Next to the entrance of every Sam’s Club nationwide is the consumer electronics section. In this section stands a sales representative dressed in a suit promoting the store’s latest deals. To adult shoppers, the consumer electronics department is their go-to place for discounted TVs on Black Friday or a new phone when a family member needs a replacement. For children, this section offers the most captivating gadgets to play with while parents complete their weekly grocery run. The consumer electronics department in Sam’s Club was my home last summer.
Like many high school graduates, I pursued a summer job in the months before heading to college. This opportunity was the ideal time for many of my classmates to earn some spending money from a stress-free retail or tutoring job. For my friends, my decision to sell DirecTV and AT&T plans for the summer was a complete mystery. I was an introvert; in the classroom, I did not draw attention to myself by jumping to answer questions. Every action I made was carefully calculated until I was sure I could succeed. The sales rep role was the complete opposite, as conversion rates averaged only 5%. Why would someone like me take a job that required me to seek out attention and rejection from disinterested shoppers? The answer was simple – I had never done it before. This split-second decision only took 5 minutes of courage, but it made a world of difference.
This display of courage led me to a week of sales training where I was taught to smile, laugh, make conversation, and recite a sales pitch. Too quickly came my first day “in the field.” I leaned against the phone display waiting for customers to pass the station. As they walked through the sliding doors, I straightened my blazer, stood up straight, and took a few steps forward. My heart pounded and I opened my mouth to greet them.
“Hi y’all, who’s your TV provider? We’re doing a promotion to–,” I was cut off by a quick wave of a hand and they turned brusquely away. My first rejection. Another one came a few minutes later. Then another. And another. I didn’t make a single deal that day, or even in the first week. I finished my week in the field dejected and began to echo the doubts of my classmates. I thought, “maybe my personality just wasn’t cut out for this role.”
Motivated by my less than satisfactory performance, however, I wanted to improve. My courage had allowed me to take the first step in stepping out of my comfort zone, but I needed to continue growing in that direction. To achieve this, I utilized humility and curiosity. I knew the bounds of which I still had yet to learn and sought the resources to do so. Over the course of the next two weeks, I arrived at weekly check-ins early and stayed later to work with senior executives. They threw every possible scenario at me while I practiced navigating client interactions. I also remained curious about each team member’s unique sales strategies and learned how to apply their sales “personas” to my own. As I improved my communication skills, I also gained confidence. My poor first week stemmed from being so focused on closing deals rather than genuinely engaging with customers. After overcoming this obstacle, I returned to the consumer electronics section with a newfound excitement. My goal would be to connect with people, and deals would come naturally.
Monday morning came around and I once again waited for the first customers to come through the sliding doors. Using a tone similar to that of talking with an old friend, I greeted, “Good morning, y’all, how are you doing?” The members started to talk about their day and I learned about their kids, gardens, and pets. Immediately, I noticed a difference in my sales. I had formed personal connections with customers and even if they did not need a TV or phone right then, they gave promises to return. My first day back, I closed two deals.
My experience as a DirecTV sales rep was a lesson on the importance of courage, humility, and curiosity, and it transformed my perspective on life. Although I still am an introvert, I learned to utilize courage and take risks in order to grow. In pursuing a role that starkly contrasted my personality, I broke through my own doubts that introversion made me unfit for a sales role. Today, I continue to seek opportunities to make genuine connections and meet new people with diverse perspectives. I also strive to help others, promote positivity, and remain humble and curious in each relationship, whether it’s with friends, colleagues, or mentors. It only takes five minutes of courage to venture beyond your comfort zone and exceed your limits, and I challenge all of you to find that moment. What’s something you’re afraid of that’s holding you back from where you want to go?