By RICHARD PLINKE
Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a 10-part series of excerpts from Richard A. Plinke’s upcoming book, “How to Sell the Plague (Without Being a Rat and Other Cheeky Musings of an Unrepentant Salesman).” The series humorously explores how Plinke ended up in sales, the last place he ever thought he’d be and what he learned during those early days that carried over through his 35-year sales career. Subsequent installments will be posted each Monday. If you missed the first parts, you can go back to the beginning here: http://www.salesandmarketing.com/article/dancing-jaws-dragon
The job I had responded to was ostensibly for an entry level management position in a franchised restaurant chain, where, I would come to learn, they worked you to death for 60 hours a week and then churned you out to make room for the new delivery of fresh meat from the employment agency. But that’s not exactly how the sales puke described it. He told me it was a great opportunity to learn the restaurant business from the ground up, which is where I saw myself at the time because of my work at the Tavern and previous experiences in New York City and Aspen, Colo., working in bars and restaurants. (I didn’t go through college in two-and-a-half years for no reason – I had lost a lot of time finding myself, as my mother used to describe that hedonistic, bacchanal period of my life.)
The sales puke chain smokes and hovers in a cloud of brown vapor, spewing smoke from his mouth and nose as he talks fast, never looking me in the eyes. (What would Willie Loman think?) The guy can’t sit still, moving some part of his body at all times and nervously rearranging things on his desk when he tries to make a point. He tells me that the restaurant job is a good one, but that’s not where he sees me. He thinks I should take a look at a couple of sales jobs because he sees something in me.
What the hell does he see in me? Some kind of deficiency of character? A latent talent for deceit and larceny? Am I drooling down my chin? Is my tie stained from lunch? Am I trying to pick his pocket? Are you kidding? SALES?
He says he’s not kidding, and he sees me as a more independent free spirit who would probably not thrive in a controlled, 9-to-5 work environment. He thinks I would do better working on my own, out in the field, creating my own opportunities and moving around untethered, because baby we were born to run.
What? Did he really just say that?
Baby we were born to run!
Bruce Springsteen was big at the time and “Born to Run” was a current megahit. The students played it on the juke box at the Tavern every other song, or so it seemed, and everybody was grooving to “The Boss” in the fall of 1975. Even the sales puke sitting before me, who must have been at least 10 years older and as unhip as unhip could be, trying gracelessly to connect to me in an awkward, ridiculous, almost insulting way. Was he that desperate for new sales fodder that he would be so blatantly patronizing and insincere, or maybe he just didn’t know the difference? Either way, I was speechless. Baby, I wanted to run the hell out of there, but I didn’t and before I knew it, he slipped in that 14 grand part and all of a sudden we connected on a level I didn't even know I had. Baby, we were born to run, indeed!
Power to the People
The sales puke is telling me all about the glory and the nobility of sales and all that employment agency malarkey, but all I want to hear about is the money. Who do I have to kill to get it?
As it turned out, me.
“You have to understand that you will be representing a very professional, conservative organization whose primary concern is their image and their reputation.” He’s telling me about a company that sells Yellow Pages advertising for Bell Telephone. That was before the break-up of the Bells by the federal government (once again fixing something that wasn’t broke, and in so doing, destroying the best and easiest-to-use phone system on the planet). That was when the phone company (a euphemism in those bygone days for Bell Tel) published an inclusive and extremely utilitarian phone book that everyone used all the time. As we were driving along, seeing the U.S.A. in our Chevrolet, in every kitchen in America you’d find a dog-eared, torn, beat-up phone book with notes scribbled all over the cover. This was our link to the world before the Internet. It was how we were connected to everyone and everything that had a telephone (and by 1975, everyone and everything had a telephone), when telephones were the high-tech, magical gadgetry of the new and modern age. It’s hard to understand today, but the family telephone was the center of our small worlds, orbiting around all the other small worlds, dispatching commerce and social activity and, most importantly, ordering pizzas from the good old, reliable Yellow Pages. And that, according to the sales puke, was where I came in, just as soon as I got a haircut and shaved my beard.
Trim my hair, maybe, but shave my beard? Never! Not on your life. No how, no way, not ever going to happen! I have my principals and I will bow down to no one. I will not succumb to an arbitrary, unilateral standard set by some uptight, constipated lackey. I will not be oppressed by the ruling class. I will not yield to the man. I will stand my ground and fight the good fight to the death.
My terms, apparently, were accepted.
“Yea, yea, yea,” the sales puke says. “I understand,” and here he raises his closed fist over his head. “Power to the people, and all that. Come on man, it’s over; it’s time to move on. You can stay where you are, which is nowhere, or you can shave your beard, smile, talk nice and make $14,000 first year, and upwards to $30,000 second. What’s it going to be?”
Right on, right on, bro!
Do you happen to have a razor on you?
And so sounds the last ding-dong of doom for the freewheeling spirit, the death of Hippie Rich, and with the signing on the dotted line, seals the deal with the devil.
Hello money, honey, that’s what I want!
Next Week: “Let the Good Times Roll” – Sporting his new haircut and cleaned-up image, the author continue to determine if Yellow Pages is where his future lies. You can read it here: http://salesandmarketing.com/article/how-sell-plague-part-4
Learn more about the author and read his blog here: http://www.howtoselltheplague.com/Home.aspx.