Competitive Soccer Player Finds Early Success in Sales

by Paul Frankenberg on March 25, 2013


Ryan Shaffer

Gettysburg College, BA, Health Sciences
Graduated May 2010

How did you pick the college you attended?
Gettysburg College was actually the last college I figured I would attend. I grew up in a small town, seven miles from Gettysburg. Anytime we went out as a family we would go to Gettysburg. As I started looking at colleges, I began looking in North Carolina, Florida and other areas outside PA.
What or who influenced your decision?
My mom asked me, “Why don’t you at least consider Gettysburg College?” She worked there but didn’t force the issue at all. I knew that I wanted to play soccer and I wanted my major to be something related to pre-med and health sciences. My goal coming out of high school was to be a physical therapist. Gettysburg had a good soccer team and a great health science program. It all came together for me and I wouldn’t change my decision if I could go back and do it again.
What did you go to college to study?
Growing up I was always into personal health, physical fitness and physical activity. In high school I had a personal trainer who was a physical therapist. Being in the gym, working out and being around like-minded people, I thought physical therapy would be something I’d like to eventually do. At 18 years old physical therapy sounded like a great option.
Did you change majors in college and why?
I stayed in the health sciences. While I enjoyed my major, I did consider other options. However, it was difficult to change to a new major without having to take an extra semester or an extra year of classes. However, in my sophomore year I did seriously consider an alternative. I talked with a friend’s father, who ran the Secret Service office in DC. I thought that the Secret Service could be interesting. Before I pursued changing my major, he offered me an internship between my junior and senior year.
The internship was great. I met a lot of great people and I loved living in DC. I learned about the process to get in to the Secret Service, F.B.I. or C.I.A. It takes considerable time in law enforcement before you can join the Secret Service. I didn’t change my major but coming out of college my goal was to pursue the Secret Service. I wanted to become a police officer and eventually join the Secret Service in the Counter Assault Team. However, I graduated and I started working at Gettysburg College but was not selected for any law enforcement opportunities.
What activities did you engage in and what internships and / or jobs did you have while in college?
I was a four year member of the Gettysburg College Soccer Team, I was on our student athletic advisory committee and I was in a fraternity.
Tell me how you landed your first job out of college?
Upon graduation I was given the opportunity to work in Gettysburg’s Development office, which was a fundraising job. I worked with our younger alumni programs. This is where I got my first taste of a sales role. I had goals and a quota to hit and I figured out that this type of role aligned with my skills, talent, and motivation. I like goals, I am competitive and I realized that a sales role fit me well. At that point I knew I wanted to move into a professional sales role.
Why did you leave and where do you work now?
I joined EDR, which is an acronym for Environmental Data Resources. The Company is based out of Milford, CT and I’m the Regional Manager for our Mid-Atlantic territory, which is why I am living in Baltimore. We provide data for phase one, environmental assessments within commercial real estate.
In your current role, what are you responsible for?
I graduated from Gettysburg College and through a lot of networking; I found an opportunity with Gettysburg’s Annual Giving Department. I really liked the sound of the role within Gettysburg. Within my first year I realized how much I enjoyed having goals and quotas. This type of role worked well with me. The competitive nature of sales really drove me and helped me to be successful. I realized that I wanted to be in professional sales and started networking again with family, and friends and I was asked if I was interested in working for EDR. I went to CT for an interview, which included a company water research project. I talked to my family and friends, non-stop for probably a week, to hear their insights. I wanted to make sure that I did my due diligence and that I was making a good decision. I accepted the job with EDR as an Account Executive. I started working on the inside sales desk, in the corporate office. Within four months EDR relocated me to Baltimore to assume the regional manager position. It was probably the fastest they’ve ever moved anybody from inside sales to the Regional Manager position. Most people do the inside sales role for three, four or five years before moving up. I came in and made an impact right off the bat and was fortunate to have my hard work pay off. Today, my primary responsibility is to drive revenue within my territory, which includes: southern NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA and West VA. My role includes consultative sales, customer care, working with current clients on needs analysis and a workflow solution.
There are a few things that really helped me start fast and have success. That first one was getting to work earlier than I was supposed to. I knocked out all of my administrative tasks before the day started. Most of my clients got to their office by 9 am. I liked to have everything complete by 9 am so that way I could start making my follow up calls. You talk about networking in your book and I really made an effort to network within EDR. I wanted to get to know everybody in the company and learn as much as I could, as quickly as possible. I would talk to peers, supervisors and leaders across different business lines. I would talk to them in the office, go to lunch or ask to join a web access to see how EDR manages client engagements. I would work all day, workout at my gym and then go home and spend my evening reading everything I could get my hands on. I was a sponge. Everyone within EDR was very open to my requests. I don’t think that a new hire has been this proactive before and pushed to learn about the business so quickly. I also put together a 30, 60, 90 and 180 day plan and presented this to the supervisors. I wanted to do everything I could to learn, prepare and show others that I was motivated and that I would be successful in this new role.
Who told you to do that?
I did…just my own motivation. I liked my initial job and recognized that the next step was to become the manager. In this role you have a defined territory and you are, in a sense, the CEO of your own territory and business. It provides great freedom and ability to do what I need to do in order to grow the business. I have really learned a lot about the business and more broadly, how business is done. Once I saw this path I began to ask how I could accelerate my path to manager. I did everything I could do to learn and build relationships so that I would be considered when an opening occurred. I like a good competition and I saw my next steps in a competitive sense. I learned that EDR was going to hire a manager for the Baltimore region and I told myself that I was going to go for it.
Go back to your sophomore, junior or senior year of college. Does your current role fit with the professional passions you identified in college?
I didn’t expect that I would be in sales but I didn’t really know what that meant when I was in college. My interest in health sciences is still strong and I have an appreciation for how my competitive nature can help me in business. In college I could not have told you that my future would be in sales but I can tell you that it does match the passions and motivations I recognized I had while in college.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you provide to a current college student?
First, be open-minded. I look back and realize that I was geared towards liking things that society says to like. I was told that physical therapy was a good career, and it is. However, nobody suggested to me that I should consider a career that matches with my passions, interests and talents.
Secondly, I would tell students to use the Career Development Center. I could have learned more in college about what opportunities existed. I didn’t do enough research to learn about different opportunities careers.
Thirdly, and you suggest this in your book, I would tell students write down what their talents and skills. Looking back, my career may have started off-track had I joined the Secret Service. When I considered it as a path I did so because I thought it would be ‘cool’. I liked it because I thought everyone else would think it was awesome that I was a police officer or that was in the Secret Service. Now, if I go back and write down my passions and interests, law enforcement doesn’t fall anywhere on my list.
Writing down your passions and interests and having the list in front of you is very helpful. I just did it again last, last week. I see my talents and skills and my passions and interests and it all comes back to a sales role. I am in a great role for me and my interests. I’m 24 years old and I thoroughly enjoy my position with EDR. I couldn’t ask for a better job at this current point in time.
Interview conducted Dec. 2012
Ryan’s comments were audio recorded, compiled and condensed by:
Paul Frankenberg
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