My whole life, I have always liked selling things. My parents say it first clicked when I sold a brownie outside my apartment building when I was four. I have been fascinated by how people sell things which is the art behind sales. I recently talked with Marc Jacobs, not the fashion designer of the same name, but the Lead Retail Channel Expansion and Grocery Channel at Dr. Scholl’s. Jacobs explains his job selling Dr. Scholl’s products to various companies and building and maintaining relationships between Dr. Scholl’s and the companies.
I asked Jacobs if he had always wanted to go into business and sales like myself, but Jacobs said he never thought he would end up in sales. He thought he would be a lawyer like his father. He majored in East Asian Studies with a minor in Mandarin and Economics at Wittenberg University, then became the campaign manager for former House of Representative Bill Gradison of Ohio. Only once Jacobs met his wife, who works in marketing, did he realize he was in sales. Jacobs said, “I did the same thing as her. I just market a person and not a product.” From this “eureka” moment, Jacobs dove headfirst into marketing and sales.
Jacobs has been in marketing and sales for over thirty years and has worked for many companies. Some of his past employers include Heinz, Nestle, James River Corporation, Red Rose Tea, Telebrands, and now Dr. Scholl’s. I asked him what elements make a good sale. Jacobs laid out some points to highlight when selling. What about the product is something that the consumer needs? He says a salesperson has to be able to answer the central question of why this item or service is something a consumer needs to have or use. Understanding this principle will help set your item apart from others and make it easier to show how your product stands out from the competition.
I was curious and asked what the most challenging product Jacobs ever had to try to pitch was. He thought about it for a minute and then laughed, “Oh my god! The recycled toilet paper! That was probably the most difficult product I ever had to sell.” Jacobs explained how he had to sell eco-friendly recycled toilet paper. The issue with the product is that people thought the recycled toilet paper meant it had previously been used as toilet paper. This was not true, as the toilet paper was made of paper scraps that would usually be thrown away. The item could not escape the idea that the toilet paper had been recycled after being used, so it flopped.
Lastly, I asked Jacobs what he had learned from his experience. Jacobs said the most important phrase that has kept him grounded is, “I am just selling ‘x.’ That is it. I am not solving world peace.” He said this statement helps put his job’s stress in perspective.