Business student’s biggest sales job was himself

 

When Ryan Ing graduates from business school next spring, he starts his dream job at IBM Canada selling its products and services to business customers.

But the 24-year-old is already a hit at IBM and on social media for the video he produced to share tips with other students on how to turn job rejections (for lack of experience) into victory – in his case a 2017 IBM summer internship and a job offer for 2018.

For Mr. Ing, a fourth-year commerce (technology management) student at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, the journey is as rewarding as his ultimate destination.

In 2016, with just one internship on his résumé, he applied to a dozen companies for a summer position in technology-related corporate sales. IBM and Cisco Systems Canada, his two preferred employers, were among those who turned him down.

Undeterred, he sought advice from professors, fellow students and friends on potential jobs in sales. When he heard that Vivint Canada Inc., which sells residential alarm systems, was on campus hiring students for the summer, Mr. Ing pitched recruiters on his work experience to date, the business books he had read on selling, and his own desire for a career in sales.

“Within 48 hours I had a job offer,” says Mr. Ing.

After receiving company training, Mr. Ing quickly discovered the challenge of door-to-door product selling: 100-per-cent sales commission and long hours over six days a week.

Initially, he received only rejections from homeowners. “I sat on the curb and had my forehead in my palms and thought, I can’t do this,” says Mr. Ing. Then, triumph still ringing in his voice, he says, “On my fifth day, I got my first sale.”

Mr. Ing says the summer-long stint taught him how to make a sales pitch without sounding like a salesman and the value of perseverance. “It showed me what it means to work hard,” says Mr. Ing. “[Now] when I am given a new task or new job, I think I can do this because nothing will ever be harder than working door-to-door.”

Last December, with door-to-door sales on his résumé, Mr. Ing again set his sights on landing a summer internship with IBM or Cisco. He customized his  LinkedIn profile to reflect his goal and sought out recruiters at the two companies.

Brandon Lewi, leader of IBM Canada’s Summit Program, which includes four-month summer internships for students, found himself on the receiving end of repeated e-mails from Mr. Ing.

“To the level he was persisting, it was definitely unique,” says Mr. Lewi, who interviewed him for the 2017 Summit Program. “That, in and of itself, warranted a discussion. It made me feel he was serious about this.”

He also was impressed by Mr. Ing’s diligence in managing customer relationships. “He had built out a process in his door-to-door sales role that mimicked what sellers need to do today,” says Mr. Lewi, who says the topic of sales is a low priority in business school curriculum.

“Schools don’t give sales the time of day,” he says. “It has been [treated] like a fall-back.”

After his interview with Mr. Lewi, Mr. Ing made a final short list of candidates whose test included a 60-second presentation to IBM recruiters. For that, Mr. Ing drew on his experience in student business competitions, especially those few with a sales focus.

“When I left the [IBM] interview, I felt like a million bucks,” he recalls. “I knew what I did last year [in door-to-door sales] and on my application, and I knew I had done my absolute best.”

Once in the Summit Program, Mr. Ing posted his tips-focused Facebook video.

“Have you ever felt like you were never just good enough to get that job?” he asks the camera in an opening monologue. “I decided if I was not good enough this year I would become so successful next year they [recruiters] wouldn’t be able to ignore me.”

For fun, he added a “business student bet” in which he offers to shave his head if he fails to land the desired internship, while those betting against him treat him to an inexpensive meal in downtown Toronto.

In the video, he describes the pillars of his plan: gain experience through an entry-level sales job, read books on sales, and participate in case competitions.

He also took a targeted approach to his job search, concentrating just on IBM and Cisco. “When people apply for a job, they apply to 50 companies and put in one hour [of preparation for each],” he says. “But I spent 50 hours on one job.”

The video took 50 hours to complete and racked up 10,000 views and 75 shares in 24 hours.

“Anyone could do that, but Ryan is the person who actually will do it and that is what differentiates him,” says Mr. Lewi.

Among those who posted a comment on the video, with 24,000 views as of the end of October, was IBM Canada president and general manager Dino Trevisani. “You are a winner,” he wrote. “We are so proud to have you.”

Rogers dean Steven Murphy, another fan of the video, says that today’s students no longer wait until after graduation to secure their careers because they can discover their interests through co-op and other forms of work internships.

“It’s about knowing who you are and what you want to do,” he says. “Ryan happens to be one of those people who knew his [preferences] and was able to develop that.”

Last month, Mr. Ing tasted victory: the offer of a full-time position in sales at IBM beginning next year.

“I think the hard part is finding out what you want to do,” he says. “The easy part is getting there.”

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