How I learned to Stop Being a Doormat

Trying to support as many people as possible made me a much more effective negotiator. 

When I was a freshman in college I took my first job and I was working as an advertising sales associate for the Let’s Go Travel Guides.  And my job was to call up a bunch of clients somewhere, hotel operators and airline people and try to convince them to advertise their services in the Let’s Go books.  And I was just a disaster. 

I was trying so hard to help my clients that I actually sacrificed my company’s interests along the way.  I gave a bunch of discounts that were actually prohibited in my contract.  I even refunded a client’s money for the previous year becoming, I believe, the first ad associate in company history to give away money that was on the books from a prior year.  And I was just a complete doormat.

I had this really eye opening experience one day where I actually met an assistant manager at our company whose job was funded by advertising revenue from Let’s Go.  And at that point it became clear that I had a responsibility to serve the company’s interests, not only the client’s interests.  And I started becoming much more tenacious.  Instead of, you know, easily agreeing to every client request I would think about how my responsibility is to try to actually serve and help job creation and bring in as much revenue as possible so that we can support more people working here.  

That gave me the motivation to really try to support as many people as possible and that made me a much more effective negotiator.  And I went from having almost zero success at all to setting a series of company records for advertising sales and bringing in the largest new client in company history as well as the largest ad package in history.  And got promoted to Director of Advertising Sales at age 19 and my job was to hire and train and motivate a staff.  And this was really all from seeing that my work could make a difference in the lives of others.  And that motivated me to step up my game. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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