ALL, Business, Education for Photographers

August 23, 2019

How an Entry-Level Sales Rep Job Changed My Life | Hannah Bjorndal

Can you relate to me on this?

When I used to hear the word “salesman” this was the picture that came to mind: a sleazy man with slicked-back hair in an oversized suit selling used cars for way more than their worth. Bonus points if the suit is polyester.

Or, how about another visual picture: that Facebook friend who you’ve never actually spoken to in real life pops into your DMs and says: “Hey girlfriend! So sorry we haven’t been in touch lately, but I couldn’t help of thinking of you . . . [insert MLM sales pitch of choice].”

We don’t like it when we know we’re being manipulated, lied to, or used for someone else’s gain. If they don’t care about us, why in the world would we trust them?

Throughout my whole life, I’d be slowly and subconsciously internalizing the notion that salespeople are tricky, dishonest, and only out for their own personal gain. I believed that a salesman should never be trusted. And if I had to make a purchase, I had better do my research long before I walked into the store to avoid being fooled by greedy salespeople.

Fast forward to early 2014. I had just finished a post-graduate program and needed a job. I had the dream of owning my wedding photography business, but to be honest, it felt like that dream would probably never become a reality. Without the faintest idea of what kind of employment opportunity I was looking for, I stumbled across a position at a prominent online wedding marketing company. And, as luck would have it, I had a friend who was already working there! It seemed like the perfect foot in the door to the wedding industry and I truly did not care what the position was – as long as I was on the inside of the wedding industry. A few rigorous interviews and a prayer later, I landed my first full-time job. My title: sales associate (AKA My Big Fancy Sales Job, or MBFSJ). Little did I know how much the position itself would impact the rest of my life!

In the first few weeks at my new job, I went through intense and excellent sales training. Then, it was time to sell. And while I can’t say selling advertising & marketing tools over the phone was my favorite thing, what I learned in the process was worth its weight in gold.

After just one year in MBFSJ, I felt like a total expert! Not only had I learned a little bit about the wedding industry (tbh, I didn’t learn a whole lot about weddings LOL), but I was a master of marketing, advertising and sales for creative entrepreneurs. I knew basically every good and bad decision a wedding vendor could make, and could see it coming from a mile away. I understood the value of marketing oneself with excellence and how it can and will impact your entire business. But more than anything, I knew how to sell effectively.

Now before you assume that I also started sporting a polyester suit and slicked back hair (spoiler, you can see my photo elsewhere on this site), let me tell you: my impression of sales was all wrong.  I had been thinking that selling was a 0-sum game, with winners and losers. But the truth is that a successful salesperson is none of those negative traits that I listed at the beginning.

In fact, an excellent salesperson is honest, empathetic, genuine, a great listener and totally believes in the value of what they are selling. In short, a great salesperson loves and believes in their product or service and can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world.

Reality check: not every salesperson is like this. In fact, you can probably find the stereotypical snake oil-selling salesperson in practically any large organization with a sales team. But what you might not know is that these people are far less likely to succeed with these tactics. In fact, the best salespeople are generally the ones that also make their customers’ lives better. Which leads me to my next point:

Why am I passionate about sales?

Because it’s helped me serve my clients with excellence.

Because it’s allowed my business to grow organically and naturally.

Because my clients are happier and more satisfied as a result of it.

Because it’s made me a better person.

I have an incredible network of past clients who continue to sing my praises and send me more business because I’ve given them the best experience possible – and that is all because I am a great saleswomen.

So, do you think you could benefit from learning more about sales? 

I’ve shared insights here and there with photographers and small business owners whom I’ve mentored over the past several years and it’s been one of my greatest joys. I’ve decided to start sharing my strategies with a larger audience so that together, we can make the wedding industry a better place.

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