Episode #6 - Laurence Hall, Sales Representative at Newsela
In this episode, we interview Laurence Hall. Laurence is a good friend and experienced tech sales guru. Laurence is a Sales Representative at Newsela. Newsela is an education tech startup dedicated to transforming the way students learn and improving literacy rates around the world.
In our conversation, we discuss what to look for in a good sales organization and what skills are vital to being a great salesperson. We also dove into philosophy, martial arts, and making the tough transition from college life to the real world.
Alma Mater: UCSB
Major: French and Philosophy
What is Newsela? (from Newsela)
Newsela is an education technology startup dedicated to transforming the way students access the world through words. Our team combines powerful technological know-how with real-world experience earned in the classroom, the newsroom, and the boardroom.
We publish high-interest news and nonfiction articles daily at five levels of complexity for grades 2-12 using a proprietary, rapid text-leveling process.
By combining relevant and interesting nonfiction content with standards-aligned assessments, Newsela gives educators the primary solution to dramatically improve students’ literacy skills for the 21st century.
(abridged and edited for clarity)
What attracted you to Philosophy in college?
When I was growing up I would always be the one in class when a teacher was teaching something, or telling us to memorize something I would be the one to ask “Why is this important? Where’s the application? How is this relevant in my life?”.
I liked that with Philosophy it’s about always questioning what’s happening. You can apply different philosophical methods to different situations. It’s very interesting to have a different way of looking at things in life where there’s really no black and white, cookie cutter answer but it’s more of self-reflection and thinking.
What was the hardest thing to learn in your first role out of college?
I think the hardest part for me was just learning and transitioning from student life to full-time career mode. It was tough to balance priorities, you know, “Do I want to go on a date this weekend? Do I want to go to my cousins basketball game? Do I want to study up something to make me better at my job?”.
It was the internal shift from college where people were telling me what to do to the real world, where I was only going to get out from this job what I put in and internally being able to push yourself.
You’ll always have bosses or managers. But after high school and especially after college you’re really the one person in charge of how successful you’re going to be and how hard you work and that was the biggest thing for me to learn.
How did you develop your sales skills?
I would do a lot of role plays with a friend, family member, coworker or even myself in the mirror where I would ask a question, receive an answer and play off of that. Based on the answer, where should I pull from? Do I pull from product knowledge? Do I pull from past customer experiences? Do I just need to learn more about this person and what type of buyer they are?
It really came down to learning more about my buyer, learning more about the industry, and practicing what I would do in a meeting. That’s how I spent the majority of my time practicing early on and still to this day.
Finding a company with a mission you can believe in
Circling back to what I learned in that first job after college. At certain times where I didn’t enjoy what I was doing or found things difficult I had to ask myself, “Is this difficult because life is tough and work is hard? Or is this just not the best fit for me?”
I learned that in that industry I really wasn’t engaged or excited about the product we had. I didn’t believe in the business model. I didn’t think we were operating as ethically as I would have liked.
That is such a day and night difference to what I’m doing now.I know that what we’re (Newsela) bringing is not only helping my local community but helping globally. It’s a lot easier to go to work every day and do your job well when you’re working for a company with a mission statement that you truly believe in.