One of the most important skills for a person to develop is their ability to sell. Regardless of whether a person chooses a career in sales, education, medicine, engineering, management, or art, sales has implications in virtually every field. Whether you’re selling a product, an idea, a method, or even yourself, one needs to be able to follow organizational & industry-wide guidelines/procedures that have been proven successful, take on (un)anticipated challenges, and maintain confidence in themselves and the object(s) they’re selling.
I've found that one of the best on-campus service organizations that helps to develop all 3 of these is the American Red Cross. While volunteering, you’re delegated 1 of 3 general responsibilities: Canteen, check-in, or pamphleteering. Spending time volunteering in each of the 3 of these roles really helps to develop different aspects of your ability to sell.
Canteen involves assisting people who've just donated by providing them with food, drink, and conversation. It’s very important to monitor donors’ gestures, speech, & expressions, as some donors don’t tolerate the recovery process as well as others. By being careful & attentive, constantly monitoring participants’ conditions, you’ll learn how to make the correct call in every possible situation.
Check-in involves processing potential donors to make sure they meet organizational expectations, & being knowledgeable of common questions & concerns. By anticipating donors’ questions, you’re able to offer more carefully formulated responses, making the donor feel more at-ease. This is especially important for giving the donor a positive experience, hopefully making them return again in the future.
Lastly, pamphleteering – one of the most nerve-wracking experiences for some – offers the greatest practice. Often, the person you want to speak with most (possibly because you want a job from them, or you have a mutually beneficial opportunity) doesn't share that same desire. By handing out pamphlets, you get all day to deal with people who don’t want to speak with you, and especially don’t want to take whatever it is you’re handing out. By practicing different pitches, approach techniques, and gestures, you can learn what’s most effective for you, for that inevitable day that you ask a superior for a promotion, or ask a client to purchase more from you.
So, the next time you see a blood drive, if you have some free time, brush up on your sales skills. They’re usually pretty accommodating, even if you haven’t signed up online to volunteer. Even if it’s not an APO-sponsored day, you can get started achieving those outside hours. Maybe donate some blood too, while you’re there, help save some people’s lives. Never give yourself, or others, excuses about why you “can’t” do something. With the national blood supply at its historically lowest level, they need all of the help that any of us (and those you can recruit) can provide. Do your part – donate not just your time & effort, but donate life.