My time as a salesman was brief but revealing. I had just moved to a new city and, struggling to find work, I applied for a job in the vague field of marketing. It's a career that should come with a name tag which says: "The Most Annoying Man In The World." As it turns out, "marketing" is also a really weird way to tell future employees that they'll be selling satellite TV service packages in local Best Buys and Sam's Clubs.
But despite seeing a road that was entirely made out of obstacles, I pursued my new career as The Most Annoying Man In The World. As such, for one month of my life I was a blemish on the face of mankind.
#5. If You're Not "Equipped For Sales," You Look Like A Moron
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Ads for jobs in sales are all the same. They're aimed at luring people who think they're compelling speakers. The ads ask for energy with modern tech know-how. Self-motivated team players who remember to brew fresh coffee when it's low. And if you're not into the idea of "boundless earning potential," well, don't even bother, buddy.
Some people in sales actually do fit these characteristics, while everyone else is slowly realizing that they shouldn't even be allowed to talk to other humans. People gather around the ones with real talent, hoping to snag even a crumb of excellence that falls from their lips. I consistently fell short of being one of the good ones.
I would have cleaned the filth plate of excellence if I needed to.
I was functional in the same way that a warm soda is still drinkable, but not preferable. However, in a new city and more broke than I'd ever been in my life, I looked at a marketing ad like a wish fulfillment fantasy. "I am that kind of person!" I thought, with a generous dose of delusion and desperation. I wasn't just a regular guy who would go into an interview and get rejected. I was a "marketing" guy. I was the ultimate human, and by simply saying words, I could convince people to give me money that I assumed would partially get back to me in some way.
That's when I was smacked by the idea of a commission-based income, forcing me to actually be good at the job if I wanted to see positive results. And it's hard to be good at the job when ...
#4. The Dream Ends When You Can't Master The Pitch
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So few people excel in the world of sales because finding the balance between being an actual, empathetic person and being a robot is nearly impossible. I got the job, and the first few days of training were spent practicing pitches with the other employees. I would pretend to be doing something, and another employee would grab my attention with a pleasant "Excuse me. Do you have a minute to hear about this exciting new product?". I'd then pretend to be genuinely interested in whatever the person was trying to sell me, the way that nobody is in real life. I am truly Daniel Day-Lewis.
We'd run through the numbers and the prices, and I'd throw a wrench in there to see if the seller could remain cool when asked "Does this TV come with Xbox? If I come to find that it doesn't, I will demand a refund." About half of the people handled these questions with grace and fluidity. The other 40 percent sounded like they sort of knew what they were talking about. The last 10 percent panicked and would either pick up the reference pamphlet or bullshit their way through until they were mercifully told to switch partners.
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"Why, there are people trapped in that TV Box! WE GOTTA GET 'EM OUT."
I was never able to master the pitch, but after three days in that room, I was good enough to look like I was dropping prices on a friendly whim, instead of just telling them that I could have sold it at that price a long time ago if they had asked.
For the most part, I'd get to where a customer would ask me, "I don't like the FX channel. Can I get something that doesn't have FX on it, but has the same other channels?" and I'd look in the direction of the head salesman, hoping that he'd acknowledge my expression as an SOS signal and swoop in to handle one of the worst aspects of the job: dealing with the dumbass requests of unremarkable everyday folks who have been misled into believing they know how to negotiate.
If you think that sounds like I have a disdain for customers, well, here's something that may be shocking to you ...
#3. The Store's Employees Really Don't Want You There
On my first day on the job, I was partnered with a guy who we'll call "Mr. Boat Dreams," because the first thing he said to me was, "I want to earn enough to buy my wife a boat." That was pretty cool of him. That's not my opinion of him, by the way. That's what he thought of himself for having that goal.
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"I've had an epiphany: I am the most cool thing in the world."
Mr. Boat Dreams and I went into a Best Buy in the town adjacent to the one where our office was located, and he asked an employee in the back where our table was. The employee responded with the international sign that a conversation isn't going to go forward or well: "Uhh, what?" This was a common theme during my time in the crime-fighting duo of Annoying Man and BoatMan, the Boatless Wonder. Other employees who worked for the same company as us had been to the locations before us, and every time they put our setup somewhere, none of the people who actually worked in the building had any idea as to where it was. We were non-entities to them. Whenever we inquired about the location of our table and the logo-bearing sheet that covered it, they looked at us as if we had materialized there from another planet.
Our mere presence was a gigantic, completely unwanted pain in the ass to everyone around us. Such is that life of a salesman. At one point, a guy who worked in the computer section asked if we were going to be there all day with the tone of voice that you usually reserve for a child who's about to throw a baseball at a wasp's nest. We got a lot of that. We were moved away from customers so often that, eventually, we ended up sticking the table near the opening of an appliance aisle like we were the Gatekeepers of Microwaves -- a job title I could live with. The whole situation made me realize something about salespeople ...