Learn about PRSSA Director of Internal Communications Colby Daboul’s internship experience at Crystal Rock.
By: Colby Daboul
Never judge a book by its cover. It is the quintessential cliché, but we can all refer back to a specific instance when this particular locution was inherent to the given situation. For me, it’s the first thing that comes to mind while reflecting upon my most recent internship experience. I’m a strategic communications major, minoring in history (as well as possibly politics) and my career goals are set on PR or Government Relations; but last summer I was an Account Executive at Crystal Rock based out of Watertown, Connecticut, selling water, coffee, and office supplies.
Crystal Rock is the real life Dunder Mifflin, except it deals with more than just paper.
Henry Baker started the company in 1914, in Stamford, Connecticut, by distributing half gallons of water to local residents from his horse-drawn carriage. Over the next 100 years, Crystal Rock would grow to become Connecticut’s number one water provider in the business-to-business market. Additionally, Crystal Rock started carrying coffee and office supplies (hello Dunder Mifflin), in an effort to provide a more holistic service to its customers.
As an Account Executive I was tasked with selling any of our 50,000 items. The ultimate strategic goal was for me to try and create more of a Crystal Rock presence in the greater-Hartford and greater-Springfield (Massachusetts) areas. I wasn’t expected to open any new accounts (i.e. sell anything to nonexistent customers). By cold-calling at least 20 businesses a day (Crystal Rock is strictly B2B), and distributing our acquisition fliers (one for water, one for coffee, one for office supplies) as well as explaining our services, I would therefore be spreading the word about Crystal Rock in each respective business community. At the end of my internship I grossed $4,200 in sales and opened 15 new accounts. You may be wondering (as was the author in the moment) how this internship would be even remotely relevant to an aspiring communicator. The answer took the duration of the internship and serious reflection.
For a while, I was worried I had just wasted a summer on a pointless experience; further contemplation quickly changed my mind. On the basic level, I got to experience a corporate environment and hierarchy when I was at the main office for training, and for sales meetings. The sales meetings were great because I got the chance to observe the flow, the content, and the dynamic between the salespeople and higher management (the CEO was even at one of the meetings). But what about experience on a “communications level?” As an Account Executive at Crystal Rock, I was a public representative for the company; we were often referred to as the “face of Crystal Rock.” I was not just responsible for understanding my strategic position, but also what Crystal Rock’s strategic goals were and ultimately how my position would contribute to achieving those goals. I had to have a complete knowledge of our product portfolio, acquisition prices, and Crystal Rock services. On cold-calls, I had to be able to clearly communicate that information. To be successful and stay competitive, I needed to keep track of industry pricing for “hot button” items and services.
My internship experience last summer was a lot more relevant to my career goals than I had initially expected or thought. My responsibilities and role at Crystal Rock were similar to that of a public relations practitioner. Additionally, cold-calls were great communications exercises. Not only having to communicate a specific message to someone, but to do it clearly, concisely, and persuasively was great practice for an aspiring communicator. I never expected that a sales internship could offer valuable communications knowledge. Revision: never judge an internship by its cover because you never know what you can gain from any given experience.