The prospect of working in a call center often fills many with dread. As job hunters, we have all been warned of the bad sales job that we are meant to avoid. Heck, I even made a post warning prospective job seekers of door-to-door sales schemes.
Sure, salespeople have a bad reputation. We often associate salesmen with underhanded tactics and deceit. While even I myself have become a victim of salespeople’s manipulation, I honestly think everyone should take a sales job, at least once in their life.
I have always been very quiet and self-conscious. I am someone who has a history of caring too much what people think. I ruminate over things I say in various conversations, fearing others’ negative perceptions of me. Social anxiety makes me feel drained and puts me in a cage. But through sales, I learned that letting go of your insecurity is true freedom.
Back in February, I was 2 months out of school, unemployed, and searching for a job. I was doing some blogging and content work on the side, but it wasn’t enough to fully support me at the time. I flippantly used LinkedIn’s Easy Apply feature, submitting my resume to hundreds to companies with just the click of a button. I religiously checked my email each and everyday, hoping to receive a message from a hiring manager, to no avail.
One day, I looked through my email and saw that someone had responded to an Easy Apply I had submitted. The hiring manager asked if I was located in Los Angeles and I responded yes. We proceeded to set up a phone interview the next day.
During the phone interview, we discussed my background in digital marketing. She also saw that I was familiar with the CRM they used. She requested that I do an in-person interview with them right on the spot. I agreed to come in the next day.
Was this the kind of job I truly desired? Nope. If I had been asked to come in for an interview with them a month prior, I would have said no. But money was getting tight for me and I was willing to take what I could get. Plus, it would give me precious interview experience. I got dressed up in business casual wear and headed straight to the interview.
I came into the office to see a bunch of small cubicles and a slew of employees chatting away on their phone. The scent of stale bread and lunch meat filled the office, as it was right next to a makeshift cafe.
I went into the interview and we discussed commissions. She said that they needed people who would be able to talk friendly on the phone and build relationships with clients. We went further into my background of digital marketing and I elaborated on my previous sales experience. I don’t want to give too much information away, as I would like for this post to focus around my personal journey, and not the company itself. I will just say that this was very much an account manager position, where we were meant to reach out to clients and sell them footage for their business.
I was called and offered the job the very next day. I was stunned, how could they hire me that quick? I was informed that they believed my background in digital marketing would make me a useful asset to the team. She told me that there would be a stable hourly wage, on top of commissions. The wage wasn’t very high, but I had rent to pay. It took me about an hour to reach a decision. I consulted with my mom and my boyfriend, asking for advice on whether I should accept the job or not. I decided that it would be something to provide me with income while I got back on my feet.
I went in for orientation the next day and signed the paperwork. I was taken into a conference room where one of the higher-ups was training us. I knew this was a sales position, but I felt so nervous. I am an introvert, many would describe me as very quiet. How was I to do a job like this?
Throughout the training, we were trained on how to be assertive on the phone. We were handed a script that we were meant to memorize. I thought that I couldn’t possibly do a job like this. I wanted to run out of the office. But then I would remember the hourly wage; that was what kept me in my seat.
We were trained on Friday and Monday; we were put on the phones on Tuesday. I was petrified. Why would they hire me? I am obviously one who is very quiet and awkward. I felt like an imposter.
I reached out to businesses online and that afternoon got a request for a phone call from a guy named Mike. Every part of my body was palpitating in anxiety as I dialed his number. My manager was right behind the entire time, there to shadow my call.
I called him up and we struck up a conversation. Suddenly, it was as though a completely different person came over me. A louder, more prominent voice came out of my mouth as I spoke, as I immediately a fiery passion for a product I barely knew anything about. I became a bona-fide salesperson, fit to work in a used car dealership. This confidence came over me, an overwhelming feeling that I was quite unfamiliar with.
I drove home confident. When I got home, I tortured my poor boyfriend while I was practicing my sales pitches. I went through the next week, actually enjoying doing phone sales. It was thrilling to get bites.
Of course, I did have quite a few flubs. On my second day out in the sales floor, I was on a phone call where I had entirely blanked out. My confidence deteriorated and my words stumbled as I was speaking with the woman. I began to read the sales script verbatim out of panic. She was a wedding planner and I read out a line, asking, “Why do you think you have repeat clients?” Of course this is a ridiculous question to ask a wedding planner. She immediately recognized and asked me, “Are you reading a script?” I begrudgingly said yes. She then asked, “Are you new?”. When I said yes, she said, “I can tell”. Awkward.
That phone call filled me with anxiety. What if I was fired over this? She knows my name. What if I met her in 10 years and she recognized me? Of course, these thoughts were absolutely ridiculous, but anxiety does not always follow logic.
Throughout the rest of the time at my job, I blossomed. I grew more confident each day. There was something fun about talking to so many people everyday. Getting to know different business owners and hearing their stories really taught me a lot about business. Usually, our calls we pre-arranged and scheduled with the prospective client, but sometimes we would cold-call. I am not going to lie, cold-calling is never pleasant. But as someone who grew up afraid to call potential friends asking to hang out, it’s surreal thinking I did cold-calling.
I used to be terrible in phone interviews. I recall during my last semester of college, I was doing a phone interview where I could barely speak, I was so nervous. The man on the other end straight up told me that he would be moving on to other applicants, as I was not adequately prepared. Whoops. Beginner’s mistake.
I quit this job after quite a short period of time, due to personal reasons. I did find that afterwards, my phone interviewing skills were much stronger. I was called in for an interview at another place soon after I resigned from my phone sales job. I was subsequently hired a few days after the phone interview.
Overall, this job did contribute to my growth as a marketer. Although working in a call center was far from a dream job, it did give me the tools I needed to move forward in my career. It made me step out of my comfort zone and allowed me to shine in a way I never thought I could. People tout extroverts as being the best salespeople, but I honestly believe that those who struggle with shyness could definitely benefit from sales. Sure, you’re going to be the “annoying sales person”, but for me, it helped me stop worrying about being annoying. It helped me not care so much what people thought of me. So if you’re an introvert who gets roped into a sales job, don’t fret. It just may give you the confidence boost you need.