products are pretty amazing and sell themselves despite my faltering. Besides forgetting the credit card dial-in number, an essential piece when a customer is paying with a credit card, the morning came and went like the rest of the day. First day down.
It is a must to form your work habits and expectations the first three weeks. After these initial weeks, I found it strange that other first years weren’t having the same sales results as I was. At the end of the summer I learned from them that they simply were not working as hard and seeing as many people. It is ALL about working hard! It builds integrity, yes, but it also gives you sales. The more you do what they tell you, the more you see fruits.
I won’t say this job is easy—I don’t think anyone would. You will experience emotional rollercoasters from crying out of self-pity and frustration due to no sales, to being on a high from selling four or five customers in a row. Crazy things will happen that are uncontrollable and often unbelievable. I learned to not only move past these things, but to laugh at many of them, in addition to the infamous “controlling the controllables.” The fun thing about this job is you learn how to control these ups and downs, how to handle rejections, and how to value the smallest gestures such as a bottle of water or a homemade dinner to-go from a customer. These lessons completely carry over into the real world.
You also get to meet the most amazing families, children, and parents along the way. As cheesey as it may sound, I learned a few things about what I do and don’t want one day when I’m raising my family.
I learned to not take myself so seriously, which is sometimes difficult. Selling books is about you finding your style and groove, both when selling and when knocking. One thing I did that helped my friends and I maintain high spirits was completing challenges each day. No matter where we were or who we were talking to, when the watch alarm went off we had to stop and do the challenge of the day (called three o’clock capers), ranging from headstands, cartwheels, air-guitar playing, telling dumb jokes, tripping and falling, etc. By doing this I could shrug off rejections much easier. It’s a little difficult being sad or grumpy when you’re crawling through the window of your car. For me, this has carried over to enjoyment of everyday things and realizing life is too short to get caught up with negative people or happenings. While these are probably not always appropriate in day-to-day circumstances, it taught me to let go and relax in other areas of life. (I do still seek fun and silly things to do to make others or myself smile!) This directly helped my sales, also, because the customers didn’t feel pressure to buy.
Being an indecisive person, I learned the value of making a decision and going for it. I must admit that I still struggle with this, however, selling definitely opened my eyes to how sticking to decisions makes life easier instead of wavering back and forth. Being indecisive on the book-field is not conducive to efficient time management, so I learned to be definitive. The neat part is when you see the bits of what you learned come out once you are done with selling. I worked at a domestic violence shelter last year and found myself being much more decisive, calm, and composed, despite long lists of tasks to complete and hearing emotionally taxing stories.
When it comes down to it, Southwestern Advantage pulls out the best in you and also shows you clear as day what you need to work on. I have gained personal and professional confidence, insight into interacting with people (especially in sales), solid friends who know they want something out of life, and much more. I would not trade my two summers for anything…and neither will you!