Avon saleswoman succeeds despite hearing loss

Published: January 22, 2007 | 5342nd good news item since 2003

Muriel Raine can’t hear the ding-dong of the doorbells she rings, but being hearing-impaired hasn’t kept her from building a successful Avon business.

In a field in which listening is as important as talking, Raine has twice earned Avon’s President Club Award, an honor reserved for associates who sell at least $10,100 worth of the cosmetics product.

“She’s amazing,” said Raine’s unit leader, Mary Van Valkenburg, a Village Mira Mesa resident. “I don’t know how she does it.”

Raine’s success is attributed to her listening abilities, which have nothing to do with her inability to hear.

“I introduce myself and tell them that I am hearing-impaired. Then I offer them a book,” said Raine, who picks up limited sounds through a hearing aid. “As long as they look at me while they’re talking, I’m OK. I’m pretty good at reading lips.”

That talent has served Muriel well through the past 35 years.

“I had hearing in both ears throughout childhood, and into my 20s, but it was limited, and it started slowly going downhill,” said Raine, who began her Avon career within a year of moving from California to Lady Lake in 2002.

Muriel had sure traveled a long way from Maple Plains, Minn., where she was a quiet schoolgirl who had to sit in the front row to hear her teacher.

“I used to be pretty shy when I was younger,” Raine said.

Her timidity can be traced to the fifth grade, when she was fitted with her first hearing aid.

“It was one of those box things that you wore around your neck,” Raine recalled. “The sounds coming out of it were all scratchy and it was noisy. I was so embarrassed I put it in my desk and refused to wear it.”

Fortunately, technology had advanced by the time Raine became an insurance underwriter.

“Didn’t wear a hearing aid again until I was in my 20s,” she said. “ I made it a point to check out hearing aids and I was fitted with a behind-the-ear model when I was around 27. I’ve had various kinds ever since.”

Ironically, Raine has become more self-assured as her hearing has diminished.

“Over the years, I found I enjoyed being around people, being out in the public and hearing their stories,” she said.

Raine also enjoys talking to people on the telephone, which is as easy as reading an Avon catalog. Taking orders is a snap for Raine, who uses a CapTel phone, which shows caller’s words on an LCD screen.

The boxes of Avon products scattered on the floor of her office attest to Raine’s listening ability, people skills and dedication. But as with most accomplished sales people, success didn’t arrive overnight.

“In the beginning, I waited for them to call me, but not many did. It was discouraging,” she said. “I’ve learned to check back with people because so many are busy. It’s hard to catch people at home.”

Fortunately, she had a supportive unit leader in Van Valkenburg.

“She helped me through it,” Raine said. “If I had a problem with an order or a bill, she’d make the call to Avon for me.”

And there was another benefit to working with Van Valkenburg.

“When I first started with her, I had gotten a few girls who were hearing-impaired, so I gave them to Muriel, and she just ran with it,” Van Valkenburg recalled. “And she’s been going strong ever since.”

Today, about a quarter of Raine’s customers are hearing-impaired. You might say that Raine receives a lot of “word-of-eyes” business.

And she’s doing pretty well with hearing customers as well. She’s developed a loyal client base through bowling and church.

Of course, Raine is always looking for new customers, and new ways to reach them.

“She attends all my unit meetings, which is remarkable because it’s hard for hearing-impaired people to attend meetings and get something out of it since nobody signs,” said Van Valkenburg, who tries to direct her words at Muriel when addressing the group.

Muriel still sits in the front of the classroom, but these days, those around her don’t think of her as handicapped.

“I’m just glad she’s in my unit,” said Van Valkenburg.

Published in Life, Science & Technology
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