EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re doing a series on recruitAbility employees’ first jobs and the lessons they learned. Below we hear from our CEO Nad Elias.
When I was 13 years old, I began my first job delivering newspapers on a bike route. For two years, I woke up early, folded papers, and circled around my neighborhood. Occasionally, I collected payments. Some people even asked me for payment plans – as if I had any decision-making authority.
I consider my first relevant job to be as a shoe salesman at Just For Feet when I was 15 years old. I sold athletic shoes and I earned minimum wage at $4.75/hr. That didn’t excite me, though. When I interviewed, they told me I could earn a commission for each pair of shoes I sold. Just like that, all I saw were dollar signs, and I was going to do whatever it took to sell shoes!
When I started, I saw a board in the break room with a tally for who sold the most shoes in the month. That lit a fire in me, and I was determined to become the leader and stay there. Soon, I became the top salesperson for six consecutive months. I earned more money than I ever had in my life.
How many times have you bought a pair of shoes and asked the clerk for their opinion?
- What would you recommend if I have narrow feet and a high arch?
- Do you think a better-cushioned sole would help my back pain?
- My son just made the basketball team. Do you have a pair of shoes that protects his ankles from turning?
Those are just a few that I remember. There were plenty more, and they all served as big, flashing buying signals to me. People really thought that a kid knew what was best for their feet, and I wasn’t going to burst their bubble.
So I faked it. I would lead customers to the most expensive shoes, place them side-by-side with another pair of pricey sneakers, and then just tell customers what they wanted to hear.
These Nike Air Max are the best for narrow feet and high arches. All my customers that have bought this pair come back and tell me how much better their feet feel. You see how the air pocket is strategically placed toward the heel? That’s designed to cushion feet with high arches.
Then I’d tack on insoles and special socks to sweeten the deal!
I wanted to share this story because I believe it’s those first jobs in life that shape who we become. It was then that I learned I was a born salesman. I was selling value before it was cool, but I didn’t have the knowledge, and I was too transactional. I was just taught to say whatever the customer wanted to hear to get the sale in the moment.
Fast forward to today, and value-based selling still works best. But now, customers can better vet the people selling to them. We can assess someone’s credibility by checking their profile on LinkedIn, viewing their references and recommendations, or browsing their company’s website.
Add value, but back it up with knowledge and a strong reputation based on cultivating relationships. Those are the lessons that I follow to this day, whether I’m in front of a potential client, or if I’m a buyer assessing a salesperson.
That and don’t ever trust what a shoe salesman tells you 🙂