Sell Weekends: What They Are and How To Crush Your Weekend (Podcast)

Do you have an upcoming Sell Weekend or are curious what they entail?

Jenny Rae reveals all in today’s episode as she shares her process for selecting the Bain Atlanta office and how to make a great first impression on a firm during a Sell Weekend.

She breaks down:

  • Why Sell Weekends exist
  • How office selection fits into Sell Weekends
  • A strategy to optimize your Sell Weekend to set yourself for success with the firm
  • Major no-nos to avoid
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Transcription: Sell Weekends: What They Are and How To Crush Your Weekend

MC: Jenny Rae Le Roux

Congratulations, you’re one of the lucky ones – you’ve got an offer for consulting in hand. Next up is the sell weekend. But what is it? How do you behave? What do you do? What do you think about? We’re going to walk through some of those specifics in this episode.

We’re going to cover what our sell weekends, how office selection usually works, and some specifics about my process that will hopefully eliminate things to do and things not to do. And finally, we’re going to talk about how to behave, what to think about and how to go into your sell weekend for the maximum chance of success and also enjoyment.

First of all, what the heck is a sell weekend? Well, we call them sell weekends, but firms call them by different names. They’re weekends to go and experience life at the firm, they’re an opportunity for you to look for housing in a city that you don’t currently live in, to get to know your new colleagues in your incoming class, as well as senior colleagues at the firm and to get to know a little bit about the culture of the firm. Sell weekends are opportunities for the firm to wine and dine you and their stated and primary goal is twofold.

Number one, they want to convert the maximum number of people they gave offers to accepted offers. So, they create opportunities for people to state that they’ve accepted, to accept on the spot, or to encourage them to accept. Even though most firms don’t state primary deadlines for acceptance, they’re trying to use the sell weekend as an opportunity to drive acceptance rates forward.

Second, they want to make sure that you you feel a cohesion with the firm as you’re beginning to join. It’s your first opportunity to really get to know the firm as an insider. Sure, you got to know some things about it through your experience interviewing, through working with the interviewers one on one, but this is different, you’re now a part of a family. And so they’re gonna welcome you into that family and tell you what the norms, the customs, and the cultures are of the family as well.

Let me now share just a little bit about firm selection and my sell weekend process because it was a little different than some people’s and I think you’ll find some lessons packed away inside here.

First of all, when I was interviewing with Bain, I was interviewing on the East Coast. And even though I was an experienced hire, I interviewed back through my university. So I had a limited number of offices that they gave me to choose from. It was Atlanta, Boston and New York. And so when they asked me the, all important, ‘which office would you like to go to’ question in my final round, I had stated that I wanted to move to San Francisco.

This wasn’t probably the best idea because for the beginning, they had told me what my options were and I was trying to do something outside of that. But even worse was their second question, which was okay, we might be able to make that work for you tell us why. And I said, I hear that California is really nice. Now today, I’m sitting in California. I’ve lived here for 15 years, but going through the Bain process, and explaining to them that I wanted to move to a state that I’ve never been to was a little bit of a stretch.

So I began my relationship on firm and office selection on a little bit of a shaky foot. I continued that shakiness by going through not one, but two sell weekends. So I accepted my offer in Atlanta, or I didn’t accept it, I received an offer for the Atlanta office. And after I got the offer, I asked if I could go to a sell weekend both in Boston and in Atlanta. Again, not a super desirable process. And most firms would say no. Good news was I was a really top candidate, Bain was very accommodating for me. And I went through the process in Atlanta as a full offeree and kind of as a working offeree in Boston. But of course, it was an excellent experience for me to see two different cultures of the firm.

The Boston office pulled from a very diverse set of schools, it was much larger, there were tremendous opportunities. But also one thing that I noticed was that the cohesion in that office was based on your incoming class, the people that you worked with, whereas in the Atlanta office, which at the time was only about 120 people, the cohesion was firm-wide, I had exposure to partners at a much earlier level. So I was able to see differences between the firm that was good for me.

What was bad for me as a longer term employee of Bain is that I established myself as somebody who wasn’t decisive and who wasn’t committed. And some of that carried into my early weeks. And even potentially, through my first year at Bain there was an uncertainty about my commitment to the work into the job, because I tried to play the field on the sell weekend situation.

So I wouldn’t recommend that you even try to do what I did. What I would recommend instead is that you go into your sell weekend with one office that you’ve selected gratefully and enthusiastically and that you have a plan for how to maximize your opportunities.

The first mistake that I made when I was thinking about sell weekend’s is that I had no strategy. My only strategy was figuring out for me, for Jenny Rae, what the right place was for me to fit. And while that’s fine, it wasn’t the strategy that would optimize my long term success at Bain. So hear me, if you have an offer already, if you’re diving into a sell weekend, and if you’re excited about it, that’s great. But don’t go in without a strategy.

Let me give you a couple of key pieces that will help you strategically make the most of your weekend for you. But more importantly, set up a lifetime of success inside the consulting firms.

Number one, make sure that you manage your own appearance and behavior. This wasn’t a key issue for me, but I watched a number of people go through sell weekend, excited to finally be on the company credit card, there was a lot of drinking, there were certainly opportunities to hook up. There were opportunities to even go beyond that and do some more kind of exciting things in the consulting life. That wasn’t my scene. But when I watched people do it, I watched the opinion of their peers and the opinion of the superiors inside the firm immediately decrease.

One person showed up late to the next day’s meetings because they were hungover. Two people walked down out of the same room the next day. That builds a reputation for you that you don’t want to have when you’re walking into a professional environment. So even though you can, it doesn’t mean that you should.

So walk in with a strategy for how to dress, for how to work for how to call it a night, for how to go off into your own room. Just kind of keep it simple, keep it clean, and really focus on the professional aspects of your time together during this whole weekend.

Second, go in with some great questions. You want to make sure that you’re ready to ask questions about the firm, about the city, about the experience. However, there was one person in our sell weekend who asked downer questions, it was such a drag on their impression and the overall experience. They were asking questions like an investigative journalist, right? What’s the worst thing about living in this city? What’s one thing that we don’t know about today that we should know about? What’s the downside of working in this office? And look, the questions are fair, the questions are good, but you can’t ask questions like that, accept the job, and then expect for people to treat you as a positive peer. So you need to think about how to frame your questions to get the same kind of insights in a way that will tell you about the firm but that will also either through ommission or through just open sharing. Get somebody to share things that are important. We frame our questions in interviews and beyond as PSP questions, positive, specific and personal. So make sure that when you’re talking about the questions, don’t look for data. Look for stories. That’s how you get the best Positive questions out of it.

Here’s a couple of examples of great questions. Number one, tell me about one thing in this office that happens that happens in no other office in the BCG network. Number two, I’d love to hear about one story when somebody went above and beyond in mentorship. Number three, I’d love to know one thing that you feel like you learned here that you couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

Positive, specific and personal to the person that you’re asking for. These aren’t questions about the general firm they’re questions about the office, about their experience. It’s an opportunity for them to tell a story that will really highlight the culture and the vision of the organization, so you can make a good decision about joining.

The third thing is that you want to do some research, want to make sure that you’re ready to walk in and know who you’re going to be talking to and who they are. So if it’s possible, get a list ahead of time from recruiting of the people that will be presenting to you, and do some research on some of the folks that are inside the office, either then, or on the fly, when they walk into the room, pull up a quick LinkedIn profile, know who you’re talking to so that you can understand a little bit about their background.

You don’t have to make a great and strong first impression on them. You don’t have to walk in and know five things about their background. That’s not what I’m talking about. In fact, sometimes that can be a little creepy. But just knowing who you’re talking to and beginning to build a record and a bank of the people at the firm will help you build stronger connections later. So beginning to do some of that research, keeping track of it, and understanding who the folks are that you’re going to be working with can be a big advantage for you later.

One thing that I did when I was at Bain that I would recommend everyone do is that I took every partner out to breakfast or lunch in my first year at the firm, it was an awesome opportunity to learn about them. And so if you begin to build a connection point- Hey, I saw you at the sell weekend and I really loved this one thing that you said- I personally kind of need to keep record of that because I meet a lot of people and there are a lot of things that I need to think about. So just beginning that record-making process as a part of your strategy can be really great. And the fourth and final thing that you want to do is to have fun, smile a lot, enjoy your colleagues, get to know them. You don’t even have to have said yes to the firm, but you can still have a really good time.

And it’s important to celebrate their celebration. I didn’t do that super well, there were people who had already accepted, Bain was their dream job, their only job, the thing that they wanted, and I was so skeptical about whether it was going to be a fit for me. But I don’t think I just enjoyed myself. I didn’t order what I wanted at dinner, I didn’t ask great questions of my colleagues, I was watching and listening and very analytical at that weekend, and I probably would if I could go back again, just enjoy myself a little bit more.

I’m super grateful for the time and the expense and the investment not just in money, but also in people and in thought and in culture explanation that Bain did for me while I went through the process. It really helped me go in eyes wide open. Sure, there were things that I saw at that weekend that I didn’t love about the firm, that didn’t fit me. But overall, it helped me make a great judgment about the fact that there were going to be more pros than cons for working in consulting. And all of those things came true and more.

I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I had, to work at Bain, and for what they did for me during this whole weekend. So when you’re walking into the sell weekend, appreciate it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, you get the chance to see the firm from the outside and from the inside for the first time. And you’ll get an opportunity to meet some of the most incredible people whether you decide to accept the job or not.

If you are one of the lucky ones and you have an offer or have accepted an offer, then we would love to help you with that process. You can actually walk through our Excel PowerPoint courses to prepare for a job in consulting. And if you have a couple of offers, but don’t know where to go, we would love to talk that through with you. Every year we have about 100 people book in time with one of our coaches to talk one on one with them about a few offers that they have on the table. What a great situation to be in, but it’s also a really difficult situation because you’re spoilt for choice.

So if you want us to help you figure out where you fit best, we’d love to do that for you. Please feel free to reach out directly.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode on sell weekends. What an unusual but cool part of the consulting experience they are. If you haven’t yet broken into consulting, but you want the chance to get the job and go to a sell weekend in the future, gosh, we’d love to help you.

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Filed Under: Bain, Case Interview, Consulting Firms, Consulting Networking, consulting recruiting, Consulting skills, consulting travel, Strategy Simplified