My first experience in direct selling started at the age of 18 as an Office Junior in a hairdressing school in Derby.
We had young trainee hairdressing students from different parts of the country on our ‘YTS’ Scheme, which was known as the Youth Training Scheme as part of the Manpower Services Commission. We also ran private hairdressing courses at the school. I used to register about 300 students in the school per week. I handled office duties, printing, filing, typing, answering phone calls and general admin duties.
One day I was asked by my bosses (yes, I had two. A husband and wife team) to help get people registered on our private courses. They said this additional task would be good for my chances for a job promotion to Junior Administrator. I said I hadn’t done any selling let alone direct selling or telemarketing so I was not sure if I could do it.
They said it’s not difficult, it’s just letting people know about our new hairdressing courses with top Stylists from Vidal Sasson coming from the United States. They gave me a list of salons with telephone numbers, course prices and details and told me which phone to use to make the calls. That was the only training I received.
I made more cups of coffee than phone calls. I procrastinated as much as I could with running errands and tried to make myself look busy with other things than making sales calls.
What I was most dreading most was what to say to these Salon Owners and how to say it. I wondered how I would cope if they told me to go away or put the phone down on me. I felt I would let the side down for everyone. The nerves got the better of me, and I wasted more time, sweating and stressing.
I suppose I needed a little script to work with, to know what to say and how to handle any questions that they would throw at me. So when I got asked how many appoints and sales have I booked, I hesitated and then told them the truth which was none.
I explained why that was and then they said ok, have a go and do your best. I counted one, two, three and then picked the phone up and made my first call. The prospects asked who I was and which organisation I was calling from, what were the courses and lots of other questions. The first few calls were like my ‘trial and terror’. I made so many mistakes and had people showing very little interest in what I was offering. Then I started to prepare the details better and improved my introduction. I showed an interest in them and their salons. I asked a lot more questions like how many stylists they had, how many salons they had and what they specialised. I started to strike a good conversation and a friendly approach with them. Once I got my little structure and strategy sorted, I made my first sale and then I felt more confident to approach other salon owners and before I knew it I was selling courses with a lot more ease. The bosses were impressed, and I got a pay rise and my promotion.
The thing I learned most about this process was to be better organised and know how to go about it in a structured way, as this took a lot of stress out of the whole process. I felt more comfortable knowing my pitch and proposal better. I presented myself, my company and our courses professionally and confidently.
In my next blog I will be sharing, how not to leave cash on the table.