HEKUMU TEAM’S LEARNING FROM WORKING WITH INTERN – PART 2
Written by Suong Tran and Xiaoqing Yang-Pyydysmäki
How to set the goals for the interns
Setting the goals is a good way to have in any kind of business mission in any company because it will help motivate the workers to perform the tasks better day by day, and also that is the performance evaluation framework for individuals to compare if they can achieve the goal they have set before or not. For the interns, it is an effective tool to help them achieve their learning goals in such a short period of working for the company and tracking the goals and process will also help them see the pathway of self-development as well as help them improve the work performed daily.
Picture: Hekumu sales goal setting excel file for interns
At the interviews with the interns, we got to understand what the interns are passionate about as well their study goals and expectation working with Hekumu, by that we could figure out how we can orientate our interns to achieve them while working as well as help them apply their knowledge from school to the sales practice to achieve Hekumu’s sales goals. Our missions as supervisors are to offer helpful tools and make sure that the interns keep working towards the goals and get support timely when needed. Also creating an open sharing environment also helps the interns to question easily and by that learn faster what they want.
Furthermore, we encourage our interns to set goals according to their abilities, such as how many calls, emails, and customer visits they can achieve per day. These goals are measurable, and it is easy to see the progress of achievement daily. By tracking the goal achievement, we could see when it is needed to motivate the interns, and also see if they are confident to challenge themselves in the next few days for better performance. Moreover, we decided not to let the interns know the goals of another to avoid them copying the goals and limiting themselves according to the other’s ability to achieve the goals. However, to gain competitiveness in the sales team, we generally will share the achievements of goals that one can achieve per week, especially will cheer up the spirit by announcing the success of the intern when they can close the sales deal.
How to train the intern
There is some essential information and some necessary skills that Hekumu can help the interns acquire in order to be able to perform their tasks well. Besides training the knowledge about the products, brands, company, target customer, Hekumu must give necessary sales tools and teach the interns some skill sets that are needed for doing sales. Some of those are communication skills, sales skills, initiative, teamwork, analytical skills, IT skills, etc. During the entire process, all those skill sets can be used repeatedly and combined until mastered. As discussed in the interview, both the Hekumu team and interns are learning by doing, we encourage the interns to update the daily sales situation and share their ideas to be able to learn from the practices and improve sales activities. Therefore, having effective communication within the team is crucial to follow.
Communication skills can be developed by the interaction not only with the customers but also with the Hekumu team. Inside the sales team, we created the WhatsApp group to ask and answer the questions right away when needed and at the same time, we set up a weekly meeting every Thursday at Proakatemia for the whole team to be able to update the situation and discuss on the sales improvement ideas. Any other non-urgent issues can be shared by emails within the team instead and the tracking of sales or work performance can be reported on a daily basis using shared excel files. On the other hand, to the customer, we require the interns to learn about all essential information like products, sales policy, company, etc. well before reaching our potential by cold calls, email, or visits.
For the first days, we let the interns quite some free time for learning this info, and really let them do work in the next following weeks, then every Thursday meeting will help us see together how to improve the communication with the customers as well sales performance. For the Hekumu team’s side, we need to make sure the interns get enough information, know the correct assigned missions and by the communication, we would like to encourage them to feel confident and independent, by giving them more power for them to manage their work and by making them feel that they are important by doing meaningful works.
The most important skill needed to be acquired by the interns in sales positions is sales skills obviously. Both Sandy and I have participated in some sales courses and the sales day at Proakatemia, but we could not develop this skill as the expert to be able to train our interns. That is the most worrying issue when we have learned the knowledge, but the skill has not been forged enough to train the interns. What we could do is encourage them with motivational words, but it is certainly easier said than done. We have asked Luhtis to offer the training day for them about the sales skill. Hopefully, Luhtis can give them some good lessons from the experience on the sales day and make them feel more confident in contacting the Hekumu potential. The psychological control and balance ability after all cold calls are crucial to help the interns avoid having bad moods and be able to refresh their feelings for the next calls. Sharing openly the experiences from every call will help them release negative energy and learn from the strengths and the weakness of everyone and from the sales practice for better improvement.
Besides, we also help the interns practice reporting skills and IT skills by using the excel file. Both skills are required to have in most sales positions. With multiple functions, the excel tool supports keeping on track of sales leads, analyzing, and generating the sales data, as well as allowing the salespeople to easily work with statistical formulas and graphing. According to the Forrester Research, there are 81% of businesses use Excel in all their daily activities. Using excel frequently can help the interns master this IT skill more.
Furthermore, we also had a meeting with the Tredu teacher who is responsible for the intern’s study development to get to know better the need for learning and the intern evaluation criteria after the internship period. The discussion brought us to some new strategic points of view and reminded us of some other activities that are important to pay attention to besides sales focus, like customer service, legal documentation, competitors, market understanding, etc. We can take this chance of working with our interns to do the market surveys to understand better our current retailers for improving our customer service and developing the products in the future, together with finding the opportunity to reach the potential community like to sell products in the hockey sports events in Tampere or organize the tea tasting activities at markets or supermarkets. Offering many opportunities for the interns to practice in different channels is giving also practical training for them.
Questionnaires to interns
What made you interested in working as a salesperson? What motivated you to apply for the sales intern position of Hekumu products?
The way of marketing and selling in Finland is a lot different from in China. For me as a consumer, it’s difficult to imagine the daily life of a salesperson in the Finnish market. In order to know more about it, I believe the most effective way is to be a salesperson myself.
There are two reasons why I applied for the internship at Hekumu. First, Hekumu is a multicultural start-up company. The cultural integration of Vietnam, China, and Finland are fascinating in my view. Second, I am interested in tea. Tea is not only a plain drink for me, it’s a symbol of my culture and language and a necessity in my life. Hekumu has two herbal and fruit tea, which is still a new concept in the Finnish market. On the contrary, they are rather familiar to me. Picking mint in summer and drinking it as tea in grandma’s village is a precious childhood memory for me. With a background in drinking herbal and fruit tea, I feel connected with Hekumu’s tea products.
Can you briefly describe how your workday usually happens as an intern for Hekumu?
My workday usually starts at 9 o’clock in the morning. The first thing I do is check emails. After that, I set up goals for the workday. The goal is not fixed, it can be a certain number of emails, phone calls, or physical store-to-store visits. In the morning, I usually try to make phone calls for payment collecting, or for marketing. It is better to call in the morning since managers in shops are usually not available in the afternoon. As for emails, they can be interesting queries or advertising.
Our group weekly meeting is on Thursday, in addition, we arrange online meetings whenever there is a need for it
After 2 weeks of working for Hekumu, how have you been feeling about this job experience so far?
My job is not easy but interesting. As an intern seller with no previous experience, I found this work challenging and difficult. At the same time, it is also interesting to utilize theoretical knowledge in the real world. Being a seller in real business environments, I get to see how big the difference is between books and reality.
In addition, this job can be stressful sometimes as well. Even though I have been living in Finland andstudied the Finnish language for three years, I still find the country is rather unfamiliar for me.
When it comes to phone call selling, there are many obstacles I need to overcome. The fear of talking with foreign strangers on the phone; the difficulties of speaking fluent Finnish no matter how many times I practice in advance; the unexpected question which I couldn’t answer right away….
Overall, I think my internship is fulfilling. Despite all obstacles and difficulties, I am learning in the real business world. I especially appreciate the support from the Hekumu team, they are always
willing to help whenever I need them.
Have you ever faced uncomfortable experiences from the cold calling works? How could you keep motivated and move on after that?
Cold calling is not pleasant to go through despite it being very common and normal in phone call selling. As a foreigner sells intern, it however feels more difficult due to language and cultural barriers. When a salesperson faces a direct no at the very beginning of a phone call sale, there are still many things that could be done. For example, the reason for refusing, continuing introduction of products despite the turning down. Due to my limited language ability, I found it hard to follow up after receiving a rejection. In addition, there is the psychological effect, which is it’s hard not to be frustrated after receiving many negative answers.
To overcome those issues, I went to the Hekumu team for help. After hearing my trobles, the Hekumu team is offering help in different ways, like sale training and experience sharing, so I could learn to be stronger when facing a hard “NO”. At last, the goal for selling is as many as possible, yet it is important to realize the result of selling does not relate to people’s self-worth.
Can the experiences from your previous work support you much in this intern work? If yes, can you share some examples?
Most of my previous work was administration-related, also companies that I had internships before were all located in China. Thus, I couldn’t use much experience I gained in selling in Finland. Still, the ability to use Microsoft office is very helpful because I do mostly remote work. Furthermore, the internship at the China Import and Export Fair helped me to be confident in communicating with strangers, which is an important quality to have as a seller in my view.
Do you receive all the necessary support and tools from the Hekumu team? What do you think of working with the Hekumu team?
The Hekumu team is very supportive all the time by offering not only tools but also guides and advice. Whenever I have a problem at work, they are always there and try to solve it with me as soon as possible even though they are very busy themselves.
The most amazing thing about working with Hekumu is the flexibility and trust they offer to interns. As an intern can choose my own styles for marketing and selling, also I am welcome for offering ideas. Hekumu is a very open-minded, friendly, flexible, and multicultural team. By sharing similar backgrounds and obstacles with languages and cultures, it’s easy and efficient to communicate with team members.
What are your expectations for the sales intern work of Hekumu? Was there something above or below your expectations?
I have two expectations for my internship work at Hekumu. The first is I could get my hands dirty,experience the real sales business in the Finnish market. The other one is the chance of dealing with B2B sales. Concerning these two expectations, Hekumu encourages me to go through most stages of sales independently, including pre-information collecting, approaching potential customers, choosing sales channels… Tasks are of course not simple, however, I get many chances to practice.
How are these intern jobs supporting you in learning and developing your skills in sales as you expected?
During the internship, I am entitled to make my own materials and choose styles for marketing and sale. In this way, I am encouraged to work independently through many sales stages by utilizing most of the knowledge that I gained in the classroom. With this precious opportunity, I try to discover what kind of salesperson I am, and also what type of sales style I am suitable for.
The more I am involved in the real sales business, the more I realize that no matter how great we are in theory, it doesn’t guarantee that we are good salespeople. Thus, I believe the only way to being a good salesperson is nothing else but practice.
What would you think that Hekumu could do to improve the sales activities, support the sales team, etc?
For interns, especially interns without selling experience or having language and cultural barriers, it may be worth organizing sales training and practicing selling in Finnish. The sharing of different sales situations could be precious as well. It would be even nicer if interns could work
with experienced salespeople for the first few weeks.
How do you see it will affect your future study or career selection?
Sale is complicated and changeable. Being a salesperson is not as easy as it may seem. There are many ways to become a successful salesperson. In different countries, the requirements of being a good salesperson are different as well.
Being a Chinese sales intern in the Finnish market, I get the chance to see the difference between selling in Chinese and Finnish markets. It is hard to tell whether I want to be a professional salesperson not, this internship however inspired me to think carefully about my future study field.
All learning purposes can be achieved better by really doing things and tutoring other people about things you have learned yourself. Working with interns is really a good opportunity for the Hekumu team to learn leadership skills from our business practice. Communication and teamwork skills are especially important to ensure that the whole team is aligned tightly together to be able to reach the same goals even from distant working. The interns are young, motivated, and have quite different outlooks on life. The mission of supervisors are to offer them the necessary base and help them to forge their skills. Even though things work differently for different people, making the interns feel included and want to devote more to the benefits of the company are the most important things to do. It is also good to learn more about how to work with a young team with a big age gap.
‘How To Set Internship Goals | Indeed.Com’. n.d. Indeed Career Guide. Accessed 1 May 2022. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/how-to-set-internship-goals.
Dewey, Parker. n.d. ‘How to Supervise an Intern | Parker Dewey’. Accessed 1 May 2022. https://info.parkerdewey.com/supervising-interns.