So where was I before I so rudely interrupted myself? Oh yes, the angel on my shoulder had just won the fight with the devil on the other shoulder and I was headed out for my first day as a newspaper subscription salesman.
As will be the case most mornings, I met Terry at his place. He gave me my portable kiosk, which is somewhat like the ones you see in the pic, a couple bundles of papers, a card scanner, and a bunch of gift cards. On that day he was sending me out to Quality Foods.
Quality Foods is an old school grocery store, and the one I went to is in an older, less chic part of town. If you needed a grocery store set for an episode of Mad Men, you wouldn’t need to change much. I set up inside next to one of the doors and went to work.
The pitch goes like this; an unsuspecting shopper walks by, I offer them a free copy of the paper, if they take the bait I then attempt to reel them in by saying the first of two lines that Terry taught me:
Line 1: “Have you ever considered home delivery of our paper?”
If they respond at all favorably then I go into my pitch for my subscription plans, the two best plans are month by month daily or, for couponers, the Friday/Saturday/Sunday plan. Both come with gift cards that essentially make the first month a freebie. If they are still with me then I hit them the second of Terry’s requisite lines:
Line 2: “Doesn’t that sound like a deal worth trying?” He says, “It sounds hokey but it works.” Then I am to very zenlike wait in the silence. As Terry explains it, the next person who speaks loses.
Now at this point I feel the need to say that I don’t agree with Terry on the whole wins/loses thing (and I don’t think he really does either). This isn’t like the horrible, cynical salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross who are selling worthless land to gullible people, I’m offering a good deal on a good product. It’s not The New York Times, but it’s a good small town paper.
Anywho, that’s the pitch. I started offering my free papers and Quality Foods gift cards at 11:45am and I got my first sale at 12:15. I’ll always remember her because she had the same first and last name of one of my friends at UCLA. I wrote four orders that first day, not a bad day for a sales noob.
Here’s how you know you’re in the Bible Belt – or as I call it, the Southern Baptist belt: When I first set up at Quality Foods they had the radio playing in the store, some light rock station. At some point they switched it over to the Christian music station. All the contemporary Christian hits, the kind of songs that a Presbyterian pastor I used to know calls “Jesus is my boyfriend” music. That would never happen in LA, maybe in a Christian book store but not at a grocery store.
You can’t say that I wasn’t exposed to the gospel that day. A woman with big holiness hair, after turning me down walked by again and very sweetly said, “While you’re standing there with nothing to so, you can always pray.”
I smiled and said, “That’s right.” Pray that you’ll get your bouffant ass back here and buy my subscription.
A younger woman with less hair and tighter jeans came into the store greeting everyone with “Jesus loves you!” I think most of the customers were already aware of that fact because they had already heard it on the radio.
Then there was the guy who wasn’t interested in the paper because all it has in it is bad news: “The only good news is in the word of God.”
By the end of the day Terry stopped by to check on me and seemed happy with how I was doing. He told me about a program he can put me on where I can move into a higher commission faster. Sounded good to me.
The next day he sent me out to the local Kmart, it was a nice day so I set up outside. I was able to position myself between the entrance and exit doors so no one could escape me. [Evil laugh!]
Unless they entered or left through the garden section.
Also I was in the shade. Very important. I set up at 10:30 and wrote five orders by 3:00. I watched the sky cloud up and about 4 or 5 it started to sprinkle a little. Even though I was protected I took that as my cue to pack up, another good day. I had nine orders under my belt and that qualified me for the fast track program that Terry had told me about. I was feeling pretty positive about the whole thing…
Then I went out of town with Mom and Iris for a mini family reunion, and when I got back to work I thought that I had completely lost my mojo. Terry sent me out to the same Kmart, I set up in the same place, I was there for almost seven hours and I only got two orders. Terry was encouraging about it, he said that good days and bad days are the nature of the game. He said that the next day he would take me and another one of his newer salespeople out to a WalMart that was a “goldmine.”
So the next morning I packed my kiosk into the back of Terry’s SUV and he and I – along with a not unattractive young lady who Terry is also showing the ropes – headed out to the goldmine WalMart.
And, no, you may not infer anything dirty into the previous sentence about Terry showing her “the ropes.” She has a boyfriend and her relationship with Terry (who’s in his late 50s) is entirely professional. I’m shocked at you. Harrumph.
So, aforementioned non unattractive young lady and I set up at different entrances in front of goldmine WalMart and got to work. This is not the local WalMart that kicked me to the curb a few months ago, this one is actually in another state but still in our delivery area, and Terry said the reason it’s a goldmine is because people down there can’t get all the coupons if they buy the Sunday paper in the store. Therefore, the serious couponers have an incentive to sunscribe, hence, it’s a goldmine.
Now here’s the thing about WalMart: Most of the places we set up will let us come inside if we want to. Not precious WalMart, noooo. If they let us come in and harass their customers that would interfere with the elderly door greeters harassing their customers. Secondly, let’s face it, they’re WalMart; their shit doesn’t stink and we should just be grateful that they allow us to exist.
We got set up around 11:30 and I didn’t get my first sale until 1pm. That’s OK except that after that it was nothing. Terry went back and forth between myself and the girl, but he spent more time with her. When he came over and saw how discouraged I was he stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon, giving me some pointers and helping me talk to people. Partly because he was there and also because things do tend to pick up in the afternoon, I got four more sales over the next hour so the day ended up pretty well.
So much so that he sent me out to the same WalMart the next day. This time I drove myself (as an independent contractor I will be able to claim this mileage when I file my taxes). A veteran sales guy who lives closer to this store was already there and set up by the time I got there at 11am. The day started out well, I wrote two orders right off the bat. One was even what Terry calls a “be back,” ie “Let me go in and do my shopping and I’ll be back.” Be backs hardly ever come back, they’ll either sneak past you or they’ll say that they changed their mind. It’s a way of saying no without actually saying it. We’ve all done it. But this time she came back and I signed her up!
Then it was a long haul with nothing. Again, goldmine my left nostril. About 2pm I decided to walk across the parking lot to the Captain D’s and raise my blood sugar. I made the mistake of talking to the Veteran on my way and found that he had six or seven orders. OK, so he’s a veteran and I’m a noob. But still…I was quite discouraged.
At Captain D’s I prayed, gave myself a pep talk, and raised my blood sugar so when I got back to my little kiosk I was in a better mood and ready for whatever happened. Between 3:00 and 6:00 I got seven orders for my personal best of nine.
That’s the thing about this gig, it’s a mental game and I have to remember not to let the low points get to me. As it turned out, Veteran only ended up with one more sale than I had that day.
I try to keep my mental equilibrium, but I do have mood swings where I think this is the greatest job in the world and then I think “What the hell am I doing?” But I had roller coaster mood swings when I was at WalMart, and I have to remember how miserable I was at my job as a social worker at the dialysis clinic.
Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life? Probably not, but so far it’s getting better and Terry and the company VP that I initially interviewed with seem to be happy with me. As of last week they raised me to the higher commission rate, so I might be in danger of actually making a living soon. Also, as Miss Demure Restraint said, at least I’ll have plenty to write about.
And, while I’m standing there with nothing to so, I can always pray.