Walrus Snack Brands, Inc., Chicago, IL
The experience I gained over the last several months will undoubtedly be invaluable to me going forward. I have always had a passion for entrepreneurship, but have lacked the access to enter the space. Because of ASIP, I was given the opportunity to see how a business operates in all its facets. I was able to contribute as a sales representative, as a researcher and developer, as social media content creator, and as a designer. My responsibilities were many, and I was able to have a hand in the decision-making process of each facet of the company.
When I started this internship, I knew a basic elevator pitch for the product I was selling, but I lacked a greater understanding of the underlying nitty gritty details. I worked to understand the industry, its size, growth, demographics, and who the major competitors were. I learned what sort of avenues we accessed our customers through, and what our distribution and supply chain logistics looked like. I also looked over the numbers, gaining a better understanding for what the accounting looked like (and I got to learn a little more about accounting in the process).
After gaining a general background and understanding of our company, I worked to develop a handful of decks that showed the benefits of each ingredients in each of our products. Examining the empirical science, and writing these decks, were the first moments that I realized I was becoming an expert on the product itself. These ingredient decks were also invaluable to the company as a source of credibility, informing our customers that the products we were selling were high quality.
After developing a good understanding of the product, I felt comfortable and confident to transition into the role in sales. Sales took up the bulk of my summer, and the skills I developed will be incredibly useful to me down the road. Sales energized me, and the autonomy I experienced as a salesman gave me the chance to pursue the company’s interests in the best way I knew how. Though I still have a lot to learn.
Being new to sales, getting rejected as much as I did definitely weighed heavy on me in my earliest days in the role. That said, I am all the more resilient for it, and by the end I felt comfortable with customers rejecting me multiple times a day. I think my most notable mistake in the first couple days in my sales role was a lack of diligent documentation. As a salesman, it is necessary to know everything about your relationship with your customer. You must know who you have spoken to, who is the decision maker, when is that decision maker available, what the tone of the conversation was, etc. The reality is no sale is a one-off sale. On average, you have to contact someone 13 times before a sale can be executed. On top of the necessity of rigorous documentation, I grew to understand that sales is about developing relationships. When you establish trust between yourself and the customer that will be the moment they will come around to the product you are selling.
My first real role in sales, was a role as a cold caller and I had a quota to speak to 50 individuals a day. Throughout this process, and with a lot of trial and error, I worked to develop a heat map to gauge where exactly the interest for our product lay, while also helping develop an understanding of what sort of demographics were most interested in what we had to offer. During the cold call phase, I gained confidence in my sales pitch, and I also developed a comprehensive FAQ section.
I then transitioned to face-to-face calls. I personally think meeting a potential retailers in person is far more effective, and most of the sales I achieved over the course of the summer were from these face-to-face situations. All in all we got on the shelves of six stores.
Distributors accounted for the majority of our sales this summer as they tend to buy in bulk. The coolest part of my summer was closing deals with two distributors in the greater Chicago area. I got to negotiate with the distributors on pricing and eventually shake hands closing my first deals. I think they were impressed with my knowledge of the product and the industry which contributed to the sales execution.
This summer was a phenomenal experience, and I thank Alex Shah ’92 and the ’68 Center for giving me this opportunity.