After leaving the military and spending five years as an auto mechanic working 50 hours a week, Thomas Jansen found Prehired’s tech sales training program. Twelve weeks learning sales tools alongside his mentor propelled him into his new tech sales career at Advantax. Thomas explains how he balanced a strenuous full-time job with the Prehired curriculum, how his Prehired mentor supported him through his job search, and his advice for other military veterans considering tech sales.
What were you doing before enrolling at Prehired?
I joined the United States Army as an Infantryman after high school, and was quickly promoted to team leader. I was deployed to Afghanistan twice within my four-year term. When my wife convinced me not to reenlist, I took six months to relax and reconnect with family and friends. I applied for law enforcement positions, but there were too many people competing for the same job and I was spending way too much money on the application fees. To make ends meet, I worked as a car mechanic for five years.
What made you choose Prehired’s online sales training program?
I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere I wanted to be as a mechanic – there weren’t any opportunities for promotions or advancement. That's when I stumbled on Prehired on Facebook. After a phone call with a Prehired rep, they gave me the contact information for fellow military veterans who affiliated with the program. All of them said, "Prehired is legit. You're going to learn a lot here, and after you finish, you will get a lot of job opportunities.” When I called Prehired back, I was ready to start.
What was Prehired’s application and interview process like?
I contacted a Prehired Advisor, and what was supposed to be a 30-minute phone call turned into an hour and a half. I am a pretty thorough person and wanted all my bases covered before I jumped in. That’s not to say that I wasn’t also screened during this phone call. Prehired wanted to be certain that I would put in the effort before they accepted me. They aren't looking for people who want a quick fix for an easy life.
How did you finance your Prehired tuition? Any creative tips for our readers?
I financed my tuition with Prehired’s Income Share Agreement (ISA). The ISA doesn't take effect until you are hired. Only once you are working, even as a contractor, do you begin making payments. Your payments are based on a percentage of your income. This was huge for me as I was living paycheck to paycheck and wouldn’t have been able to pay for anything up front. After the percentage I owe is paid to my ISA, I am still able to live very comfortably.
Tell us about the Prehired learning experience! What was a typical day like?
All of the online courses are modular, so they start with the basics and then get to the more complex tech sales methods and tools. The curriculum also covers how to search for the correct people at companies to contact, and how to compose proper sales emails. Prehired’s founder is the main instructor and he hosts the pre-recorded classes. Prehired is always updating and adding new videos, so the information stays fresh. Prehired also has a Slack channel and personal mentors to advise you.
When I was completing the course, I was still working a fulltime (50 hours/week) job. I would typically work on Prehired for three hours every night after putting my kids to bed. I was very thankful that Prehired taught me how to create a thorough and well-written resume. I've never seen my resume look as good as it does now! I probably went over it 10 to 15 times before my mentor said, "Yes! This is great!"
Who was your Prehired Mentor?
My mentor was Bobby Powers, and he worked very closely with me. We connected nearly every day! Before Prehired, Bobby worked in the tech field as a very successful sales rep. Bobby also went through the course before becoming a Member Success Manager for Prehired. As a mentor, his job was to make sure I met my assignment deadlines and that I understood the material. If he couldn't explain a question to me in words, we would share screens over a Zoom meeting. There were a few occasions that Bobby and I would talk around 10pm just due to my schedule not allowing me to work any sooner than that. Bobby made the difference for me in Prehired.
What kinds of sales assignments did you complete during the Prehired bootcamp?
For one of our assignments, we had to use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to set up a sequence that consisted of emails, phone calls, and other types of touches, such as a LinkedIn touch. We demonstrated our understanding of how to show these touches in the CRM, make contacts, and fill out the information, as well as any additional tasks that are associated with that contact.
We also used a variety of sales tools to find the right companies and the right people. With all the tools Prehired gave me for free, I could pull a potential prospect’s pages and information, such as their phone number and email. For this project, we had to record ourselves using this tool to find prospects. This is also how we did our job search after completing the Prehired program.
What other sales tools were covered in Prehired’s curriculum?
There are so many different tools in tech sales! Prehired taught us about many tools other tech sales teams use, so we learned what we could encounter on the job. That helped prepare me for my current job at Advantax, where I use Salesforce, LinkedIn, Vision, Owler, Seamless.ai, and Zoom.
How did the Prehired Job Guarantee impact your job search?
Prehired has a very high job placement rate. After you complete the program, you are tasked by your mentor to start applying for jobs left and right, both in-person and remote positions. In my first week alone, I applied to 20 jobs and received a few interviews. Keep in mind that when you sign an ISA with Prehired, you need to show proof that you’re applying to jobs. Prehired helped me with the interview process and coached me through it. I would tell my mentor Bobby, "I have three interviews this week," and he would sit down with me and go over the questions most commonly asked. I did so well on my interviews that they all went on to the next step! Once I reached the third interview with Advantax, I knew it was the job I wanted.
Tell us about your new job at Advantax!
I work as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) for Advantax, which is a tech-based national property tax firm. Our primary focus is personal property. Our group of professional accounts analyze every detail down to computer chairs just to see how much we can save companies to the penny! It’s my job to convey our process and help companies see the difference and savings we provide.
What does a day as an SDR at Advantax look like for you?
Cold calling is 80% of my day. I make close to 60 to 70 dials and send out 30 emails a day. I'm only required to make 80 touches, but I put in 100 touches because I'm trying to get more experience. Since the call volume has been lower due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I've been providing support to the accountants. Working with the accountants has given me really beneficial knowledge to use in my sales calls. I now understand the full process of the company and know where the pain points are in the taxation process for our customers. I can offer to help other businesses with those pain points.
Is your sales job what you expected?
Yes and no. When I joined Advantax last year, tax season was already over and the whole sales process was coming to a close. We stop doing sales calls halfway through November because typically, things pick up at the beginning of the year and around tax season. This year has been very different because of the Coronavirus pandemic. During this difficult time for companies, we’re holding off on our sales campaign and looking to provide great support to our existing customers. Unfortunately, this means I haven't received all the experience that I was hoping to get at this point, but I try to keep a positive outlook. I'm not upset about it. I'm just eager. My manager checks on me daily and has expressed his regret that I haven’t gotten as much experience yet. He always concludes that things are going to get back to normal and we’ll be able to dive back into sales head-first as soon as that happens. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. It’s the reason I decided to join Advantax.
How are you continuing to learn and sharpen your tech sales skills after graduation from Prehired?
Prehired gives graduates a lifetime membership to their training materials, so if I forget a specific "how-to," I can go back to the modules and go over what I studied plus review any new material they have added. I also now have a large LinkedIn network of over 700 people, and 90% of them are in the sales world. A lot of them are influencers who share great information. When I was building this network, I specifically targeted people who have been in the field for 10+ years. Every time I submitted a connection request to these contacts, I would add a note saying, "Hey, I'm new to sales and I would love to pick your brain." I had a bunch of people message me back with, "Welcome to sales! Here is a list of books you can read and some people I suggest you follow." I also make sure to attend webinars. One of the most recent webinars I attended covered handling rejections on cold calls during COVID-19. To top it all off, my manager is constantly sharing content he finds that is beneficial to the team. Typically, we review it as a team and discuss how we can improve our strategies using any methods we watch.
What has been your biggest roadblock in your journey to tech sales?
Fear of picking up the phone and making those calls. Cold calling is not easy. The important thing to take away from it is: you are going to get people who are not nice or not interested. You need to learn how to combat these rejections. If you need to walk outside and take a five-minute break because someone just chewed you out over the phone, then do it. When you come back in, forget it, and go back to making calls.
Sales isn’t for everybody, and some people can't do it. Blaming other people for a problem is not a good thing to do in tech sales. You have to be able to point the finger at yourself and look internally to find the solutions to your problems. Doing this is the same as making a cold call. You need to be able to address how your product can help a company, why it's worth their time to have a meeting, and what makes your product different from what they already have. Sometimes price isn't why a company chooses to stick with someone. At that point, they've developed a relationship and you're butting in. You’ve got to think of a way to be personal with them and show them the company culture you'd be providing along with the service they would receive.
Do you have advice for other military veterans thinking of making a career change?
For veterans who are just leaving the military, make sure to come back into the community with a positive mindset. You need to get out there, make a living, and do things for yourself because nobody will do that for you. Don't abuse the respect you are given by potential employers. Just because you have veteran status doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work to earn respect from your employer and peers.
For veterans who are trying to get into tech sales, it's not an easy job but it's also very rewarding. If you’re good at it, you can make a lot of money. I like that I'm no longer working paycheck to paycheck. Instead I'm constantly learning and asking questions. Every day, I'm trying to make sure that I'm doing right by my company and right by me and my family.