Jonathan Tharnstrom is a Regional Sales Manager at ADM Cocoa, a world leader in cocoa and chocolate sourcing, production and innovative development. He has 5 years of experience in grain merchandising with an emphasis on soy products, and has just recently joined the ADM Cocoa team. Jonathan has a B.S. in Finance from Northern Illinois University and an M.B A. from Millikin University. If you are interested, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
The work experience that has benefited me the most in sales was working at a sandwich shop in high school. It was there that I started to hone the soft skills I use every day. Since then my focus has been much more technical; studying finance in my undergrad and completing an M.B.A a few years later. The culmination of these experiences is what has shaped me into the sales manager I am today.
1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
In the continuously diversifying global workforce the ability to communicate in multiple languages cannot be dismissed. I neglected to take language courses while going through school, and now I am trying to squeeze in Spanish lessons after work.
2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
All of the above… Being a Sales Manager means that I get to experience all degrees of customers. Being well rounded allows me to connect on a more personal level and execute sales in the best interest of the customer and the company. Sales require strength in analytics to analyze the market, constant communication with the customer to understand their needs, self-directedness to find market opportunities, comfort with ambiguity because many times the customer may not know what they need, and attention to detail (probably my weakest of the bunch) to wrap it all together.
3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in?
I am a producer and improver.
4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
I do not have any direct reports. I do my best to lead by example and include those around me in the discussion. I have found that a positive attitude and an analytical approach are the best way to get the point across.
5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
Sales are the front line to the bottom line. Without a strong sales team to educate customers about new and existing products, margins would suffer, and the business would collapse. Unless you operate in a niche industry you likely have stiff competition, it is up to the sales manager to be the value added piece of every sale to create differentiation.
6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
Safety is taken very seriously at ADM, because of that the biggest safety risks that I might encounter would be spilling hot coffee in my lap, getting a paper cut or accidentally stapling my shirt sleeve to a stack of papers.
7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?
The most important part of my job is educating customers to aid them in making the best decisions possible. Nothing thrills me more than when I can introduce a new method of risk management that will directly impact their bottom line and help solidify the supplier customer relationship. I cannot stress enough that sales are not one sided and in this business not a onetime transaction. There is an ongoing mutual respect that I work towards with customers, where they can always rely on me and in in turn I can rely on them. Doing this is how we will both be as successful as possible.
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