Upon being granted an interview with IBM while in business school for a chance at my first real job, my initial enthusiasm was slightly curbed by the fact that the position was to become a sales rep. With an undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA, I had imagined a career on Wall Street.
A sales rep? The vivid composite in my head was of some guy in a shiny suit, with a pinky ring and remarkable hair, trying to sell me something that I really did not need. Just like George Costanza’s dream of pretending to be an architect or a marine biologist before compromising to a desperate hope of an imaginary job as Jerry’s latex salesman, I would have to reconcile the dream with reality.
My IBM sales school training quickly helped reorient my mindset with my new responsibilities as a marketing representative (I was relieved to hear that the dirty word “sales” was not in the official title). One of my first and most enduring lessons came at a meeting of the executive leadership team of a large hospital in New Orleans, my IBM regional executives, and me. As the conversation turned to a mention of a product I had just learned about in training, I enthusiastically interjected with the sales pitch I had recently memorized. The hospital COO interrupted me with the rebuke, “You don’t know what you don’t know. Please be quiet.” Ouch.