The Decision to Work as a Salesperson
[PureInsight.org] (European Fahui 2007) In the summer of 2006, my husband began talking with me about leaving his regular job to start working full time as a salesperson for a newspaper. He was then in charge of sales and thought it would be right to have someone doing that full time, and since no one else was found to do it, he thought of himself. Since our financial situation was reasonable he thought we could make it for a year or two with our savings and afterwards, he'd start making money from as sales. My husband is the only provider in the family and in that summer our first child was born, I was in my third year in my academic studies and wasn't working. When he raised his suggestion I was filled with fear that we would lose a good and safe source of income.
In one of the many sharings we had, we talked about our lack of faith in the paper. If we are not willing to sacrifice and believe that the paper could be successful, and that we could realistically earn money working there, that is a big omission. Under such circumstances, our paper will not grow. We continued to discuss the issue and look for courses of action. Meanwhile, the summer vacation was over and I started my studies. But I didn't feel complete, being in school. I always tried to be active in Dafa projects and managed to balance things harmoniously, but now with a small child at home and intensive studies I didn't have time for almost anything. Every day when I went to college I felt that I'm not where I'm supposed to be.
One day I suggested to my husband that I leave my studies and since my daughter is with a nanny in the mornings I would have time to dedicate to ad sales. We thought this was definitely a good course of action since my husband could finance the family while I built a base for the sales in the paper. Even though the idea seemed right to me from the Fa's perspective it was hard for me to decide whether to leave my studies or not. I already dedicated two years of my life to school, and to leave without finishing my degree would cause a shock among my family and friends. I deliberated so much that my head hurt, and I was miserable.
One day my husband came back home and told me that he'd had lunch with his mother and told her that I'm not satisfied with my studies and she told him simply: if I was not satisfied then I should leave as soon as possible, since it's a pity to waste time deliberating. For me it was a sign. I started the process of halting my studies. In the beginning there was resistance from some among my family and friends, since I was apparently leaving to volunteer in the paper. However, when we explained that I would be working with the newspaper, and I could dedicate more time to my daughter, things seemed more reasonable to everyone. And indeed today I'm making a nice salary from the paper and will complete my studies gradually - taking one or two days a week, so I can keep working.
Starting to Work
When I started working I found nothing that could give me direction. Though there have been some practitioners in the past who sold ads, they did not do it systematically. There was no one to guide me and I had no lead on how to do it.
Since our business development team was at the time in negotiations with an external marketing consultant to promote the paper, I was asked to wait and not start working, since the paper was to undergo re-branding. Meanwhile, I started small focused projects in marketing the paper. One of the important things we did was to concentrate and focus distribution, since it was not focused enough on our target audience, and when distribution is not focused enough it is more difficult to get to advertisers. Therefore, it was a necessary condition for branding the paper and selling ad space there.
We made exact lists to see where each and every single paper is taken to and discovered that a large part of the papers are distributed in a way that does not serve our marketing strategy. We understood that we want to have more newsstands scattered in the city streets so people can be more exposed to the paper and could pick up a copy if they wish to. Additionally, we understood that a newsstand acts as an advertisement and signboard for the paper, and when the paper is delivered in a newsstand it is more respectable. We worked like this: we would ride a motorcycle and every time we saw a potential place to place a newsstand, we would stop. I would approach the owner of the grocery store or kiosk and ask him to place a newsstand of the paper in his shop, and his place would be mentioned in the paper (we have a list printed in the paper with the major points of distribution). I would tell him that he could give the paper to all his customers who would enjoy getting a unique paper for free. Mostly it would work out smoothly and thus we managed to place newsstands without spending money.
Even though I contributed to many departments in the paper, I still did almost nothing in ad sales. I felt very bad with myself and became restless since I wanted to see results. Meanwhile the marketing consultant started working with us. We changed from tabloid to broadsheet format and switched our logo to English. Additionally the consultant started to meet me and we deliberated how to establish a sales team. At that time I handled advertisers who approached us and asked to place an ad in the paper and thus I could begin to learn how to do the actual sales work.
Establishing a Sales Team
We approached practitioners to ask who can work in the sales team. Several practitioners replied and we began arranging meetings in which we established the team. The meetings were also attended by our consultant to contribute and help form a team and salespersons. It was difficult to arrange meetings but we managed to hold some simulations of sales and establish a team that seemed to start working. But when the moment of truth came and we had to meet to start selling ads one by one the practitioners left the team, each for his or her own reasons, and at the end only one other practitioner remained who would work occasionally on sales. Despite everyone's wish that the sales team would be successful it appeared that few were willing to sacrifice and be in it.
In a question and answer in the 2007 New York lecture Teacher refers to this:
Disciple: Media organizations such as New Tang Dynasty Television and the Epoch Times have played immeasurable roles in the Fa-rectification. What can be done so that our media organizations can stand on their own financially, and have no monetary concerns?
Master: It depends on you. I've talked about these things many times, but there will always be a need for people to do things like visiting potential clients and doing sales and marketing. As you are Dafa disciples, whatever it is you are asked to do--be it writing articles, distributing materials, or going out to the streets--you can do it well. But it seems that if you are asked to visit potential clients and do sales and marketing, you don't want to.
Other practitioners quitting the team left me quite shocked since I spent so much time establishing the team and preparing materials, as well as us paying the consultant to help set up the team instead of spending his time guiding one or two persons. I felt left alone in the battlefield and I also felt I wanted to quit it. In the management meetings the others would ask me about my progress and I felt big pressure for results. I felt trapped between a rock and a hard place - on one hand hostile potential advertisers, on the other management pressing for results.
On one day of difficult frustration I understood that I can only do what is according to my ability and I had better do it and not try to reach past that.
In the third lecture in Zhuan Falun Teacher says: "In addition, this yardstick exists in the form of gong column. The yardstick is as high as your gong column. It represents the gong that you have cultivated. It also represents the height of your Xinxing level. In the second lecture Teacher explains: 'I told him to climb up further. He said,"I can't do it. I don't dare to climb any further, and I'm unable to climb any further' Why? It is because his gong column was only that high, and he had reached there by sitting atop his gong column."
I realized that I must do the best at the level I'm at and not feel frustrated that I'm not on a higher level. When I cultivate my Xinxing a new situation will surely arise.
I noticed that in all that time when I was under pressure to get results, phone calls stopped coming from clients who'd want to advertise with us. Usually there was one phone call per issue of someone interested in placing an ad, and now even that wasn't happening. I realized that I was pursuing too hard after the result, and that was self validation and not validating the Fa.
Of course, the Fa is amazing, and a day after gaining this understanding and finding again my will to cultivate, it was as if a dam was released, and suddenly there was a phone call from someone interested in advertising. I saw that working without an environment of practitioners, and all the more so in ad sales, is hard. I decided to open my house (we don't have an office and everyone works from their own home) and allow everyone who works on the paper to come and work with me in a common work environment. Indeed, several practitioners came which allowed us to share and support each other in difficult moments. When the environment began to be filled with the work of practitioners, I discovered that it was easier for me as well, and I regained the diligence and enthusiasm to work. Recently it happened that there were practitioners who had some free time and they came to help me with the sales work: to make phone calls to people and promote the sales. Even though it was temporary, it contributed a lot.
The first sales meeting I went to I felt insecure. I thought they will "see though me" that I'm not professional and that I will make a fool of myself and that people will also think that the paper isn't serious. Some did look down on the paper and its ability to succeed, but from one meeting to the next I discovered that all the people I meet have nothing scary in them. I got the impression from them that my attitude as a cultivator is nice and fresh to them. In the beginning I feared they would think I'm young and inexperienced, but instead older advertisers treat me like their daughter with a lot of respect.
One of the major deals that came through was for the Chinese Epoch Times. A big company in Israel was interested in advertising their money transfer service. After many phone calls a meeting was arranged with the woman responsible for marketing at the big company and the editor of the Chinese edition, our consultant and me. They came especially from the capital city to meet with the Chinese editor, but on the day of the meeting he called to tell me that he couldn't make it.
I came to the meeting with them after doing my homework about the Chinese population in the country, money transfers, etc. I apologized for our editor and promised that I could answer any question they would have about the Chinese audience. And indeed I demonstrated good fluency in the subject. They asked us to send a price quote and told us they're out of time and have to leave. When the meeting concluded the marketing woman from the big company asked if any of us is driving in the direction of a certain junction, since she doesn't have a car and had to catch a bus there. Of course I offered to help her. In the short meeting I almost didn't have time to tell her about the paper. But now we were both in the car and had a few minutes driving. I started telling her in length about the paper and the situation today under the evil communist regime in China and she listened quietly. At the end she also thanked me for helping her get to the bus.
I feel that the reason for our success in this sale is that my heart didn't move. Since I had absolute faith in the Chinese version of the newspaper, with the knowledge it has a significant foothold in the country, it was impossible for anything to interfere and move me. This instance taught me that when we are surefooted and determined, interference cannot affect us at all.
In Explaining the Fa During the 2003 Lantern Festival at the U.S. West Fa Conference Teacher says: "If you want it to be good then it will be good. And if you don't intend to make it good, or if your mind is unsteady, then it won't be easy to rectify things. In other words, you need to have strong righteous thoughts."
Even though it is hard to admit it, I didn't always have a steady heart when selling ads, and thus results were not always good. I remember one day sitting down with the manager of the paper and telling him about all the negative responses I'm getting from people about our paper. He told me that it is interesting, since our chief editor is only hearing good things about the paper. I defended myself, saying that when people don't need to put their money where their mouth is, they are willing to give compliments - but when they have to spend, they're singing a different tune. He pointed out to me that I should check for the reason I was getting only negative responses. I then saw my omission and understood that it is I who is busy harshly criticizing my fellow staff, and thus this is what I was hearing from the outside.
Since then I'm getting a lot of positive feedback on the paper as well, and shortly after a secretary called and asked to make a subscription for her boss. She said that he came in one morning, tossed the newspaper on her desk and told her: "I should be getting this paper at home" she told me that he is the CEO of a very big and well-known company in Israel. Again I discovered the power of our thoughts.
Methods of Work
I began building a systematic work method where I call people to introduce the paper and interest them in advertising. In the beginning it was difficult for me since few had heard of the paper and many were giving me negative answers. But I realized that I shouldn't be upset by what people tell me. Even if someone is not interested, I can be nice to him and offer to send him a copy of our paper to get to know us anyhow. This way he will know our paper and perhaps in the future will be interested in advertising. He will also read our articles and truth clarification through the paper and may even become a regular reader.
As a principle, I always try to think of something creative, what we can do, and not be fixed on one course of action. If a potential advertiser is not willing to spend money I can barter with him with advertising for his product - and thus the paper has gifts to give some of the readers, like for new subscribers, or those who fill a survey. I'm thinking that in the future we may barter with our suppliers - so instead of paying them we'll give them ads.
One creative example that came about recently is when I approached a chain of high-end clothing stores to get them to advertise with us. They are very "socially conscious" and don't' manufacture in China because of that. They do advertise in big newspapers, but not that much. I thought that if we establish a relationship and some cooperation then perhaps in the future they will want to advertise with us. I suggested to them to place newsstands in their stores. It may not be ordinary to deliver a paper in a designer clothes store, but this is why it is so interesting. I called them for months, and every time they would tell me to call again in a week, but I didn't give up and finally I got an answer that we can start in one of their stores, at the main store that's in one of the hottest locations in Tel-Aviv. The place also has a restaurant and spa. Having the paper there has great advantages and perhaps in the long term will be worth much more than a one-time ad.
Working at a newspaper is nothing like what I did in the past, whether in my personal life or in Dafa projects. In the past I coordinated parades, rallies and art exhibitions. There was always a difficulty in arranging them, but once it happened, it went well and then it was over. Working at the paper requires never-ending continuity.
In the beginning I was looking for success and results. It was hard for me to see the longer term. In one of the meetings with our marketing consultant, he told me that the biggest mistake of sales persons is firstly that they can't take a no, and secondly that they're looking for immediate results. It happened to me in the beginning that I pushed a potential advertiser too hard, and then the ad didn't work for him. If I were to have taken my time and had sold him a more attractive package, maybe it would have worked. And even if he still wouldn't have bought the ad, at least he wouldn't have thought that advertising at a newspaper doesn't work.
Pursuing speed and results is the biggest illusion. All my life I liked to do big things where you can see results quickly. And suddenly in this process I realized that in sales, and in business in general, you need patience. First, you need to build infrastructure, and make connections, and then everything comes naturally. I realized that my biggest omission is in Ren (Forbearance). Today when someone tells me to get back to him in the next season or after some holiday, I know that it is really tomorrow and I don't get pressured like before. In addition, today I appreciate the paper much more and I'm not in a hurry to sell at any price. If the price is too low, I will not devalue the paper just to get a few more dollars in our pocket. I also saw that at one of the times I was happy because of a sale, the client ended up not paying, and now we are wasting time and resources collecting his debt.
When I sat down to think about what I have to share with my fellow practitioners I thought that the bottom line of my experience sharing is that I don't have a success or failure to tell about. There is no climax, only a steady motion of rising up. Even though it sometimes seems like there are ups and downs, my understanding today is that one should cultivate with a heart that is unmoved. The only thing that's guaranteed is progress, in spite of everything. One shouldn't get excited or upset, or emphasize victory or defeat, since at the end of the day they are all just points on the road. Our excitement from success is what makes us crash at a moment of failure.