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Travis Stanton's Exclusive Experience in Sales

By Travis Stanton

What is a career in sales REALLY like? Find out from Travis who had a chance to visit, Northwestern Mutual, Chicago Tribune

I flew into Milwaukee the night before I was scheduled to visit Northwestern Mutual.  I had plenty of time to relax and get ready for my big day on-site.  It's a good thing because I was going to need all of the energy I could muster for the next 2 days.

Day 1: Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee

My day started early! My Experience host, Tim and I got up and headed out for our walk across Milwaukee to the Northwestern Mutual building. When we got there I was amazed at how rustic the building looked, complete with marble floors and stone columns.

There we met with Steve Thompson, our contact who would lead me around the building to the people I was supposed to meet with. He led me to Michele Pierz, who began by giving me a brief overview of how Northwestern got started, how they have become the thriving business they are today, and a little about the types of products they sell and all the people that help make it possible. I asked her if Northwestern Mutual was strictly insurance based, and she told me that Northwestern had many separate businesses that were still part of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network that covered a wide array of products, such as Investment Services, Employee benefits, and Wealth Management.

Next I met with some of the top people in their marketing department, Mona Pliskie and Scott Shafer, to discuss their strategies. I found out that there's more to phone calls and meetings when you try to sell a product. They have been working hard on their website, for example, to try and make it more appealing for a younger-aged genre who would not normally consider buying Life Insurance. They explained to me that the marketing department is kind of like the backup for a sales person, and are really there to help them do the best they can. With a good solid marketing department, a salesperson is more knowledgeable in what he is doing and also more efficient because with their help, it won't seem like it's just you all alone out there.

At lunch we met with Michael VanGrinsven who talked to me about the evolution of sales in the financial services industry. He explained to me about Northwestern Mutual's internship program, and as a college student who will soon be in need of a job, I was all ears. I asked him if it was like most big business internships, where all you really do is file papers and other clerk work. He explained that their internship program is almost the exact same work that an entry-level salesperson would do as well. You get the same kind of training, and the same responsibilities are required of you. I admired that they would put so much trust in an intern to go out and sell their product while still in school, but they showed me that some of their top sellers had all been interns before, and that it really was a good program for a college student to get involved with.

The most exciting part of the day was when I got to see what a day in the life of a Financial Representative was really like. Scott Schwertfeger,, took me to one of the downtown branches which was like a hub for all their reps. I saw their conference rooms and their offices, but the building was mostly empty because everyone was out selling. I was fortunate enough to get to listen in on a client meeting. This was my chance to see what a real sales meeting was like. I learned from this that what makes you a good sales person is believing in the product you sell, and that's most important. He met with a college professor and was showing him some different policies that he might be interested in. He was selling him something beneficial, and almost necessary in a family, and that's why he was able to do it with ease. If you sell overpriced accessories that people don't really need, you don't get the same feeling as you do when you really get the chance to help people to provide for their future.

I learned a lot of vital information about the techniques I should use when selling, and what my overall approach to sales should be, and I'm very thankful for all their information.

Day 2: CareerBuilder and Tribune, Chicago

Tim and I took the train down to Chicago and started day two at, where we met up with Chu Chang, the Marketing Coordinator. He led me to meet with Abby Steinman from the Corporate Recruiting team. She gave me some vital information in regards to every college student's worse nightmare; the resume. She showed me what employers are really looking for in candidates, how it's more than just your GPA and grades, but also how you act as a person. Do you work well in groups? Are you willing to give everything you have to the job you're after? These are the things that are important in a resume, because it shows more about your character and what you will bring to the job.

Next I met Arti Bedi, a National Account Executive, and Derek Frer, a Sales Director-Multimedia Sales Group, who both discussed details of sales careers, from the experiences you have to the opportunities at hand. They both gave me their first-hand accounts of how they became salespeople, and the potential that a career in sales holds. They explained that if you are a hard worker and committed to your product, you will go far. Being a salesperson is unlike any other job. You set your appointments, you are completely responsible for yourself in what you say and do, but there is really no limit to the amount of money you can make for your company. The more people you call, the more appointments you can set, and the more products you can sell, and so forth. Also, their key advice was to learn how to take rejection. Being a salesperson is not an easy job, you have to endure a lot of criticism and rejection from certain people, but in the end it's worth it, because you really are your own boss, a sort of entrepreneur in a sense.

With all their great advice I was eager to head to the Chicago Tribune. There I met with Mike Nesser who gave me a great tour of the building, complete with the top-level conference rooms. He discussed with me the working environment of a sales person, and showed me what it was like to be an inside rep. They were responsible for selling the ads that are posted in random spots on newspapers, and they were currently working on a huge deal with a national brand for a full-page color ad in the Sunday paper. I learned techniques when talking on the phone with customers and also how they put their information into the computer, which from there is processed and put into the newspaper to be seen by the city.

After visiting these three great companies my head was almost overflowing with information. I learned a great deal about sales, from the marketing side of it to techniques you can use both on the phone and in person to person meetings. I realize now that being a sales rep is a very tough job, but one where the possibility to prosper and do well is very high, as long as you stay committed and most importantly believe in the product you are selling. After this experience I feel I am more prepared now for the sales world and know that I have a lot of really great people I can count on if I ever need their help. They have really made me more confident about seeking out a job in sales, and I feel that a career in sales definitely appeals to me. Again, I cannot thank Experience and CareerBuilder enough for giving me this great opportunity, and I thank Northwestern Mutual, CareerBuilder, and Tribune for letting me see things behind the scenes and for giving me top-notch advice and info on the world of sales. This was surely a trip that I shall never forget!

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