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For the last seven months I've been working a commission sales role for the first time in my life. Entering the job I had no idea how much it would teach me about business, negotiation and human behaviour. I thought it would just be another retail job, if I'm being honest. Then I was thrust in to a world of high-pressure incentives, complex services and products, confused customers, billing complaints, tech issues and 'positioning.'
My first manager was concerned at first that I might walk out on my coffee break and just never come back, like some past new initiates in to the crazy world of commission sales. But the truth was, as difficult as I found the challenge, I was fascinated by the environment, and began to find my own personal groove fairly quickly. This is what I've learned from what is one of the most educational positions I've ever held.
1) The customer is always fascinating. For real.
This position has almost fully cured me of social anxiety. I used to worry about starting conversations with people and talking about the same old boring things over and over again. Don't get me wrong, this did happen at first. I lamented that I didn't know the customers as well as my fellow reps who had been with the company longer, that I couldn't just jump in to conversations with the customers the way they did. Gradually, however, I learned that connections can in fact be built off the most seemingly inane comments if you mean them and say them with an open heart. From a comment as simple as "I like your nails," you can then branch out. "I always do the same color but I can never keep them up, how do you do it?" It became a challenge for me to see how quickly I could connect with someone and get to know them, and the reward was always, without fail, a fascinating story. Folks, everyone is interesting. EVERYONE. Ever seen Humans of New York on Facebook? Real life is like that. The more I connected with strangers who I would seem to have nothing in common with, the more I realized, damn it, most of humanity is really, really great, and actually very similar to me at a core level.
2) Tech support is a state of mind.
Okay, so this is only commission-related in terms of going the extra mile for a customer, but nonetheless, learning how to properly give tech support was a valuable lesson. The simple trick is: don't give up. The difference between a tech support professional and the average person is that the tech support professional works harder at finding a solution. Sure, it gets easier as you're able to see recurring themes and diagnose with immediate precision, but having all the answers is not what tech support is about. It's a state of mind. You will dig through forums for clues, you'll try every combination of fixes, you'll focus all of your mental capacity on the challenge in front of you. Tech support is the willingness to try.
Tech support is also Google.
3) Speak your truth and don't cringe.
This was a hard one for me. I empathize hard with cheap people. I am one myself. When I would state a price I would often wince or break eye contact or literally apologize. Eventually I came to realize- the price of our product or service is not a personal affront. It's just the price. It's the same for everyone, and it's what I have to offer. Many will complain, but many will also find it reasonable. Such is life. So rather than delve in to someone else's brain and make the decision that they are going to dislike what I am about to say- undoubtedly a negative way to start a conversation- I just speak my truth, and let them respond however they will. If they do have a complaint, we can work on things from there. But predicting a disappointed or upset reaction doesn't do any good for myself or my customer.
4) Let yourself go down the rabbit hole.
This is connected to the first item on this list. I find I'm more likely to get more out of a sale if I delve deep with my customer. Don't reign yourself back from speaking at length about how adorable corgis are. The more you know, the more tailored a solution you can offer them, which is ultimately better for both parties.
5) If you don't do it right the first time... it WILL come back.
Be thoughtful and thorough. Check and double-check that you've satisfied the customer's needs. Because if you haven't, you may get them out of the store for the next hour or so, maybe even a day, but they will come back. And they won't be happy about the inconvenience, or particularly eager to hang out with you again. When it comes to costumer service, if you want to half-ass things, you have to be ready for the repercussions, which will take the form of a real live human standing in front of you looking irritable and saying justifiably cranky things.