Saturday, February 23, 2013

On being a Salesmun............

February 23, 2013

Anyone out there remember the old cartoon that went something like this, minus the toon? “ A week ago I could not even spell salesmun, now I are one.” I Blog today about the world of being a salesman. Are you aware that there are no universities, anywhere, that can grant you a major in salesmanship? You can get a major in marketing. You can get a major in communication. But getting that sheep skin in salesmanship? Forget it.

Growing up in a small community I remember my first gig as a salesman. It was along about the third grade at Union Elementary school. The school fundraiser was sponsored by the American Seed Company. Yes, the product was seed, mostly vegetables for that spring garden. I remember walking around my community knocking on the doors of my neighbors and pitching the product. Most likely a simple pitch: “ How ‘bout buy some of my seeds for your garden.” I was 8 years old. I looked like a waif member of the play Oliver and heck if it took pity to close the sale , so be it. I was successful in my own right. I sold enough seeds to earn a wristwatch with a genuine pigskin band.

As I moved on in life I made it to high school and worked for Kwik Chek, a Winn Dixie, type of store. It was then that I learned the art of schmooze. I was a bag boy and I was paid .75 an hour. I learned to bag the groceries proficiently. If I worked 20 hours a week I made $15.00. I soon learned that if I engaged the customer with a little razamataz on the way out to put their groceries in their station wagon that I earned a tip. A good tip was .25. Many people would toss a dime your way and if you got someone who was just on their way home from a cocktail party sometimes you were handed a dollar bill. There were many times when my tips outpaced my minimum wage. Add $20.00 in tips to the $15.00 paycheck and now you were talking some serious spending money.

On to college and earning a degree in Business Administration. I was fortunate enough to land a job in college working for a milk distributor, Farmbest dairies, formerly Foremost dairies. I was engaged as a numbers cruncher working in the office. After graduation I stayed at Farmbest because they wanted me. A job in management. I was the office manager eventually and placed in charge of payroll with a lot of other responsibilities. I was 24 and fairly smart. Smart enough to figure out that the guys who got up and went out on a milk route selling and delivering milk door to door were making considerably more money than I. Of course I had a title, Office Manager. I had a dozen post menopausal women reporting to me. They all hated my guts and made my life miserable.

Along about that time I decided to seek part time employment. There was an ad in the local newspaper concerning going to work for Alcoa aluminum. I showed up at a dank and dark hotel along with 5 other people. We all got hired to sell Cutco knives. We followed up on leads that were produced by people in malls with clip boards signing up young ladies, primarily, to receive a gift and a presentation about our fabulous knives. These were perfect for hope chests. By this time I was dressing better. I was 24 about 5’11” tall and weighed about 160. Put a tie on me and some pressed slacks I made a decent appearance. The very first weekend on my own in this job I put $300 dollars in my pocket. This was part time work. The office manager side of me was rapidly getting an ulcer from the PMS crowd and I was making $200 a week.

It was all about the schmooze. I found that I could do it as well as anyone. I tendered my resignation and soon found a job selling educational courses for Bell and Howell schools for their Devry Institute of Technology. I worked all of the leads sent my way and as the dust settled on my first month I had earned $1600. That was eight weeks of Farmbest pay earned in 4 weeks. I learned that this was my career pathway and I never looked back.

I went to work in the pharmaceuticals business in 1972. I received a paycheck of $900 a month, a company car, benefits and all expenses paid. I loved being a salesman and it showed with the raises and the bonuses I earned. I respected my products and I took care of my customers and I was promoted to the guy who taught other people to sell the products. Eventually I was in charge of sales training for 13 southern states and Puerto Rico. I made 1000’s of presentations to small and large groups as well as one on one training sessions. I trained people who were all smart and had degrees. I noticed one common theme among those who succeeded and those who failed. What was it? Simply stated, it was the schmooze.

I eventually went on to be in public affairs. I was in charge of lobbying and association work and worked issues all over the country. Lobbying is no different than selling. There are just more seeds in the package and more outcomes at risk. That is where I retired after 30 years of getting up every day and not being able to wait to get in front of a client or customer.

The bottom line to being a successful sales person goes beyond the schmooze. You have to like people. You absolutely must have people skills. People have to like you back. Some never will. Most will eventually accept you and who you represent.

Is it possible to learn to be a successful sales person? I don’t care what you do for a living. Physician, politician, teacher, police officer, and so on, you must have people skills to be successful. There is a very good reason why universities do not offer degrees in salesmanship. It is a very simple conclusion that successful sales people are born to the role. You can be oriented and made to improve but if you don’t like people and they don’t like you back a PhD in anything you want will never make you successful. The people skills must follow at some point.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snakes !!!

OK, I am going to admit that I have ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes. I am not so sure that I am unique in that regard. Heck even Indiana Jones had a fear of snakes. Let’s face it, he wasn’t afraid of much of anything even the ark of the covenant. The ark floated around at the end of that movie making all sorts of eerie sounds, spewing forth ghosts and spirits and melting Nazi’s faces. He was more afraid of snakes than he was that.

Word comes in this morning’s paper that the open season on Burmese pythons has ended. I think the sanctioned hunt went 45 days or so and paid some prize money for most snakes caught and the biggest python. Out of 1600 hunters there were 68 pythons harvested. One was over 14 feet long. That extrapolates to a 4.25% capture rate. Process that for a moment. These 1600 bravest of the brave men and women spent many days camped out in one of the spookiest places on earth, the Everglades, and only 4.25% of them caught a snake. That does not seem to be an effective expenditure of time and resources.

I have the impression that there are millions of these snakes in the glades. Every female lays 100 eggs per year. The story goes that hurricane Andrew, circa 1990, caused the release of a cache of these pythons from a serpetarium and they have been making whoopee and baby snakes for over 20 years. Just one snake could have produced 2000 in that time. Imagine if you would the geometric progression of the index population that slithered off into the Everglades those 23 years ago.

Now I have never been all that crazy about visiting south Florida. This is mostly because you have to be able to speak Spanish to order anything from a restaurant down there. Now you add in the fact that you could be eaten by a python whilst you are sitting at Joe’s crab shack trying to eat a blue crab. That is just more of an external stimulus than my 66 year old central nervous system can stand. I live in Tallahassee, 700 miles north, and I am going to have trouble sleeping tonight because the python hunt was a flop.

I am not rational on this subject. There used to be a black snake that lived in our grainery back on the little farm I grew up on back in southern West Virginia. It was my duty to place our two dogs Rex, the beagle, and King, the border collie in that grainery, every night. This was to keep them from roaming the country side and eating the neighbor’s chickens and their eggs or worse. I remember with perfect clarity, now 60 years later, the first time I ever encountered this reptilian monster. He was blacker than black, thicker than a strong man’s arm and made a creepy hissing noise. My brother and I plotted the detestable creature’s demise using missiles of stove wood or a hoe. However our father pronounced an edict that we were never to interfere with the coming and going of that snake. You see this snake ate his weight, many times over, of rats and mice that were set on eating our corn, wheat and rye in that grainery. I still get goose bumps worrying about encountering that snake.

After I was a full grown man my son, Drew, moved a water snake INTO MY HOME !!!! His grandparents had taken him to a pet store and promised to buy him anything he wanted. He came home with a 6 inch Florida water snake, an aquarium and a supposedly escape proof latched top. The first night that miserable snake was in my house I hardly slept. I felt him crawling into bed with me all night long. The snake lived with us for a year or more. And over time I came to accept him and his reptilian little habits, like eating live gold fish. After what seemed an eternity my son turned Patrick the water snake loose in Little river. My life began anew free from my fear of the little snake.

Now I come face to face with the invasion of Florida by millions of pythons. I strongly believe that the use of nuclear weapons must be meticulously calculated. For my money, however, it is quite acceptable to me for them to drop whatever megaton nuclear device in the glades necessary to send those pythons to a vaporized form of snake chromosomes.
Otherwise, I am going to have give up sleeping.   

Friday, February 1, 2013

Jury duty always eye opening

I was tapped to serve on a jury here very recently. The case was a result of the task force ICAC ( Internet Crimes Against Children ). This task force operated very close to my home in October of 2011. This was a multi agency cooperation to snare pedophiles and other deviants who prey on minor children through the internet.

The set up was done through chat rooms. The perp would engage a supposed minor via a chat room and then drive to their home to engage in sexual activity with them. Meeting them at the door was a big, burly cop. They would be arrested and charges brought against them on two or three counts. One was using a computer to solicit sex from an underage minor child. Two was traveling to meet a minor for the purpose of sexual activity. Three was conveying images via a computer to a minor child.

That is absolutely unbelievable that someone would be mentally challenged enough to not sniff out a sting like this. Yet almost 40 people in our home town were snared and arrested. I think that speaks to the extent that these kinds of people are strung out in their prurious addiction. It is like asking the junkie why he sticks that needle into his arm. They are just hopelessly lost in this world of sickness and evil.

The fellow who was the subject of my particular case was a teaching assistant, grad student at one of the universities here in our town. He is in his mid thirties, unmarried but into a continuous relationship with a very pretty woman. She sat in the back and cried along with his Mother when the verdict was read that he was guilty on all three counts that the state of Florida was bringing against him. He even cried when the verdict was read.

His life is forevermore changed. He will go to prison for 4-5 years. He will remain on probation for that same period of time and he will be listed in the FDLE database that maintains a location of and a qualification as habitual, sexual offenders for the rest of his life.

Some of my peers on the jury felt compassion for him and wanted to soften our verdict. Unfortunately for him there was just no way to discount the weight of evidence brought against him.

You question me as to whether I felt that we were too hard on this fellow my clear and concise response is absolutely not. I use as my barometer to that effect the 18th Chapter of Matthew, verse six, “ But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

 Great work ICAC. Go haul in some more of them. Bad choices beget bad outcomes.