I have been asked to write a learning journal in order to successfully get through the course International Sales & Sales. Skills and attitudes are more than important in this course. To both improve my reflective learning and improve my selling skills I had to keep up a learning journal. In this learning journal I define what sales is to me and whether I think that sales will be part of my future career. Next I will accumulate five entries in a learning journal based on critical incidents I have been through. Lastly, I will repeat whether sales is going to be part of my future career, I will reflect on the accrued entries, and report on change of my knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Learning about sales and sales management
I can truly say that my attitude towards sales and sales management has changed completely after following the ISSM course. Starting from not knowing the difference between marketing and sales to knowing specific theories and successfully applying this in real-life situations gives me the feeling of fulfilling my goals I set before starting this course.
I acquired knowledge about sales during classes and through self-studying. The role-plays we did gave me the ultimate possibility to put theory into practice and so gain experience in sales I will remain and definitely use in my professional career later in my life. I developed my selling skills and verbal communication skills. In addition, my personal characteristics also changed. I am more creative to find a solution to fulfil the customer's needs. This development won't be only of importance in my professional career, I can immediately use this knowledge and experience in everyday situations, such as on my work where I have to sell services to people. I feel so much richer with the acquired knowledge and experience gained. Unfortunately I am not a professional in sales yet, which is obvious, but this won't stop me of further exploring in different kind of sales topics. In my free time I will extend my professional development in this area through reading sales-related books and doing research on the internet.
As mentioned in one of the journal entries I made a mistake according to cultural differences. I recognise that I could have known their behaviour when not adapting to their culture. To avoid comparable situations, I will ensure that I will always do double research on that specific topic/culture. Furthermore, I believe that I acted well in the meetings we practiced. Therefore I will continue to practice at this standard.
Learning about learning
During this course I've learnt to be critical about yourself. Next to acquiring knowledge from the lectures, I learnt about learning. As mentioned before we practiced a lot of role-plays and I acquired and developed skills through that, but because I've learnt about what I learnt in those role-plays I could develop my skills better. I could easier recognise when I was doing something the wrong way, which gave me the opportunity to directly restore my mistake. As it were, I reflected in action which means I reflected while the activity was happening.
Furthermore, when I learnt something about sales in class, I directly learnt how to put into practice this information. I knew how to behave in different situations. For this I had to learn a specific topic very well, then I always asked myself the question: ‘So what did I learn from learning this subject?'. Then after asking myself that question a lot of other questions came up to myself whereby I acquired knowledge in knowing how to behave, how not to behave and how I could approach a situation according to the studied topic the best. Moreover, my attitude changed slightly through learning about learning. I became a little bit more restrained and rational. As I see it, not letting them know how you really think about a certain situation can be an asset in negotiations. What also worked very well for me was to learn about a specific subject and then teach others about it a having a discussion. I could learn the best from what I've learnt through teaching others and discussing whether they agree or disagree with me. I consider myself as a beginning reflective practitioner because I now do reflect in action while heretofore I only did reflect on action. It is my considered opinion that directly reflecting while the events are occurring will help you develop your skills in a much more efficient way.
Plans for the future
First of all, the knowledge and skills acquired during this course will probably remain in my mind for a long time because I am going to continue developing my skills according to sales. My feelings about working in sales in the future are changed from when I started the ISSM course and now. Before starting this course I didn't have the feeling of working in sales later in my professional career, but now I changed my mind and I want to be a good salesperson. I did all I could in ISSM classes which yielded results. I used the ISSM classes as efficient as I could, resulting in acquiring a lot of knowledge and skills concerning sales.
With the acquired experience and know-how I am going to deepen my knowledge into sales with the underlying thought of achieving a goal I set one year ago; becoming a good salesperson in order to preparing myself for starting my own business. I am going to do this directly after my studies trough finding a job in sales. After a while of working in sales I can see if I am developing myself of not trough the number of sales I successfully closed. I consider myself as the only person responsible for closing a deal successfully or not. As I see it, my method to become a good salesperson is realistic because with a little bit of coaching you can achieve more than you think. Of course my boss needs to give me the possibility to let me develop my skills in sales, but I don't think that will be an issue. I want my goal to be achieved in five years after starting the job in sales. In my opinion, five years is enough to become a successful salesman and to prepare yourself in a way you could start your own business without having major problems with selling your product or service.
Firstly, the role-plays were a good way to put theory into practice. Next, the ISSM lectures were interesting and fit well in our study program of International Business and Languages. Furthermore, the teachers knew about what they were talking and they were always open to answers questions. Thirdly, writing a critical analysis was though, but educational. More information about how to write such an analyses before writing the first analyse would be beneficially for the quality of our critical reviews. Moreover, more feedback on our reviews would increase also the quality of the next critical analyses. Finally, the questions in the exam were relevant to what we learnt during classes.
Cavale, K. K. (2011). Introduction to Sales and Distribution Management. In K. K. Cavale, Sales and Distribution Management: Text and Cases (p. 718). Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Limited.
Debitoor Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2016, from Sales - What are sales?: https://debitoor.com/dictionary/sales
Greenberg, D. M. (2006, July). What Makes a Good Salesman. Harvard Business Review.
Krishnaswamy, P. K. (2006, July). Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing. Harvard Business Review.
Martin, S. W. (2015, September 11). The 7 Attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders. Harvard Business Review.
Kiyosaki, R. (2011). Rich Dad Poor Dad. Warner Books Ed: New York.
Part I: Creating a baseline
Section A: Definition of sales and sales management
Sales and Sales Management
I see sales as a transaction where money or value is exchanged for the ownership of a good or entitlement to a service. (Debitoor Dictionary) Sales management means to me the planning, direction and control of personal selling, including recruiting, selecting, equipping, assigning, routing, supervising, paying and motivating as these tasks apply to the personal salesforce. However, sales management can be also defined in short as ‘the management of the salesforce'. (Cavale, 2011)
Eventually, successful small businesses add a marketing person (or persons) to help relieve the sales force of some chores. These new staff members conduct research to calibrate the size of the market, choose the best markets and channels, and determine potential buyers' motives and influences. They work with outside agencies on advertising and promotions. They develop collateral materials to help the sales force attract customers and close sales. (Krishnaswamy, 2006)
A good salesman must have at least two basic qualities: empathy and ego drive. Salesman simply cannot sell well without the invaluable and irreplaceable ability to get a powerful feedback from the client through empathy. The second of the basic qualities absolutely needed by a good salesman is a particular kind of ego drive that makes him want and need to make the sale in a personal or ego way, not merely for the money to be gained. His feeling must be that he has to make the sale; the customer is there to help him fulfil his personal need. (Greenberg, 2006) Furthermore, every salesperson knows the quality of their sales manager will have a profound impact on their own success. Sixty-nine percent of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota rated their sales manager as being excellent or above average. In addition, the quality of the sales organization is directly associated to the quality of sales leadership. (Martin, 2015)
Section B: Sales as part of my future career, or not?
As I find myself in the fourth year of International Business and Languages at HZ University, I cannot say with certainty that sales will be part of my near future career. At the moment am not really a sales or marketing oriented person, but I don't exclude that I will be working in sales in the future. However, when I look at my personality, I am someone who wants to achieve things in life, and I firmly believe that selling a product or service is an essential skill in becoming successful in doing business later on in life. I won't directly apply for a job where everything revolves around sales, but I would be glad to accept a function where sales will be part of my responsibilities, in order to gain experience in this profession. At the one hand a job that entails sales will be a bright move to further expand knowledge about sales, but at the other hand I was taught that I should look for a job which really suits me, which isn't in sales at the moment. Overall, I am not sure in which field I would like to go working after my studies, maybe I have to go through all this again after completing the course ‘International Sales & Sales Management'.
Second Version Section B: Sales as part of my future career, or not?
My view on sales and sales management has been totally after practicing in meeting during sales classes, writing critical reviews about sales, writing learning journals and perhaps the most important one, learning about sales from my lecturers. This brings me to an altered, but more definite perception on sales and sales management, causing a different thought about how sales is going to be part in my future career.
I am now aware that sales is more than just closing a deal. You have to take into account everything around the sale in order to successfully strike the deal. As mentioned before, I like to be the best in something, and it is my considered opinion that if you pay close attention to all those external factors around a sale, you can be one the better salespersons. Sales is a profession which brings a challenge along with it, what I really like. In the first place I didn't really think of searching a job in sales, but at the moment I am considering in expanding my knowledge about sales after my studies and to find a job in sales. Maybe I am going to start my own business later on in my life and then being good in selling will be a considerable advantage for you company. This reminded me of a chapter in a book I read a year ago. Kiyosaki (2011) stated that one time a girl came to him for advice, she had a problem with selling her book. She couldn't sell her book very smoothly and began to doubt whether her book was actually a good one or not. Kiyosaki read her book and concluded that there was nothing wrong with the book, but with the girl selling the book. She was a perfect writer, but failed in selling her book to the customers. He gave her advice on how to sell a product properly, she ended up with selling a lot of her books, more than she could ever believe. What I want to say with this is that you can have the best product in the world, but If you don't know anything about sales and you are not able to sell en product well, you always leg behind events. That's why I firmly believe that selling is a major key in doing business successfully.
Part II: Journal Entries
Journal Entry 1: Critical Review Sales and Marketing Date 14-09-2016
Used method: STARRT
To successfully achieve the course of ISSM we have to critically analyse scientific articles about something that has to do with sales or sales management. In this case it was about sales and marketing.
We were asked to read the article thoroughly and then make a critical analysis about it. This article would help to better understand the differences between sales and marketing. I intended to read the article carefully, make notes, underline phrases and after I had understood the whole text, start writing the analysis.
I followed the plan I intended to. I took a pen, some markers and I started to read and analyse the text. Firstly, I skimmed and scanned the text, marking the, for me, most important things and I dropped the redundant information. I read the text several times in order to not forget any important information. After understanding the information in the article well, I started to write the critical analysis.
The skimming and scanning part gave me the possibility to focus more on the important information in the article, resulting in a better understanding of the things explained about sales and marketing. I learnt about sales and marketing quicker, this because the marked and/or underlined phrases gave me possibility to find information back I needed to revise for writing my critical review. In the end, I acquired a lot of useful knowledge about sales and marketing which I could easily write my analysis with.
The goal was for me to understand what sales and marketing entails, so I could now see the differences between them. I achieved what I wanted to achieve through critically analysing and writing this article. Reading this article was really a turning point for me concerning my thoughts on marketing and sales. I now know the difference between sales and marketing, I know what it is about, and what it isn't about. I always thought sales was part of marketing, but fortunately I read this article which totally changed my view on sales. For me this was the first step of learning more about sales because I now know what sales exactly entails.
I can use the acquired knowledge about sales and marketing in the ISSM course and in other marketing or sales-related courses. Furthermore, I can use this acquisition during my work next to my study. In addition, I can use the experience gained in writing a critical review the coming weeks because we have to write several more articles about sales. I would approach the next scientific article the same as the previous one before, because the previous method enabled me to learn a lot about the topic and the writing part went well as well.
Journal Entry 2: Role-play meeting Date 25-09-2016
Used method: STARRT
During the course of ISSM we have to put theory into practice through role-plays.
Our task was to hold a meeting to discuss about a new cleaning company, because the contract of our current cleaning company would expire in three months. Four representatives, the purchaser, the operational manager, the financial manager and the seller came together to talk about possibilities concerning doing business with a new cleaning company. In the end it was my decision if we keep working with our current cleaning company or a new supplier.
I was the purchaser in this meeting. I wanted to handle everything as neatly as possible. I preferred to stay with the current supplier because this meant less work and hassle in the future. I listened carefully to what the new supplier had to offer. Furthermore, I paid close attention to the views on this matter from my colleagues. The problem was that the new (possible) supplier is cheaper than our current cleaning service, which resulted in the financial manager favouring doing business with the new supplier.
The meeting was over very quickly due to some major mistakes of the seller, resulting in a win for me. The atmosphere was quickly affected because she didn't know how negotiate while apparently, I was quite skilled at it. The seller had to follow the script, but she said some stupid things at the expense of her own company. I told her to not say such things about your own company, maybe she saw me as a wiseacre, but I only wanted to help her.
When I started meeting, I remarked that I liked negotiating. In addition, I was kind of good at it as well. Then I thought to myself ‘'my father did a lot in negotiations and sometimes he taught me what he did, I put theory into practice and I started selling little things when I was a kid.'' That could clarify why I performed well in the meeting. At the end the financial manager was favoured by me and not anymore by the new supplier, which concluded that I did my work well. Because of this meeting I got a little feeling of just exactly what sales entail. Meetings like these are important in the sales concept and I just gained some experience in negotiating, which I am very happy with.
Now I've got some experience in negotiating, I know I can develop this skill in future role-plays during the ISSM course. I would address a future meeting the same as I did before, this due to my approach having worked well. The only thing that I am going to change is to listen even more carefully so I can see more of their mistakes and respond to them.
Journal Entry 3: Selling shares door-to-door Date 01-10-2016
Used method: STARRT
My brother finds himself in the second year of International Business and Languages and had to find shareholders for his student company.
My brother asked me to help him selling shares door-to-door for his student company.
I rang at every house in my city to ask them if they wanted to be shareholder of my brother's student company. I explained what it meant to be shareholder of a student company, what they could benefit from and what the risks of being a shareholder were.
After about two hours of selling shares door-to-door we achieved the amount of shares my brother had to sell for his student company.
I wanted to sell a lot of shares without asking the whole neighbourhood to buy a share. This means that even when somebody didn't want to buy a share I tried to convince them of buying one. Direct selling was sort of new for me, but because I always liked negotiating, I succeeded in selling shares even if they weren't sure about buying in the first place. I applied some strategies I learned in the ISSM course, which worked out well. Although it went well, I had to use different words for different potential buyers every time. Some of them wanted to hear the words risk, potential profit etc. but some of them didn't want to hear those words and I had to avoid using them and sell those shares in a totally different way. Being good in direct selling is a must for a successful salesperson. Adapting my approach of selling shares to different people with different thoughts made me feel as though I am on the right path to becoming a good salesperson.
As I see it, I am going to use this type of selling in my near future and in my professional career later on in life. In my near future, because I sometimes work in a shop where I have to sell phones directly to customers and in my professional career later on in my life because I like negotiating and selling so I would like to find a job in that area. If I had to do it again I would use the same approach. I would find out what the customers want and don't want, then I would respond to that specific need.
Journal Entry 4: Hostile Takeover Meeting GSM Date 03-10-2016
Used method: STARRT
For the course Global Strategic Management we had to hold a meeting where Company X wanted to take over Company Y. Both companies were active in the same branch, but Company X in America and Company Y in Europe. Company Y wanted to open an office in America and start expanding their market share there. Head directors of both companies came together to talk about a takeover.
Our task was to negotiate whether we want Company X to take over Company Y or not. I was on the team of Company Y and I only wanted my company taken over under certain conditions. Firstly, the price should be at least more than 55 million pounds. Secondly, Company X would have to take care of our employees after the takeover. Finally, the stakeholders should be satisfied - I was a stakeholder as well. We were expected to come to a conclusion at the end of the meeting whether Company Y should be taken over by Company X or not. I intended to listen carefully, let them explain and make a decision.
We started the meeting and I listened carefully to the other students of Company X. They were a little bit vague about whether they wanted to take over our company or to merge. I started asking them questions about what will happen in the future with our employees. After some negotiation, they were willing to keep all the employees we had, which was one of my conditions. They started bidding 45 million pounds, but because I did not budge they went higher and higher until 60 million, which was also a win for me. With this amount the stakeholders would be satisfied and I was satisfied as well.
We were with a lot of girls in this meeting who appeared to have some worries about speaking up. It was me who was talking with another guy from the other side. We were constantly negotiating; at the end, I took care of a beneficial takeover for my company. Maybe for Company X it was not that beneficial in this moment, but in the future they will definitely take advantage of the expertise of the employees that they kept.
If I look back on I acted during the meeting, I can conclude that I acted appropriately. I have learnt about what I learnt during the role-play meeting a week ago and I adapted that during this meeting. I achieved what I wanted through this approach and I gained some more experience in negotiating. I felt like I was in a real meeting about a hostile takeover and I totally went in, which gave me a little bit the feeling of being a real salesperson in such a meeting.
As I see it, in the future we will have several similar meetings like this. I can use my experience in negotiating to make the meeting successful. Furthermore, when I work at a big company later on in my life I will more than likely face meetings like this, but then about real money. If I should attend another meeting like in the role-play meeting I would act the same, but I would learn every time from what I learnt in the previous meeting.
Journal Entry 5: Cold calling Date 11-10-2016
Used method: STARRT
Along with my studies, I work in the Marketing department for a small company which provides Dutch courses for those wanting to learn the Dutch language.
My boss asked me to call a lot of similar businesses around the world to convince them to work together. I had to sell our service first and then try to conclude a contract. If we would work together we could benefit from each other with the underlying thought of increasing the number of registered students in our business.
I called more than two one-hundred different, but similar business around the world. I prepared myself, I wrote down what I wanted to tell and ask them and I started calling.
The result was disappointing in the beginning, but it improved after a couple of weeks. It took a lot of companies more than two weeks to verify the contract that I sent in an email to them after the phone call. I ended up closing twenty-four deals.
I concluded twenty-four contracts with other similar businesses, which was more than I ever expected. It wasn't always that easy to unexpectedly call companies abroad. I had to call back a lot of times because they were busy, then the person in question wasn't available and some of them just didn't speak English properly. Next to those little issues there was one major problem; culture. From calling different countries with different cultures I learnt that I have to adapt my way of approaching them with my question/request. Russia for example; a lot of Russians answered the phone, listened to me a minute and then just hang up without saying something. I thought to myself, ‘'What am I doing wrong, what could I improve to avoid such things?'' I looked up the internet and I found some information about doing business with Russians. I found out that you are not allowed to say ‘how are you?' to them because they don't know you personally. ‘'It isn't that it is normal in the Netherlands to say how are you in the beginning of a conversation that it is automatically in another country as well,” I thought to myself. I had to know this - I am studying International Business and Languages which means that I also need to be conscious of different cultures and the ways of doing business with them. At that moment, I didn't feel like a real salesperson, because a good salesperson doesn't only prepare what he is going to say, but also other external factors which can influence the sale. I learnt from it, and I will now do research in the way of doing business with people with different cultural backgrounds.
There is a chance that I will have to call a lot of the companies again if I keep working for the company I currently work for. I would change the way of preparing myself for those calls. I would spend more time doing research in culture and the do's and don'ts of a country than only about what I am going to say. I would change my preparation because I don't want people hang up again because of my inappropriate approach. I would also apply what I learnt about culture in real life, for instance when I meet some Russian people.
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