“People were wrapped around the building,” recalled Sandra, who was one of about 500 men and women vying for the position. (QVC now uses a more traditional casting process).
During her audition, which had her performing a mock pitch for a cleansing oil she had practiced with ahead of time, she demonstrated the unique skills required to be effective on air, such as being able to highlight a product’s features and engaging those watching her. She did so well she was asked to pitch it again, this time for the Vice President of Talent. He then asked her to do a pitch for a product he selected: an alarm clock. She had three minutes to review the manual before pitching that product as well.Follow-up interviews took place over the next several months, and ultimately Sandra was hired in September 2006. She officially became a Program Host in February 2007.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English Writing/Communications, Sandra, who hails from central Pennsylvania, had perfected her on-air presence and articulation as a T.V. reporter for 12 years at NBC affiliate WCAU in Philadelphia. But despite acing her audition, her experience as a reporter didn’t prepare her for the non-scripted world as a QVC host. “It’s the exact opposite,” of being a reporter, she explained. “I went from a 20-minute scripted segment where I never wanted to be part of the story to three hours on-air where I have to be myself.” She said her years following T.V. reporting, when she covered health, beauty and fitness for consumer publications, helped her to learn how to distill information and get to the “meat” of what viewers want to know.
Intense training also contributes to her on-air ease. Sandra’s initial training spanned six months and included countless meetings on how to perfect presenting products. Hosts, she said, generally start out on air by presenting a few items during overnight shifts. After about six months, they work up to hosting their own show. Sandra said it took her two years to master presenting the portfolio she’s able to do now. And beauty isn’t her only skill: As a working mom, she feels at home presenting everything from toys to apparel. And even though she said she’s not a computer or electronics person, being unfamiliar with those items often makes her better at selling them because it forces her to ask so many questions so that she can present it thoroughly.
But the self-proclaimed beauty junkie admits she has a passion for beauty and believes QVC is the perfect platform to sell the category.
“People are so overwhelmed when they walk into a store; they don’t know what to pick. With QVC, you can see the experts explaining the products themselves– such as Tarte’s Maureen Kelly. It’s very powerful to watch her,” she explained.
Her other favorite beauty items (and guests) include WEN by Chaz Dean, Butter nail care, Mally Beauty, Laura Geller, Bobbi Brown, Dr. Dennis Gross and Sarah Potempa. “It’s my honor to work with a beauty innovator,” she added.
Though she sells beauty and considers herself a beauty aficionado, she gets a lot of help to look so coiffed on air and credits QVC’s in-house salon staff withher hair and makeup looks. She does, however, select and wear her own clothing.
The consummate professional, Sandra doesn’t flinch when asked if she ever has to sell something she doesn’t personally adore. “If you think about a department store, you can’t love every brand and not everyone likes the same exact thing. It’s the same on air. I tell viewers the features and benefits and try to comprehend what would appeal to them. The customer can’t touch, feel or smell what I’m selling, so it’s my job to present the product and its value,” she explained.
Though Sandra is best known for her seamless on air persona, as well as spotlighting creators, chatting with callers and following director’s cues.—all on live T.V.—hitting a speed bump or two is inevitable. On-air snafus include spilling hot coffee on herself prior to show time and having her skirt lifted up by her microphone during a live segment. She said she handled both situations with aplomb. “Every day I roll with it. I’m not perfect, I’m a real person,” she chuckled.
A typical workday starts with three hours in the office before her scheduled T.V. time where she recaps selling strategies. Then there are two hours with hair and makeup, followed by practice, before her typical three-hour segment commences. When she’s not on the air, Sandra’s in meetings with buyers or studying products for future shows. She averages working between six to 10 hours a day, with the number of days per week changing all the time.
But she is working at what many consider a dream job– with the playground of endless exciting new products and the thrill of becoming what some would call a minor celebrity.
QVC won’t comment on salaries or incentives for selling products, but many industry insiders say hosts get a cut of their sales. Whether or not Sandra gets a bonus for her selling abilities isn’t known, but it’s clear when watching her work she’s just enjoying the ride.