Comfortable and Furious

The ABC’s of Sales

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Always Be Closing-Always Be Closing, ALWAYS BE CLOSING! These are those famous words from Alec Baldwin in Mamet’s masterpiece Glengarry Glen Ross. If you have ever been in Sales, you have probably heard a speech like this one, but never has one been more cold-blooded, eviscerating and devastating. Management by intimidation is a time-honored tradition in Sales.

Bonus-Commission, Incentive, Spiff, no matter what you call it, it is addictive as crack cocaine for the typical Drummer. What is supposed to be discretionary income is quickly incorporated into the total expected package of the Sales Rep. Bonus criteria, unlike Salary, can be changed often, and without notice, making it easy for the Company to control the Rep’s compensation. Trying to incentivize sales turns into a powerful tool to manipulate the Sales Force and maximize profits. Don’t like it? There’s the door, Pal!

Call Reports– Universally loathed by all Salesmen, and containing more lies than the book of Genesis, Call Reports can test the limits of the Sales Reps creativity. Theoretically a tool to measure the effectiveness and planning ability of the Salesman, Call Reports can also provide an uncomfortable gotcha. You are sitting in the Regional Manager’s Office, sweating and nauseous, trying to think of an explanation as to why you listed some long-deceased customers as a recent call. Don’t worry, you’re a bullshit artist, you’ll think of something.

Death of a Salesman-If you are a Salesman, don’t watch it.

Email/Voice Mail/Instant Messages, etc.-It was not always this way, and it used to be that time away from Meetings, ride-alongs, or land-line phone calls from the boss was consecrated ground, especially after working hours. Today, the lines between work and off time have blurred, and they can reach out and touch you anytime, anywhere. Even worse, with state-of-the-art technology, The Man can track your activity with GPS, time stamps on your call entry, and other methods more effective than having a Pinkerton who ghosts your every activity. Your window of creativity is disappearing and you are facing the prospect of having to work every day, all day, and that is a terrifying prospect.

Fear-Fear is the very essence of sales. Everyone is afraid of someone and those individuals are also afraid of someone else. You fear rejection, you fear your micromanaging boss, but most of all you fear failure. The most intense fear is when you have to work with someone in upper management. This is usually some twerp who couldn’t sell welfare in Harlem, but they are levels above you, so you just have to suck it up and endure.

GreedIn lock step with Fear, greed is the other thing that drives sales. When the sweet little old lady client’s CDs mature, The Financial Advisor confidently advises her to roll the money over into A Shares instead of C. It’s a great and relatively safe Value Fund, so his conscience is clear. This way he gets his commission on the front end, a wise move in case the old bitch suddenly decides to die before the charges are collected on the back end. No MBA required.

Home away from Home-If your duties involve over-the-road travel, these road trips can be some of the bright spots of your miserable existence. Great road houses have working ice machines nearby, arctic air conditioners and good hot showers. One level joints with pull-up parking are desirable, so that you can unload your beer, briefcase and other belongings away from the prying eyes of other losers who might be inhabiting this place. Here, the inevitable Mr. Patel treats you like royalty and you can retreat into a world of peace and solitude. It’s a sanctioned vacation from the wife and kids, and if you happen to sell something along the way, well, that’s good too.

IpecacThe District Manager has scheduled a last-minute ride-along with you and at a most inappropriate time. The customers on this week’s action plan are either non-existent, deceased, unsalable or hate you intensely. Worse still, you had made absolutely no plans to work this week. Decisive action is required, so you medicate yourself appropriately and time it to yack all over his shoes at the airport. You mumble about a very contagious stomach virus going around and hold your head in your hands praying that he will just stay in the airport and catch the next plane back to St. Louis. Warning: Do not try this little act of deception more than once.

Just one more call!-If you are in sales, you might be unlucky enough to work for one of these totally driven company men. They have no family, no life, and if there ever was a spouse she has long ago split from this maniac. Of course, the Company loves this man, as he eats, drinks and sleeps his job 24/7. He’s the one that is still in an airport at 9:00 PM on Christmas Eve, and has you out rattling door knobs long after most business have closed for the evening. The infuriating irony is that you will probably be more successful under this sociopath than any other Manager you have worked for, but your life is a living hell, so you pray for his promotion or death.

Kickbacks-Bribes, incentives, graft, inducements, premiums, whatever they are called, if you have been in Sales any length of time, you know all about this. As ancient as the art itself, sanctioned or not, kickbacks have been used on every level to help produce the desired results. Your implementation can make or break you, but know your mark wisely or you could end up being led away in cuffs, and don’t expect any support from the Company, they will only reward your creativity with a Pink Slip.

Late Night TV PitchHow could we write this ABC’s without mentioning one the the greatest pitchers of all time? Preying on countless gullible insomniacs, this bearish, bearded huckster is the Jesus Christ of Salesmen. He could be hawking used, leaky colostomy bags and it wouldn’t matter because, If I order NOW, they will send me TWO! and I only have to pay additional shipping and handling! If you are in this business you have to love and admire these guys, they have serious talent.

Marketing DepartmentThese highly-paid executives are the biggest impediment to successful sales that the Sales Rep will encounter. Every year they are on stage at the National Meeting with their fresh and innovative ideas to move product. The helpless Salesmen will be forced to implement these plans, and every year these brilliant ideas will be discarded as sales stagnate or plummet. Of course, this failure is ALWAYS blamed on the Sales Force, not Marketing. At the National Sales Meeting these individuals are never seen outside of their presentations onstage as they fear that they will be found in the morning at the bottom of the Hotel pool or tossed off a ninth-floor balcony.

National Sales Meetings– Quarterly Sales Meetings are bad enough, but National Sales Meetings are a spectacle, as many a promising career has been left in shambles after one of these annual events. Everyone is in attendance, the Top Brass, the hated Marketing Department, the winners, the losers, and all of the Female Reps from around the country. Mix this with 3 days of unbearable tension and fear, enormous quantities of alcohol, and you have a blueprint for disaster. You had a great year, and are celebrating and enjoying the praise of your peers.

The morning after, however, as the fog lifts, you have vague memories of the V.P.’s wife walking away from you in fear and disgust. There is also an ugly rumor that some drunken Sales Rep actually pissed in the ice machine on the Managers Floor. At breakfast, eyes avoid you (Why me?), and you realize there may be much to atone for in spite of your stellar sales numbers. There is still 24 hours before your flight home. It’s going to be a long day.

Out of a Job-Fired, Dismissed, Discharged, Let go, laid off, it all means the same, your services are no longer needed or wanted. If you are in Sales, unless you are unusually fortunate (or unfortunate) your days are numbered, and like an NCAA College Football Coach, you will eventually be fired. Take heart, we have all been there and unless you are too old or horribly incompetent, there will be a place for you, there always is. Don’t think for a minute that things will be any different in your new home.

Pizza, Beer & Roadside Motel-It has been a tough day on the road, and you know what to do. I mean, why waste your per-diem on a marginal sit-down restaurant? You’ve picked up a 12 pack of Miller Lite, Bud or more exotic fare, filled the trash can with ice, and ordered the pizza to be delivered to your door.

After slamming 4 beers in 15 minutes, you have the courage, creativity and inspiration to enter your call reports via your laptop. Thirty minutes later, 72 oz. of alcohol and a couple of pieces of greasy pizza have transformed a day of failure, rejection and mis-timed calls into a highly productive day of wonderful potential. By the time you’ve killed your messy pie and are on your 9th brew you even believe the lies yourself.

QuotasYou are sitting in the first quarter’s Sales Meeting, the lights are down and the Power-point Presentation is starting. There is no sound except for 12 stomachs churning in fear. This is Sales. When times are bad, they are very bad, and when they are good, they are not much better. If you are an achiever, your Quota will be raised and you will receive extra attention this year because of your work. If you are a slacker your Quota will be raised and you too will receive extra attention this year. At the end of the year it is most likely that the roles will be reversed. Nothing ever changes, just the names and the numbers, and they will always be against you.

Retired You have done it. It is no longer necessary to suck up to Corporate America in order to earn a living. This means giving up crowded airports, unnecessary meetings, an insufferable prick of a Sales Manager who is 20 years your junior, Action Plans, Call Reports, a business suit with a white shirt and tie, ulcers and stomach cramps. Being genuinely retired means that long ago you began planning for the future and can now tell everyone except Mother Nature and Father time to Kiss Ass.

Sales Meetings-Although not as Epic as a National Sales Meeting, these more localized meetings can also be minefields for your shaky career. Emboldened by the fact that your numbers are great, you and a buddy skip the obligatory meeting after Sales Dinner and take in a Cardinals game and a Strip Club afterward. The next thing you remember is lying at the indoor hotel pool with your legs in the water, covered in your own vomit, and it is only 30 minutes until this morning’s meeting. Opening your leaden eyelids reveals your Manager looking down on you from the 2nd Floor balcony. He doesn’t speak to you the entire day, but expect to hear plenty soon enough.

Training Department-There is always a portion of the National Sales Meeting that is devoted to the Training Department. These monkeys are held in even less esteem than the Marketing Department and have to a man never spent a day in the field selling. Their presentations are openly treated with scorn and are immediately dismissed with derision. Training is only useful for the new hire and is always quickly discarded. Tits on a Boar Hog.

Unnecessary Paperwork-This has always been the bane of the Salesman, even in today’s electronic age, the monster must be fed. If you fall behind, expect an unfriendly call from your immediate Supervisor or Manager, as you have interrupted his pipeline of lies that must be funneled upward. Here’s a big hint; the best way to get in poor graces with your Manager is to be late with your paperwork. They had rather have a pack of lies than nothing, so just do it.

Virtue If you had a shred of it you would not be in this profession.

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WhoreYes, that is what you are. Deal with it.

eXpense Reports Like the hated Call Reports, these reports contain as much fiction as Grimms, but expense compensation is a vital part of an Outside Salesman’s package. Of course, if the typical Sales Rep expended as much energy and creativity in selling as he or she did in fluffing expense reports, they could retire at 30. Most likely though, unless you are a big-hitter in a top Sales niche, you will be living on a per-diem, so purchase your road pizza wisely.

Yesterday is gone What have you done for me lately? This concept has never been truer than in Sales. It’s a cruel fact of life that as the calendar turns from December to January, quotas and expectations go up, usually 10% or more. The mathematics of this is insane, but you might as well suck it up and live with it, as it will not change.

By the end of February panic has set in, as no one ever seems to realize that this month has fewer shipping days. This fact makes no difference in the eyes of management. What makes things worse is that you probably loaded some of this January’s sales into last December to make up for last year’s shortfall, so now you are hopelessly behind. Welcome to Sales 1101.

Zonea lull, a rut, a plateau, stagnation, lack of growth, it all means the same in Sales. Warning bells are ringing and don’t think that the powers above don’t notice. (See: Yesterday is gone) You may have become complacent, you may be getting older and losing it, but it doesn’t matter because you had better snap out of it quickly. Welcome to Sales 1102 and Always Be Closing!

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