Newly entering the workforce, you may face some pretty intriguing experiences in having your horizons broadened. As a philosophy graduate without any specific domain of specialisation, my peers and I could end up pretty much anywhere. Somehow or other, I write articles now, but a lot sure happened before this opportunity came.
Before I worked at a digital marketing company, I briefly worked at a face-to-face marketing company. They had a well-written, quirky, creative ad and so I applied. The interviewer and I hit it off and I got the job that very weekend.
Oh, by the way, the interviewer was the assistant owner (second-in-charge) of the company, and he became my personal mentor.
Everything was going swimmingly.
And then my first day at work arrived. That evening, I found myself knocking on the door of a random HDB flat and delivering the first part of our pitch. Then it finally dawned on me: Ah, so being a brand ambassador, the so-called face-to-face marketing thingy, is basically this glorified door-to-door salesman role. Oh.
This is a story of what I experienced in my time at that job.
To be honest, the hours for this job were kind of hardcore. The actual ‘fieldwork’ was from 5-10pm or something like that, but that didn’t mean that we could do whatever we wanted before that. Rather, we might have training from around 10am or so. A 2pm meeting would also be held before everyone went out to the field. Oh, that’s weekdays only, when residents are likely only free to talk at night.
By the way, the training was related to like body language and stuff. My mentor wanted me to consistently record videos of myself pitching in my free time o.o.
Now we worked for six days a week starting Sunday and ending Friday. Public holidays were no exception. In fact, public holidays were all the more reason to be working because the residents would be at home and we could market it as a special holiday promotion rather than the same thing we promoted everyday (I personally didn’t do that, but everyone else seemed to).
Finally, there is no basic salary as it is completely commission-based.
Now you might think: like, why would anyone even want to do this kind of job?
Well, first and foremost, you can actually get somewhere with it. There are good prospects, it seems, and so you could say that I’ll spend less time gallivanting in my youth and put in some hard work to secure a better future for myself blablabla. That kind of thing.
Basically, after achieving a certain number of sales within a certain period, you will be promoted to a team leader. You’ll get to train someone (though I imagine the turnover rate is probably quite high). The next step is senior team leader. So ultimately, after accumulating a certain number of underlings (you’ll be entitled to a part of their revenue), you can rise to become the owner of your very own company.
Technically, you can achieve this within like one or two years if you’re good. So it’s something which does reward your efforts and labour, in all fairness. Management and leadership experience that causes other companies to try to poach you surely adds value to you as a member of the workforce!
I must admit, this company had a pretty unique culture. The atmosphere was also definitely one of positivity rather than negativity, which is definitely a big plus for it.
As new people, we attended this new people’s dinner. Basically, each of us went to the home of our mentor and bought food. Then, together, we had this zoom session with the owner of the company for him to share with us his experiences plus answer any questions we might have.
Now, the owner of the company was not some far-flung figure we never saw. Instead he was someone we saw everyday and even joked around with. By the way, we truly were big on self-improvement.
Everyday — was it everyday? — we’d have these self-help talks. Everyone would religiously take notes and copy down every single point. I think sometimes we’d be asked to rehash the points to see if we were listening. Note-taking is something that really isn’t my thing and I never ever refer back to notes, but I had to do it for show anyway. We also had to share our insight on which point resonated most with us.
A lot of it was probably about empathy, listening, being liked and stuff like that. Surrounding ourselves with the right people came up a few times too.
Anyway, about the vibes.
Remember secondary school? There was something quite similar there. Literally like when someone says okay you say alright, and someone says alright you say okay. And when the ‘speaking right’ is passed on to you, you say ‘123’ to which they’d reply ‘oh yeah!’. I was quite amazed by this because it isn’t something that I’d normally associate with the working world. Not really.
Then we played online games together. Games like DOTA 2 and Call of Duty Mobile. Only some of the people in the company played the former. Although I never really gained much of an interest in it, I played for a bit too to try to assimilate into their company. As for the latter, the whole company played it one Friday night after finishing fieldwork and reaching home, from like 12+ or 1+am. I kind of hated it but…
Personally, I am someone who believes in sleep and will never sacrifice it. Still, my mentor’s viewpoint was really more towards sleep is for the weak, how will you get anywhere if you can’t even resolve yourself for something this small!! and stuff like that. I think that’s complete rubbish, though.
One night, it was someone’s birthday. After fieldwork had ended, we all went on Zoom to wish him happy birthday and watch a nice cheesy video together. It was past midnight, people! On hindsight the company culture wasn’t really so fit for me…
There were positive vibes, but our values clashed in the area of sleep lol.
By the way, since weekday fieldwork was from 5-10, our food cycles were seriously messed up. Since we’d likely be hungry after fieldwork, we’d have dinner/supper at like 11+pm. Lunch/dinner might be at like 2, 3pm. That was another less than ideal point about this job.
Now, for the fieldwork. This happened at different HDB districts each week all over Singapore. Often entailing a super long MRT ride back. But anyway.
Basically, we would start off with a Zoom meeting at the void deck in pairs to talk about our goals for the day. This might be a certain number of full pitches or like literally stuff along the lines of ‘my aim is to enjoy the scenery and have fun yay’.
Then, in our pairs (trios if there’s a mentor and mentee), we’d head to the lift and write down the unit numbers on our clipboard on the topmost row. Next we’d split into odd and even floors and write ours on the leftmost column. Finally, on to their respective units!
It was quite the efficient process. We’d knock on every single door. For those which gave no answer, we’d pen a dot on the corresponding box on the sheet. Those for which the working adults were not home yet, we’d grandiosely call ‘appointments’, noting that we’d return later in the evening.
To increase efficiency further, we’d write the data for each door at the next door while waiting for the resident there to answer it. Then we’d look casual and relaxed, pretending to stare intrigued at the electrical meter while holding the clipboard. That was supposed to draw the residents’ curiosity such that they would decide to answer the door. After each floor, we’d dash down to the next next floor (odd or even only).
By the way, efficiency aside, we were also supposed to have fun on the blocks. We always asked nicely for free drinks and got them. Twice I went with someone apart from my mentor, a girl who respected him like a father or something. Twice we got alcohol from the residents… we didn’t drink it while on duty, of course.
Additionally, we’d have interesting conversations with the residents. As a dog owner, my mentor got to meet another dog lover in the flats and they eventually exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up at some pet shop place in their free time. I actually witnessed stuff like that firsthand. We were supposed to enjoy the conversations.
Around 7+ or so, we’d have mid-break. We’d go back down to the void deck and share our ‘wins’ for the day (cue ‘yays’ chiming in reply). It also served as a smoke break for many of them. Now, I’m not generalising smoking or anything, but…
From what I know, a number of these people were from a lower stratum of society in the past. They used to hang out with the wrong crowd and make bad decisions with their life. This company was kind of like a reformist camp for them, allowing them to reclaim their lives and earn their first 10k and stuff. So it was a perspective-opener.
Then, we’d return to the field for another two hours or so, having fun while closing sales as well ideally.
Finally, at the end of the day, the mentors would talk to their mentees. We were supposed to share three things that we learnt, three things that we enjoyed, three things that we wanted to improve on. Personally, though, I felt like I’d surely run out of inspiration and was therefore not such a huge fan of it.
Naturally, the team had targets to meet, and if we were dissatisfied with our results, some of us would even stay past 10pm and return to the blocks. Something I saw firsthand was my mentor doing street pitching. Once he literally squatted down and meticulously presented to some guy who was sitting down. One cannot help but feel respect at that!
As it was a numbers game, it was all about a good attitude. We’d ignore those rude dudes, writing LG (let go) on the paper. We’d try to be that 10% who brightened the day of those we spoke to and go for the win!
Basically, there’s nothing to hate.
Most memorable moment
My most memorable moment was none other than my first solo sale. It’s really quite a dramatic story as things go.
So I went to a flat on a high floor, maybe 11 or so. There was a girl and she had a boyfriend. I told them to check us out on Instagram and they said they would (we would raise awareness if anything else). Then I left, having finished a half pitch.
I returned at 8+ but the lights seemed to be off. I knocked softly for fear of disturbing them and left… actually, it kind of defeated the purpose of knocking?
I returned at 9+ and this time, the guy answered the door. I asked him if he had checked our Instagram and he said he hadn’t. So I reminded him to, and then I departed.
Now, I made my way down to the fourth floor. And then this guy arrived! So he’d apparently run all the way down the stairs looking for me. He was touched by my efforts or something and felt guilty that he hadn’t really reciprocated. He sincerely heard out my full pitch, right there by the lift area. And then he decided to support me.
I can still somehow remember that this guy’s name was Eric. This is relying on a very fragmented memory, but he was perhaps Malaysian and had studied in the UK before. Anyway, he was a nice guy and asked me questions like why I was doing this and for how long etc (no he was not a journalist but simply a nice human being).
He was concerned upon hearing that it had been eight hours since I last ate or something… Anyway it was almost 10 and time to rendezvous, so I went down.
To me, this was like a very epic story of how hard work will pay off in the end.
Yet that was not the end. The end was the very next day for me — my end at that job.
So the previous day, I’d given it my all in my goal of trying to hit fifty contacts. While I had not achieved that goal, I’d been faster than my mentor.
Now, a bit of backstory is that having to dash down the stairs had taken a toll on my legs. During the first weekend or so, I’d been unable to go to work and been forced to see a TCM. So, after Eric day, I was more waddling than walking as I traversed the HDB blocks.
However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was something else. So my mentor went to a flat and a girl was playing the piano. Then, my mentor praised that parent ‘wow your daughter is so good’.
Now personally I didn’t think it was like performance-level fantastic, so I harmlessly mentioned to my mentor while the guy was coming over to the door that I couldn’t imagine myself ever saying something like that. Now, this seemed to trigger him somehow because later on downstairs, he brought up this matter again.
Apparently, I had not resolved myself enough for this job! I was given an ultimatum: would I leave or would I stay?
Several minutes passed in silence but I think honestly, deep down inside, I knew. I didn’t have any eureka moment where a reason to stay popped up in my mind and gave me rationale for otherwise.
Now, I’m not saying for sure that it was a fake compliment. Maybe he genuinely thought the piano playing to be good and he misunderstood what I was saying.
However, I sensed that misalignment of values. Their company’s stance was previously expressed in a Zoom meeting. They prided themselves on being able to sell things even if they were not of the best value for the customer. Rather than the product being the selling point for them, their people were the selling point for them.
For me, I’d take pride in giving the customer a superior product, not utilising charm and sympathy and ingratiation.
I don’t know whether this is the whining and self-justification of a loser, but either way, I had my values and pride, they had theirs, and I’d go my own way. Okay. Sayonara. The end.
And that was how I stopped being a glorified door-to-door salesman aka brand ambassador.
I resumed my job search and started a new job as a content writer two months later.
Newly entering the workforce, there are still many years of our lives ahead of us. It’s cliché, but we are still young with much to experience.
Honestly, I think this was a valuable learning experience. As a job, it was fun while it lasted, like a memorable fling.
And ultimately, having fun through unique, varied experiences — isn’t that what life is all about?
Alright now. As I have my journey, so do you have yours. Whatever experiences you may face on that interesting road ahead, I hope you treasure and make the most out of them.
Best of luck, brethren!