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Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

By Jessica Haworth, Eller Pre-Business

When thinking about business ethics and integrity, a multi-million dollar tobacco company may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, after spending the day with Altria Tobacco Group, you may want to think again. On Friday March 3rd  I was one of about a dozen students who had the opportunity to spend a day with an Altria sales representative up in Phoenix through Eller ELITE.

We started our day bright and early, departing from the steps of Eller around the same time that the sun came up. I don’t think any of us really had a clear idea of what we would be doing or what the day had in store. Once we arrived in Phoenix, we were greeted by Michael Wood and several sales representatives from the greater Phoenix area. They presented us with a few facts about the Altria Group and background information on what the career of a sales representative is really like. We were then paired off with two ELITE members per representative, and we were able to gain a day in the life of field sales. My partner Chis Herrera and our sales representative Darryl Bennett spent the day driving around Phoenix and checking in with our stores. It was here that we were able to analyze raw data, check inventory and put real problem solving skills to use. We took turns introducing ourselves in each store, and as Darryl put it “representing the face of a Fortune 500 company.” To see Darryl work with such interest in what he was doing was something really great to see. Every detail, from the ad space to stock was taken care of, and each store offered something unique. In addition to learning the business/financial side to the job, I was almost surprised to see the relationships and social aspect to field sales. Stores know who their sales reps are, and over time develop a social and working relationship.

For me, the most memorable part of the day was while we were completing one of our last stores. We had walked into a Walgreens and gone over to the cigarette case. Darryl instantly pointed out something that I had overlooked- there were children’s Easter baskets over the cigarette case. After finishing inventory, we requested a manager and asked for the baskets to be moved. As it turns out, Altria pays for the space above the cigarette cases to not have anything on top of them in order to prevent things like this happening. It was really interesting to see just how seriously all the sales representatives take their jobs and what they do in order to uphold ethics and company image. Throughout the whole day we were checking for “We Card” signs outside the doors and above the cases. Not only are these signs federal law, but the reps make sure those signs are there for ethical reasons as well.

The experience gained and the understanding of what field sales really is was well worth the early start to the day and commute to Phoenix. If anyone has the opportunity to be involved in a program like this, I would highly recommend taking it. The members of the Altria group were knowledgeable, friendly, and engaging and if given another chance, I’d gladly go back for another day as a field sales representative.