On February 21, five members of The Chemists’ Club held a one hour panel discussion and Q and A session for 18 undergraduate chemical engineering students at Cooper Union. Lisa Liu, a Club trustee and head of the Cooper Union chapter of the Club, organized the event. Participants on the panel included the following chemical industry sales persons: Joel Jones and Nishant Karamchandari of Dow Chemical, Jessica Norton and David Reitz of Procter & Gamble, and Stefanie Stewart of Brenntag Chemicals.
The session started with introductory comments by Lew Boxenbaum, a retired marketing consultant with personal experience in chemical sales. The students were given the following perspectives on business-to-business selling:
First, selling is more about listening than talking. The idea is to learn what opportunities exist at the customer for solving their problems, improving efficiency, lowering costs or making other contributions. To accomplish this, a salesperson must research and learn about both the customer and their industry before the first call. The challenge then becomes one of putting together a product/service solution that helps the customer improve their operations. By doing this, you become almost a partner with the customer, not just a supplier.
Second, by its very nature, a sales position enables a person to call on many companies, learn about different industries and meet lots of people. It’s anything but dull or routine.
Third, selling may be the only job in which performance can be measured objectively, i.e., sales volume.
Each of the panelists were then asked to answer the following questions which were prepared in advance by Lisa Liu:
- Will you give us a job description and review what you do on a daily basis?
- How do the technical skills you learned in undergraduate school help you in your position?
- What do you like about your job? What do you dislike?
- Do you find your job satisfying, both personally and professionally?
- Can you give us advice about finding the “right” job”?
After these questions were answered by each of the panelists, the students were given the opportunity to ask their own questions. After the formal meeting ended, a pizza dinner was served during which there were many informal discussion between the panelists and students. Student response to the event was very positive, with many students working to build relationships with the Chemists’ Club members.