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A Passion for Sales
Sarah Benson ’11, MBA ’12, is making a good name for the sales profession. Forget about the stereotype of selling customers what they don’t need just to make a quick sale. Benson’s philosophy is just the opposite.
“I love developing new ideas, understanding consumer behaviors and needs, and positioning solutions to meet their needs,” she says of her work as a customer success manager at Adobe. As her job title implies, her goal is to help customers find products that will make them successful.
For example, if a customer purchases Adobe Analytics to track how people are using their website, Benson helps to ensure they are using the technology correctly to do what they want to accomplish. She also identifies additional products that could help the customer and serves as a resource if any issues come up.
“I believe that successful sales and marketing is founded on authenticity,” Benson says. “Reaching people starts with knowing your consumers and their behaviors and creating clear messaging.”
It’s something that Benson has been doing for a long time. In high school, she started the first Rhode Island chapter of Best Buddies, which serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. To rally students to volunteer, she marketed the impact that volunteering would have not only on Best Buddies clients, but on the volunteers themselves: contributing to the community, building service experiences, and working as a team toward a common goal. Once she arrived at Bentley, Benson continued her community service leadership as a project manager for the Bentley Service-Learning Center.
Pursuing her Passion in Business School
“I knew I wanted to study business and knew a lot of Bentley graduates who had landed great jobs,” she recalls of her choice to attend Bentley. “When I was offered a scholarship to be a Service-Learning Center project manager, though, I was hooked. I had always been passionate about serving others and being able to pursue my passion at a prestigious business school was the perfect opportunity for me. I don’t believe I would be where I am today without those leadership skills developed managing service projects and student teams.”
Benson, who majored in Marketing and completed an MBA at Bentley, also took away lessons in collaboration and outside-the-box thinking. “The intimate classroom settings and collaborative group projects taught me a lot beyond the textbooks,” she recalls. “Thinking strategically in business is what leads to success. Just because something was done a certain way in the past, it doesn’t mean that’s the right way. Collaborating with others helps you come up with the best solution.”
At Adobe, a multinational software company, relationship-building is Benson’s favorite part of the job. “I love meeting new people, it’s part of who I am,” she says. “Opening up a conversation and asking questions is how I build strong relationships, which is particularly important if an issue comes up. It takes a relationship and trust to be able to have difficult conversations.”
Getting to know people is a skill she focused on while a graduate assistant in Bentley’s Center for Marketing Technology. What stands out the most, she says, is understanding consumer behavior through the focus groups, prototyping and research she did for clients like Converse and the Boston Celtics. (She also got her first taste of working with Adobe software.)
Tips of the (Sales) Trade
Now that she is a full-time sales professional, Benson has advice for others considering the field:
- To be successful in sales, you must have drive and passion. Having a passion about what you are selling and being driven — even in the most challenging situations — leads to success in sales.
- Sales is not always easy, but it’s extremely satisfying to help a client solve challenges and see results that come from the solutions you provide.
- Be resilient. In sales a lot of people will turn you away. Benson’s first full-time job included cold-calling people who had no idea who she was. But that experience taught her how to communicate with people who were uninterested, which helped her in the long run.
- Be creative in your thought process. Ask: How can I help this company? How can I interest them in continuing a conversation? There’s a large element of marketing in sales.
“When you believe in what you're selling, it makes it easier to understand the challenges that you can solve for your customers and to articulate that solution,” Benson says. “I love solving problems; it’s what I do. Even though others may call it ‘selling.’”
Bentley University’s nationally recognized career service department is the best in the country, earning the number one ranking in The Princeton Review’s newly-released guide, “The 384 Best Colleges, 2019 Edition.”