Danielle Thai is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A resource economics major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Shanghai this semester.
In this week's post, Danielle takes us through a typical day at her internship and what she's learned because of it.
Ever since I learned about the CAPA program, I knew it was the program for me. I love having an internship while abroad because along with my classes, an internship gives me a chance to have hands-on training in my field in a different country. This internship allows me to learn and develop skills that I can use in the future.
This semester I had the opportunity to intern at Vandergeeten. Vandergeeten is a distributor for food and beverage products from Belgium and Western Europe in China. The main products they distribute are bottle and draught beer and chocolates. Through specialized networks, employers are able to circulate and deliver these products all over mainland China.
On days where I was not in the office, I would meet up with my supervisor at various locations in Shanghai. A majority of the time it was to check up on the client. Other times, it was to meet up with clients to close the deal or to discuss how a particular beer has done after a couple of weeks at the location. Depending on where we were, we would check out the other venues in the area that sold our products. It was a good way to see which products sold well in particular areas.
The areas where our beers were the most successful were areas that had high amounts of Europeans or foreigners. The beers we distribute in each location tend to be different from venue to venue – even if the venues are right next to one another. This helps keep competition down which not only helps the venues but also Vandergeeten. Another plus is if one particular venue sells a certain beer then more people will go there to purchase that beer which boosts sales and volume for the venue and Vandergeeten. Strategically selling and distributing beer based on many factors such as the menu structure helps increase revenue.
In the beginning of this internship I knew I wanted to be in constant communication with other people. I still see myself doing so. I enjoy working and getting to know other people though means other than in confined settings. I like interacting with other people which is why being involved in business fits me so well. What I have discovered from this internship is that although I enjoy the challenges that come along with the sales world, I do not see myself making a career out of it. Sales is a good way to understand products and persuade people into your way of thinking. It takes a certain kind of person to be a salesman because they have to certain personality traits, be able to think quickly, and be able to deal with difficult people. A lot goes into selling a single product and unless you have been in that position it is difficult for outsiders to comprehend what goes into it.
From the internship I have gotten a better grasp on what is involved in making a sale. In my past experience, once I made the sale to the customer the transaction was over and unless they came back during one of my shifts, I would most likely never see them again. At Vandergeeten, it takes extended periods of time to build and make a sale. To beginning the process of seeking out clients involves observing the venue for a few weeks and trying what they have to offer. Getting to know the area and the customers prior to talking to any of the management helps make your case when it comes time to sell. Not only does it show that you have done research but it also allows for better selling since the customer-base is known.
Then it becomes time to make yourself known by talking to the mangers. At the start it is all about building a connection and sprinkling in some sales references. Once a relationship is made, it is easier to talk about products and getting distribution of beers in their venue. Then the negotiating begins which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. When contracts are finally signed, the seller needs to continually visit and check up on the venue to see how everything is going. If everything is going well, the seller has the potential to sell another type of beer to the venue.
Being in China’s fast-pace atmosphere allows me to immerse myself in the experiences that come with interning at Vandergeeten. I have learned how sales work in different foreign markets. Selling in the United States is mostly about making the bottom-line so the focus is number and contract based. Selling in China is different because it is a process and begins with making a relationship with the manager or owner of the venue. From interning at Vandergeeten I have experienced how this process works. I have met a number of owners of restaurants and bars and I have created a relationship with them. I have gained a better understanding of how to interact with various cultures in a foreign market. I have dealt with many Europeans and Chinese people during my internship. It helped that my supervisor is European because he was able to explain and clarify any questions I had. Having the opportunity to have an internship abroad has not only broaden my horizons but also exposed me to experiences I would not have gotten if I had an internship in the United States.
Danielle's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned!