In the series “Job Profiles”, we talk to various members of the InterNations team about their position and the work they do.
For this entry, we’ve talked to Michael from our Corporate Partnerships Team.
Can you tell us what it is you’re doing at InterNations? And how long have you been part of the team?
My job title is sales manager, and I’m about to celebrate my one-year anniversary in the Corporate Partnerships Team. On Friday, I’ll have been at InterNations for three years, the past year in my current position.
Actually, Rachel, our interim team lead, has just sent me a cryptic Slack message, asking if I’m planning to work from home that day. Maybe there’ll be a surprise party? Personally, I don’t have any special plans for this occasion, but I do take pride in reaching this milestone.
What’s your typical day at the office like?
Since we’re dealing with clients from all over the world, I check my emails first thing in the morning. I’m probably speaking for everybody at the office here, but this is especially important in Corporate Partnerships. There might be mails coming in from the US, for example, with clients writing at midnight German time while their working day is in full flow back in the States. So, I’ll be planning my day around incoming messages from various time zones.
Before lunch, I’ll do my prospecting, going out and looking for business to see if people are interested in working with us. However, we are very particular about who we’d like to work with. We want to provide relevant services for expats through our partners, so we’re hardly going to be advertising clothing stores or local supermarkets.
We work with a lot of insurance companies, currency providers, banks, and business schools — services that highly qualified professionals moving to another country might need. I‘ve designed my approach of looking for prospective advertising partners around this. Knowing the industries we want to work with, I research the brands that fall into these areas. I use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find people who work for them in any kind of marketing capacity and who I can easily get in touch with.
In the afternoon, I generally take care of inbound enquiries. We get around 100 of these a week, which is both good and bad. Quite a few turn out to be support requests, for instance people wanting to cancel their InterNations membership, or freelance writers offering articles for our Guide section, and so on. But we also get some enquiries really worth chasing.
Somewhere in between these tasks, I arrange calls with people I’ve already been in touch with. I spend a lot of time on Skype or on the phone: it’s much easier to explain in person how great InterNations is rather than going back and forth via email. I really enjoy these conversations — and not only because I’m trying to sell our brand to prospective clients. I genuinely like talking to them and understanding their brand better, so I can bring these two sides together and see how we can benefit from each other.
Have you worked in advertising or sales before?
This is actually my first job in advertising sales, but I’ve been working in customer-facing positions my whole professional life, and I’d like to think that I’m a people person. At first, I used to work in the hospitality sector, then I moved into the automotive trade, selling cars, and after that, I was an account manager for a big tobacco company in the UK for five years. I think that’s why interacting with all kinds of people and building a rapport with them is among my biggest strengths.
Being an account manager in the retail tobacco business meant I was responsible for 180 customers, mostly convenience stores, which I had to visit periodically on a six-week basis just to maintain our relationship or to introduce new brands, among other things.
Not only did I have to meet very demanding sales targets, but I also found it fascinating to see the diversity of people I’d encounter: people from all levels of the corporate hierarchy, from shop assistants to managers to retail owners, different ethnic backgrounds, various nationalities, etc. In a way, it prepared me for coming into such a diverse working environment as InterNations.
My employer also offered some very intense inhouse sales training, starting with a seven-week course with professional sales coaches, which was a great learning opportunity. But I think the best advice for anyone in sales is to listen to your peers and seniors.
I’d always take the chance to shadow other salespeople who I knew were particularly strong in a certain area. It’s interesting to observe how different people sell the same product or which lines and rhetorical skills they use and what you could pick up from them. I’ve also done it here at InterNations, simply listening to David, our head of Corporate Partnerships, as he’s such an astute salesman. Utilizing the experience around you is your most valuable resource.
How did you come to apply at InterNations?
That’s a bit of a funny story. I discovered InterNations two years before actually working here.
While still living in the UK, I was planning to move to Germany for personal reasons. When I was looking for advice, I came across InterNations just by googling relevant keywords like “expats in Germany”. Felix, our online marketing team lead, would probably be happy to hear this! I ended up creating a profile but didn’t use it much. I think I posted a couple of things in the forums, for example, to see if anyone knew of suitable job opportunities in Bavaria.
However, my first job in Germany was a short-term contract, and when I was in between jobs again, I saw an ad for InterNations and was like, “Hang on, I know this company!” Being an expat was now an asset, so I decided to apply. Next thing I knew I was invited for an interview and then landed a job in the Community Engagement Team.
So, for the next two years, I worked here as a community engagement specialist, looking after the InterNations Groups in Eastern Europe and Switzerland. On the one hand, it was totally different from my previous jobs, but surprisingly similar in other ways. I used to regard it as enhancing my sales skills and people skills in a different manner.
I’d never been so reliant on the written word before, dealing with the InterNations Consuls — the members running the groups and organizing activities — exclusively via email or private message. This means I also had to handle complaints or manage potential conflicts the same way. When you can solve an issue with the written word, it does give you a similar feeling to closing a sales deal, the feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing you’ve managed to say exactly the right thing.
Is there an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
I’m quite proud of how quickly I’ve taken to advertising sales, as well as working in an online environment. For example, I had to learn all the industry terms and inhouse jargon. This time last year, I didn’t even know what an abbreviation as simple as “CTR” (i.e. click-through rate) stands for! My new role also involves using various online applications, such as Google Analytics or Google Ad Manager, and I’m really happy with how I’ve progressed professionally.
I’ve also worked with some big clients. I was brought on board to focus heavily on local and regional sales, but I still got to deal with such huge brands as the BBC. They wanted to recruit an expat in Russia, so they utilized us for placing a job ad. It was a highly successful campaign with a click-through rate of up to eight percent.
But one of my proudest moments is my work with Currency Fair, an online currency exchange marketplace. They are now a regional partner, which I laid the foundations for. I led them through the entire negotiation process, while Rachel provided the analytical background information.
Currency Fair is semi-global, as they are subject to massive restrictions regarding where people can register for an account and which currencies they offer. Still, over 20% of our member base would be eligible to sign up at Currency Fair. I hope I can bring more such regional-style partners on board in the future.
What do you like best about your job in general?
I rather enjoy getting to talk about InterNations, having my first call with potential clients and telling them what InterNations is all about, starting with our founding story. Of course, I need to sell our brand, but I sell it from a position of believing in it, our mission and vision. The best thing is really InterNations itself — that our community is a “love brand” and that it means something to so many people all over the globe.
Is this the first time you’ve lived and worked abroad?
Coming to Germany back in 2016 was my first time working internationally — unless you count the Isle of Man. I’d traveled quite widely, but I knew that moving abroad would be a challenge. It was also exciting, though. I had sort of fallen out of love with living in the UK and was ready for something new. I was wonderfully surprised by Germany — the culture, the people, the scenery — and I haven’t really looked back.
Here in Munich, the vicinity to the mountains is a huge attraction. I’m a frequent skier, and I used to travel to Austria and France twice a year. Now my girlfriend and I can go skiing around ten times a year, and I’m already looking forward to the ski season being in full flow again.
But the Bavarian countryside is amazing in the summer months, too: there can’t be many better places to be. I live in a small town just a 20-minute train ride away from Munich’s city center, and there’s this lovely little lake nearby, which I usually cycle around on the weekend and then nip in for a swim in summer.
Do you also go hiking in the Alps?
Of course. I’ve always done a lot of hiking, including back in the UK. I’m originally from Leeds in Yorkshire, “God’s Own Country” as we like to call it. I’m very proud of my home region: it’s so green and beautiful, with the North York Moors, the hills and river valleys of the Yorkshire Dales, and the Peak District. The weather could be a bit better, but we all know that about the UK, don’t we?
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Pennines, on the edge of the Peak District, Britain’s first national park. I’ve frequently gone hiking in the Lake District, in the northwest of England, and I’ve done the three “national peaks” — Scarfell Pike in England, Ben Nevis in Scotland, and Snowdon in Wales. The hikes are not as strenuous as in the Alps, but the scenery is still spectacular.
So, yes, I love looking for new hikes around Munich and in the Alps. My girlfriend Morgan and I like to find hidden trails, which tend to be less busy. I do have a car, which helps. Just stay away from anything accessible via mass public transportation and anything with a gondola ride all the way to the top!
One of our best recent hikes was the trail up the Hoher Ziegspitz near Garmisch. You have the famous Zugspitze in sight all the way up, and the view from the top is just something else. Since it doesn’t attract a huge crowd, it’s absolutely peaceful, too.
Last but not least: If you could visit any InterNations Community worldwide, which one would it be?
I used to be responsible for the InterNations Groups in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. I must admit I didn’t know much about Montenegro before taking this job, and when I googled it out of curiosity, I found out just how stunning it is. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to go there ever since.
That’s why I’d like to visit the Podgorica Community and explore the natural beauty of Montenegro. And go hiking, of course!
Image credits: InterNations/iStockphoto
Afaf Alzaher says
Its quite impressive learning about genuine people whose passion & dedication made them a role model for others to follow…!
keep up the outstanding spirit!