10 Lessons Learned From My First Job in Sales
May 28, 2014
Billy Joel was popular when I was 22 years old, and I was convinced he wrote all his songs for me. I blasted “Moving Out” a million times through my Blaupunkt car speakers, driving 90 mph from SoCal to Northern California. I wanted to prove to the world that “Only the Good Die Young” didn’t apply to me.
I was doing all this because I was in love with my blond, blue-eyed Santa Cruz boyfriend, and nothing else mattered. We spent our days sailing, tanning, and cooking huge vegetarian dinners. I learned about astrology, shamanism, numerology, and mysticism. When I pulled up the “Death” card from the Tarot deck, I decided it was time for a change and traded the “mellow” life to travel 90 miles north to San Francisco.
I was young, naïve, and very brave – I registered for college, found a room in a Victorian flat in the Western Addition, and landed a sales rep job in the fashion industry for a famous denim sportswear manufacturer.
This wasn’t my first job in sales. I’d sold boiler-room style, doing telemarketing for car insurance companies, and worked in department stores. I was intrigued with fashion and business, and at 22 years old I felt like a big shot, working in one of the most exciting sales jobs. It was glamorous, fast-paced, exciting, and very entrepreneurial.
This milestone set the blueprint for my career philosophy and the choices I eventually made:
- The sales world is my home. I know it and I feel comfortable in it.
- I need to do what I love, because the excitement is contagious.
- If I want to be independent and brave, be an entrepreneur.
- Look for fast-growing industries because I will never be bored.
- Surround myself with great mentors.
Looking back after all these years, I can see that what I learned at 22 still serves me today:
- I learned what it was to be part of a team of salespeople, where your biggest competition is sometimes the person sitting next to you.
- I learned how to entertain clients and build relationships that would later pay off in large-sized orders.
- I learned how convincing good branding and manufacturing are.
- I learned that you actually need very little to sell -- sometimes we only had 2-inch color swatches to sell an entire category of tops.
- I learned how to travel and live out of my suitcase.
- I learned how important trends dictate so much, and how to sell 6 to 8 months out
- I learned how to sell over the phone and gain trust from my buyers, who would just give me dollars each season to buy the line.
- I learned how to be extremely resourceful when I needed to get my stuff shipped out to stores.
- I learned that good appearance and fashion and looking good are really convincing.
- I learned how to carry heavy samples of denim on a rolling rack without it tipping over!
Any Regrets? Not many. I’ve kept to some of the same values today, but here are a few lessons learned about myself:
- I have always been extremely career-minded, realizing that other things will be compromised. When I was 22 years old, I was much more interested in making money and traveling all over than I was in academics, so my college years were compromised.
- I am very driven and ambitious, and tend to take everything very seriously. I had to learn to sweat the big stuff and not dwell on the small stuff.
- It’s great to be motivated to make money, but you also have to save it and learn the power of creating abundance.
- An amazing Victorian in a crappy part of town doesn’t mean anything -- location, location, location.
- And, oh yeah — love can fizzle quickly. Never move for the guy!