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TURNING INTIMIDATION INTO PASSION

Vellu, 27, Sales

S-word: Sexy-Salad

3rd Year participating

 

Mastering the SHIFTing mindset

 

When Vellu moved to Turku in 2009, little did he know that after a few years he wouldn’t be graduating to be a sign language interpreter, as he had thought. Instead, he would be doing the thing he once thought he never could do: B2B sales.

 

“The sign language interpreting just wasn’t for me, but it was the thing that brought me to Turku.” He reflects back to the years when his passion for sales was yet to be found. Soon after he found his way to the Business Academy and a new field of studies. “This all kind of starts from the moment when I realized that sales are the most intimidating and the kind of a thing I could never do. At the time I was reading quite a lot, and the hidden message in every book seemed to be: you just put your mind to it and you can become anything. I was like that’s bullshit!” he says, emphasizing the last word. “I am so introverted, non-charming and I can’t talk, so I could never do sales!”

 

Despite the doubtful attitude, he decided to test if he would have a shot in sales. “Then I was like, OK, mister self-help-guy, I am going to give this a try. I took a piece of paper and wrote down that I am going to be a B2B salesman.” Soon he got a chance to spring in action and take part in organizing a job fair as a school project. It also proved the message in the books annoyingly right.“I am one of those lucky ones who was personally fetched to work at SHIFT. It happened at the job fair that when asked ‘who sold this?’ all the fingers pointed at me. Before that, I had looked into SHIFT a little. It seemed like a cool organization with cool people, so, in a way, I already had it in mind, but after that, it was a sealed deal that I would join after the job fair was wrapped up.”

 

It’s all about Perfecting the Craft and Standing in the Frontline

 

Taking up the challenge Vellu set for himself shifted his mindset and the way he now thinks about sales. However, joining SHIFT was more than just a bold action against the thinking patterns. It was a chance to perfect the craft and to think over what the craft actually was about.   “What you think rarely turns out to be the truth,” he says when asked what is puzzling him about sales. “For example, a value is the kind of variable that differs between fields and companies, and on a personal level – it’s super tricky to wrap your head around it. I mean you might have an idea that this festival might be perfect for this company to find more customers, but when you talk with them, it might turn out that they actually have so many customers that they can barely serve them all.”

 

There are so many cool people you wouldn’t meet otherwise.

 

It seems that for Vellu the passion in disguise is in these never ending puzzles that challenge the way one thinks. “So, when you have an idea and the truth turns out to be something else, you have to constantly re-evaluate and replace yourself  in the equation.” The beauty that keeps the frustration at bay is, however, the people you get to meet. “There are so many cool people you wouldn’t meet otherwise. You’re in the frontline discovering new things – or actually, better yet, it’s your job to find those next cool companies, people, and you get this really good sense of what is going on in the world.”

 

Frontline discovery is not only about the cool things you can possibly find. In Vellu’s mind, it is also about the puzzle embedded in human interaction. He has come to a conclusion that to excel in sales: “you don’t have to be the nicest guy, it helps, but in the end, it’s all about the numbers and to get to hit them you have to work your ass off, no matter who you are.” However, Vellu is not advocating for brilliant jerks. It’s rather the laidback experienced salesman in the field he looks up to. “For example the guys who sell the cruise ships or other deals with big money, it’s like they have it quite well figured out what human interaction is all about. Actually one of the best keynotes I’ve ever listened to stated that ‘you should never lie because then you have to remember what you have said’ – I was laughing through tears when I heard that. It’s so simple, so true and it has nothing to do with being nice.”

 

The SHIFTy Mystery Filled with First Times

 

Vellu is sure hoping to exchange the volunteer experience from SHIFT for a job in the future but even so, it seems that he’s not in a hurry to leave SHIFT too soon. There’s still the mystery lingering around the people that SHIFT attracts – and he seems determined to solve it. “It’s a mystery to me what is it here. It’s hard to imagine a place like this where you meet so many awesome people all the time – it’s funny how it becomes almost boring.”   He takes a second to think of an example of the peculiar awesomeness he has faced so often. “I mean people dye their hair based on this – and this is the second time someone has done it and they came up with the idea on their own! It’s not like a tradition, but something that people want to do it – it’s not a normal thing to for the place you work for, and it’s a mystery to me what is it in this place that inspires people but it seems to be something pretty strong.”  

 

Vellu admits that he gets hyped up by people. The hype is not just because of how SHIFT somehow seems to attract cool people, but also because of the way people jump on board. “You can’t say that people here would be exceptionally talented in what they do, but instead they are pursuing what they do and they grow,” Vellu says. This tells that the endless source of inspiration is not about the skills people have, but rather about the way people are determined to figure it out.   “It’s the same thing when you are a kid and think that your parents know everything, but then you grow up and figure out that they really didn’t know a thing when they were raising you.” The hidden wisdom behind the metaphor is that in SHIFT you don’t only perfect your own craft or try to mould it based on something already made. Rather you find the corners that need polishing by working together with others who are trying to do the same thing. “It’s a super fun ride if you dare to follow the crazy ride – this really has changed the way I think about how the world works.”

 

It’s a super fun ride if you dare to follow the crazy ride – this really has changed the way I think about how the world works.

 

The super fun ride seems to form with the new experiences that come with figuring things out as a team. With the unexpectedness SHIFT beholds, there’s always a first time for everything, like when Vellu was making a point about the team spirit with the Sexy-Salad Friday: “every Friday was a Sexy-Salad Friday. One guy brought tomatoes, one some tuna, one some tofu…or beef-turkey, then we just mixed it, and it was a fun salad to eat together…”

 

Suddenly his phone rang. It breaks all the delusions that the ride would be boring when you hear him saying: “ Sorry, now is not a good time…I am being interviewed for a blog.” He puts his phone down in crying laughter saying: “…just how cheesy did it sound?”

 

According to Vellu a true SHIFTer is not only prepared to randomly bring something into a Sexy-Salad but jump as an ingredient into the Sexy-Salad. Once you’re in the salad you have to just let it go and take the only guarantee he believes SHIFT has: “It will give you a fun ride if you dare to take the leap and commit to the fast pace and the unexpectedness.”

Text: Miia-Tatjaana