By Robb “The Intern” Holder

When you hear the word intern, what comes to mind? Someone to get you coffee? Someone to do your filing and paperwork? My work as an intern at Preferred Sales Inc definitely didn’t fall under those guidelines. In fact, people brought ME coffee on multiple occasions!

Merriam-Webster defines an intern as, “an advanced student or graduate usually in a professional field gaining supervised practical experience.”

On the surface, yes, I am doing that, but beneath the basic definition my summer experience has included so much more. Preferred Sales taught me so much that would be impossible to learn in the classroom.

What were my expectations heading into the summer?

Being an engineering student, I had previously completed an engineering internship at another company. My role there included being assigned small, relatively low-risk projects. Following that experience, I expected to be doing the same during this internship but with the focus on sales rather than engineering.

I came into Preferred Sales’ industry with very little knowledge of what a manufacturers’ representative’s role actually encompassed. I thought manufacturers’ reps were only individuals who worked directly for the manufacturer as part of their sales staff.

This role is far from what we do here at Preferred Sales as an independent, small business. I learned the sale is definitely important in the end since it’s how we make income. However, the sale does not come before ensuring the customer is happy and satisfied. The name of the game is relationship building, which allows the Preferred Sales team to be very entrepreneurially minded.

Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This quote perfectly represents how the Preferred Sales team values customers. I would say relationship building is the biggest component I learned throughout this internship. Anybody can get out there and make a single sale, but it takes a caring professional to build a relationship and continuously service customers in the best way possible.

Exceeding my expectations

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As previously mentioned, my expectations for the summer included being assigned and completing simple tasks to learn about the industry. Boy, was I wrong! From my very first day at Preferred Sales, my schedule was packed with various trainings, tasks, customer activities, and much more. There wasn’t a single day where I did not have something planned out.

My first few weeks consisted of working through various training modules, as well as shadowing the inside sales teams. After a few weeks of training with inside sales, I also traveled with the outside sales team. Working with the outside sales team allowed me to see wholesalers, corporate offices, engineering firms, architecture firms, construction sites, contractors, and many others.

Choosing a favorite experience would be difficult, but I would say I most enjoyed meeting with architects and engineers. Coming from an engineering background, I seemed to better understand that side of the industry.

Don’t like the trades? That’s plumb crazy!

At the beginning of my internship here, I had a basic understanding the trades involved within the industry, but I had no idea there was so much happening behind the scenes. When you use the restroom, you do not think of all the minor details necessary just for you to flush the toilet. I know I certainly had not thought about it. I never thought about the architect who started designing the building, the mechanical engineer who designed the plumbing and HVAC, the general contractor who is hired to construct the building, the plumbing contractors who install all the products, the manufacturers who made the products, the representatives who sold them to the wholesaler, the wholesaler who sold the products to the contractor, and many others along the way.

This internship has definitely been an eye-opening experience. It blows my mind to see all of the job opportunities out there at all the levels I mentioned in the paragraph above. Consequently, I’m also blown away seeing how so few younger men and women are actually engaging with these opportunities.

The opportunities are endless within not only the plumbing industry but the trades as a whole. Unfortunately, with most of the plumbers I have gone to see, it is the same story; there is a shortage of young workers willing to make a great living in the trades. After my experience this summer, I would encourage anyone to put in the work now to gain experience in these industries and reap the rewards in the very near future.